Yes, it did happen! It happened to me. My ears could hear and my eyes could see. It might have happened to you, but you may not have noticed. This twisting of the senses and sensations happens whenever we see sheer and utter beauty. It happens when you get assimilated into beauty, when you live with it. It happens when you look at a unique set of Islamic arts. It happens whenever you appreciate these artifacts and reach the point of ultimate satisfaction. It happens whenever you taste and feel the unity and rhythm of Islamic arts. It mixes up your senses, it makes you hear with your eyes and see with your ears.
Humans are part of this beautiful nature that is created by Allah (SWT) for the sake of inhabiting earth. Human instruments of expression are those that surround humans. Senses are used to express this beauty, especially the senses of hearing and sight. Islamic arts express this natural beauty as well as the miracles of Allah’s creation. Islamic arts, whether architecture, paintings or sculpture, are all types of arts that cause a twisting of sensations. Colors, fonts, shade, light, size, space and language are all derived from nature. All are sources similar to those that assist the poet in penning a poem inspired by the birds’ songs, the blow of winds or the running water. These are also the same raw materials for music and rhythm. The Islamic arts have shared certain features from the dawn of Islam to current times.
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The Unity of the Islamic Arts
The element of unity of arts across the Islamic world is astonishing. From Morocco to Iran, and from Kazakhstan to India, we find a fascinating element of unity in art. These countries historically are different in terms of their civilizational, cultural, racial, traditional, linguistic and religious backgrounds. Without doubt, the main reason behind this unity was the arrival and spread of Islam.
Islam as a religion and a system of life was the only factor able enough to transcend inherited racial, national and traditional heritage. It was a strong system built on a strong set of principles and values that deal with belief, thought, literature and daily affairs of life. The central engine for this unity was the revelation of the Holy Qur’an in Arabic, which became a common denominator between Muslims regardless of place and time.
Another element which contributed to this unity was the close cooperation between artists from the Islamic world in carrying out civilizational architectural projects. For instance, when political stability had been achieved and Damascus became the capital of the Caliphate, artists from Persia, Greater Syria, Rome and other parts of the Islamic world worked side-by-side on building mosques, libraries, marketplaces and palaces.
The mosque was the embodiment of Islamic arts. The shape was modeled after the prophet’s mosque in Madinah. In decorating mosques, engineers and artists followed the principles of simplicity and proximity to nature. For instance, no paintings of humans were permissible on the walls of mosques. Usually, verses of the Holy Qur’an with elaborate calligraphy were painted to beautify walls of mosques and palaces.
Muslim artists and engineers also added to this simplicity an element of multiplicity of artistic material. Artists mixed and created materials that were not used before. Stones, glass, and other materials were added to the elegance of the shape and the fonts. Of course, artistic works were not exclusively for mosques and palaces, but also extended to the markets, stores, public baths, public buildings and articles of daily life, such as plates.
By: Hiyam Es-Sayed