The Art Of Islamic Architecture

The Art Of Islamic Architecture

History, Architecture, Art?

  • History: a means for understanding the present and a way into the future.
  • Architecture: the faithful mirror that reflects a people’s culture, progress and development.
  • Art: the refining of the soul and elevation of the senses.

The architectural nature, which is also called the architectural style or pattern, is only the result of a set of several intermeshed factors that react and melt together in the crucible of total utilization of the building, construction techniques, building materials, the characteristics of the region or area and the prevailing customs and traditions, in addition to social, economic, cultural and spiritual factors and the level of local wealth.

The Arab World really teems with wealth upon wealth of science, culture, literature, construction heritage and architectural style; it is also very rich in visible and invisible material treasures and fortunes. The charms of the Orient defy counting. If we take the example of Arabic, with its numerous modern dialects and classical roots that were so rich in grammar, poetry, prose and synonyms, we will stand with our mouths agape at the this aspect alone, for it tells much about the literary and artistic wealth of Arabs and the Arab World. It goes without saying that architecture was always the true mirror and accurate expression of man’s civilization and progress over the past ages.

Architecture has gone hand in hand with civilization and progress in a quiet, steady manner that has not robbed architecture of its distinctive nature. Architecture has always had two inseparable characteristics: in addition to the material presence derived from construction materials and building techniques, there is the perceived content that consists of artistic properties, including purpose and function, that are expressed in a special manner and a certain style.

A legitimate relationship: What is architecture, and what is art? In all the ages that the world has gone through, be they in the East or the West, before or after the dawn of history, we can find no trace of discrimination between art and architecture.

When historians talk about architecture, describing it as a compositional work of construction, we find that they deal with art in architecture, feeling for the place where it lies, pinpointing its locations and positions and magnifying the different pictures drawn by the artist in architecture in such a manner that dims architecture itself, to the extent that some people described architecture in the past as an art.

The Ancient Greeks called architecture “the mother of all arts,” and rightly so, for architecture at those ages was no different from sculpture or painting, and art had become so predominant in it that it took it out of its context. For many ages and generations, architecture has been dependent exclusively on stone, rock and other materials that man found around him in the environment.

Man knew how to exploit these materials rightly, so that arches, domes and vaults came into existence, all of them emerging on proper scientific constructional basis rather than on artistic ground. Then man focused his attention on hiding those solid rocks under a cloak of ornaments, adornments and cornices, covering them with layers of plaster.

This took architecture out of the hands of architects into those of sculpture artists, such as Michelangelo, Rafael, Bernini, Sangalo and others, whose hammers and chisels created artifacts that were not dwellings inasmuch as they were models, just like pieces of furniture and decor, which people look at and wonder at they way they were made like ornaments but were built as dwellings.

When the Greeks took architecture out of the triangle of arts, i.e. sculpture, portraying and architecture, and called it the mother of all arts, they did that out of their first-hand feeling that architecture writes the history of art and determines its course, for portraying, painting and sculpture are dependent on the artist’s inspiration, while architecture puts the inspiration of the architectural artist at the service of the needs of his contemporaries.

This way, architecture combines contemporary culture, sciences and needs with the architect’s inspiration and shapes them in a mould of beauty, and it has at its disposal a set of complementary aspects of art, such as etching, engraving decoration, colors, lighting, furnishing and a myriad of other arts.

The factors affecting Islamic architecture: It is almost impossible to say that Islamic architecture and Islamic art have a uniform Arab, Persian, Turkish or Indian trend, as the will or the ruler in the Islamic Era played an essential role in that respect. The unity of religious doctrine also had a great influence on the uniformity of development.

The circumstances and effects that influenced Islamic architecture and arts can be summarized as follows: – The Islamic conquests in civilized countries in the East and the West, and the expansion of the Islamic empire from India to Andalus.

The religious motives and political, social and legislative systems established by Islam, and the concept attached to them by each people.

The arts of the Muslim elements that settled down on the outer parts of the Arabian Peninsula in the proximity of civilized nations and the impact of these nations’ civilizations on the arts of architecture.

The emergence of the first architectural style in Syria, where the Umayyads established their state, their architecture was influenced by the architecture of Byzantine art. The architectural styles brought into Egypt by Ahmad Bin Toulon when he established his state.

The arts copied from the nations that fell under Arab rule, which were later given an Islamic tinge and continued to acquire local characteristics, and the employment of tradesmen from all over the world, whose skills influenced Islamic arts.

The Arab culture spread across the world with amazing speed.

The differences in climate and weather, which were mild on the Mediterranean coasts, with heavy rains in winter and hot, sunny days in summer, while rain was rare in most Arab countries and snow would fall in Andalus and some mountainous areas.

Finally, it remains to be said that paying more attention to Islamic architecture and arts means paying attention to the past for taking the present into the future.

By: Huyam Abdul Wadoud

Also, Read: Art In Palestine

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