Art History of the Islamic World
Islamic architecture has been defined by the incorporation of religion and secular aspects in the construction of residential venues, palaces and Mosques all of which has been influenced since the inception of Islam to the modern day. Islamic architecture dates back to the period when the Arabs worshipped other idol gods or were simply polytheistic but were alter converted by God’s greatest messenger Prophet Muhammad who preached for a monotheistic God, Allah who is all merciful and great in his works. Hence, the architecture depicted by Islamic societies is an indication of the deep faith and strong religion that they possess. In addition, the presence of the same form of architecture since historical periods is an indication of the firm founded belief in their religion as well as the gravity with which they regard their culture.
The major themes in the mosque were the artwork portrayed in the walls and ceilings of the rooms. I happened to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has artifacts detailing the history of the Islamic history dating from the Islamic prehistoric period. The museum is located in New York City and is aimed at preserving the Islamic history as well as other forms of art from different parts of the world. The first artifact, which I found as fascinating, was the reception room from the Ottoman Empire period dating to the period of 1119 A.H to 1707 A.D. the artwork displayed was a room, which was shipped into the United States from Damascus in Syria. It is a depiction of a civilized society despite the period filled with unruly and uncouth behavior within these societies. The room was a recreation of the traditional elite Islamic home especially the homes of the nobles and merchants in the society who had ample wealth. The rooms were in essence embedded in expensive wares such as golden doorknobs, glazes, paint, marbles and pearls. The room also is embedded in carvings on the wooden walls and floor in patterns, which are only distinct to the Muslim culture. The room was typical to Islamic culture because it was divided into tow parts; the smaller antechamber known as the ‘ataba and the raised larger seating area known as the tazar. In addition, the floor was made of colored marble enhancing the beautiful and sharp look of the room.
The second piece of artifact, which I found amusing, was the Tile, or niche. The object dates back to the period between A.H. 712 and A.D. 1312–13 and its origin is stated as Sultanabad in Iran. The object is made of stone paste and has been molded to include the various Islamic calligraphies used for evocation of the fourteen infallibles or Chahardah Ma’sum in Islam, which are the inscribed names of twelve Shi’i imams and the family of the Prophet Muhammad. The origin of this piece of high value art dates back to the estimated period of the rule of Ilkhanid ruler Sultan Uljaitu, who was driving force towards Shi’i Islam in Iran.
The two elements identified are similar in that they use the same glaze toe give their artwork the luster. This is an indication of the presence of a civilized society in prehistoric Islamic world.
Both items contain engravings because of the need to evoke feelings or appraise the different tribes but all in the umbrella of Islam. I addition these engravings and forms of art were part of the Islamic culture in the prehistoric period giving definition of Islam it self and the tribes of the Islamic world. Furthermore the Islamic world has been influential is spreading this form of art to numerous locations around the world. On the other hand, this is an indication of the strengths and impact that the Islamic religions and cultures have had in the world as the same architecture and forms of art are still evident within the modern societies.
I happened in the same instance to visit the nearby mosque which is the Islamic Center of Washington located on 2551 Massachusetts Avenue Northwest, Washington D.C., DC. The same form of architecture was identical s there were numerous forms and styles of architecture that were identical to those I had identified in the museum. The mosque had numerous pillars as if to inform the presence of the five pillars of Islam. The five pillars are what makes Islam distinguishable from the rest of the other world religions. In addition, the mosque used golden color to illustrate the presence of value for the mosque by the Islamic community. In addition, the ceiling top of the mosque could only be described in simplistic words as magnificent and breath taking as it is embedded in golden colors and a flower pattern, which is usually the hallmark of many Islamic residences and mosques.
Elegant and magnificent structures are usually depicted in mosques with the numerous patterns are an indication of intricacy and depth of the religion of Islam. In addition, the mosque was a great tower in its majestic height as an indication of a fortress, which cannot be broken into and is guarded by the highest powers on earth, Allah. This is an indication of the gravity with which the Mosques are treated by Muslims as havens for peace, seeking help, safety from the evils of the world, and the greatness of Allah. The doors of the Mosque are identical to the tile as they are inscribed in some words, which I considered as holy and having special meanings in the Muslim world. The window patterns are identical to part of the inscribed words or shapes in the tiles. This is an indication of preservation of the Muslim culture and architecture because it is reused in the different Islamic art for spreading the Islamic teachings and culture.
The city of Mecca is described as the home of Islam from where the Great Prophet Muhammad was born. In the same city, he began his endeavors to spread Islam to the masses despite fierce and constant opposition. Some of the forms of art were part of the influence the Islamic society had from the polytheist communities such as the Zoroastrians. They are described as good blacksmiths and artists as evidenced by the presence of Zoroastrian art in the same museum, which is in some way identical to the forms of architecture, and art of the Islamic societies. This is because they engaged in wars, trade with the Islamic communities during the reign of the Umayyad and the Sassanid wars, which developed the Islamic religion to the strong modern religion. Hence, these interactions in terms of trade with other religions and communities especially from far seas such as Cyprus, Greece greatly influenced the modern day Islam, as they were able to trade skills such as blacksmith skills, carpenters, and carvers. Greece is a great example of great architecture, thus the Islamic traders were able to learn such skills form other nations and religions.
These artifacts, which I have outlined, were special to me because they were informative about the Islamic culture and were true depiction of good art from Islam. In addition , the tile which I identified was special because of the calligraphy indicating the names of the Fourteen Infallibles who are the Prophet Muhammad and his daughter Fatima Zahra and the twelve Shi’ imams in the periods of 6th and 9th centuries who are believed to have gained freedom of error and sin from the Great Allah.
The artifacts from the Islamic world have distinct characteristics. Such include distinct patterns and shapes imitating the Islamic calligraphy. For instance the tile indicating the names of the Fourteen Infallibles are an indication of the influence in art. The calligraphy in itself is a form of art as it makes the tile pleasant to the eyes. In addition, Islamic art is a means of conveying the religion and the mains teaching of Islam of “Allah as the only true God and Prophet Muhammad is his Messenger”; this is indicated at the entrance of the mosque and all other mosques in the world. It sends a message of togetherness within the Muslim society in that all those who come together or create these forms of art are sure to indicate some message of greatness, mercies, grace and the love of God or Allah.
The significance of these similarities in the Islamic art forms is a form of identity for the Muslim world. This is because these forms of art or the shapes and styles of art enhance the theme of depth and spiritual togetherness within the Muslim world. In addition, the culture of Islam is preserved, as they are able to teach the younger generations by simple tactics such as the constant presence of identical forms of art in the Mosques. In addition, the aspect of constant sight of these forms of art becomes edged in the minds of the younger generation whoa are bale to spread similar tactics to the preceding generations. The significance of the tile is that it was used to illustrate the presence of spiritual depth within the Islamic realm. In addition, the same artifact was used to enhance the tem of spiritual depth and the staunch belief of the Muslim faith in that they incorporated their fundamental spiritual beliefs in Allah through his faithful and great prophet Muhammad. On the other hand, this is also incorporated in the mosque to enhance the presence of spiritual depth of the Islamic faith and subdue their followers and those without the Islamic realm.
In conclusion, Islamic art and architecture in essence is a clear depiction and illustration of the intricacy of the religion. In addition, it also contributes to the beauty of the faith of which the followers exercise staunch beliefs and adherence rule to the faith. The art has been carried down from historical generations since the prehistoric times. It is an indication that despite the social interactions with numerous religions and cultures the Islamic religions and culture is edged firmly within the Muslim world. This because they pass on their culture and forms of art with precision from one generation by ensuring that their offspring are able to learn and acquire Islamic knowledge in purely Islamic settings. Hence art and with specific reference to Islamic art and architecture defines Islam in that it is distinct such that it is set apart form other religions. The intricate architectural and art styles and designs are an indication of the presence of spiritual depth within the Islamic society and the gravity and respect with which they possess towards their ancient faith, which has been in the world for a long time.