Islamic art is a modern concept created by art historians in the 19th century to facilitate classification and study of the material first produced under the Islamic peoples that emerged from Arabia in the seventh century.
The term Islamic art describes all of the arts that were produced in the lands where Islam was the wide-spread religion or the religion of those who ruled. Islamic art is not used just to describe religious art or architecture but applies to all art forms produced in the Muslim countries. Islamic art spans 1,300 years of history and has incredible geographic variety since Islamic empires and dynasties controlled territory from Spain to western China.
One of the most famous monuments of Islamic art is the Taj Mahal, a royal mausoleum, located in Agra, India. India has a vast range of Islamic art and architecture because Muslim rulers, dominated large areas of the country for centuries.
The Great Mosque of Xian, China is one of the oldest and best preserved mosques in China. First constructed in 742 CE, the mosque’s current form dates to the 15th century CE and follows the plan and architecture of a contemporary Buddhist temple.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, has decided to call “Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia” rather than call Islamic art.
In traditional Islamic architecture, buildings never overhang the natural environment, aiming for harmonization between nature and the architected environment. The element that most joins architecture with nature, in a sense of continuity, is the decoration, basic element of Islamic art in all its expressions.
The artists found in the geometry and floral calligraphy a fertile ground for their creativity, proposing a rich decorative system. The Islamic craftsmanship found its highest artistic expression in the engraving of decorative motifs on ivory hunting horns and in the creation of majolica vases that marked a new style based on the intertwining of the colours white, blue and gold enamelled.
The Qur’an, written in elegant scripts, represents Allah’s divine word, which prophet Muhammad received directly from Allah during his visions. Arabic calligraphy appears on almost all types of architecture and arts.
Geometric and vegetative motifs are very popular throughout the lands where Islam was once or still is a major religion. A characteristic of every mosque is the lack of human or animal representation, which are forbidden by Islam. Nevertheless, the private residences of sovereigns, are filled with mosaics, sculpture and huge figurative paintings.
The mosque was born as a space open to all, for the transmission of the message of the Creator, the teaching and meditation of the Qur’an.
The Great Mosque of Damascus, the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem do not present any human figures and animals, the dome converges into a single point and it represents the yearning of the faithful towards the divine unity (tawhid).
Abu Dhabi hosts the third largest mosque in the world – after the ones in Mecca and Madina in Saudi Arabia. Sheikh Zayed mosque, was built between 1996 and 2007 and it was designed to be an architectural wonder that incorporated both modern and classic Islamic artistic styles. Greek and Italian white marble covers the exterior, while Islamic calligraphy decorates the inside. The mosque has a total number of 82 domes. The main dome is the largest one in the world: 85 metres high with a diameter of 32.8 metres.