What is Islamic Art?

Islamic art includes the virtual arts that were produced from the 7th century by people who lived in regions that were ruled or inhibited by culturally Islamic populations.  Therefore, it is not easy to define the Islamic art because it encompasses various people and many lands over 1,400 years. It is not art particularly of a place, or of religion, or of time, or of a single medium such as painting.

Though Islamic art is not restricted to religious art, it includes the art that is varied and rich in culture of Islamic societies. It often comprises secular elements that are frowned upon and sometimes forbidden by some theologians of Islam. Apart from calligraphic inscriptions, particularly religious art is less noticeable in Islamic art compared to Western medieval art, excepting Islamic architecture because mosques and the development of adjacent buildings are the most common remains.

Islamic art can be traced from various sources: Early Christian art, Roman, and Byzantine styles that were taken in early Islamic art, the Sassanian art influence, Central Asian styles that were brought with many nomadic incursions and Chinese influence that had effect on Islamic pottery, textiles and painting. Although the “Islamic art” concept has been subjected to criticism by some modern art historians who call it a “figment of imagination”,  the similarities between art at different places and time in the Islamic world, specifically in the Islamic Golden Age, are enough to make the term in wide use.

There are reiterating elements in Islamic art, like the use of vegetal designs or geometrical floral in a repetition referred to as the arabesque.  The term arabesque in Islamic art is commonly used to show the transcendent, infinite, and indivisible God’s nature. Mistakes in repetition are sometimes introduced intentionally to show humility by the artist because they believe only God is perfect, though this theory  is disputed.

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