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A Glimpse Inside The Rich History Of Islamic Art

When one thinks about Islamic Art, there are initially a few images that come to mind. One of them could be the beautiful Calligraphy and the Geometric perfected repeated patterns that adorn one of the most distinguished monuments and mosques in the Islamic World. 

However, what most people don’t know, is that Islamic Art is embedded in a much deeper and richer history and tradition. One that goes beyond the adornment on the walls of buildings in the Islamic World. Its treasured forms of art reached fast fields around the world, making it some of the most advanced of its time.

Europe for example has been known to own Islamic Art Objects since the early Middle Ages. Brought home by the Crusaders or manufactured by the Muslim Artists/Craftsmen in Spain and Sicily, these pieces of art were much admired and even imitated by the locals making it a part of the material culture in those times. So much so that even the coronation robes of the German emperor were decorated with an Arabic inscription.

Definition of Islamic Art

Before discussing the reason for the uniqueness of Islamic Art, let’s make an effort in defining the term ‘Islamic Art’. I’m emphasizing the word ‘’effort’’ as it is to this day simple to identify the influences and the specific characteristics of Islamic Art, but hard to define Islamic Art in itself. The reason -according to many historians- could be attributed to the richness of this art. Islamic Art covers many lands and various cultures over more than 1400 years, thereby not restricting itself to a specific religion, time, place, or form of art.

One could say that Islamic Art is not at all restricted to religious art, but applies to all forms of art historically produced in the lands ruled by Muslims. This includes all the art of the rich and varied cultures of Islamic societies. From the Middle East, Central and Southern Asia, North Africa, and even parts of Eastern and Western Europe.

Rise of Islamic Art

The period of the rapid expansion of Islam – the 7th century- could be seen as a reasonably accurate beginning for the label of ‘Islamic Art’. Far from imposing a dominant culture upon the countries to which Islam spread, artistic expression evolved greatly in Islam. Elements of local culture and art were admired and eventually incorporated by Muslims. Artists who initially worked for example under the Byzantine Roman Empire continued to work in their own styles but for Muslim employers.

The first examples of Islamic Art, therefore, rely on earlier techniques, styles, and forms of art reflecting the beautiful blending of the pre-existing artistic traditions of a particular culture and Islamic themes and values. This resulted in the development of a distinctive culture with its own artistic language that is reflected in various forms of Islamic arts. From Indian-influenced Architecture to Persian-inspired Textiles to Chinese-inspired Pottery.

Evolution Through Time

With its 1400 years of historical and geographic diversity, Islamic Art was inevitably subjected to a wide range of styles, influences as well as changes within the various periods of its development. It’s remarkable that, even under these circumstances, Islamic art has always remained true to its unique identity and Islamic values. 

Because of the meeting of Eastern influences (Iranian, Chinese, and Indian) on one hand and Western Roman influences (Syria and Islamic Spain) on the other, Islamic Art created a new standard which made it one of the most advanced of its time. Thereby unifying its ethnically and culturally diverse population under Islamic Art.

Islamic Art continues to develop and we as Saffirah are still trying to revive and celebrate Islamic Art. We are proud to see many creative Muslim artists creating modern and contemporary art using traditional elements and motifs from the heritage of Islamic Art to express themselves.

And so we hope when you buy a piece of Islamic Art from us, you realize that – although it may be a form of contemporary Islamic art- the basics of most of them are embedded in a much deeper history that goes as far back as the religion itself. 

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