Whoever Said Islam and Art Don’t Go Together Has Absolutely No Clue

A general overview, analysis and critique of the relationship between Islam and Art in modern times contrasted to the Art that has highlighted Islamic history.

Ignoring Islamic History

1543 illustration of the Prophets night journey to heaven, believed to be Sultan Muhammad’s counter of the original and presented to Persian Shah Tahmasp I

“hey look its cool, stop burning the obama pinata! we painted him before, we did! we did!!”

The Prophet of Islam has been drawn before. We know about it. Muslims drew him. We did. We drew him. Yes, really.

And it was how he was drawn that didn’t really rile anyone up. People before, they had respect. It’s not that hard of a concept to grasp.

The main cause of the confusion lies in Islamic communities themselves for not taking and reviving an interest in the arts, in certain cases destroying some of the most valuable parts of Islamic heritage, just like what Daesh is doing throughout Syria and Iraq.

500 year old Abbassid columns in the grand mosque of Mecca are now destroyed

Much of this can be held accountable to the House of Saud, however I don’t want to, and can’t go on about how the they have repressed and destroyed Islamic art and also its thought process, but let’s get it out there. Those in control of the holy mosques are also the greatest force in portraying a worldwide negative image of the the faith they claim to protect, and have been responsible for destroying much of its heritage.

The cranes surrounding the grand mosque of Mecca and subsequent expansion came at a huge cost to Islamic heritage, yet also came with swift ease to the Saudis who denounced the importance of such sites as ‘shirk’

Denying such a huge part of Islamic history eats away at its culture, because Islam has an immense link to art.

Islam for some is a religion where they feel free, and art is just the same in that respect. Where common ground can be drawn the results are, and have been magnificent. Yet there are those that have replaced this with a strict made up theory that as Muslims, we should be offended and have no interest in all art whatsoever, case closed don’t talk about it or the sword, kind of attitude.

The blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque

There aren’t many things that reach the standard of magnificence like the Blue Mosque

How come though. How come these same people say nothing about the various, numerous and humiliating images of Jesus Christ (Isa a.s. in Arabic) that Muslims (although some seem to have forgotten) is the true messiah in both Islam and Christianity, why is no offence taken when people have now taken Jesus away from his religious role and turned him into a comical caricature? Not offended?

Damaged relief in Utrecht Cathedral, desecrated in 1566 during the iconoclast fury in the Netherlands. (Wikipedia)

Perhaps that’s rooted in how Christians have taken to accept depictions of Jesus after their own, brutal conflicts as to whether or not have imagery of Jesus during the iconoclastic periods and subsequent councils deciding that yes, they can have crosses and paintings of Jesus.

Whether or not Muslims should follow suit is another question, after all, Jesus is now a mock cult figure rather than the messiah Christians and Muslims supposedly believe him to.

Chludov Psalter Illuminated Manuscript, 9th c.

This illuminated manuscript depicts the Byzantine Iconoclasm.

But it is in this, or rather from this, perhaps ever before this, where we can find much to do with art and architecture in the Muslim world and influence from Christianity and Byzantium, as the two have been running side by side since the first mosques.

Ummayyad Mosque

The Grand Mosque of Damascus, or Ummayyad Mosque,  stays true to its original Byzantine style and formula as a church while having later annexed Islamic features and converting certain parts.

The domes of the mosques for example, inspired by the similar domes of churches, the pillars and huge concrete blocks, the mosaics of Persia and the stained glass Cathedrals of Europe. Both religions have produced momentus architectural feats, taking influence from each down the line, sometimes collaborating. Yet unfortunately, like the Umayyad Mosque of Syria, or the Basilica of John the Baptist as it once was, the surrounding fire seems to be drowning out the beauty of the art that an old, medieval version of Islam once produced.

The mosque today.

Written by Hamza Asghar

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Hamza Asghar is a 26-year-old who's currently teaching English in China. He's interested in art, culture and cooking.