Prophet Muhammad said: “God is beautiful and loves beauty.”
The artistic quest for sacred beauty has been captured throughout time and place, from the intricate textiles of Iran, to the soaring arches of the Alhambra palace in Spain.
As Islam spread across the globe, a hybrid of culture and faith emerged, producing artistic expressions that reflected each region. The Ottoman mosques of Istanbul, chiefly designed by Sinan the Architect in the sixteenth century, are distinct landmarks in Muslim architecture. They inspired the likes of Sir Christopher Wren, one of Britain’s most famous architects, who integrated the Ottoman style into his design of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The cultural exchange goes further back, with Islamic architecture also borrowing from Byzantine styles, as seen in the architecture and mosaics of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, first built in 691. The angular strokes of Kufic calligraphy, the oldest style of the Arabic script, can be found on the mosque’s interior.
Geometry is perhaps the art form most connected with Islam. Artists developed a unique geometric style through the use of four shapes: the circle, triangle, square and hexagon.
These four combine to create multiple, mirror image patterns, and reflect the concept of eternity, unity, and the perfection of God.
Islamic art is not art for art’s sake, but art for God’s sake. Today, artists continue to express their spirituality using traditional styles as well as contemporary flair in the ongoing search to connect to the Divine.