Islamic Art and Culture. Culture and Values, Chapter 08. Chapter 8 - Timeline. 570 Muhammad born c. 620 Qur'an develops 622 Muhammad flees Mecca. Marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar 632 Muhammad dies c. 680 or 690 Great Mosque of Damascus built by al Walid
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Culture and Values, Chapter 08
570 Muhammad born
c. 620 Qur'an develops
622 Muhammad flees Mecca. Marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar
632 Muhammad dies
c. 680 or 690 Great Mosque of Damascus built by al Walid
c. 680 or 690 Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
700-800 The House of Wisdom draws scholars from all over the Muslim world,
translating and preserving many Greek texts
730-843 Muslim belief that God's divinity defies representation leads to intricate
blend of geometric design and sacred texts
780-850 Life of Al-Khwarizmi, inventor of algebra
780/90 Great Mosque in Cordoba begun
1187 Sultan Saladin conquers Jerusalem
1200-1300 Fall of Acre, last Christian stronghold in Holy Land
1200-1300 The Alhambra
1203-1273 Life of Rumi, best-known Sufi mystic-poet
1492 Christians drive Muslims from Spain (Reconquista)
1633-1652 Taj Mahal constructed in India
Muhammad always thought of the new revelation he had received from God as a new religion which could unify the whole human race under one God and bring with it amity among nations. Islam regards itself as the final perfection of God's revelation first announced to the Jews and later to the Christians. For that reason, Muhammad's religion was an unapologetic missionary faith. Within two hundred years Islam had spread from the desert world of Arabia throughout present-day Middle East and along Mediterranean Sea and the Iberian peninsula of present-day Southern Spain; much of this dispersion came via military conquest.
Islam's rise coincided with a period of stagnation in what was the Christian West. The old Roman Empire was in a state of decline having been hammered by successive waves of Barbarian invasions. The Byzantine Empire with its capital at
Constantinople controlled only the city itself and its adjacent territories. It was an essentially inward looking, conservative, and noninnovative culture. Islam, by contrast, was a vigorous young religious culture and at its apex when the Abassids
ruled from its center in Baghdad and later in Damascus and Córdoba was innovative and forward-looking.
Page from the
Qur’an, 8th c.
While Islamic incursions were halted in the West in the generations before Charlemagne, and Muslims would not take possession of Constantinople until the fifteenth century, there were constant exchanges between the two cultures eventhough they warred against each other with ferocity (i.e., the Crusades). This hostility shows up clearly in the West. The Muslims, in Christian eyes, were simply the "Infidel" and their wickedness is a theme in The Song of Roland where their
beliefs and their practices were criticized and twisted into parody. The Christian Crusades had the express aim to wrest the Christian holy places from these "Infidels." It should not surprise us that Dante comes to describe the walls of the city
of hell as crenellated walls with domes of "fiery mosques."
Map of the Crusades,
1000 – 1200 a.d
The antagonism between the Christian West and the world of Islam has a long and bitter history. It is an antagonism that reflects itself today in the stereotyping of Muslims as backward, fundamentalist, terrorists out to ruin the world. The irony is,
of course, that we read such things on paper–an innovation that the House of Wisdom in Baghdad gave to the West in the medieval period. The real truth is that Islam is a highly complex and deeply rich culture in which religion is so central that it
cannot be disentangled from political and social culture. Islam has a long tradition of learning and the arts with a worldview that attempts to explain the place of people in the social order under the watchful eye of an all-powerful God who is adored under the name of Allah.
Islamic Art develops around
And then reacts to existing notions
of beauty and decorum
In Arabic, islam means submission
and a muslim is one who submits
to Allah's will.
Qur’an = Koran: Holy Book
Hadith: traditions about Mohammed
a. The Koran is explicit about
repercussions if one indulges
in representational art.
b. Icons are considered idolatrous
Even though trees and houses are clearly depicted, the absence of
human figures is striking. This reflects the restriction against depicting
the human form in early Islamic art.
The Dome of the Rock,
Jerusalem, late 7th c.
And at right:
Mosaic tile from the The Dome of the Rock
The Great Mosque , Cordoba,Spain
(784-6 , 961-6 , 987-90 , et.al.)The double horseshoe arcades
of the prayer-hall
Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 1631 - 1647