Historical Background: The Prophet Mohammed was born in Arabia in 570 CE, at the height of the Byzantine Empire. A trader, married to a wealthy widow, he experiences a spiritual awakening in his early middle age, receiving the word of God (Quran) from the angel Gabriel. He begins preaching in Mecca, criticizing the wealthiest residents who benefit most from the pilgrimages made by pagan Arabs to visit the idols housed in the Kaaba, built by Abraham. He’s forced to flee from Mecca (flight known as the Hegira) and goes to Medina, where his preaching gathers followers. Becoming both a spiritual and temporal military leader, he gathers his forces and returns to conquer Mecca in the first Holy War, in the name of Allah. He preaches submission to God, equality of all before God, strict monotheism, obedience to God's requirements: prayers facing Mecca 5x/day, fasting during Ramadan, giving alms to the poor, pilgrimage to Mecca (if possible) once during lifetime, following dietary restrictions. Islam becomes the fastest-growing religion in world history.
5 Pillars of Islam Declaration of Faith Prayer (salat) Zacat or Tithe The Fast of Ramadan (9th month of the Islamic calendar) Pilgrimage
Dedication of Faith There is no god but God (Allah) and Muhammed is his Prophet To become a Muslim one need only make this simple declaration of faith Islam has absolute Monotheism Mohammed transmits the direct word of God Unlike Christ, Muhammed, while the perfect man is not divine – the preeminent role model
Prayer (Salat) 5 times a day (daybreak, noon, mid-afternoon, evening, sunset) Alone or together, indoors or out Preferable to pray with others, demonstrating brotherhood Face Mecca when praying, toward the Kaaba (house of God believed to have been built by Abraham and Ismail) Once a week on Friday, gather for the Sabbath at a mosque or Islamic center
Zakat or Tithe Means “purification” Individual and communal responsibility to care for the poor Not veiwed as Charity; it is an obligation Functions as a form of social security
The fast of Ramadan Once a year in the 9th month of the Islamic calendar Represents the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammed IF health permits – abstain from food, drink and sexual activity from dawn to sunset A discipline to stimulate religious reflection Ends with a special feast (resembles Christmas with gifts, food, etc.)
Haji or the Pilgrimage At least once in a lifetime (if able) to Mecca Every year more than 2,000,000 make the journey to form a community of faith Pilgrims wear simple clothing to symbolize purity The Eid al-Adha occurs toward the end: The Feast of the Sacrifice
Islamic Architecture Built to accommodate as many worshippers as possible in prostrate position: Communal Prayer No elaborate ritual with a center of visual attention (like an altar) Emphasizes horizontality as opposed to verticality (Christian Churches). Roofed part held up by a combination of arches/columns called a hypostyle hall. Worshipers face Mecca. Wall opposite entrance faces Mecca (quibla). Quibla usually marked by a niche (often domed) called a mihrab. Ornamentation prohibits use of graven images (no 3-D forms of humans or animals) Decorations utilize patterns of: 1. Geometric figures 2. Intertwining plant forms 3. Calligraphy of Arabic quotations from Quran. Exterior has at least one minaret, up which the muezzin climbs to call for prayer.
makes use of the pointed arch, which was later used in Romanesque churches
Islamic Art Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem Houses the rock from which it is said Mohammed ascended to heaven Octagonal plan Inspired by centrally planned churches Commanding view of the dome raised on a drum Profusion of exterior and interior decoration Calligraphy Arabesque Tessellation Inspired by rounded Roman arches, but adding alternating striped stones
Islamic Architecture The Alhambra, Granada Originally a military fortification Later reconstructed as a palace Slender columns set inside walls and abut window frames Finely chiseled marble gives the effect of transparency Marble cut in honeycomb pattern on ceiling Stone inset in ceilings hangs like stalactites, and double sets of windows provide light Small bubbling fountains provide relief Canals pass water among the buildings Calligraphy Arabesque Tessellation Major emphasis on mathematics and symmetry
Escher's Sketch of the tessellations in Alhambra, Spain
Lions are crudely carved, indicating infrequency with subject in art.
Poem carved in fountain rim describing how fierce the lions would be if not out of respect for the king.
Great Mosque, Córdoba, 786
Built by 'Abd al-Rahman I, who escaped from Syria to the Iberian Peninsula after his family was massacred by a rival political dynasty circa 750 by he Abassid revolt. Only surviving member of the Ummayyad dynasty. – 800 family members massacred at peace banquet Consecrated as a Christian Cathedral in 1236 by Ferdinand III, king of Castille
Islamic Art Great Mosque, Córdoba, begun in 786 An infinite sea of columns on the interior (columns harvested from existing Roman and Visigothic buildings. Short columns (c. 9 feet) necessitated 2-tiered arches to raise ceiling and increase light. Columns interlace with each other Columns have capitals, but no bases Arches are rounded, with alternating stripes (red brick and white marble) Columns represent endless number of worshippers All face the mihrab Rich, varied visual effects & highly decorative
Islamic Architecture The Taj Mahal, Agra 1632-48 Burial place of Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to her 14th child Enclosed by a large red sandstone wall to provide a focused view Vast symbolic image of Islamic paradise Symmetrical Harmonious Minarets act to balance the composition Typical of Islamic architecture: one large central arch, framed by two smaller arches one above the other Square plan with chamfered corners Small kiosks around dome Dome has an onion shape (ancestry in the Byzantine empire) Intricate floral and geometric inlays Calligraphy across façade and on interior
Islamic Painting Human or animal figures of any kind theoretically banned Generally in effect against large-scale representational art for public display Ornate decorations on practical itmes (incense burners, cloth embroidery) Heavy use in book illustration Merging of outside/inside No sense of true 3-D space
Development of Paper A third important reason for the Golden Age was the establishment of a paper mill (factory) in Baghdad. Paper was first invented in China and then the Muslims learned how it was made. (Actually Chinese papermakers were taken prisoner and forced to teach their captors how to make paper) Soon paper replaced parchment (the skin of animals) and papyrus (a plant made into a kind of "paper" in ancient Egypt). The development of paper made it possible for a great many people to get books and learn from them. This was an important advance which affected education and scholarship.
Bahram Gur in the Green PavilionKhamsa.Tabriz, 1481
Suleyman the Magnificent as a young man" Semailname, Nakkas Osman 1579 Gentile Bellini "The Sultan Mehmet II" (1480) National Gallery, London
Socrates and his StudentsMukhtar al-Hikam wa-Mahasin al-Kalim ('Choice Maxims and Finest Sayings')by Al-Mubashshir.Syria, beginning of 13th century