The Circle Group > Islam in the Modern World > A Global Guide to Islamic Art

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A comprehensive online guide to the finest collections of Islamic Art around the world.

“For most Muslims, the highest form of visual art-and for some, the only spiritually meaningful one-is calligraphy, the art of beautiful writing. Calligraphy gained its preeminence from the Qur’an, God’s revelation to the Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century of our era. Delivered orally in Arabic and received aurally, its verses were written in the Arabic script, first by the Prophet’s associates and later by professional scribes who tried to give reverent physical form to the immutable beauty of God’s word. Over the centuries, calligraphers developed many scripts and styles, but all Islamic cultures continue to accord great importance to beautiful writing, principally and primarily of Qur’anic scripture, but also of other literary genres. This great appreciation of writing has permeated all forms of Islamic visual culture, and thus calligraphy can be found on everything from mosques, schools and palaces to humble bowls, beakers and dishes. Sentiments expressed range from verses from the Qur’an and blessings upon the owner of the object to quotations from popular poetry. The choice of text depended on the function of the object: Qur’anic texts are appropriate only on things used in the practice of the faith, whereas poetry might appear on jugs and dishes used in daily life.”

Excerpted from A Global Guide to Islamic Art, by Jonathan M. Bloom and Sheila S. Blair, Saudi Aramco World

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