Monthly Archives: April 2010

My New Blog – The Life and Times of Someone with a Strange Name

I would like to introduce you to my new personal blog, The Life and Times of Someone with a Strange Name. Yes it is a mouthful LOL

So please do check http://azim247.wordpress.com/ for a peek into my daily life.

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Happy Birthday to me

Oh my goodness.
It’s my 23rd Birthday.
God have mercy on my soul.

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Study – The different forms of Minarets

in the last few post in the Imagining Islamic Aesthetics category, I have introduced you to one of the most fundamental part of Mosque architecture. In this post I would like to discuss the topic further.

Minarets come from the Arabic word manara (منارة) meaning lighthouse (literally meaning a place of light)  and the term is used interchangeably between the two towers. In Mosque Architecture, Minaret is a tower that accompanies a Mosque structure in the form of a tower, terminating in domes or conical roofs. The purpose of the structure is mainly for the Muezzin (the caller to prayers) to recite the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayers. However it also served for aesthetic reason, and this is true to recent times since there is no need for the Muezzin to climb the towers in the presence of modern amenity that is speakers. It also serves as a visual statement, telling viewers that the building nearby is a Mosque, and the surrounding areas are a Muslim community.

The style vary from region to region, and from period to period. In the advent of Islam, there is no minarets ; for example, in Medina, the Muslim community gave the Adhan from the roof of the house of Prophet Muhammad. In 670AD, a few decades after the death of Muhammad, the first minaret in the Islamic world was built. It was built for the Mosque of Uqba, or the The Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia. The shape is square, with three tiers, the lower lever is thicker than the level above. It then became the model of most North African Islamic world minarets.

Styles of minarets according to region and period

  • North African, 8th century onwards– Square shaped, thick structures. It could be in tiers, and sometimes terminating in domes. Simple and mostly unadorned, an example would be the oldest minaret in the Muslim world in the Great Mosque of Kairouan.

    Author - Wotan

    Great Mosque of Kairouan, or the Mosque of Uqba, Tunisia.

  • Moroccan and Andalusian, 8th Century onwards– Similar to the North African style, it is a square shaped structure and thick in circumference. However, it may or may not have tiers, and if it does, it usually have just two, the topmost tier being the balcony where the Muezzin would stand to give the call of prayer. Decorated with Moroccan specialty of Zillij tiles and carved Arabesques.

    Author - Agagax

    Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco.

  • Egyptian and Syrian, 8th Century– The minaret structures for these two areas and particular period are  low square structures, flanking four corners of a Mosque.

    Author - Heretiq

    Sharia Al Bara`a ibn Malek in Salihiyya district, Damascus, Syria.

  • Turkish, 11th Century– One Mosque could have multiple minarets – 2, 4 or 6. The minarets in this region are circular and slender, terminating in conical roofs, and have multiple balconies, each supported and decorated by Muqarnas but otherwise simple structures.

    Author - Cem Topçu

    Sultan Ahmed Mosque, or the Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey.

  • Egypt, 15th Century– The minaret structure for Egypt in this period is octagonal. Usually two tiered, the lower is thicker and bigger than the top. Muqarnas are employed for aesthetic reason and support of the balconies, and the rest of the structure is very richly decorated.  It is topped by domes and elongated finials.

    Author - Baldiri

    Al-Azhar Mosque, Cairo, Egypt

  • Central Asia ; Iran and Iraq (Persia), 17th Century– The minarets in these areas are usually small and slim, flanking the entrance of a Mosque or Iwans. Tiled in blue, topped with covered balconies.

    Author - Zereshk

    Jame Mosque of Qazvin, Iran

  • South Asia ; India and Pakistan, 15th century onwards– Octagonal minarets usually accompanies Mosques in these areas. Three tiered mostly and topped with an onion dome and finial. Aesthetically, the decorations have Hindu influences.

    Author - J.M.Garg

    A Mosque adjacent to Tomb of Hayath Bakshi Begum, Hyderabad, India.

  • The Malay Archipelago– Inconsistent, but the earliest minarets of the region have towers influenced by Hindu shrines. It is usually a thick structure, topped with typical pyramid roofing.

    Attributed to - Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT)

  • China – The earliest Mosque’s minaret, the Great mosque of Xian does not resemble any other minarets in the Muslim world. In fact it looks like a Chinese pagoda. However as the time period changes, styles are taken mostly from the Central Asian architecture.

    Author - Omar Ansari

    A minaret of a Mosque in Linxia (simplified Chinese: 临夏; traditional Chinese: 臨夏; pinyin: Línxià),  province of Gansu of the People’s Republic of China.

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Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #12 – Islamic Gardens

Imagining Islamic Aesthetic for this edition will focus on Islamic Gardens ; a special topic to yours truly because I have love for greenery and gardens.

Gardens are quite an essential part of Islamic Architecture ; this fact is true in the more drier parts of the Islamic empire like in the sub-saharan region. The focal points of the Islamic gardens are shades and water, particularly and understandably due to the fact that Islam rose and mostly spread to the dried places on earth. The design mostly consists of a central fountain with four canals carrying water to that fountain. There is always exceptions, however, and I would like to point out these exceptions as we go along.

Author - Loizeitung

The Gardens of Generalife in Alhambra, Granada. The gardens are beautified with multiple spouting fountains along a canal. Unlike the description of a typical Islamic garden that I have mentioned above, this particular garden have just one canal in the center of the garden and no fountain in the middle. Instead, spouting fountains line the canal.

Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir, India. The pavilion is surrounded by a pool with dozens of spout fountains, set in a lush garden. It is one of the finest example of Mughal gardens, and now  made a public park.

Author - User:Zereshk

The gardens of the Narenjestan e Ghavam, or the Qavam House, in Shiraz, Iran. It was built in the late 1800s by Mirza Ibrahim Khan. The fountains and the water feature are irregular, and obviously not in operative state, but still remains a pristine example of a Persian garden. The lush, beautiful beds of flowers and the meticulous trees lining the walkway defines the beauty of the garden.

author - Néfermaât

The gardens of The Grand Mosque of Paris, Paris, France. The mosque is heavily influenced by the architecture of sub-saharan mosques, and features the same decorative elements such as Zillij tiling. The gardens of the mosque have lush trees and shrubs, and multiple water features such as pools and fountains. You can see here in the picture two types of fountains employed by this garden – a spout ,tiered fountain and a fountain decorated with Zillij tiling set on a wall.

Author - comakut

The Courtyard of the Lions, Alhambra, Granada, Spain. More of a courtyard than a garden, but it is a fine example of the description of a typical Islamic garden I mentioned above. There is fountains on the end of each water canal, leads to the central fountain of the courtyard, a basin that is held aloft by a group of lion sculptures – a unique representation in Islamic art.

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Projects : Islamic Star Pattern Wallpapers

After I discovered the Taprats application on the internet, I have been playing with it for a while, trying multiple effects and patterns ; some are successful and looks like off from a glazed wall somewhere in Morocco or Spain, but most looks like nothing but arranged jumble of scribbles and mess that can only make the brain melt with confusion.

And then I wondered, maybe I can make use of this application for something for my blog. And I though I can make some wallpapers off it. and so I did, and I made three wallpapers using this application, slightly edited so you wont get seizures while searching your desktop for that elusive icon you want to use. I played around with Taprats, trying to use every single combination and types available, until I decided to use more simple, commonly used in Islamic decoration geometrical designs.

So here they are, all three are in 1024×768 resolution. No other resolutions are availbale for the meanwhile, sorry! Please click on any to enlarge, and right-click to save the picture and set it up later as your desktop wallpaper.

The six pointed star design, repeated in two shades of blue. This is one of the most common star designs in Islamic Geometric art. I decide to give it a soft glow so to soften the contrast between white and the dark blue colour.

The eight-pointed star, extended and joined with five-pointed stars, in two shades of green. Again, the eight pointed star is very common in the art of Islamic Geometrical designs.The glow here is less apparent, but I decreased the brightness a little, so it looked more dull than the rest of the wallpapers.

Irregular shaped eight-pointed star, with rounded five-pointed star in two shades of red. This design is uncommon for Islamic geometrical designs, and I guess I have verged too much on the Taprats application. However it looks like it could fit into the decoration of Islamic buildings. The glow is just like the blue one, but it is less bright, since red is bright enough for me.

I know these three wallpapers are not very professional (it is my amateur work, and I only just know how to work a photo editing software), forgive me, it is my first try into these things, and my first project using computers instead of pen and paper to “draw” these designs. As usual, any comments on how can I improve and anything else you want to point out to me, I would be glad to hear them out. I will be doing this again for my next project, as long as there is demand.

Enjoy! and oh, all the wallpapers are free for you. 🙂 just please don’t delete the watermark and please tell me if you would like to use it for other websites, I’ll be glad to help you out.

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Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #11 – Minbar

For this edition of Imagining Islamic Aesthetics, I would like to bring to your attention another feature of the interior of a Mosque : Minbar.

Minbar comes for  the Arabic word nabara (نبر) meaning to elevate or to raise. Minbar is essentially a pulpit where the leader of the mosque, or an Imam, stands to deliver the khutbah, or sermon, in Friday congressional prayers. Originally, the founder of Islam, Prophet Muhammad, only have a platform with three steps to stand on to deliver his sermons, but now it became a prominent part of a mosque interior, often lavishly decorated.

The Minbar of The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria. You can see the shape of the Minbar resembles closely to a Minaret – a tower like structure with a dome on its tip. There is a story behind the Minbar : The pulpit is where Ali bin Husayn addressed the court of Yazid, and the raised platform in front of it is the place where the prisoners of Karbala stood during that time.

A mosque in Manama, Bahrain. There is a lectern, where someone is presumably reading Al-Quran. In the middle is a minbar, with a seating on top of it. With this style of Minbar, it is mostly for Shi’a sect of Islam, where an Imam would deliver speeches or sermons seated, particularly for Hussainya.

The Mihrab and the Minbar of Yeşil Camii, or the Green Mosque, in Bursa, Turkey. The Mimbar is built entirely out of wood. Most Mimbars in Turkish mosques have similar characteristics – A separate structure, unattached to the walls of the mosque, and shaped very similar to the minarets of the mosques there ; pointed tops with slender body.

The Mimbar and the Mihrab of Aqsa Mosque in The Hague, Netherlands. It is a newer building, so the interior features are often copied from older mosques in accordance to where the Muslims who utilize the mosque. For instance, this mosque seems to serve Turkish immigrants so the interior decoration copies that of mosques in Turkey.

Author - Baldiri

Author - Baldiri

The Mihrab and Minbar of Aqsunqur Mosque, or Blue Mosque in Cairo, Egypt. Here is a fine example of North African or particularly Egyptian Minbar – it is attached to the wall of the mosque, and mainly built out of stone. It has finials and a dome on top of it, unlike its Turkish counterpart.

نبر

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Study – Islamic Calligraphy

Calligraphy is one of the fundamental element in Islamic aesthetic, and considered one of the three elements in the Islamic Decorative Canon. It is employed in the writing of the holy scripture of the Muslims, the Al-Quran and decoration of monumental buildings throughout the Islamic World.

Islamic Calligraphy is based on the Arabic script for obviously Arab Muslims. Non Arab Muslims also employ the script to write in their own languages for example for writing the Urdu language of the Indian Subcontinent or Jawi of the Malay Archipelago . It is specially revered by the Muslims since it is one of the means of the preservation of the Al-Quran – that is, by writing and copying the sacred texts.

The Islamic Calligraphy flourish and develop from a square and angular script, into a cursive decorative script, to the point that it is lavishly decorated alongside Geometrical shapes and/or vegetal Arabesques. The main reason that the art of calligraphy in the Islamic world develop so rapidly is that for one it is the main way to write the Al-Quran, and since “God is beautiful and loves beauty”, as noted by the prophet Muhammad, Islamic scribes quickly develop ways to make the scripts more aesthetically pleasing and more beautiful. Another reason is being human or animal representation is fundamentally forbidden in Islam, as it may be idolatrous, Islamic artists find their way to channel their creativity and Calligraphy is one of them, alongside Geometry patterns and Arabesques.

Apart from the usage on holy scriptures and as decorative elements on major secular or religious building, it is also used for official matters in the Islamic world, particularly in Arabic states- state decrees and laws, diplomatic letters, certificates, signatures of Muslim rulers and even marriage decree was, and sometimes, still is, writ in beautiful calligraphy and decorated. This clearly shows that Islamic calligraphy is not just for religious matters and for decoration of monuments and buildings,but also appreciated in daily life.

In a wider sense, Arabic script calligraphy is not exclusive to the Muslims and the Islamic world, but also to devotees of other religions in the Middle East, particularly Arab Christians and Jews. They use the script developed by their Muslim peers for their own scriptures, buildings etc. for example, there is a wooden cross, belonged to a Protestant Church in Lebanon, National Evangelical Church of Beirut, that have a carving of John 3:16 that uses the angular Kufic script and using Arabic language in the center of the said crucifix. Another instance are the Egyptian Copts ; they use both their native Coptic language and Arabic for their scriptures and buildings.

There are many types of Arabic/Islamic Calligraphy, and we shall attempt to look into each one in accordance of its time of introduction, and according to the two main styles :-

1) Geometric Style – Refers to angular, square style of Islamic Calligraphy. It is the earliest style of calligraphy, and mostly used the the 7th Century to the 10th Century as the preferred style of writing the Al-Quran, before it slowly decline in usage and become a style of decorative calligraphy, for monuments or buildings.

  • Hijazi script . Developed in the Hijaz area, that includes the Holy city of Mecca and Medina, hence the name. It is  an Arabic script style that is angular and squarish, but still have some slight curves to it. It is the earliest form of Arabic calligraphy, already being used in the emergence of Islam. It is also known as the Ma’il Script (sloping)

  • Kufic script – The name of the script derived from the name of the city of Kufa in Iraq, derived  from the old Nabatean script. This script is used for the first copies of the Al-Quran. It was the preferred script to be used in the 8th-10th Century. As with Hijazi, the main characteristic of this script is that is is angular and squarish in shape. There are two further variants of the Kufic script – Maghribi and Andalusi. These two script still retains the angular characteristics, however it is less rigid with more curves.

After the 10th Century AD, the Kufic script falls out of popularity in writing manuscripts, but is used in ornamental decoration. There is two types for this ornamental decoration-

  • Flowering Kufic, where the script is merged with vegetal and floral motifs.

  • Geometric Kufic, where the script is styllized to resemble a geometric shape, a square for example.
  • An example of the Geometric Kufic, decorating the walls of the Jame Mosque in Isfahan, Iran

2) Cursive Style – First appearing in the 10th century, it quickly replaces the Geometric style as the preferred method of writing, as they were more easier to be read and written.

There are six important scripts under the Cursive style, called the “six cursive scripts”, being the ideas of Ibnu Muqla, a noted Abbasid calligrapher in 939AD, refined by his successors Ibnu al-Bawwab and Yaqut al-Mustacsimi. The six canonical scripts are –

  • Nasakh/ Naskhi script, meaning to copy, or to abolish. Called as such because it replaces the preferred Kufic script used before, and faster and easier copying of the Al-Quran.  A simple, day to day cursive script. Its uses ranges from correspondence to the copying of the Al-Quran later . One of the most popular script, because of its eligibility.

    The Al-fatihah, first chapter of the Al-Quran, written in the Nasakh script

  • Thuluth script , meaning one-third, because each letter of the Arabic alphabet used in this style slopes in one-third. An elegant and large script, It is mainly used for monumental decoration, and for heading of each surah (chapter) of the Al-Quran.

    An example of the Thuluth script, attributed to Yaqut Al-Mustacimi

  • Tawqi’ script, derived from Arabic waqa’a, meaning to sign. Called as such because it is the preferred script to be used in signatures by rulers. It is most often used in diplomas, royal documents and other official letters. However, it is rarely utilized for other matters, making it a little used script. It is characterized by elongated verticals and wide curves, and most often, when the letter alif (a) and lam (l) meets, the two characters are enjoined with an upward curve.

    A verse from the Ali Imran Chapter from the Al-Quran written in Tawqi' script

  • Riqa’ script, taken from the Arabic word ruq’a meaning a piece of cloth. Named as such because it is often the script used for petitions to royalties written on a small pieces of paper. Very similar and a companion of the Tawq’i script, it is essentially its miniature version. Used for personal correspondence, stories and letters in it’s early stage to official documents and correspondence. Like Tawq’i, it is also a minimally utilized script.
  • Muhaqqaq script, meaning fully realized, or strongly expressed. This is true when you look at the script – large, very cursive script with precise angles and upright letters, descending strokes at the end in straight sharp points , and round descending letters encircle the following letters. All of the characteristics defines a sense of strength in the script. Mainly used for large Al-Quran and for monumental writing.

    A verse from the Al-An'am Chapter of the Al-Quran, written in Muhaqqaq style

  • Rayhani script, meaning having a fragrance. Mainly used for copying Al-Quran, and like Riqa’ script, is a miniature version of the Muhaqqaq script.

Other than these six canonical cursive scripts, there are other scripts developed in other lands such as Persia and Turkey.

  • Ta’liq script, meaning suspension or hanging together. Called as such because the letters appear to connect with each other with very little spaces between words. Curves are more pronounced and descending strokes become loops. Mainly used for official correspondence and non-quranic works. It is also sometimes used in literary works such as poetry and books.

    courtesty of http://calligraphyqalam.com. A part of a literary composition written in Ta'liq script.

  • Nastaliq script,  it is called the Farsi script in the Arab world. The word Nastaliq is thought to be the amalgamation of two scripts, Nasakh and Ta’liq script. Originally created to write the Persian language, it is utilized in Central Asia for writing of literary , poetry and non-quranic works.

    Courtesy of http://www.calligraphyqalam.com, from the Library of Congress. A Ruba'ie (Quartrain) written in Nastaliq

  • Shikaste script, meaning broken  in Persian, because it is a “broken” version of the Nastaliq script. It is a preferred script to use in long documents and correspondence because of its fluidity and easiness of writing, and used for poetry and other literary works because of its beauty and flowery visual style. However, it is hard to read and almost eligible to the untrained eye.

    Courtesy of http://www.calligraphyqalam.com, from the Library of Congress. An Al-Quran manuscript done in the Shikaste style.

These three scripts are mainly developed and used in the Central Asian countries, mainly Persia (Iran and Iraq), India, Pakistan and other South Asian Muslim communities.

  • Diwani script, or otherwise spelled Divani. The name is derived from the word Divan,  the Ottoman Royal Chancery. It is mainly used by the Ottoman court for official documents. It is rather simillar to Nastaliq script, being fluid and flowery. However, it is more stylized, having dots as decorative details. Sometimes the decoration are very fancy it loses its eligibility. There is two types of this script, that is Riq’a Diwani,  a straightforward style with no decoration and straight lines,  and Jeli Diwani , a more elaborate style with lots of decorations and the letters are intertwined, making the script less eligible and harder to forge.

    An example of the Diwani Script

The Diwani Script is developed and used mainly by the Turkish court, or at that time, the Ottoman court.

  • Sini script, derived from the word in Arabic for Chinese. It is developed, as the namesake tells, from China. It has distinct influences for  the Chinese calligraphy. It is rather squarish and angular, but have the fluidity of Chinese calligraphy.

    The Bismillah written in Sini calligraphy

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