Study – The Islamic Decorative Canon

Studying these Islamic aesthetics with this blog, I cannot help but to realize that the Islamic art are based on a specific ‘canon’ ; a grouping of art styles that is common throughout the Islamic empire, no matter where it is executed, or built. You can find the same aesthetics in the Alhambra in Spain as well as in the Umayyad mosque in Damascus, to Fatehpur Sikri in India. And not surprisingly, it is not only me who felt the same way.

According to some references I read during my ongoing research of the Islamic Art, the Islamic Decorative Canon came to be during the ‘Sunni Revival’, although the origins can be traced back as early as the period of the Ummayad Caliphate. The ‘Sunni Revival’, as I had learned, is a movement during the 11th Century, that was started in Baghdad, Iraq, which saw changes in the aspects of  culture and religion. It is known as the ‘Sunni Revival’ because it, in some way, replaced the Shi’a denomination of Islam which is prevalent in the Muslim World at that time. What was meant to be a reform or a movement towards changing of the Islamic world culturally and in religion, it is also indirectly connected with the changes and reforms in the art and architecture of the Islamic empire, since during this period saw the Islamic art – and hence, the Islamic canon – came to maturity.

The Islamic Decorative Canon consists of three different forms of art –

  • Calligraphy – The first Islamic Decorative Canon is the medium of which the Sacred texts of the Muslims – The Al-Quran were written with, hence are considered the most noble of the three Decorative Canon. Different styles and different types of calligraphy are used for decoration of buildings and other items and so the styles are never fallen into misuse.

Author – Traces in the Sand

The Selimiye Mosque (Turkish: Selimiye Camii) is a mosque in the city of Edirne, Turkey. The mosque was commissioned by Sultan Selim II and was built by architect Mimar Sinan between 1568 and 1574. It was considered by Sinan to be his masterpiece and is one of the highest achievements of Islamic architecture

  • Geometrical Patterns – Perfected across the dynasties and the periods of Islamic caliphates, Geometrical patterns have a significant place and a certain appeal to Muslim artisans. Perhaps they convey certain spirituality, though they are devoid of any symbolical significance to Muslims, and is there only as decoration and perhaps to some certain extend, for Muslims to reflect the infinite nature of God.Zillij tiles in Meknes Bab Mansour in Morrocco
  • Arabesques – In Islam, the depiction of human or animal form are prohibited. With this prohibition in mind, the Muslims artisans found other mediums to convey their creativity that includes the Arabesques – intricate, vegetal or flower like decorations that clearly takes its influence in nature.


Author - SanchoPanzaXXI

An example of the Islamic Decorative Canon in use – Calligraphy in the center of the emblem, the arabesques surrounding it and the geometrical pattern of eight-pointed star in the corners. This example is taken from the Alhambra in Spain.




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One response to “Study – The Islamic Decorative Canon

  1. Pingback: Spiritually Structured | Modal Vision

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