Imagining Islamic Aesthetics # 43 – Fatimid Caliphate Art and Architecture

I had promised that I will post Imagining Islamic Aesthetics posts twice per month in my last IIA posting, so here it is, enjoy!


For this edition of Imagining Islamic Aesthetics I would like to focus on Fatimid Caliphate Art and Architecture. Since this blog focuses on art, I will not elaborate much on the history of the caliphate…not for the time being though. I will do another full article on the Fatimid Dynasty, as well as the artistic and architectural impact they had done to the Islamic art and generally to the creative world itself.

The Fatimid Caliphate was founded in 909  before being taken over by the Ayyubids in the year 1171. The Fatimids founded the Egyptian capital of Cairo or Al-Qahira in 969,  and their rule reached  Palestine, the Hijaz peninsula, most of north Africa and even a part of Italy. Since their area of power is a where trade routes between the Indian subcontinent and the Mediterranean cross the Fatimid Caliphate was a successful and rich period of Islamic dynasty. The opulence of the Fatimid court led to a rediscovery of appreciation of the arts.

Ewer with birds. Body: rock crystal (Fatimid art, late 10th century–early 11th century); lid: filigreed gold (Italy, 11th century). From the Treasure of Saint-Denis. Rock crystal artistry is particularly prevalent in the Fatimid era.

Panel with hunters. Carved and engraved ivory with traces of paint, 11th–12th century, Egypt. Figurative representations were not uncommon in Fatimid Egypt and was a subject of many artifact done at that time.

Author - Memorato

Museo dell’Opera del Duomo: Griffin-shaped fountain spout. Bronze. Early 11th. century artwork from Al-Andalus or Fatimid Egypt (from Palermo ?) Fatimid art and sculptures were also appreciated outside the Muslim world and even used to hold sacred items and in churches.

Author - Md iet (talk). Original uploader was Md iet at en.wikipedia

Insciption above the main portal of the Al Aqmar Mosque, Cairo, Egypt. The Kufic script were mostly used in the Fatimid era, from monumental inscriptions to amulets.

The Al-Azhar mosque seen in the Sahn (courtyard) The Al-Azhar mosque is also a part of the Al-Azhar University, one of the oldest university in the world. Al-Azhar was taken from the name of Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, whose full name is Fatima Az-zahra

Technicals – Arranging the Six-Pointed Star

I had this in my laptop for quite a while now so I think it is best to post it here today. I had noted the technique of creating a proportioned six pointed star before and now the question is how to arrange them in traditional Islamic art.

The six-pointed star is a very common motif in Islamic art. The usage outside Islamic art can be traced in history. In religion it is mainly associated with Judaism, viewed as two triangles overlapping each other, while the six points represent the Twelve tribes, and the two interlacing triangles are the letters Dalet and Yud in Hebrew, the two letters assigned to Judah. It is also being repeatedly used in flags. The six-sided star or hexagram is a powerful symbol used in heraldry and occultism. but enough of that, let’s get to the point which is how to assemble the stars into motifs that commonly occur in Islamic art. Please note that I had rotated the stars so that it would not be associated with any religion, which in this article it is purely for artistic reasons, not for religious or occultism.

This is one of the common arrangement of the six-pointed star in Islamic art. The stars met with another star by the points and forming a negative space between them  creating the shape of a hexagon. This may be added with details such as hexagons in the middle of the six-pointed stars (remember that the six-pointed star is made from the shape of a hexagon)

By arranging the stars with every points of each star touching one other you will end up with a design that leaves a negative space between the stars in the shape of a diamond.  This is also a common motif in Islamic and again details can be added such as adding hexagons in the middle of each stars.

In this design, the stars are arranged in a linear fashion – both horizontally and vertically. This creates two different negative spaces between the stars. The vertical spaces formed a diamond shape polygon while horizontally the spaces are in another different polygon shape.


Observations – The Sword of the Prophet Muhammad and the Staff of Prophet Moses Exhibition part.3 ; The Ottoman Armoury

This is the third part of the exhibition post I had been writing (typing?). The last two I had featured The swords of the Prophet and his companions and manuscripts. For this part we look into another gallery of the exhibition. This gallery mainly features the history of the Islamic civilization from the age of the Prophet Muhammad up until the Ottoman sultanate of the Turkish Empire.

As the swords are borrowed from the Turkish palace of Topkapi in Istanbul, so naturally other artifacts featured are also from Turkey. The other artifacts mainly come from Indonesia and it is probably a part of the Sultan of Brunei’s collection.

A suit of armour from the Ottoman empire. on the other side was a long halberd – a spear with an axe shaped blade for the tip – which I didn’t get the chance to photograph. It doesn’t show here but the aromour, especially the helmet were intricately  decorated . Somehow it makes you wonder if this is really to be worn to battles. The necklace were made out of old coins cstrung together with a piece of cord – I saw the details of the coins and it seems like it is made of real currency, the ones used in transactions, in simple words coins for shopping, when I initially thought it is  made of purely decorative coins. Perhaps the make of the necklace wished the wearer luck?

A shield, again from the collection of Ottoman Turkish Empire armoury. Not sure about the material used but judging from the colour it could be iron and/or gilded copper. It features a four pointed star in the middle, two Arabesque cartouches and a ring of flowery design around the outer ring of the shield. It is small, perhaps can be compared to a medieval Buckler. I don’t think it is a suitable shield to be used against projectile weapons but mainly used for hand-to-hand combat or even maybe perhaps just an ornament – never meant to be used in battle.


For the next post I will be featuring two carriages of the Ottoman sultans as well as a gigantic Beduk – a drum used in mosques in the yesteryear to call the faithful to prayer or to signify breaking of fast time.

Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #42 – Modern Mosques

I realized that I haven’t been posting anything for quite a long time…As usual I am pretty busy with work and other responsibilities that I couldn’t find the time to blog. But anyway now I have some time to kill I decide to post some things that I meant to post weeks ago!

For this edition of Imagining Islamic Aesthetics (which, I want to point now, it will be a post per month or maybe hopefully every fortnight ) I will bring out the topic of Modern Mosques. The last time I touched the topic of Modern Islamic architecture was a general outlook of Islamic architecture of today. For this Imagining Islamic Aesthetic we would like to focus on the religious side of Islamic modern architecture. Please do bear in mind that Islamic architecture doesn’t mean that the architectural style is exclusive only to the religion ; Islamic architecture covers a wide scope  in which it is utilized in Islamic countries mainly but also used for secular buildings as well as by different religions under the countries.


An example of modern Islamic architecture. The mosque is located on a corniche by the red sea. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Judging from the architectural style it is still pretty much traditional, however the materials used are not, hence being labelled modern.

The dazzling alabaster marbled Istiqlal mosque of Jakarta, Indonesia, seen from the base of its tower. The national mosque of Indonesia, also the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. This mosque is quite a popular tourist spot in Jakarta, even Barack Obama once visited the mosque with his wife in his visit to Indonesia. There are very little features that follows traditional mosque architecture for example the mihrab and the domes. It is a good example of modern contemporary mosque.

h_kinani Original uploader was H kinani at en.wikipedia

Hajja Soad mosque in Khartoum, Sudan.  Another mosque that departs from the traditional mosque architecture, favouring sloping roofs instead of domes and a sharp, tall pyramidal minaret.

Author - Asjad Jamshed

Faisal mosque in Pakistan . Named for Faisal of Saudi Arabia, it is the largest mosque in Pakistan and South Asia and one of the largest mosques in the world. Another great example of Modern mosque

Photo taken by Finlay McWalter on September 4th 2005.

Glasgow Central Mosque is located on the south bank of the River Clyde in the Gorbals district of central Glasgow, Scotland. The architecture follows loosely on traditional styles, but the materials used are modern as well as the details. The main dome is made out of glass and allows natural light into the main prayer hall.