No Postings

I absolutely have no time at all to post anything last month! Apologies for that, but I was busy with my work. I had the pleasure of working with the Government of Oman for their cultural show and exhibition here in Brunei. So I had the chance to see some of their art and architecture, which undeniably a part of the Islamic Art tradition itself. So please wait for the articles and lots and lots of pics!

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A full month of no activity yet again!

I wasn’t able to write any new articles at the moment, due to work demands as well as my studies. Insha Allah, I will start writing again soon next month

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starsinsymmetry.com in temporary offline

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Crap.

I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but I do not have the means to pay for the $98 to reactivate the domain starsinsymmetry.com. So if you put that address to your browser, you will met with something like the above pic.

Not even the ads are paying for the domain…I am pretty much displaying ad on the blog practically for free

However, you can still come to starsinsymmetry.wordpress.com if you still wish to read my articles

Sorry for the inconvenience caused

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Observation – Kota Kinabalu City Mosque Part 2

As a continuation from a post that I had written on the end of last April, we will discover more about this delightful city mosque. This time we are going to get inside the mosque and discover the Islamic art and architecture featured.

Approaching the mosque from the main entrance to the east, through five tall arches, we enter the courtyard of the mosque, where you can go to administrative offices of the mosque. Also, this is where artists displaying and selling their Islamic artwork. conveniently, there is an ATM installed just outside of the entrance of the courtyard on the left. We (me and my family) were rather shocked and confused to find this machine to actually be on the site of a mosque, as if it has turned into a mini shopping mall of some sort, especially considering the bazaar building outside next to the parking lots. It is almost like the mosque authorities are actually monetizing a religious place. This instance, of course, never happened in our country. In our confusion, we did not take any pictures in this area. However, I found a picture from Wikipedia, showing the tall arches as well as the ATM itself, partially hidden by a car and a pillar just left to the entrance.

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Past the tiled, open courtyard bathed in blue due to the translucent roofing above, we step into the carpeted outer prayer hall, bathed in natural light, muted by yet another translucent roofing, designed with a large eight pointed star motif. The whole roof is supported by steel beams, that also holds drop down. Fans hung low from the ceiling, whirring slowly above our heads, though it provides little comfort from the harsh afternoon heat permeating the mosque.  The prayer hall is surrounded by the Mashrabia windows, with the repeating patterns of eight pointed stars that can be seen from outside the mosque.

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The outer prayer hall is covered with carpeting that featured ten pointed stars, surrounded with five pointed stars. The carpet is in beige, grey and green. The mosque is already thirteen years old so perhaps the carpet looks dull and worn. This carpeting covered all the outer prayer hall right to the edges.

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Inside the main prayer hall it was another different style. The floors are covered with tile instead of the carpeting used on the outer prayer hall. The colour scheme of the hall is white and gold, with hints of soft, pastel blues, greens, creams and earthy colours. As the exterior of the mosque have influences from the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah in Saudi Arabia, so does the interior.  The main, obvious influences taken from the Prophet’s Mosque is the two panels on the either side of the Mihrab. The panels’ design are actually based on the doors of the Prophet’s Mosque. Also, the Mihrab itself is based on the Mihrab of the Mosque in Madinah.

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Above the Mihrab there was a triptych of stained glass windows featuring the same eight-pointed star patterns. With soft light shining through, it elegantly illuminates the rather dark areas below the main dome.

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The main dome, which is beautifully decorated in blue on the outside, is also decorated ornately. The design, which features a geometric star design that blooms all over the dome, recalls of a blooming sunflower. The design recalls of the dome of Lotfallah mosque in Isfahan, Iran albeit less decorated. The all over design features calming colours of sky blue, mint green and cream accentuated with gold that reflects the scheme of the main prayer hall.

should you have the chance to visit Kota Kinabalu, don’t forget to pay a visit to this Islamic architectural jewel set to a breathtaking backdrop of the mountains and the sea.

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Ramadhan Kareem

Its already into the third day of Ramadhan and fasting but I hope it is not too late to say Ramadhan Kareem, Allahu Akram to my each and every Muslim readers.

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The banner above features a stained glass dome that can be seen in Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah of Brunei.  Have a happy and blessed Ramadhan, full of joy and happiness

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Some changes to the blog

I forgot to mention that I had changed some of the visual look of the blog. It is still green, the theme colour for this year for this blog, but I made some new background image, and I also changed the heading image to a nice green Zellige tile detail. I have also reflected this change to the blog’s somewhat neglected Facebook page.

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Enjoy!

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Study – Islamic Art in the Malay World

I was having problems logging in to my account on WordPress. And when I was able to, I could not post anything on the blog, let alone to write. I had suspicions it was the internet provider’s fault and after failed help sessions with the local ISP, I gave up and brought the matter in my own hands. finally, with some help of a few programs i can now comfortably write and publish articles to the blog.

I had mentioned a few times about the Islamic art in the Malay Peninsula, but I failed to elaborate any further on the subject. You can read a short photo heavy article here. This is primarily because the art in the Malay Peninsula is more affiliated with the Malay culture. Malay art was not often considered to be Islamic. Also, Malay art tends to be more influenced from the Chinese or Hindu-Buddhist culture, and set it apart from the rest of what is traditionally regarded as Islamic Art.

In fact, Malay art is very much influenced by the Middle Eastern traditional Islamic Art, especially after the arrival of Islam to the Peninsula.  The traditions and cultural aspects of the Malay art that were over time abandoned in favour of the Islamic teaching. In time, Malay art amalgamated with Islam that in turn creates a significantly unique art style that is different from other Islamic art styles and yet, given to its roots, can be considered as a part of the Islamic Art.

History –

Before Islam, Hinduism and Buddism had taken root in the social and cultural aspects of the Malay Peninsula. Records of Hindu kingdoms in Java and Sumatra had been written by Indian scholars in 200AD (1) while Buddhism came into the region from Central Asia and China in the first Millennium BC and flourished around the 12th century. (2). Both of these religions bring its tradition and culture into the Malay Archipelago and took roots there as powerful empires. The proof of the strong presence of Hinduism and Buddhism can be found many temples dedicated to Buddha and/or the Hindu deities throughout the region, both intact and ruined. Also, many cultural practices and traditions are still being carried out today by the Malay community which has their roots in these religions

During as early as the 9th Century, a few hundred years after the founding of Islam in Mecca by Prophet Muhammad, there were reports of Arab traders selling their goods in the Malay archipelago. in fact, trading relations can be assumed to already taken place, based on a hadith of the Prophet –

Um ‘Atiyya said, “One of the daughters of the Prophet died and he came out and said, ‘Wash her three or five times or more, if you think it necessary, with water and Sidr, and last of all put camphor (or some camphor) and when you finish, inform me.’ ” Um Atiyya added, “When we finished we informed him and he gave us his waist-sheet and said, ‘Shroud her in it.’ ” And Um ‘Atiyya (in another narration) added, “The Prophet said, ‘Wash her three, five or seven times or more, if you think it necessary.’ ” Hafsa said that Um ‘Atiyya had also said, “We entwined her hair into three braids.” (3)

Camphor is a kind of pleasant smelling substance obtained from evergreen trees primarily found in South East Asia particularly in Borneo and Sumatra. It is very unlikely that the prophet to know of this substance and enjoins his followers to annoint the dead with Camphor, unless he knows of it and its perfumed odour.

It is also noted that Arab traders had been going to South east Asian ports long before their conversion to Islam, strengthening the fact that Islam may have spread in the peninsula as soon as after the prophet Muhammad propagated the religion.

The change from Hindu-Buddhism to Islam

The exact time when Islam was introduced into the region is still a debatable subject among scholars. Some agree that the presence of Islam exists somewhere around the 14th century, or even as early as the 10th century (4). However, the conversion of King Phra Ong Mahawangsa, the last Hindu king of Kedah to Islam and renaming himself Sultan Mudzafar Shah I marks the beginning of mass conversion of the Malays in the peninsula. The exposure of the people to Muslim traders from the Middle east and Central Asia, as well as the conversion of their kings to the Islamic faith, led them to abandon their past beliefs to embrace the new faith.

However, while Islam is their religion, the abandoned faiths leave a lasting impact and still influenced their daily lives – culturally and socially. This can be seen in the ceremonies they held, the music they play that still have notes influenced by their former faith and the artistic work they do. While the influences remain, these over time and in turn get influenced by the culture Islam brings, thus the two traditions – the old of animistic, Hindu and Buddhist and the new of Islamic culture – are amalgamated and creates what is uniquely Malay and yet Islamic.

The influence of Islam in Malay art

The existing artistry of the Malays such as textiles and clothing, metalwork and jewellery as well as architecture became assimilated with the Islamic motifs the new religion brought to the archipelago. The design remains the same, but the existing motifs were sometimes replaced but more often complimented with new, Islamic ones.

Islamic Motifs Used in the art of the Malay World

Batik headcover with stylized Islamic calligraphy design. Courtesy of http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/241.2008/

Among the motifs employed with the existing designs in the Malay craftwork includes Islamic calligraphy, Geometric designs, Islimi (stylized vegetal or floral motifs) and motif design taken from Islamic lore, such as the Buraq, the ride on which the Prophet Muhammad rode on his way to Jerusalem from Mecca in his Night Journey of Isra’.

Application of Islamic designs and Motifs

Floral and Vegetal design were not unheard of in the art of the Malay world before the rise of Islam in the peninsula as motifs based on nature such as Pucuk Rebung (Bamboo shoot) and Ayer Muleh (a type of stylized flower, but some said it mimics the swirling of waves) were already known. The coming of Islam and thus the art and culture that comes with it, means that the already existing designs were improvised and given a much more adhered look

Geometry design, a hallmark of the Islamic art, is also featured in the Malay art. This is most apparent in the production of textiles such as the woven cloth Kain Tenunan or the Batik textile. A pattern is to be repeated usually in four or six folds. The pattern itself is sometimes a star design, commonly an Octogram or a Hexagram. However, a repeating pattern based on flowers are not uncommon.

Kain Jongsarat, a traditional woven cloth from Brunei. taken from http://busy-dragonfly.blogspot.com/

In fashion, the traditional outifts of the Malay were modified to conform to the modesty rules of Islam. According to the teachings of Islam, both men and women are required to cover parts of their body as modesty as well as for praying. The men are required to cover from the navel to the knees, and women are to cover all but their faces and hands. These areas are called the Aurat. In addition, it is recommended for a Muslim man to wear some sort of headcover during prayers and entering mosques.With this in mind, the Malays adjust accordingly. In the old days, the Malay men wore simple plain buttoned top with trousers, along with a Kain Samping or Sinjang to be wrapped around the waist, covering the aforementioned areas.  They also wear the headcovering called Dastar made of simple square cloth, often using batik but sometimes the elaborate tenunan were used for formal occasions. More recently, Malay men wore a type of hat made out of velvet called Songkok or Peci, believed to originate from the Fez.

Women in Baju Kurung with scarves for headress, 1950s

The women, on the other hand, wears the Baju Kurung or Baju Kebaya for daily life. Baju Kurung is a type of outfit covering most of a woman’s body in two separate pieces consisting of a blouse and a bottom that sometimes uses a batik sarong. Baju Kurung literally means constrained dress. A Baju Kebaya  is basically similar to the Baju Kurung but made to fit the body of the wearer instead of loosely fitting. Ironically, it is believed the word Kebaya comes from the Arabic word Abaya, a loose fitting garment for women. For a head veil, sometimes a sarong is used. A scarf is more commonly worn.

Balustrade and roof adornment of a Malay House. Courtesy of http://adiatsauri.blogspot.com/2010/09/semangat-kayu.html

In architecture, Islamic architectural features such as Masyrabias are incorporated into traditional Malay buildings. The art of the pierced screens are not uncommon to the Malays before the arrival of Islam, but the motifs employed became increasingly Islamic with vegetal motifs used. Malay wood carving that conforms to Islamic standard of not using images of humans and animals adorn many Malay traditional buildings, usually underneath roofs and as railings and window covers.

 

 

References –

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