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Encyclopedia > Arabesque
Arabesque pattern at the Alhambra
Arabesque pattern at the Alhambra

An element of Islamic art usually found decorating the walls of mosques, the arabesque is an elaborate application of repeating geometric forms that often echo the forms of plants and animals. The choice of which geometric forms are to be used and how they are to be formatted is based upon the Islamic view of the world. To Muslims, these forms, taken together, constitute an infinite pattern that extends beyond the visible material world. To many in the Islamic world, they in fact symbolize the infinite, and therefore uncentralized, nature of the creation of the one God (Allah). Furthermore, the Islamic Arabesque artist conveys a definite spirituality without the iconography of Christian art. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1536x2048, 1086 KB) Picture taken by myself. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1536x2048, 1086 KB) Picture taken by myself. ... View of the Alhambra from the Mirador St Nicolas in the Albaycin of Granada. ... Islamic art is the art of Islamic people, cultures, and countries. ... The Badshahi Masjid in Lahore, Pakistan with an iwan at center, three domes, and five visible minarets A mosque is a place of worship for followers of the Islamic faith. ... For other uses, see Geometry (disambiguation). ... For other uses, including people named Islam, see Islam (disambiguation). ... A Muslim (Arabic: مسلم, Turkish: Müslüman, Persian and Urdu: مسلمان, Bosnian: Musliman) is an adherent of Islam. ... Allah is the Arabic language word referring to God, the Lord and, literally according to the Quran, to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Abrahamic religions. ... For other senses of this word, see icon (disambiguation). ... Christian art is art that spans many segments of Christianity. ...



Geometric artwork in the form of the arabesque was not widely used in the Islamic world until the golden age of Islam came into full bloom. During this time, ancient texts were translated from their original Greek and Latin into Arabic at the House of Wisdom an academic research institution in Baghdad (itself based on the Academy of Gundishapur in Persia). Like the following Renaissance in Europe, mathematics, science, literature and history were infused into the Islamic world with great, mostly positive repercussions. The works of Plato and especially of Euclid became popular among the literate. In fact, it was Euclid's geometry along with the foundations of trigonometry codified by Pythagoras that were expounded on by Al-Jawhari (ca.800-860), whose Commentary on Euclid's Elements became the impetus of the art form that was to become the Arabesque. Furthermore, Plato's ideas about the existence of a separate reality that was perfect in form and function and crystalline in character also would contribute to the development of the Arabesque. The History of Islam involves the history of the Islamic faith as a religion and as a social institution. ... Latin is an ancient Indo-European language originally spoken in Latium, the region immediately surrounding Rome. ... The Arabic language ( ), or simply Arabic ( ), is the largest member of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family (classification: South Central Semitic) and is closely related to Hebrew and Aramaic. ... The House of Wisdom (Arabic بيت الحكمة Bayt al-Hikma) was a library and translation institute in Abbassid-era Baghdad. ... The Academy of Gundishapur (also Jondishapoor, Jondishapur, and Jondishapour, Gondeshapur, GONDÊ SHÂPÛR, etc. ... Raphael was famous for depicting illustrious figures of the Classical past with the features of his Renaissance contemporaries. ... European redirects here. ... For other uses, see Plato (disambiguation). ... Euclid (also referred to as Euclid of Alexandria) (Greek: ) (c. ... For other uses, see Geometry (disambiguation). ... Wikibooks has a book on the topic of Trigonometry Trigonometry (from the Greek trigonon = three angles and metron = measure [1]) is a branch of mathematics which deals with triangles, particularly triangles in a plane where one angle of the triangle is 90 degrees (right triangles). ... Pythagoras of Samos (Greek: Πυθαγόρας; circa 582 BC – circa 507 BC) was an Ionian (Greek) mathematician and philosopher, founder of the mystic, religious and scientific society called Pythagoreans. ... Al-Jawhari (ca. ...

Description and symbolism

To the westerner, arabesque art looks like a series of repeating geometric forms which are occasionally accompanied by calligraphy. To the adherents of Islam, the Arabesque are symbolic of their united faith and the way in which traditional Islamic cultures view the world. Calligraphy in a Latin Bible of AD 1407 on display in Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire, England. ... For other uses, including people named Islam, see Islam (disambiguation). ...

Two modes

There are two modes to arabesque art. The first recalls the principles that govern the order of the world. These principles include the bare basics of what makes objects structurally sound and, by extension, beautiful (i.e. the angle and the fixed/static shapes that it creates -- esp. the truss). In the first mode, each repeating geometric form has a built-in symbolism ascribed to it. For example, the square, with its four equilateral sides, is symbolic of the equally important elements of nature: earth, air, fire and water. Without any one of the four, the physical world, represented by a circle that inscribes the square, would collapse upon itself and cease to exist. The second mode is based upon the flowing nature of plant forms. This mode recalls the feminine nature of life giving. In addition, upon inspection of the many examples of Arabesque art, some would argue that there is in fact a third mode, the mode of Arabic calligraphy. Truss bridge for a single track railway, converted to pedestrian use and pipeline support. ... In geometry, an equilateral polygon has all sides of the same length. ... Loess field in Germany Soil horizons are formed by combined biological, chemical and physical alterations. ... AIR is a three-letter abbreviation with multiple meanings, as described below: The Annals of Improbable Research, a monthly magazine devoted to scientific humour All India Radio - Indias Government Radio service AIR, a popular electronica band from France. ... A large bonfire. ... Water is a tasteless, odorless substance that is essential to all known forms of life and is known as the universal solvent. ... Divisions Green algae Chlorophyta Charophyta Land plants (embryophytes) Non-vascular plants (bryophytes) Marchantiophyta - liverworts Anthocerotophyta - hornworts Bryophyta - mosses Vascular plants (tracheophytes) †Rhyniophyta - rhyniophytes †Zosterophyllophyta - zosterophylls Lycopodiophyta - clubmosses †Trimerophytophyta - trimerophytes Equisetophyta - horsetails Pteridophyta - true ferns Psilotophyta - whisk ferns Ophioglossophyta - adderstongues Seed plants (spermatophytes) †Pteridospermatophyta - seed ferns Pinophyta - conifers Cycadophyta - cycads Ginkgophyta... The hand mirror and comb of the Roman Goddess Venus is often used to represent the female sex. ... The stylized signature of Sultan Abdul Hamid I of the Ottoman Empire was written in an expressive calligraphy. ...


An example of Arabic calligraphy
An example of Arabic calligraphy

Instead of recalling something related to the 'True Reality' (the reality of the spiritual world), for the Muslim calligraphy is a visible expression of the highest art of all; the art of the spoken word (the transmittal of thoughts and of history). In Islam, the most important document to be transmitted orally is, of course, the Qur'an. Proverbs and complete passages from the Qur'an can be seen today in Arabesque art. The coming together of these three forms creates the Arabesque, and this is a reflection of unity arising from diversity (a basic tenet of Islam). Image File history File linksMetadata Caligrafia_arabe_pajaro. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Caligrafia_arabe_pajaro. ... Calligraphy in a Latin Bible of AD 1407 on display in Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire, England. ... The Qurān [1] (Arabic: , literally the recitation; also called The Noble Quran; also transliterated as Quran, Koran (the traditional term in English), and Al-Quran), is the central religious text of Islam. ... Look up proverb in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


The arabesque can also be equally thought of as both art and science, some say. The artwork is at the same time mathematically precise, aesthetically pleasing, and symbolic. So due to this duality of creation, they say, the artistic part of this equation can be further subdivided into both secular and religious artwork. However, for many Muslims there is no distinction; all forms of art, the natural world, mathematics and science are all creations of God and therefore are reflections of the same thing (God's will expressed through His Creation). In other words, man can discover the geometric forms that constitute the Arabesque, but these forms always existed before as part of God's creation, as shown in this picture. The Bath, a painting by Mary Cassatt (1891-1892). ... Science in the broadest sense refers to any system of knowledge attained by verifiable means. ... Mathematics is commonly defined as the study of patterns of structure, change, and space; more informally, one might say it is the study of figures and numbers. Mathematical knowledge is constantly growing, through research and application, but mathematics itself is not usually considered a natural science. ... This article concerns secularity, that is, being secular, in various senses. ... Religious is a term with both a technical definition and folk use. ...

Order and unity

There is great similarity between arabesque artwork from very different geographic regions. In fact, the similarities are so pronounced, that it is sometimes difficult for experts to tell where a given style of arabesque comes from. The reason for this is that the science and mathematics that are used to construct Arabesque artwork are universal.

Therefore, for most Muslims, the best artwork that can be created by man for use in the Mosque is artwork that displays the underlying order and unity of nature. The order and unity of the material world, they believe, is a mere ghostly approximation of the spiritual world (which for many Muslims is the place where the only true reality exists). Discovered geometric forms, therefore, exemplify this perfect reality because God's creation has been obscured by the sins of man. The Badshahi Masjid in Lahore, Pakistan with an iwan at center, three domes, and five visible minarets A mosque is a place of worship for followers of the Islamic faith. ... A manufactured image of a ghostly woman ascending a staircase. ... The English word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning breath. ... Sin is a term used mainly in a religious context to describe an act that violates a moral code of conduct or the state of having committed such a violation. ...

In fact, Sufi Muslims believe that there is no distinction between the spiritual and material worlds. They also believe that the reason we cannot experience the spiritual world is that there are 'veils of concealment' that shield us from the perfection of the spiritual world. They therefore work to lift these veils, in order to become one with God while they are still on Earth. One of the ways that Sufi Muslims try to do this is to use the arabesque in depictions of the world. Sufism (Arabic تصوف taṣawwuf) is a system of esoteric philosophy commonly associated with Islam. ...

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