Monday, February 20, 2012

Understanding Islam

FANAR, Qatar Islamic Cultural Center

Islam is the belief in one God, translated into Arabic as Allah. He is one Supreme Being without shape and form that we can comprehend.
In the Arabic language, the word Islam has many meanings. It comes from the root of ‘Islam’ is described literally as meaning ‘submission’, ‘surrender’, ‘peace’ and ‘safety’.

Salaam is also known as one of Allah’s attributes. A Muslim is a person who submits himself to the worship of Allah, therefore making all those who believed in the original message of the oneness of God Muslim; including all the Prophets, from Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus to Mohammad (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon them all).

Islam has come as a mercy to mankind with a book of guidance called the Qur`an, the word of Allah – revealed 1400 years ago and unchanged ever since.

This book, along with the teachings of the final Messenger Muhammed, shows all of humanity how to behave in the way commanded by the Creator in all aspects life, both material and spiritual.

In Islam the relationship between humankind and the environment is based on the fact that everything on earth worships Allah.
This worship is not merely ritual practice, but translated into actions; which means it is part of the belief of the Muslim to not damage the environment. Moreover, humans are responsible for the welfare and sustenance of the other inhabitants of this global environment, as the animal and plant kingdoms can not damage or destroy their environments.


“God is Beautiful and Loves Beauty”

so said Prophet Mohammad some 1400 years ago. He also said,
“God likes that when you do anything, you do it excellently.” (Reported by Muslim)
Such Prophetic sayings have provided the impetus for the Muslim’s beautifcation and adornment of their places of worship, homes, and even of articles in common use in everyday life. Islamic architecture and decorative arts are still very much alive and valued in many parts of the Muslim world.
Islamic art developed a unique character, utilising a number of primary forms: geometric, arabesque, foral, and calligraphic, which are often interwoven. From early times, Muslim art has refected a balanced, harmonious world-view.
Muslims are convinced of the balance and harmony of all things in existence. Nothing occurs randomly or by chance, for all is part of the plan of the All-Wise, Most Merciful Planner.
Some essentials of Islamic art are:

  • Islamic art seeks to portray the meaning and essence of things, rather than just their physical form.
  • Crafts and decorative arts are elevated to the status of art.
  • Calligraphy is a major form of art in Islam.
  • Intricate geometrical and floral patterns play an enormous role in Islamic art.
  • Islamic art involves all types of art, not just explicitly religious art.

Because of the Muslim’s profound respect and love for the Qur`an, the art of calligraphy was developed early on and reached a very high degree.

Throughout the Muslim world, Qur’anic verses beautify masjids, palaces, homes, businesses, and some public areas. Often calligraphy is done in conjunction with decorative motifs, lovingly embellishing what is most sacred and precious.
Over the centuries, many scripts have evolved in various regions of the Muslim world. The main Arabic calligraphy styles are:


Kufc is more or less a square and angular script, characterised by its heavy, bold, and lapidary style. Its letters are generally thick and it is suitable for writing on stone or metal, for painting or engraving inscriptions on the walls of mosques, and for the lettering on coins.
Naskh is perhaps the most popular script in the Arab world. It is a cursive script based on certain laws governing the proportions between the letters. Naskh is legible and clear and was adapted as the preferred style for typesetting and printing. It evolved into innumerable styles and varieties, including the ta’liq, the riqa’, and the diwani, and became the parent of the modern Arabic script.
This is the most important of all the ornamental scripts and is considered the king of styles. It is usually used in write headings, religious inscriptions, and princely titles and epigraphs.
Designed specifcally to meet the needs of the Persian language and is still used widely in Iran, Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent. Ta’liq is a fuid and elegant script.
Excessively cursive and highly structured with its letters unconventionally joined together with no vowel marks. It was developed during the reign of the early Ottoman Turks (16th -early 17th century). There are other less common types of calligraphy, but by no means less beautiful. For examples being Riq`a, Muhaqqaq, Rayhani, Ijaza and Moroccan.


The architecture of the Islamic world

The architecture of the Islamic world throughout history was strengthened by its spiritual foundation, the Qur`an.
Urban areas in Islamic cities evolved over long periods of time with generations of craftsmen whose experience added variety to the environment.

The traditional city linked the architecture of madrassa (Islamic schools), the souq (market place), the palace and the home together with the mosque at the centre, to create beauty throughout our towns.
The masjids (mosques) and palaces became with time, more elaborate in decoration and design, with great leaps in architecture, from the concepts of the dome which allowed a large open prayer area, to the inscriptions in the masjids, glorifying Allah.

One common theme is the general absence of human and animal form in architecture. You will fnd the beautifcation instead, centres on the words, text and script, praising Allah through the use of calligraphy.

A typical Islamic house would have certain features; such as hidden courtyards to protect the family life from people outside and the harsh environment. You would fnd the outside of the house very plain with the concentration on the inside of the house. Over time, the house would be extended to accommodate the needs of a growing family – often with separate houses being built within one compound for the extended family.

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