Abbie Hudson

One of the most important elements of the Islamic art represented in the display is the centrality of the Qur’an. Most of the pieces had verses or even whole chapters of the Qur’an imprinted on them. This was the case with the more traditional art forms such as tapestries, and even with the jewelry and sculpture. There were four rings that had different verses on them, and amazingly one ring that even had a whole Qur’anic chapter! The small sculpture of the man reciting the Qur’an was also interesting. This focus on the Qur’an also reminds us of its centrality in the Muslim life. If we think of art as a medium for expressing various concepts such as life and love and suffering, we can see how for the devout Muslim the words of the Qur’an express and embody all parts of life.

Some of the art also had poetry written on it by Sufi poets such as Hafez. It is interesting that nearly all of the art on display contained words of some sort, whether from the Qur’an or from poets. This is somewhat in contrast to less Islamic forms of art that we have seen in the history of Christian and western culture. These forms tend to create a distinct divide between representational/figurative arts and art that uses words, such as poetry or literature. There are some pieces that blur these lines, but from the art on display here at Oberlin it seems that Islamic art does not have this same distinction, which is very cool. Lastly, many of the pieces we looked at used a lot of gold, particularly in the trim. This is characteristic of religious art as a whole and tends to evoke a sense of richness or respect (the idea that we give our best to God).