Elizabeth Foster: Islamic Art

Using mosques, specifically the Ka’bah that is described in depth in the writing by Titus Burkhardt, as a basis upon which one judges Islamic art, there are both huge discrepancies and huge similarities. Mosques, supremely the Ka’bah, are defined by their material void, for despite the often intricate exterior, inside there is little to nothing as decoration. While upon first glance at the exhibit, the intricacy and ornateness inherent in these objects may seem a complete contradiction, the empty Ka’bah and the ornate art of Islam both separately yet similarly encapsulate the Islamic approach to art. Considering the omnipotence and omnipresence of God, the seamless connection of Qur’anic verse, both calligraphically and ornamentally, represent the idea that all art is part of a universal being. Such relationship between Islamic visual and architectural arts is described by Burckhardt in saying, “One could even say, without risk of false generalization, that Islamic art has no other content. It is so because Islamic art is above all, as is all Islamic spirituality, a witness to or a contemplation of Divine Unity” (Burkhardt 507). It is for this that both the ornate paintings and jewelry and the emptiness of a mosques interior are connected. Both are directly using God as not only inspiration, but, almost exclusively, as a source of content.