Thursday, June 3, 2010

Notes: Islamic Art & Architecture - 2

The Concept of Beauty within which traditional architecture works is based on a sacred understanding of the world and of the human being. This world-view sees both the created macrocosm and the human microcosm in relation to their common Divine Origin.[1] This metaphysical conception and its relationship with art is extremely well developed in the Islamic philosophy of art and aesthetics. An example from a classical source illustrating how the concept of proportion and harmony was understood within this worldview is Imam Ghazali speaking of the relationship...

... that exists between the essence of man’s heart and the transcendent world, which is called the world of spirits (arwah). The transcendent world is the world of loveliness and beauty, and the source of loveliness and beauty is harmony (tanasub). All that is harmonious manifests the beauty of that world, for all loveliness, beauty and harmony that is observable in this world is the result of the loveliness and beauty of that world…. ’ [2]

Another example are the words of a contemporary master mason Ustad Haji Abdul Aziz (1917-2002) discussing the proportioning of different types of domes:

“Everything should be proportionate. The way God has proportioned man, that if a person is tall his limbs and head are proportionate to his height and so on. If they are not we immediately know.... Thus if you decrease the height of the main dome by bringing down its center, you will accordingly have to reduce the proportions of the finial and so on.”[3]

[1] Examples from Islam’s foundational texts expressive of the idea that the cosmos is a reflection God’s Qualities are the Hadith Qudsi: “I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known, so I created the world so as to become known;” and the Quran: “Wheresoever you turn there is the Face of God”. There is also the famous Hadith from Bukhari: “God created Adam in His image”.  
[2] S.H.Nasr, Islamic Art & Spirituality, Golgonooza, Suffolk, 1987, pp 168-169; Chapter: The influence of Sufism on Traditional Persian Music, quoted from Alchemy of Happiness (Kimiya-yi-sa’adat) where Imam Ghazzali is explaining why traditional music can have the effect of transporting the listener to the spiritual world.
[3] Anjuman Mimaran, Newsletter 1, 2002. As part of Anjuman Mimaran’s program to document, learn and publish traditional building methods and techniques used by hereditary Master Craftsman, a series of sixteen colloquiums were conducted by 83 years old master mason Ustad Haji Abdul Aziz from February to June 2000.

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