Segments in this Video

The Hidden Art of Islam: Introduction (02:35)


A new exhibit at the British Museum highlights Islamic art surrounding the Hajj or Pilgrimage to Mecca. Many Muslims do not believe that Allah, Muhammad, or any living beings should be depicted in artwork. Rageh Omaar hopes to discover why images of individuals used to be acceptable in the pre-modern period. (Credits)

Understanding Mecca (03:24)

Muslims believe that the prophet Muhammad received his first revelation from God at Mecca. Devout believers circle the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque. Abraham built the black box to demonstrate there was only one god; Muslims believe that God is beyond depiction.

The Fifth Pillar of Islam (02:12)

Muslims must perform the hajj pilgrimage once in their lifetimes. In the Qur'an there are 99 names for God, including al-Haliq or the creator. Experts discuss why some Muslims feel depicting images of living things should be forbidden.

Early Calligraphy (02:44)

Omaar displays a Qur'an written during the eighth century in the Hajez region. Early artists created geometric designs to illustrate the holy text. The three foundations of Islamic art include geometry, eslimi, and calligraphy.

Decorative Qur'an (02:58)

The Angel Gabriel revealed to Mohammad the word "read"; devout Muslims should seek knowledge and pass it on to others through the pen. Mysterious letters exist within the Qur'an and believers do not know what these symbols represent. Clerics provided calligraphers with exact requirements for copying the holy text during the Middle Ages.

Islam Spreads (03:09)

Omaar tours the Blue Mosque, built during the Ottoman Empire, and an Istanbul Art Gallery that specializes in contemporary Turkish Calligraphy. Gurkan Pehivan cannot describe his emotions when creating calligraphy.

Eslimi (02:01)

Adam Williamson describes how to create an Arabesque design using Rumi motifs. Experts discuss how the structural components create harmony in the image. Masroor describes how geometry influences Muslim architecture and depict the five pillars of Islam.

The Mahmal (03:46)

Venetia Porter, the curator, opens a collection of photographs of people who made sacred textiles. Brought annually from Egypt, the Mahmal adorns the Kaaba during the hajj. Ibn Wahab attempted to stop the practice.

Visiting Topkapi Palace (02:52)

Caliph Abd al-Malik created epigraphic coinage. Other rulers asked artists to draw them and depict their lives. Muslim monarchs lived hedonistic lifestyles.

Compromising Between Rulers and Clerics (04:41)

Artists decided to make any figures one-dimensional so they did not seem realistic. Compositions had no perspective, reflections, or shadows. Someone rubbed out the faces of pilgrims in a 14th century candlestick.

Sunni and Shia (02:27)

Shi'te sects divided from the Sunni philosophy after the death of Hussain at the Battle of Karbala. Shia Islamic Art depicts the prophets.

Mansa Musa's Hajj (03:01)

Mansa Musa's pilgrimage contained 60,000 men and 12,000 slaves. Porter describes how figures could be depicted in homes, but never religious settings. Omaar describes the stages of the hajj, including the Tawaf, ihram, and the ghusl.

Paintings of Pilgrims (05:19)

In Luxor, Egypt, artists depict traveling to Mecca for hajj on their client's home. Khaled Hafez describes the different portions of a hajj painting. Calligraphers use Fuluf to include details about the journey.

Contemporary Muslim Artists (03:28)

Figurative art does not appear in mosques or in the Qur'an. Edward Gibbs describes the rising level of interest in art of the Islamic world. Reedah El Saie explains how September 11th increased interest in contemporary Islamic art.

Modern Art of the Islamic World (04:47)

Nurjan, a calligrapher, wants her art to speak for itself. Idris Kaahn's painting depicts the transformation that occurs after the hajj. Ahmed Mater created an installation with magnets.

Profound Nature of the Kaaba (04:08)

Porter describes how the essence of the hajj has not changed. Contemporary artists discuss their artworks. Omaar summarizes the episode.

Credits: The Hidden Art of Islam (00:31)

Credits: The Hidden Art of Islam

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The Hidden Art of Islam

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Muslim belief and tradition specifies that there should be no depictions of God or the Prophet Muhammad. In religious contexts, this constraint on what artists can depict extends to human figures and other living creatures as well. These prohibitions have inspired a rich visual culture based on calligraphy, Arabesque floral designs, and geometry, all of which feature strongly in the art and design found throughout Islam.

Length: 57 minutes

Item#: BVL131264

Copyright date: ©2013

Closed Captioned

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