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Lecture 2

An Introduction to Islamic Art of the Malay World

VCL 155

(lit. surrender, reconciliation, from the word
salam, peace or salvation).

The religion revealed to the Prophet Muhammad
between 610 and 632 C.E.

It is the last of all the Divine revelations before the end
of the world.

The name of the religion was instituted by the
Quran (Surah 5: ayah 5) during the farewell

Today I have perfected your religion for you,
and I have completed My blessing upon you,
and I have approved Islam for your religion.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines
art as human creative skill or its

Art is creative activityresulting in
visual representation.

Art is the production or expression of that which
is beautiful.

Art is visual or spatial communication.


Art is some creation of man that appeals to his
emotions and his intellect by means of his senses.

All inner feelings, aspirations and spiritual states must
be given some external manifestation in order to be
perceived through the senses by others. This
manifestation is art.

Art is the aesthetic dimension of the life of a
society or civilization, and, in its larger
meaning, co-extensive with the culture of the
society. It includes all the spiritual, intellectual,
emotional and personal facets of mans
existence: his religion, beliefs, faith, poetry,
historiography, manners traditions, ideals and

Art expresses the soul of a people to a degree
beyond the reach of other cultural aspects and
achievements of a society.

Islamic Art

The imagination behind art is human, but the
afflatus, the original impulse, is divine.

Mans effort is almost without limit, and his skill is
a thing of wonder, yet no work of art inspired by
man alone will ever be a real work of art, and
religion, that some otherworldly inspiration, is
essential to art. inspiration, is essential to art.
The principle of tradition in religion is the prime
mover of the spirit of the artist. All believers
yearn to be drawn towards the transcendent; the
Divine spirit breathed into us at the moment of
our creation is the cause of this desire.
Every soul is a part of the Divine Creator and
pines to be with Him again. Hence mans
wish to live among forms that echo the
transcendent archetypes.

Islamic art is no more than a reflection in the
world of matter of the spirit and even of the
form of the Quranic revelation.

The sacred art performs the same function as
does the Revelation itself by becoming
means of causing repercussions in the human
soul in the direction of the Transcendent.
Islamic art, regardless in which century or
continent it was produced, reveals a remarkable
consistency in content and form.

the power of the aesthetic values of Islam are such
that, even without the consciousness and pursuance of
those value, the artist and the spectator alike have
been guided to an artistic unity.
Islamic artist, whether consciously or
unconsciously, had his own criteria for the
beautiful and for the artistic expression of his
world and God view.

Why Islamic Art?

This mean that Islam represents a total order
which involves all the planes of human existence,
the body as well as the soul, and which decides
naturally the place which each art occupies and
the role it will play in the spiritual and physical
equilibrium of the Dar al Islam-literally the
house of Islam.
It is by conforming to a certain hierarchy of
values that arts are integrated in Islam, and
that they become Islamic art, whatever the
source of their diverse elements may be

Islamic art is the fruit of the marriage between
technique (al-fann) and wisdom (al-hikma).

In is purest and most perfect form it is attribute of
God who is called al-hakim. One of the several
dimensions of Gods hikma is beauty, the
paramount concern of art.