The art of calligraphy developed alongside the religion of islam. because of prohibitions on the use of faces or animals in artwork, muslim thinkers and scholars found other ways to decorate important places. the first spaces to be decorated were the mosques and madrassas. this method of decoration is used throughout the muslim world and provides them with a sense of unity. calligraphy gave a visible form to the qur’an. because of this, it is one of the most venerated forms of islamic art.
there are two types of calligraphic styles used in architecture. kufic script, the oldest calligraphic form, is an angular, geometric script. naskhi is a cursive style often seen with floral arabesques. it is probably the most widespread due to its ease of readability. both are closely linked to geometry and are governed by mathematics.
inscriptions on buildings are generally written in an angular, sober, and monumental script. however, the ranges of variation between the cursive styles vary from century to century, and from region to region
Geometric DesignAbstract geometric forms are found throughout muslim architecture, in a stunning variety of combinations. like calligraphy, geometric patterns are also governed by mathematics and closely related to the study of geometry. different from the geometric designs in the rest of the islamic world, moroccan-andalusian designs use straight lines. this straight line is thought to be an influence of pre-islamic architecture, constructed by the berber (amazigh) populations before islamic culture arrived in north africa. the designs can either be simple compositions or stunningly complex. they convey a sense of spirituality without attaching a specific meaning. the geometrical star shape is the soul of this style. the most popular designs of the star shape have 8, 10, 12, 16, 24, 32, 48, 70, and 96, points. furthermore, the addition of primary and secondary shapes enriches the basic design, increasing its complexity. single, double, and triple thin or thick lines are usually used to diversify these designs as well. this form allows craftsmen to demonstrate their skill and subtlety of workmanship.
Floral DesignsThe floral arabesque design originated with islamic artists who spent their time observing nature. using it as inspiration, they attempted to reproduce it in their art. often they are used in intricate, interlaced designs.
MuqarnasBefore the prophet muhammad received revelation, he spent a lot of time in the cave of hira, near makkah, contemplating and reflecting on life. like many caves, this one had stalactites hanging from the roof of the cave. in an attempt to recreate this space, architects began using muqarnas (stalactites or honeycomb vaults) in the ceilings and corners of religious spaces.
muqarnas are one of the essential elements of classical islamic architecture. the first use of muqarnas can be traced to iraq in 1085. they are three-dimensional structures made using concave elements and are assembled according to complex geometric rules. in moroccan-andalusian design, they are used in either carved wood or plaster. although they are used across the muslim world, those in andalusia reached unrivaled sophistication. they are used to decorate corbel arches, capitals, archways, cornices, and even walls, as simple eye-level friezes.