The story behind why Muslims use representational calligraphic art instead of actual drawing is described by the belief system that Islam forbids art that shows a human figure. This is why to date, you have never seen any drawings of Allah and Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W). Many attempts were made by non-Muslims to disrespect Islam by attempting to draw figures, however paid the heavy price for it when the Muslims protested against it worldwide as it’s a punishable crime amount Muslim.
Many individuals, around the world, tried to create cartoons of Muhammad (S.A.W) and whatnot, in the name of freedom of speech but were charged with blasphemy with Muslims protesting it around the world, and such acts were considered insensitive and disrespectful towards one’s religion.
Depiction of God. Allah or his prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) are considered insulting to the Islamic world. This is why Islam uses other forms to communicate like easy Arabic calligraphy and detailed tile work which is seen on the walls of the mosque.
The following are the various form of representational art that is used by the Muslims:
- Manuscript: Manuscripts were the firm form of representational art that was used by Muslims. It dates back to the 1st century of the Islamic calendar. Generally, this manuscript was made by unnamed individuals and was mostly found in libraries.
A manuscript in earlier days would mean creating writing on a paper/ script approved by a librarian, with a very precise layout, and then the calligrapher would use ink and a reed pen to create his written scripts or artwork.
After the script was written, the paper would then be handed over to the artists who would then accessorize it with objects and elements with gold, lapiz, and other minerals. This would go through a series of compositions until it would reach its final artwork. Some artists would use other forms of elements and illustrations. The final artwork would then be combined by being sewed together with a cover of wood or leather to protect the insides.
This is how manuscripts were completed and then would be put in libraries for people to read. Reading the calligraphy in those times would also be
- Calligraphy: Calligraphy is the most well-recognized form of art in the Muslim world. The word calligraphy itself means ‘beautiful writing’. Calligraphy was used in the initial times for transmitting the word of Allah in the Quran. Which is why calligraphy is considered the most essential part of Islamic art.
Today the art of calligraphy has evolved into a digital format. Since the beginning, the Arabic script has taken on various forms and type like Naskh, thuluth, kufi, etc. The scripts kept developing and evolving. Today we see the truest form of Arabic calligraphy in museums and historical preservations. It is quite interesting to watch how this calligraphic art evolved.
Today, a lot of calligraphy artwork in the form of Allah’s names and quotes from the Quran are being respected and displayed in mosques and Muslim homes.
- Miniatures: Miniature paintings is another form of artwork that is well recognized in the Muslim world. It allows Muslims to include a diverse form of expression to show cultural values, social values, and historical stories that formed such cultural stories and value systems.
The most popular form of miniature art is Persian miniatures. The Shahnama book is well recognized and another book of poem khamsa got extremely popular in the Muslim world.
The question comes down to answering this simple question, which is that Is it Haram to draw in Islam?
The answer is Yes, it is haram to draw Allah and his Prophet (S.A.W) and other prophets as well. Any depiction of holy prophets from the Quran is prohibited and is considered sinful and haram. God cannot be represented in any physical form. The concept of spirituality is very deep in Islam. Muslims consider that while they cannot see the prophet, they can learn from his sayings and action that are being relayed to us in the Quran.
A few made miniature paintings to relay incidents from the Quran however the character and face of the prophet were never put into any form of painting. This is why calligraphy plays an important role in Islam where with the help of easy Arabic calligraphy, incidents, and stories from the Quran were relayed.
Calligraphy in itself, in its true form, is a spiritual art for Muslims, where each letter has a meaning behind it. A combination of calligraphic letters, along with its symbols and elements relays a deep message. The calligraphic art in Islam has its visual impression on its viewers as well.
Even today in the day of the digital era, true handmade calligraphy holds its unique value, and the art is sold in millions.