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In the Name of God بسم الله

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 The major characteristics of Islamic paintings


Some of the unique characteristics of Muslim painting are as follows:

1. Muslims loved their Holy Book, the Qur’an. They developed new forms of writing and created novel movements in calligraphy. Muslim painting is the result of these movements in calligraphy. Thus, we find that Muslim painters emphasize line (khat) more than anything else. It is the “line” that matters, everything else would take care of itself. Whether it is a straight line or curve, the stroke alone is responsible for the aesthetic forms; it provides the criterion of beauty.

2. For a Muslim artist, human personality has supreme value. Vast spaces, mountains and valleys, storms of wind and rain which characterize Chinese paintings are conspicuous by their absence in Muslim painting. The principal reason for this attitude seems to be the realization that for a painting of nature to be vital and vivacious it has to employ human symbols. Not that Muslim painters did not paint landscapes, they did sometimes. What did they eschew, however, was painting a landscape for its own sake.

3. Muslim painters did not introduce perspective in their paintings. Perhaps the reason is that they are interested in distant objects as well as in near objects. An object far away is as much relevant to the central figure as the object in the forefront. Why not bring it forward in imagination, observe it telescopically at it was and paint it in its full magnitude?

4. Muslim painters did not paint darkness. In their painting all is light and colorful. There are no dark shades or black shadows haunting the painting like ghosts threatening life with primordial dangers. Their painting is a painting of luminous tints and hues and colors. Darkness also characterizes a condition of stark individualism, when the individual is sundered from society and finds himself in the grip of absolute helplessness.

5. Muslim painting, consciously or unconsciously, employed symbols which represent mystical states. Sometimes endless curves with no beginning or end stand for the state of bewilderment in which nothing outside seems to gratify spiritual longings.

6. Muslim painting, especially in Iran, was devoted to the expression of a single emotion in one painting. Every detail of the subject was perceived and made use of for an effective rendering of the subtle nuances of that emotion. Most of the Persian miniature paintings are like orchestras in which each object painted contributes to the symphony. This unique characteristic of Muslim painting may have emanated – as Basil Gray suggests – from the mystical and pantheistic tendencies of the Persians, they, perhaps, regarded every object of nature as manifesting God.

7. Muslim paintings – again especially miniatures – are illustrations of literary and religious classics.

more information can be found here: Islamportal.net



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painting of human face from Shi'a point of view

In Shia’s view, according to ayatollah Khamenei and ayatollah Sistani, there is no prohibition about painting human face. Generally, there is to two major kinds of paintings: 1. Of live models (human body and animals) 2. Of inanimate objects (mountains, stones, and even trees). The second type is absolutely Halal because of the Hadiths like the one from imam Baqir (a.s). Zorarah narrated that the Imam Said: “There is nothing wrong with representing the trees.” [1] In addition, the Sira (Practical behaviors of Muslims from Imams age to the present) implies that there is no prohibition about the practice.

Some Shia jurisconsults (faqhih) have prohibited the first type of painting (of live models), based on Hadiths like the one as follows: Shaikh Sadooq (r.a) narrated that Imam Sadiq narrated that the prophet (s.a.w.a) forbade painting on rings. [2] But, as I mentioned at the beginning of  the writing, according to ayatollah Khamenei and ayatollah Sistani, panting of live model including human face is Halal.

1: Jamie Al Ahadith Shia, vol 17, p: 223

2: Man La Yahzor Al-Aaqhih, vol 4, P 10–33

you can read more in Persian here and here.

Edited by ma.sultani
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