Art is the mirror of a culture and its world view. There is no case to which this statement more directly applies than to the art of the Islamic world. Not only does its art reflect its cultural values, but even more importantly, the way in which its adherents, the Muslims, view the spiritual realm, the universe, life, and the relationship of the parts to the whole. For the Muslim, reality begins with and centers around God ("Allah" in Arabic), the One, the Unique, the Sovereign, the Holy, the Almighty, the All-Knowing, the Loving, the Most Merciful. All existence is subject to His will and His laws. He is the center of conscious Muslims' worship and aspirations, the focus of their lives. Since the command and authority are one, all things are bound together under God's Lordship as parts of an all-encompassing divine scheme, which includes all aspects of being and life -- whatever is both inside and outside of time and space, and embracing both the macrocosm in its most awesome manifestations and the microcosm in its most minute forms. God creates and sustains His creation how and as He wills, and all affairs return to Him for ultimate decision and judgment. With such a belief system, the Muslim is convinced of the balance and harmony of all things in existence, even when there appear to be confusing contradictions and imbalances, regarding these as the reflection of man's limited understanding and knowledge. Nothing is looked upon as occurring randomly or by chance, for all is part of the Plan of the All-Wise, Most Merciful Planner. One of the vital beliefs of the Muslim is that the totality of things, all good and evil, proceed from the Lord of all being. Because of the strict injunctions against such depictions of humans or animals which might result in idol-worship, Islamic art developed a unique character, utilizing a number of primary forms: geometric, arabesque, floral, and calligraphic, which are often interwoven. From early times, Muslim...
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