Art of Islam, Language and Meaning by Titus Burckhardt

By Titus Burckhardt

Often called knowledgeable on Islam, Sufism, and Islamic arts & crafts, Burckhardt provides in-depth analyses of seminal examples of Islamic structure, from Spain and Morocco to Persia and India. He examines Koranic calligraphy and illumination, arabesque, carpets and rugs, Persian miniatures, and masses extra whereas making illuminating comparisons with Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist artwork. superbly illustrated in colour, this masterpiece is gifted in a revised, commemorative version containing 285 new illustrations and a brand new advent.

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It might well be thought that this gesture ought to have led to a concession in Islamic law permitting representation of the Holy Virgin. But this would be to misconstrue the spiritual economy of Islam, which puts aside every superfluous or equivocal element, although this does not prevent Muslim masters of the “inward science” (al-ʿilm al-bāṭin) from acknowledging the meaning and legitimacy of icons in their proper context. We actually have a particularly profound vindication of the Christian veneration of icons in the words of one of the greatest masters of Muslim esoterism, the Sufi Muḥyī-ʾd-Dīn Ibn al-ʿArabī, who wrote in his Meccan Revelations (al-futūḥāt al-makkiyyah): “the Byzantines developed the art of painting to perfection because, for them, the singular nature (al-fardaniyyah) of our Lord Jesus, is the supreme support of concentration upon Divine 19.

This has, moreover, nothing to do with semantic con­vention or onomatopoeia; the identification of sound and act is immediate and spontaneous, and in this regard, speech conceives everything it names as being basically an act or as the object of an act. Imaginative intuition, on the contrary, manifests itself in speech 29. Carved inscription of the name of Muḥammad, Mausoleum of Sultan Uljaytu, Sultaniyah, Persia 46 The Common Language of Islamic Art 30. Detail from the wooden minbar of the Kutūbiyyah Mosque, Marrakesh, Morocco, Almoravid period, 1125-1130 31.

The ascension (miʿrāj) of the Prophet through the heavens, from a manuscript of Niẓāmī’s Khamsah, 1529-1543 40 The Question of Images plenitude that stands at both the beginning and the end of time. Paradise is an eternal springtime, a garden perpetually in bloom, refreshed by living waters; it is also a final and incorruptible state like precious minerals, crystal and gold. Persian art, and in par­ticular the ornamentation of Safavid mosques, sets out to combine these two qualities: the crystalline state is expressed in the purity of the architectural lines, the perfect geometry of the arched surfaces, and the decoration in rectilinear forms; as for the celestial springtime, it blossoms in the stylized flowers and fresh, rich, and subdued colors of ceramic tiles.

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