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Spiritual Masters - East & West Series
Noble Faces, Strong Voices: Exploring "The Spirit of Indian Women"
Ernest Thompson Seton explains "The Gospel of the Redman"
Interview with Frithjof Schuon - on Spirituality
What are the "Foundations of Christian Art?"
Insights into the early Christian Desert Fathers and Mothers
Books about Buddhism
The Universal Spirit of Islam: Keys for Interfaith Understanding
The Fullness of God: Frithjof Schuon on Christianity
Exploring "Timeless in Time" - a biography of Sri Ramana Maharshi
  What is Sacred Art ? Back to the List of Slideshows

slide 8 of 10

Again from Chapter 4 of Sacred Art in East and West , let's follow Burckhardt's insights into another dimension of Islamic sacred art:

"The noblest of the visual arts in the world of Islam is calligraphy, and it is the writing of the Koran that is sacred art par excellence ; it plays a part more or less analogous to that of the icon in Christian art, for it represents the visible body of the Divine Word.

"In sacred inscriptions the Arabic letters combine fluently with arabesques, especially with plant motives, which are thus brought into closer relationship with the Asiatic symbolism of the tree of the world; the leaves of this tree correspond to the words of the Sacred Book Arabic calligraphy contains within itself alone decorative possibilities of inexhaustible richness; its modalities vary between the monumental Kufic script with its rectlinear forms and vertical breaks, and the naskhi with its line as fluid and as serpentine as it could be. The richness of the Arabic script comes from the fact that it has fiilly developed its two "dimensions": the vertical, which confers on the letters their hieratic dignity, and the horizontal, which links them together in a continuous flow. As in the symbolism of weaving, the vertical lines, analogous to the "warp" of the fabric, correspond to the permanent essences of things it is by the vertical that the unalterable character of each letter is affirmed whereas the horizontal, analogous to the "weft," expresses becoming or the matter that links one thing to another. A significance of the kind is particularly evident in Arab calligraphy, where the vertical strokes transcend and regulate the undulating flow of the connecting strokes."

From a Maghribi Qur'an, Eastern Kufic style, Iraq/Persia.

Besides the work of Burckhardt on Islamic art mentioned previously, there are several other books that are essential reading for those interested in the sacred arts of Islam:

•  Focused on calligraphy and the illumination of the Holy Qur'an is Martin Lings' Quranic Art of Calligraphy and Illumination  (Interlink Publishing Group, Inc., 1987). This widely acclaimed book delves into the history, details, and remarkable diversity of Qur'anic calligraphy while also revealing the inner spiritual life and power of this high art.

•  Islamic Art and Spirituality  (SUNY Press, 1987) by Seyyed Hossein Nasr is perhaps more comprehensive than the books by Burckhardt or Lings, treating equally the plastic arts, literature, and music in Islam, with particular attention given to these traditional arts in their Persian manifestations. As with the other books, this book is both a lesson in art history and an unfolding of the inner spiritual realities behind Islamic and, indeed, all sacred art.
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