Arabesque: A Genuine Arabian Abstract Art


Ever since the Stone Age, Man has used geometrical decorations in nearly all civilizations because of his innate tendency towards abstraction. During the Islamic-Arab civilization, geometrical decoration gained a unique persona and importance; it became the principal design element that covered wide areas.

The development and wide spread of using mathematics during the Islamic civilization was reflected on all applied fields, especially art, which genuinely presented the Islamic advancement in geometrical knowledge. Arab artists mastered employing geometrical shapes; such as ‎straight lines, squares, rectangles, triangles, rhombuses, intersected and tangential circles, as well as hexagonal and octagonal shapes.

Arab–Muslim artists’ fascination with geometrical decoration was due to the Islamic undesirability of using figurative images of living creatures. The debates and doubts in this regard led the artists to dedicate their efforts and time to creating new shapes using geometrical patterns, which Islamic art has become famous for.

Art or Science?

The least we can describe the arabesque with is that it is a “science”, created and presented by Arab artists to the history of art. It is a repeated chain of interlaced geometrical and vegetal shapes, accompanied by the shapes of birds, animals, and in some cases Arabic calligraphy too. In fact, Arab artists did not create new shapes; they rather used the available patterns in such a new and unique way, where geometrical patterns were combined, duplicated, interlaced, and arranged in intricate combinations suitable for the Islamic religion fundamentals that discourage using images of humans and animals.

Using abstract art is one of the most distinguishing features of Islamic art; artists used to abstract each decoration unit, like modifying the natural shape of vegetal designs of flowers and leaves into a new motif that gives the impression of continuity and immortality. Arabesque depends on filling the empty spaces with infinitely repeated drawings, as if there is a deep fear from empty space. Amazingly, the repetition and complexity of designs give a unidimensional surface the visual impression of being three dimensional.

Arabesque Significance in Islam

Arabesque symbolizes the unity of belief and the perception of the traditional Islamic culture. For many Muslims, arabesque reflects the absolute power of Allah (the one God). Moreover, the Islamic arabesque artist conveys a sense of spirituality in humans. Although the arabesque is known as a simple type of art, it has a great possibility of creativity; it produces a relaxing, calming effect, and conveys the great essence of the marvelous Islamic art. It also reflects the peaceful Islamic nature, which encourages creativity and beautiful genuine art.

Arabesque Uses

Arabesque was used to decorate mosques, palaces, houses, and domes with beautiful floral and geometrical motifs, bringing comfort and delight to the place. It was used to build complete walls in some palaces, in addition to adorning columns, minbar(s), mashrabiya(s), windows, doors, and furniture.

Arabesque is definitely compatible and homogenous with the Arab–Islamic social traditions; it allows the person to see what is going on outside not vice versa, to maintain the privacy of the place, and at the same time allowing in beautiful illumination and sunrays.

محمد عبد العزيز مرزوق، الإسلام والفنون الجميلة، مكتبة الأسرة، 2015.

About Us

SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
Continue reading

Contact Us

P.O. Box 138, Chatby 21526, Alexandria, EGYPT
Tel.: +(203) 4839999
Ext.: 1737–1781

Become a member

© 2024 | Bibliotheca Alexandrina