Friday, December 22, 2006

Islamic Art

I was in a (very obviously) Muslim-run takeaway last night, and noticed the decor.

The Qur'an doesn't officially ban pictures of people, even of Muhammad, so there is a lot of Islamic art depicting him (see here for examples). But in common with Christianity and Judaism, there's a ban on worshipping images of people. (Some Christians sometimes give the impression of worshipping images - what they say they are doing is using the images of people as a kind of visual biography to recall to mind what those people did and help them focus on God through what he has done in the lives of people. I reckon that's possible - it's between them and God but personally it's not something I do much.)

In modern Islam, the ban on worshipping images has grown into a virtual ban on images of people in art, with the result that even early on their art became very heavily based on geometry and letter forms - it looks very nice actually. Some Christians have gone down the whole prohibiting images of people line, but when they have usually haven't produced such nice alternatives.

Anyway - back to the take-away. The decor was mostly geometric with Arabic words in, with some big framed photos of Islamic shrines, mosques, etc. What suddenly struck me as odd though was the television in the corner. The Christians I know who don't like any pictures of people don't like television either. I just don't get how people can be against any pictures of people in their art, yet be absolutely fine with them on television. Are good films not art?

Another bit of me wants to point out that they're actually making images of everyone they see on their retinas - otherwise they couldn't see them.


Anonymous said...

Good question. On an islamic subject, Tariq Ramadan is the interviewee on the cover of the Third Way magazine I've just got through my door. I thought you may be interested. I'll scan the article if you like, or the magazines are pretty good value.

John said...

I'll see if I can find a copy lying around - it's the kind of thing that might well be in one of the random places I hang out...

Thanks for letting me know.