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Early Islamic World


History for Kids >> Early Islamic World

Art from the Islamic Empire covers a wide range of forms and style, reflecting the large geographical area and wide variety of cultures included in the empire. We discuss some of the most common aspects of Islamic Art below.

Detail Arabesque Alhambra Granada Spain
Arabesque Example by Jebulon. 2012.

Much of Islamic art has a distinct design. Rather than use animals or people in their design, Islamic artists often used a variety of intricate designs and patterns. This practice was a direct influence of the Islamic religion on the art. Artists felt that using figures of animals and people could result in idolatry (the worship of idols) instead of Allah.

One pattern commonly used by Islamic artists is called "arabesque." Arabesque uses intricate patterns of leaves and flowers. These patterns were common in wooden carvings, stone reliefs on buildings, textiles, and in decorated books.

Islamic artists also used geometric patterns called "tessellation" and artistic writing called "calligraphy" in their designs.

Brown, Orange, and Yellow Ardabil Carpet
A Persian Carpet
by Unknown. Mid-16th century.

One major form of Islamic art was ceramics. Early Islamic artists created a wide variety of ceramic glazes and styles. Some were influenced by Chinese porcelain, while others created their own unique ways of glazing pottery. In addition to beautiful pieces of pottery, Islamic artists created great pieces of art using ceramic tiles. These tiles would sometimes be used to cover walls or the entire outside of religious buildings with bright patterns and designs.


One of the most practical forms of Islamic art was the carpet. While carpets were used in everyday life as floor coverings, prayer mats, wall hangings, and cushions, they were also beautiful pieces of art. These carpets often used colorful repeating geometric designs or arabesque patterns. They became a major export from the Arab world to other areas of the world including Europe.


Elaborate carvings were another popular form of art. They incorporated the same arabesque and geometric patterns used in other forms of Islamic art. Carvings were often made using wood, but could also be made from ivory, stone, or plaster. They were used to decorate important buildings, like mosques, including the ceiling, doors, and wall panels. Stands for the Islamic holy book, the Quran, were often pieces of art carved from wood.


The most popular type of painting in the early Islamic world was "miniature painting." These paintings were small and were used in fancy books called "illuminated manuscripts." These paintings were different from other pieces of Islamic art in that they often contained pictures of animals and people. This was because they depicted scenes from stories in the book.

A Miniature Painting
Sleeping Rustam
by Sultan Muhammad. 1515-1522.

Calligraphy, or decorative writing, was very popular in Islamic art. Often designs were created using calligraphy. In many cases, the writing would be a religious saying or verse from the Quran. Calligraphy would often be combined with geometric and arabesque patterns.

Interesting Facts about Art in the Islamic Golden Age
Activities More on the Early Islamic World:

Timeline and Events
Timeline of the Islamic Empire
First Four Caliphs
Umayyad Caliphate
Abbasid Caliphate
Ottoman Empire

Scholars and Scientists
Ibn Battuta
Suleiman the Magnificent
Daily Life
Trade and Commerce
Science and Technology
Calendar and Festivals

Islamic Spain
Islam in North Africa
Important Cities
Glossary and Terms

Works Cited

History for Kids >> Early Islamic World

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