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Islamic Aesthetics

Islamic Aesthetics

An Introduction

Oliver Leaman

“This is a useful and imaginative project . . . Leaman is an accomplished and productive author and the book will be of genuine and considerable interest.” —Lenn E. Goodman, Vanderbilt University

“Oliver Leaman is a very distinguished, internationally regarded scholar of philosophy. . . . His profound philosophical knowledge enables him to apply and analyze concepts of aesthetics to a multitude of art forms.” —Ian R. Netton, University of Leeds

It is often argued that a very special sort of consciousness went into creating Islamic art, that Islamic art is very different from other forms of art, that Muslims are not allowed to portray human beings in their art, and that calligraphy is the supreme Islamic art form. Oliver Leaman challenges all of these ideas, and argues that they are misguided. Instead, he suggests that the criteria we should apply to Islamic art are identical to the criteria applicable to art in general, and that the attempt to put Islamic art into a special category is a result of orientalism.

Leaman criticizes the influence of Sufism on Islamic aesthetics and contends that it is generally misleading regarding both the nature of Islam and artistic expression. He discusses issues arising in painting, calligraphy, architecture, gardens, literature, films, and music and pays close attention to the teachings of the Qur’an. In particular he asks what it would mean for the Qur’an to be a miraculous literary creation, and he analyzes two passages in the Qur’an—those of Yusuf and Zulaykha (Joseph and Zuleika) and King Sullayman (Solomon) and the Queen of Sheba. His arguments draw on examples from history, art, philosophy, theology, and the artefacts of the Islamic world, and raise a large number of difficulties in the accepted paradigms for analyzing Islamic art.

ISBN: 978-0-268-03369-9
256 pages
Publication Year: 2004

Oliver Leaman is professor of philosophy at the University of Kentucky.

“This is certainly an important and thought-provoking work, one of the few that is willing to treat seriously the topic of aesthetics in Islam. As such, this book provides an important corrective to much of what has been written about art in various Islamic contexts over the past century.” — The Journal of Religion

“For students of Islamic arts, the book provides a corrective to biases generally found in literature. Although hardly an introductory level textbook, despite its title, Leaman’s work provides a thoroughgoing and accessible account of the role of aesthetics in Islam while at the same time dismantling many of the cherished myths of scholarship on Islamic art forms.” — Sixteenth Century Journal

“A non-judgmental, technical, in-depth discussion, and a welcome contribution to art history and artistic interpretation shelves, whether for private study or college libraries.” — Wisconsin Bookwatch

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Islamic Aesthetics

An Introduction

Oliver Leaman

 Islamic Aesthetics: An Introduction
Cloth Edition
Paper Edition

“This is a useful and imaginative project . . . Leaman is an accomplished and productive author and the book will be of genuine and considerable interest.” —Lenn E. Goodman, Vanderbilt University

“Oliver Leaman is a very distinguished, internationally regarded scholar of philosophy. . . . His profound philosophical knowledge enables him to apply and analyze concepts of aesthetics to a multitude of art forms.” —Ian R. Netton, University of Leeds

It is often argued that a very special sort of consciousness went into creating Islamic art, that Islamic art is very different from other forms of art, that Muslims are not allowed to portray human beings in their art, and that calligraphy is the supreme Islamic art form. Oliver Leaman challenges all of these ideas, and argues that they are misguided. Instead, he suggests that the criteria we should apply to Islamic art are identical to the criteria applicable to art in general, and that the attempt to put Islamic art into a special category is a result of orientalism.

Leaman criticizes the influence of Sufism on Islamic aesthetics and contends that it is generally misleading regarding both the nature of Islam and artistic expression. He discusses issues arising in painting, calligraphy, architecture, gardens, literature, films, and music and pays close attention to the teachings of the Qur’an. In particular he asks what it would mean for the Qur’an to be a miraculous literary creation, and he analyzes two passages in the Qur’an—those of Yusuf and Zulaykha (Joseph and Zuleika) and King Sullayman (Solomon) and the Queen of Sheba. His arguments draw on examples from history, art, philosophy, theology, and the artefacts of the Islamic world, and raise a large number of difficulties in the accepted paradigms for analyzing Islamic art.

ISBN: 978-0-268-03369-9

256 pages

“This is certainly an important and thought-provoking work, one of the few that is willing to treat seriously the topic of aesthetics in Islam. As such, this book provides an important corrective to much of what has been written about art in various Islamic contexts over the past century.” — The Journal of Religion

“For students of Islamic arts, the book provides a corrective to biases generally found in literature. Although hardly an introductory level textbook, despite its title, Leaman’s work provides a thoroughgoing and accessible account of the role of aesthetics in Islam while at the same time dismantling many of the cherished myths of scholarship on Islamic art forms.” — Sixteenth Century Journal

“A non-judgmental, technical, in-depth discussion, and a welcome contribution to art history and artistic interpretation shelves, whether for private study or college libraries.” — Wisconsin Bookwatch