Miniature Paintings of Mecca, Medina Mosques Depict Evolution of Islamic Architecture

9:34 - February 13, 2024
News ID: 3487169
IQNA – A Saudi enthusiast in Islamic civilization and arts has a collection of old miniature paintings depicting the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.   

An old miniature painting of Mecca Grand Mosque


Throughout Islamic history, art has played a pivotal role in capturing cultural development and marking important moments in time.

The documentation of the Two Holy Mosques in miniature paintings owned by Omar Murshid offer a glimpse into the past, before the expansions of the sites.

Murshid said that the paintings in his possession showcase the evolution of Islamic architecture — in tandem with the emergence of Islamic statehood — and its contribution to civilization and artistic imagination.

Speaking about the diversity of the art forms of the time, he said: “When talking about arts, namely Islamic arts, we talk about wide and various types of art, including drawings, decorations, Arabic calligraphy, interwoven geometric decorations, sword hilts, shields, ornaments, walls of mosques, domes and even graphics coupled with texts. Paper making — a widespread process in the Abbasid era — had a positive impact on arts and calligraphy.”

Noting some of the prominent artists of the past, he added: “Yahya Al-Wasiti was a painter who excelled in these arts and whose name was prominently featured in the Islamic heritage in the mid-13th century. Other books including miniature paintings were also featured after Kalila wa-Dimna, namely the book of songs by Abu Al-Faraj Al-Isfahani.”

Miniature paintings are pictures drawn and decorated on paper in different sizes, Murshid said. These paintings reveal the literary, scientific, social, or architectural context of the period. There are various schools of miniature paintings, including the Baghdadi, Mongol-Timurid and Mamluk schools.

Some miniature paintings, he added, document “the architectural and civilizational aspects of the Two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina through pilgrims who performed their Hajj and Umrah rituals and visited the Prophet’s Mosque.”

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Murshid said that black and white as well as colored drawings of the Two Holy Mosques reveal many architectural elements featured in Islamic architecture, namely the Kaaba, minarets, domes, interior space, pulpits, lanterns, Maqam Ibrahim, arches, doors and more.

The works also feature residential houses and city walls, surrounded by geographical elements of mountains and palm trees. Arabic calligraphy and Quranic verses are also featured in some.

Murshid said that miniature paintings are “works of art characterized by the abundance of details, beautiful decorations, and finely outlined shapes showing the aspects of life, religious rituals and architecture of the Two Holy Mosques from an Islamic point of view.”


Source: Arab News