A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

On Islamic Civilization

A very unfortunate reality is that we go through school learning about Leonardo Da Vinci, impressionism, and great architectural masterpieces like the Roman Colosseum. What we never learn about is Sinan, Munamnamat, and Maqamat Al Hariri, although they really should be taught in schools as an essential part of our collective heritage in the Arab and Islamic world.

A turning point in my way of thought took place during my first lecture with the previous dean of our faculty, Wijdan. Her first question to us was, “What is your identity?” After a few random answers from the students, including “Arab”, “female” and “Jordanian”, she told us that no, our identity falls under that of the Muslim civilisation, whether Christian or non-religious, male or female, Arab or Turkish.

In that instance, I couldn’t comprehend what she meant. I didn’t know anything about the Muslim Civilization aside from what they taught in history classes, and I found it really hard to relate to the Seljuks, the Persians, and the Fatimids. I can barely relate to my neighbors who live upstairs. The Arab world in its current state is so vast and so diverse, with different languages, gene-pools, and geographic settings. How was I supposed to relate to the 1,500 year history of Islamic civilization, which once reached all known corners of the earth?

That class was called “Introduction to Islamic Art”, and as we went along with the course, I started to understand what she meant. Islamic history is beautifully complicated and diverse, and brought a lot of amazing things to this world. Our contributions to science, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, philosophy, and art are numerous.

I really enjoyed that class, although I still do not agree to identity myself as “a person under the Muslim civilization”. I am, after all, secular, and I do believe that the top contributions that people living in the Muslim civilization gave to the world where all given in times when religious fanaticism wasn’t all the rage, but vice-versa.

It came out when Muslims were open minded: when the West would burn Greek philosophy in the Middle Ages because it was “pagan” while Muslims would translate it to Arabic so as to save it.

Maybe that’s why we are never taught about our heritage in ways other than “Ibn Khaldoun was a great historian who was born in Tunisia”. It’s because they were all formulated in the Islamic Golden Age, which we love to boast about, but never really discuss in depth. If we were to discuss it, after all, we’ll all realize that it is heretical by today’s standards, and that would probably get more people to think, and thinking is never good.

Ijtihad is the willingness to both accept and challenge authority within the same process, especially in ethical matters. The early Abbassid state was secular, there was separation of theology and law. Muslims used to draw the prophet. Early Muslim scientists and philosophers developed some of the first theories on evolution, and the transmutation of species, which were widely taught in medieval Islamic schools.

But that aside, did I ever mention that Islamic art is really underappreciated, and really beautiful?

Some of my favorite pieces:

Persian Miniatures

Persian manuscript paintings

Persian manuscript paintings

Abbassid Art

Ummayyad Art
(frescos in Qusayr Amra, one of Jordan’s Ummayyad desert castles)

Andalusian Pottery:

PD358 by you.

PD359 by you.

That’s it for now. I’ll share the rest later.

Do you have any favorites? If you have any favorite pieces of Islamic art, link them in the comments, and I’ll be sure to include them in the next post.


100 Meters of Existence


Happy birthday you!


  1. I am a hopeless typography and calligraphy fanatic, so when I discovered this a few months ago, I was utterly blown away:


  2. I love the last two photos…but then again I am automatically drawn to anything pertaining to Al-Andalus.

    With regards to the question of identity, you remind me of a very interesting dialog I had two years ago with my history professor. It was “special studies” whereby myself and a couple of classmates created a class with our professor titled “Readings in Early Modern Islamic Thought.” Every week we addressed a different author and his theories.

    I forget which author brought up the question of identity, but it left me perplexed for days. When the professor asked us how we identify ourselves, my two classmates did not hesitate to say “American.” Ever since their childhood they have been taught to love their country..simple as that. Regardless of where their ancestors traveled from or what their religion is, it all fell under the category of american.

    What is my category? I did not have such a speedy answer. First, I know I’m Arab and it IS part of my identity but that’s not it! Secondly, I am Muslim and to me that’s personal. Or, in other words, as Roba mentioned, I am secular. Finally, even though I am certainly Saudi, I consider this my nationality, not my identity. After much thought I realized that my identity is my family. They are who I am and without them I cannot be any of the three mentioned above. After all how can one be a true Arab if they not lllove their family :p (I do not want to bore you with further elaboration…)

    The second realization I came to is the importance of having an identity. Why is it that in Saudi and Jordan and I’m sure many other countries identity is not necessarily the nationality? Also is that a good or a bad thing?

    I know this steers away from the point you were trying to make. The conclusion I reached was one I will always remember and thought you might like to hear it :)

  3. It saddens me that there was a time that we were great even though that time had some bad things and ideas but regards we were great we were depending in ourself in all of or industries , we participated a lot in the development of science even war strategies, colleges used to study ibn cena ideas in medicine and khaled bin al waleed war strategies.

    As for the identity thing i think religion is a part of one identity and so is his nationality and the nation to which he belong for that i consider my identity a muslim, arabian, jordanian from palestinians origins


    I feel petty for all who didn’t visit AL-Quds, masjed Al-Aqsa , Qobbat Al-Sakhra walked in the old town of jerusalem, feel the smell of the fresh Kaek b semsem & Za’tar, each time i go there, i feel lighter and i can fly, its a blessed place for sure, words are not enough to express it, unless am Tameem al Barghouthi.

    في القدس يزداد الهلال تقوسا مثل الجنين
    حدْبا على أشباهه فوق القباب
    تطورت ما بينهم عبر السنين
    علاقة الأبِ بالبنين
    في القدس أبنية حجارتها اقتباسات من الإنجيل والقرآن
    في القدس تعريف الجمال مثمن الأضلاع أزرق
    فوقه – يا دام عزك- قبة ذهبية تبدو برأيي مثل مرآة محدبة
    ترى وجه السماء ملخصا فيها
    في القدس أعمدة الرخام الداكناتُ كأن تعريق الرخام دخان
    ونوافذ تعلو المساجد والكنائس
    أمسكت بيد الصباح تريه كيف النقش بالألوان
    فهو يقول: “لا بل هكذا”.
    فتقول: “لا بل هكذا”.
    حتى إذا طال الخلاف تقاسما
    فالصبح حر خارج العتبات
    لكن إن أراد دخولها فعليه أن يرضى بحكم نوافذ الرحمن
    في القدس رائحة تركز بابلا والهند في دكان عطار بخان الزيت
    والله رائحة لها لغة ستفهمها إذا أصغيت
    وتقول لي إذ يطلقون قنابل الغاز المسيل للدموع علي: “لا تحفل بهم”…
    وتفوح من بعد انحسار الغاز وهي تقول لي: “أرأيت”..
    في القدس يرتاح التناقض والعجائب ليس ينكرها العباد
    كأنها قطع القماش يقلبون قديمها وجديدها
    والمعجزات هناك تلمس باليدين
    في القدس لو صافحت شيخا
    أو لمست بناية
    لوجدت منقوشا على كفيك نص قصيدة – يا ابن الكرام – أو اثنتين
    في القدس رغم تتابع النكبات ريح طفولة في الجو.
    ريح براءة
    في القدس رغم تتابع النكبات ريح براءة في الجو.
    ريح طفولة
    فترى الحمام يطير يعلن دولة في الريح بين رصاصتين
    تميم البرغوثي

  5. dude, en3ajaget, is anti-spam word, that i had to repost the post around 12 times la 7ad ma ektashafet that your anti-spam plugin, checks if there is one part of a sentence or link ( in my case the pictures begins with http://) is repeated, then its considered as a spam.

    i had to put the links in separate comments, to not consider them as spam, although links are not identical, but source of them is the same, anyway here is main source of the pictures :

  6. The demand for state funded Muslim school is in accordance with the law of the land. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school. Let native teachers educate their children their values and let the Muslim teachers teach their values to their children.

    According to a study, Uk has the highest level of teenage binge drinking, drunkeness,unprotected sex among girls aged 15 and 16 and alcohal-related problems in Europe.

    Muslim schools are not divisive, they develop a strong sense of identity, self-esteem and sel-confidence. Muslim schools are preparing children to face the challenges of life in modern Britain and to also contribute in positive way to wider society. They are promoting tolerance and support the spiritual, moral, social, linguistic and cultural development of pupils. Muslim schools continue to improve in their GCSE results. For the third consecutive year, Muslim schools advanced on their previous results and surpassed the national average. All Muslim schools are oversubscribed. In state schools, Muslim children are victim of racism and bullying. According to DCSF, 56% of Pakistani and 54% of Bangladeshi children has beern victim of bullies.

    In the 60s and 70s, Muslim parents were happy to send their children to state schools, thinking their children would get a much better education than back home. Then little by little, the overt and covert discrimonation in the system turned them off. They grew conscious of the failure of the school system and of hostility from the school system for Muslims. Muslim parnets would like their children to recieve western eduucation with Islamic ethos. They want boys and girls segrated and girls to wear viels. There are 15 areas where Muslim parents find themselves ofended by state schools.

    I set up the first Muslim school in 1981 in East London and now there are over 130 Muslim schools and only ten are state funded. There are hundreds of state and church schools where Muslim children are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools with Muslim teachers as role models.
    Iftikhar Ahmad

  7. You got a good point. People (this should not apply to Muslim people only) should atleast learn about Islamic culture and civilization. Definitely enjoyed reading it. Thanks.

  8. I’m sure a lot of people have heard of Visual Dhikr, I’ve never imagined Islamic arts to be so versatile until I saw his works.

    Personally I’ve always admired the geometric harmony in Islamic designs.

  9. Noor.D

    LOVED this post :D
    i am an art major myself…and my fav. classes are the one’s concerning Islamic Art and the spirituality it holds…and i couldnt agree more, we only see Islamic History as a way to remenese and not know and learn about.

    i guess its part of the bigger political plan to erase our identity through losing out history and buying into westernization.

    BBC did an amazing documentary a year ago i think, you can watch the links on youtube just search Science and islam.
    here is a link:

  10. The response to local and national disasters is great but it’s a damn shame that so many people take advantage of the sad situations.

    I mean everytime there is an earthquake, a flood, an oil spill – there’s always a group of heartless people who rip off tax payers.

    This is in response to reading that 4 of Oprah Winfreys “angels” got busted ripping off the system. Shame on them!

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