Rationality and Irrationality in the Art of Islam

News 2009

​Rationality and Irrationality in the Art of Islam

May 27, 2009

​Eminent London-based artist, Dr Ahmed Moustafa, conducted a presentation at AKU-ISMC on 27 May 2009 during which he exhibited some of his artwork to the audience.

The presentation detailed his research into the science of Arabic penmanship and letter shapes, and the roles they play in the structural morphology of Islam.

Through the images, the presentation outlined an interpretation of the cosmic dimension of the notion of ‘unity in multiplicity’, which constitutes the source of Islamic art in general and Arabic penmanship in particular.

The talk focused on Arabic script as a visual medium of communication for the revealed word.

Moustafa explained that multiplicity is evident in the range of letter shapes and script styles as well as in the multi-layered symbolism conveyed by the elements contained within the script.

He went on to illustrate that this reveals a system where the number, order and numerical value of the script carry cosmic overtones.

Eminent UK-based artist, Dr Moustafa Ahmed, presented a cultural event at AKU-ISMC.
Unity, on the other hand, is manifest in the integrated system of proportionality governing the various manifestations of the letter shapes.

At the heart of the system resides the ‘square dot.’ All letter shapes can be shown to emanate from the ‘square dot’, in accordance with immutable geometrical laws which form the backbone of the system.

Moustafa explained this theory, and highlighted that it was devised in the 10th century by Wazir Ibn Muqla, and further refined by the 11th century calligrapher Ibn al-Bawwab.

By offering an insight into the workings of the proportioned script and its aesthetic and philosophical implications, the presentation explored new ideas on the tradition of Arabic penmanship as well as other manifestations of the visual arts in Islam.

Dr Ahmed Moustafa is the founder of the Fe-Noon Ahmed Moustafa Research Centre for Arab Art and Design in London, UK.

He graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts and Architecture at the Department of Painting and Stage Design of Alexandria University in 1961 an achieved a BA Honours with the "Highest National Distinction in Fine Arts".

In 1974 he moved to London to begin an MA in Printmaking at the Central School of Art and Design.

Moustafa’s work has been featured in numerous exhibitions around the world, including the British Museum and the Vatican.

External Links*

Dr Ahmed Moustfa's profile (Fe-Noon Dr Ahmed Moustafa Research Centre for Arab Art and Design)

Fe-Noon Dr Ahmed Moustafa Research Centre for Arab Art and Design

* This recording is the property of Aga Khan University (International) in the United Kingdom. You may not copy, reproduce, republish, download, post, broadcast, or otherwise use this recording in any way except for your own educational or personal non-commercial use. The views expressed by the speakers are their own personal views and do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute.

** Links to sites does not imply endorsement of the contents of those sites. AKU-ISMC is not responsible for the content of external sites.

Razia Velji
Coordinator, Planning & Academic Development
Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations
Email: razia.velji@aku.edu