It is difficult to establish a common denominator for all of the artistic expressions of the Islamic peoples. Such a common denominator would have to be meaningful for miniatures painting and historiography, for a musical mode and the form of a poem. The relationship between the art of the Islamic peoples and its religious basis is anything but direct. Like most prophetic religions, Islam is not conductive to fine arts. Representation of living beings is prohibited- not in Quran but in prophetic tradition. Thus, the center of the Islam artistic tradition lies in calligraphy, a distinguishing feature of this culture, in which the word as the medium of divine revelation plays such an important role. Representation art was found, however, in some early places and “at the doors of the bathhouses,” according to later Persian poetry. After the 13th century a highly refined art of miniature developed primarily in the non-Arab countries; it dwells, however, only rarely upon religious subjects. The typical expression of Muslims art is the arabesque, both in its geometric and in its vegetabilic form- one leaf, one flower growing out of other, without beginning and end, and capable of almost innumerable variations- only gradually detected by the eye- which never lose their charm. An aversion to empty spaces distinguishes that art; neither the tile covered walls of a mosque nor the rich imagery of a poem allows an unembellished area; and the decoration of a carpet can be extended almost endlessly without limit.The center of Islamic religion is the clean place for prayer, enlarged into the mosque, which compromise the community and al its needs. The essential structure is similar throughout the Muslim world. There are, of course, period and regional differences- large, wide court mosques of early countries; central buildings with the wonderfully shaped domes of the Ottoman Empire. The implements, however, are the same; a niche- pointing to Mecca- made of wood, marble, mosaic, stone, tiles; a small pulpit for the Friday sermon; minarets, locally different shaped but always rising like the call to prayer that is uttered from their tops; the wooden carved stands for the Quran, which is to be written in most perfect form; sometimes highly artistic lamps (made in Syria and proverbially mentioned all over the Muslim world); perhaps bronze candle sticks, with inlaid ornaments; and rich variations of the payer mats.
If any decoration was needed, it was the words of God, beautifully written or carved in the walls or around the dome. At first connected with the mosques and later independent of then are schools, mausoleums, rooms for the students, and cells for the religious masters. The poetry of the Arabs consisted in the beginning of the praise and satirical poems thought to be full of magic qualities. The strict rules of the outward form of the poems, even in pre-Islamic times led to certain formalism and encouraged imitation.Goethe’s statement that The Arabian Night’s entertainment have no goal in themselves shows his understanding of the character of Arabian belles-lettres, contrasting them with Islamic religion, which aims at “collecting and uniting people in order to achieve one high goal.” Poet, on the other hand, rove around without any ethical purpose, according to the Quran. For many pious Muslims, poetry was something suspect, opposed to the divine law, especially since it sang mostly of forbidden wine and of free love. The combination of music and poetry, as practiced in court circles and among the mystics, has always aroused the wrath of the lawyer divines who wielded so much authority in Islamic communities. His opposition may partly explain why Islamic poetry and fine arts took refuge in a kind of unreal world, using fixed images that could be correctly interpreted only by those who were knowledgeable in the art.