1876 AD.
Nasir al Molk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran
(Photo © Amin Abedini)



“Allah is the most Beautiful
He likes beauty”

1571 AD.
Jali, Humayun’s Tomb, New Delhi, India
(Photo © Soumyabrata)

Islamic art and architecture reflect how Muslims relate to the universe. It is a spiritual representation of nature, not a replication of it. This is meant to make the artist – and the spectators who see the decoration – feel closer to Allah. In Islam, beauty has always been closely associated with the divine. One of the hadiths (traditions or sayings) of the Prophet Mohammed reads, ‘Allah is the Most Beautiful and He loves beauty’. And this is really reflected in Islamic architecture, with certain mosques considered some of the most magnificent and awe-inspiring buildings in the world.

Islamic art is also abstract because it is meant to symbolise the transcendent and infinite nature of God. And the arabesque sums up this purpose; after all, the mosaic pattern can be repeated ad infinitum. Geometry has an important spiritual meaning in Islam. It is meant to reflect the language of the universe and the greatness of Allah. 

14th c. AD.
Balcony of Lindaraja, Alhambra, Andalusia, Spain

“This art makes manifest, in the physical order
directly perceivable by the senses,
the archetypal realities and acts therefore
as a ladder for the journey of the soul
from the visible and the audible
to the Invisible which is also Silence transcending all sound”

– Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Iranian philosopher

1876 AD.
Nasir al Molk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran

Islamic patterns were created to lead the viewer to an understanding of an underlying reality. And thus, not just a decoration. The patterns are seen as a bridge to the spiritual realm, an instrument to purify the mind and soul.

Much of Islamic decorative art leads to transformation. The aim is to transfigure, mosques by turning patterns into ‘light’, the decorated pages of a Koran into ‘windows to the infinite’.

2007 AD.
Jalil Khayat Mosque in Erbil, Iraq

“Islam’s concentration on geometric patterns draws attention away from the representational world… to one of pure forms, giving insight into the workings of the inner self and their reflection in the universe. Whereas the experienced world… is of necessity in three dimensions, the paradisiac world, or world of motivating intelligences, exists two-dimensionally only, the principle being that as archetypes are released from the limitations of existentiality, so also is their confinement within dimensions…”

– Keith Critchlow, architectural historian

1619 AD.
Ceiling of Sheikh-Lotf-Allah Mosque, Isfahan, Iran

“Circle is known as the only form that can express the elegance of divinity.”


In Islamic art, the geometric figure of the circle represents the primal symbol of unity and the ultimate source of all diversity in creation. The natural division of the circle into regular subdivisions is the ritual starting point for many traditional Islamic patterns.

Circles are used because they have no end, meaning they are infinite – and this serves as a reminder of the infinite nature of Allah.

The constant repetition and multiplication to infinity symbolises the omnipresent God.

8th c. AD. (Umayyad period)
Floor mosaic from Hisham’s Palace, Jericho, Palestine

It is interesting to note that many of the patterns in Islamic art resemble the mandalas found in Buddhist art, which similarly serve to represent the universe. Sacred geometry is the idea that certain shapes and patterns (such as spirals) have a spiritual meaning behind them. And so we find geometry used in the construction of many types of religious architecture. In essence, Islamic art and architecture represent the universe. After all, we can find examples of Fibonacci spiral patterns in the vaulted ceilings of mosques, the same pattern found everywhere in the natural world.

17th c. AD.
Taj Mahal mosque ceiling, Agra, India

Through the process of studying and/or creating a mandala, one can reach his inner centre, the connection with the Source. The circle, the first originally closed form of Sacred Geometry, thus becomes a passage to Oneness.

15th c. AD (Ottoman period)
Illuminated prayer scroll, 7 metres high, Turkey
Arabic manuscript written in 3 languages: Naskh, Tthuluth and Muhaqqaq.
The Muhaqqaq (yellow text centre) reads ‘ya khafi al-altaf najjina mimma nakhaf’ (Oh possessor of hidden kindness, save us from that which we fear).
(Photo © Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore)

Sacred Geometry of the Heart


Love always attaches itself to beauty
in one form or another.
If mosques and schools of learning are beautiful,
we are attracted to them.
If someone’s speech is beautiful,
we are attracted to it.
Beauty inspires love and love moves our soul.

– Ibn Abi al-Dunya, 9th c. AD.

Muslims circle around the sacred Ka’ba, the concept of Islamic circular decorations.
(Photo © Agence France-Presse – Getty Images)

Sufi practitioners go around in circles to experience Oneness with God.
(Photo © Tuul & Bruno Morandi / Getty Images)

Excerpts from
– ‘Islamic Art and Geometric Patterns’, by Jan P. Hogendijk
– ‘Islamitische Kunst en Geometrische Patronen’, by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
– ‘The Silent Theology of Islamic Art’, by Oludamini Ogunnaike

© Please respect the authors’ mention and copyright.