• Islamic Art and Architecture

    Resources for educators on the artistic and architectural legacy of the Islamic world

Pictured above: Mosaic tiles decorating the ceiling of the pavilion that stands over the tomb of the celebrated Persian poet, Hafez, located in Shiraz, Iran.

In a Washington Post article on the importance of teaching the history of art and architecture in the Islamic world, Professor Kishwar Rizvi observed: "We are not just surveying the form of buildings or noting their dates of construction; rather, we discuss their political circumstances and the rituals that gave life to them. Studying the architecture and culture of a society allows us to recognize the essential humanity in each other, even in those far removed by time and geography...while the Middle East today may be defined by war and strife, not long ago, it comprised great cities, home to poets, artists and craftsmen. And I want [my students] to know that these places are worth saving."

The following links connect educators to resources for teaching about Islamic art and architecture. These resources might be of particular interest to world history teachers eager to supplement historical narratives with visual content and to art history or AP art history teachers who are developing a unit on the the arts and culture of the Islamic world. Islamic art is rich in geometric designs, proportionality, and repeating patterns and thus teachers of math may find these materials useful in illustrating and reinforcing certain mathematical concepts.

Comprehensive Surveys and Overviews

  • Art of the Islamic World: A Resource for Educators - The Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of Islamic art is one of the most important and comprehensive in the world. It comprises more than twelve thousand works of art created in a vast geographical area, stretching from Spain to India. This guide and the organization of the Museum's galleries emphasize the diversity of regional traditions and their cultural contexts, rather than presenting the art and culture of the Islamic world as a single monolithic entity dominated by religion. Learn about art and culture of the Islamic world and glean ideas for supporting studies of English language arts, math, science, social studies, world history, and visual arts. The Introduction and each of the seven units are available as downloadable PDFs.
  • Islamic Art and Culture: A Resource for Teachers - Produced by the National Gallery of Art, this booklet contains introductory material, slide descriptions, teaching suggestions, maps, a glossary, and resources.
  • Arts of the Islamic World: A Teacher's Guide - The Education Department of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery has designed Arts of the Islamic World: A Teacher’s Guide in conjunction with its Teacher-Consultants Group, which comprises teachers from the Washington, D.C., area who serve as advisers to the museum. While the arts of the Islamic world span a vast geographic area and a wide range of media, the materials in this guide highlight three especially important categories of artistic expression: the art of the book, the art of the mosque, and the art of the portable object. This guide opens with an overview of Islam and this section includes interviews with four individuals who offer their perspectives on practicing Islam in the United States, detailing the challenges they face and the benefits they reap as Muslims in America.
  • Victoria and Albert Museum: Islamic Middle East Collection - A series of interlinked webpages showcasing the Victoria and Albert Museum's collection of Islamic artifiacts. Explore several subject hubs on Islamic Art & Design and Islamic Architecture as well as supplemental articles on calligraphy and textiles.
  • Islamic Arts & Architecture - This site provides a glimpse of the rich cultural heritage within the Muslim World and the significant role that Muslims have played in the advancement of knowledge. It presents the rich creativity of Islamic Arts and Architecture and traces the historical development of Islamic regions and dynasties, highlighting their diversity of artistic expression from the inception of the faith until the present.
  • Islamic Art as an Educational Tool about the Teaching of Islam

Architecture

  • Archnet - A collaborative digital humanities project focused on Islamic architecture and the built environment of Muslim societies more generally. Conceptualized in 1998 and originally developed at the MIT School of Architecture and Planning in co-operation with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, it has been maintained by the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture since 2011. Educators will benefit from the Archnet Pedagogy Collection, which is designed to make well-crafted and practical resources publicly available for those teaching the subject of Islamic art and architecture.

Manuscripts and Calligraphy

  • How to Look at a Qur'an: Freer | Sackler Educator Resource - A short guide for educators to help them understand how artists, historians, and practicing Muslims understand the significance of a Qur'anic manuscript in different ways.
  • Lapis and Gold and Wondrous Words - Explore a Qur'anic manuscript by flipping through the pages and clicking on hotspots to learn more. The folios in "Lapis and Gold" contain the last fourteen chapters of the Qur’an. Completed in September 1517, this luxurious manuscript is a triumph of illumination and calligraphy that showcases the skill of artists at the Ottoman court. The folios in "Wondrous Words" are from a Qur'an commissioned by the Mongol ruler Uljaytu (reigned 1304–16) for his monumental tomb in Sultaniyya, which is in northwestern Iran.
  • Traces of the Calligrapher: Islamic Calligraphy in Practice 1600-1900 - This exhibition and its companion exhibition, Writing the Word of God: Calligraphy and the Qur’an, explore Islamic art’s quintessential art form: calligraphy.
  • Art of Arabic Calligraphy

​Math and Islamic Art

  • Islamic Art and Geometric Design: Activities for Learning - The Metropolian Museum of Art has produced this activity booklet to help educators and students examine the principles of geometric design that are the basis for the beautiful and intricate patterns in the art of the Islamic world. This resource includes a brief overview of Islamic art, an introduction to related works in the Museum, and a series of pattern-making activities (including reproducible grids) for use in the classroom. Teachers can readily adapt these materials to create exciting lessons in art, culture, math, and geometry.
  • Common Core Math and Islamic Art - One of the skills highlighted in the Common Core State Standards for mathematics involves generating and analyzing patterns and pattern relationships. Islamic art made for a religious purpose or setting does not include images of people, and often focuses on intricate geometric designs. A close look at Islamic art provides an opportunity, not only for the reinforcement of these Common Core skills, but also for a glimpse inside this important culture.