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Islamic Aesthetics

An Introduction

Oliver Leaman

Hardback i (Printed to Order)

Is there something unique about Islamic art? This book argues that there is not - that Islam does not play an leading role in the aesthetic judgements that we should make about objects created in the Islamic world.

It is often argued that a very special sort of consciousness went into creating Islamic art, that it is very different from other forms of art, that Muslims are not allowed to portray human beings in their art, and that calligraphy is the supreme Islamic art form. Oliver Leaman challenges all these ideas, showing them to be misguided. Instead he suggests that the sort of criteria we should apply to Islamic art are identical to the criteria applicable to art in general, and that the attempt to put Islamic art into a special category is a result of orientalism

Key Features

  • Criticises the influence of Sufism on Islamic aesthetics
  • Deals with issues arising in painting, calligraphy, architecture, gardens, literature, films, and music
  • Pays close attention to the Qur'an
  • Argument includes examples from history, art, philosophy, theology and the artefacts of the Islamic world

The reader is invited to view Islamic art as no more and no less than ordinary art, neither better nor worse than anything else that counts as art. It follows that there are no special techniques required in Islamic aesthetics as compared with any other form of aesthetics.


1. Eleven Common Mistakes about Islamic Art
2. God as Creator, Calligraphy and Symbolism
3. Religion, Style and Art
4. Literature
5. Music
6. Home and Garden
7. The Miraculousness of the Qur'an
8. Philosophy and Ways of Seeing
9. Interpreting Art, Interpreting Islam, Interpreting Philosophy
Index of Qur'anic Passages

About the Author

Oliver Leaman is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kentucky. He has written and edited several books on philosophy.


This is a useful and imaginative project and clearly fills a need… Leaman is an accomplished and productive author and the book will be of genuine and considerable interest.
- Professor Lenn E. Goodman, Vanderbilt University, Nashville
... although it claims to be but an introduction to the subject, it is an engaging and comprehensive one, with up-to-the-minute, primary-sourced chapters on literature, music, the Qur'an and medieval philosophies of seeing, not to mention the four on the visual arts.
- British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
Oliver Leaman has written yet another challenging and iconoclastic work.
- Muslim World Book Review
Oliver Leaman is a very distinguished, internationally regarded scholar of philosophy… his profound philosophical knowledge enables him to apply and analyse concepts of aesthetics to a multitude of art forms.
- Professor Ian R. Netton, University of Leeds

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