In Islam, art is considered best used when it serves to crystallize the most important aspects of the religion, such as harmony, clarity, and serenity. In addition, Muslims make art in order to enhance the ambience necessary for an Islamic life, that is, to reflect the presence of Allah in the everyday. A well-known hadith (proverb) asserts that “Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty” (Allahu jamilun yuhibbu’l-jamal). For this reason, among others, Islamic artists have tended to concentrate on decoration: the beautification of ordinary useful things. The greatest achievements of Muslim artists have been in the realms of architecture, calligraphy, and crafts such as pottery, clothes making, and carpet weaving.
Islamic art is also bounded by a proscription against iconic representations of men or animals. Representational art is considered to be a violation of the Second Commandment prohibiting idol worship. Theatrical performance, in which humans represent themselves as other creatures, other men, or gods, skates dangerously close to idolatry for some Muslims. Theater, along with the novel, is also considered by many Muslims to create a fanciful and fictitious world and to operate against an important Islamic principle to avoid forgetfulness of the reality of Allah. Therefore many Muslim scholars and artists do not, as a rule, pay much attention to dramatic expression.
Prejudice against theater as irreligious is, of...
(The entire section is 417 words.)