Development of Muslim art and architecture in Bangladesh
Development of Muslim art and architecture in Bangladesh. By Muhammad Ashraful Islam & Dr. M. Nurul Islam Manjur. Dhaka: Bangladesh Institute of Islamic Thought, 2014. Pp. 336, ISBN: 978-984-8471-18-0.
Reviewer: Syed Lutful Haque, Journalist, Writer and Poet. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Development of Muslim Art and Architecture in Bangladesh is an appreciable work highlighting the hidden treasure of architectural arts and culture prevailing in Bangladesh. The book comprises three parts and eleven chapters. Part One on Muslim Architecture in Bangladesh focuses on Development of Muslim Architecture in general, Mosque Architecture, Local styles of Architecture in Bangladesh, Katara Architecture in Bangladesh and Tombs & Mausoleum Architecture. Part Two focusing on Painting, Calligraphy and Numismatics discusses Muslim Painting in general, Muslim Calligraphy, Folk Art and Miniature Painting in Bangladesh and Numismatic Art in Bangladesh. Part Three focusing on Development of Minor Art in Bangladesh presents Decorative Metal work and Heritage of Filigree Art in Bangladesh. The book also contains an appendix on Architectural Terms in alphabetical order. All the chapters are arranged logically and each of these chapters contain latest information. Together, these chapters provide the history and heritage of art and architecture starting from the Mesopotamian civilization and running through Byzantine and Mughal periods. The book contains a 34-page appendix to describe the important expressions used in the 336-paged book.
The book delves deep into the mysteries of painting, calligraphy, folk and classical Islamic art, architecture, coinage, metal works, ceramics, filigree works, brick and stone carving, inlay work, gold and silver jewellery, weapons etc. It will meet the requirements of students at Masters‟ level in the Islamic art and architecture in Bangladesh. This work stands at par with the writings of great scholars such as Ahmad Hasan Dani, A.N.M. Habibullah, Md. Sirajul Islam, Nazimuddin Ahmed, Syed Mahmudul Hasan and Ayesha Khatun. In this book, the authors categorically defined each style of Muslim Architecture in Bengal including local variations such as Khan Jahani and Shaista Khani Styles with special treatment to Bengal Do-chala, Chau-chala, At-chala and other chalaas which influenced even the Mughal Royal Architects at a time. Especially the chapters on „Heritage of Filigree Art‟ and „Katara Architecture‟ are quite remarkable and seem to be a new presentation. The author‟s critique of calligraphy is also commendable in this book.
The book contains 203 illustrations in black and white which is awkward in today‟s world when colour photography is rather obvious to present the real image. The book includes the first Muslim gold coin ever found in the world issued by Caliph Abdul Malik (685-706 CE) of Arabia. It also includes first Muslim Coin ever found in the Indian Subcontinent. The Coin chapter is also enriched with its specimen coin of Mohammad Bokhtiyar in 601 AH which is the first Muslim coin of Bangladesh. The chapter also refers to many other coins of Britain, Nepal, Mayanmar and Bangladesh. The author has analyzed calligraphic value of coins and passed valuable remarks about some coins one of which is most recent in Bangladesh.
The book makes clear about the Muslim genius in designing the palaces, gardens, mosques and education centers. They put their efforts even in designing ornaments, ivory, and various metal crafts for use in the court or in the Harem. Even the day to day utensils, knives for private security, launchers, swords and canons for military expedition and fortress for sheltering solders bore the inscriptions of Muslim art. Generally, nature and its objects, motifs and artistic designs dominated the Muslim art as creating human figure or of living creature was not prescribed by Islam. Instead, Islamic art was developed by utilizing geometric, floral and calligraphic shapes and forms, often interwoven.
Islamic art has differed depending on which part of the Muslim world it developed in. With the spread of Islam outward from the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century, the figurative artistic traditions of the newly conquered lands profoundly influenced the development of Islamic art. Ornamentation in Islamic art came to include figural representations in its decorative vocabulary, drawn from a variety of sources. Although the often cited opposition in Islam to the depiction of human and animal forms holds true for religious art and architecture, in the secular sphere, such representations have flourished in nearly all Islamic cultures. However, figural motifs are found on the surface decoration of objects or architecture, as part of the woven or applied patterns of textiles, and, most rarely, in sculptural form. In some cases, decorative images are closely related to the narrative painting tradition, where text illustrations provided sources for ornamental themes and motifs.
It is true that the tradition of arts and architecture in the Indian subcontinent is primarily influenced by the Indus valley civilization and the Persian rulers who had mastered the subject. However, being a Muslim nation, under Arab rule, Persians also made paintings and art works with human and animal figures because of their past belief in Zoroastroism and lately under influence of mystic Sufism. In short, readers of all types will find the book informative and knowledgeable. It can be justifiably used as a reference for the researchers.