Cultural Arts Review: The Wonders of the Islamic Worlds of Art and Science, Illuminated

Posted on November 25, 2013 by



          Four years ago Sabiha Al Khemir started thinking about her next project hilighting the role of light in Islamic art.  In an interview Khemir said, “Islam is also very much about light of knowledge that fights the ignorance of darkness.”  Khemir is an expert in Islamic art and has created several other Islamic exhibitions. Her most recent product was an exhibition of 150 pieces, spanning eleven centuries.   It is called the “Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World.”

            The exhibition displays many Islamic masterpieces and portrays the perfect balance between art and science.  A ceiling section is of a sixteen pointed star that reflects Islamic geometry.  Another section highlights Muslim manuscripts, which are some of the most important pieces of the exhibit.  These manuscripts include four pages from the Blue Quran, originally found in the Great Mosque of Kairouan.  The pages from the Blue Quran have beautiful gold leaf lettering with an indigo background of shining stars.  Another piece is of the oldest surviving illustrated manuscript written in Arabic.  It is called the “Treatise on the fixed stars” by a Persian Astronomer, Abd al-Rahman al-Sulfi.

            Many of the pieces in the exhibit were created to take scientific measurements in the service of faith.  Khemir is the perfect person to take pieces of art from many different time periods and display them in a way of unity.  The overall exhibition is about light in Islamic art and the Islamic world.  This light represents enlightenment which is one of the key beliefs of a Muslim.  As I stated in the opening paragraph, Khemir said, “Islam is also very much about the light of knowledge that fights the darkness of ignorance”.  This phrase represents Islam in a very accurate way.  It is about finding the light, or enlightenment, and staying clear of the darkness, such as temptation.

            Art plays a big role in Islam.  The Quran, the Islamic holy book, is a piece of art in itself.  It is traditionally displayed in Islamic households, and is normally very decorative. It has a look of importance often with gold lettering and symbols filling the outer parts of the pages.  Art is also used to reflect Muslim values and supports the view of the spiritual realm, universe, and relationships. 

            Khemir lives in New York as an Artist and expert on Islamic art.  She was the founding director of a Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar and has also written a novel about the Blue Qurans religious text called “The Blue Manuscript”.  Although Khemir lives in the United States now, she was born and raised in Korba, Tunisia.  Much of Tunisia is Muslim and Khemir was raised with Muslim upbringings.  Her early introduction to Islam led her to a career of spreading the Islamic message through art.  Khemir wants to help bridge the gap between the United States and the Muslim religion with her art.  She hopes to build understanding between Islamic and Western cultures.  


Sources: MINDER, RAPHAEL . “The Wonders of the Islamic Worlds of Art and Science, Illuminated.” New York Times. N.p., 7 Nov. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2013. <>.

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