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Philosophy of Islamic Art and Architecture: Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardabili’s Khanqah and Shrine Ensemble & Gawharshad  Mosque in Mashhad by Hasti Safavi

4 April 2018 No Comment

LAIS press has published the Philosophy of Islamic Art and Architecture: Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardabili’s Khanqah and Shrine Ensemble & Gawharshad  Mosque in Mashhad written by Hasti Safavi. 

A novel approach has been employed in this book to provide a new analysis of Islamic art and architecture in reference to the Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardabili’s khanqah and shrine ensemble in Ardabil, and Gawharshad mosque in Mashhad, Iran. In the British school of history of art, Islamic art is mainly described from an aesthetic point of view, disregarding the hermeneutic approach. Furthermore, calligraphy, colour, light, and geometry are mainly viewed from a decorative angle, without considering and analysing the purpose and concept of these elements.

Using the khanqah and shrine ensemble of Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardabili and the major architectural elements of Gawharshad mosque in Mashhad as prototypes, descriptive analysis is insufficient in providing an understanding and evaluation of Islamic art. Historical and descriptive approaches must be intertwined with mystical hermeneutics to be able to unveil the deeper meaning of Islamic art architecture, while considering the symbolic language embedded in such art forms.

The author, utilising mystical hermeneutics, has deciphered the symbolism utilised in the architecture and decoration of the two monuments in question, while providing a thorough understanding of their significance in Islamic art and architecture, through the usage of the hermeneutic circle, Islamic philosophy and sufism and Quranic interpretation. One of the distinctions of the present work is the analysis provided for the calligraphic inscriptions, which has not been looked at in detail with reference to the two monuments being studied.

Iranian-Islamic culture and heritage is based on mysticism and beauty; as such, the publication of this book in the English language is a vital step in their introduction. This book is the aftermath of the research conducted during the author’s Masters degree at SOAS University of London.

Sheik Safi al-Din Ardabili (1252-1334) was the spiritual father of modern Iran, and the founder of the Safavid Sufi Order. His khanqah and shrine ensemble is the spiritual and temporal heart of the Safavid Empire (1501 – 1722) and a monumental paradigm of Iranian architecture. The monument has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2010.

Gawharshad Mosque, a part of the Imam Reza shrine complex in Mashhad, Iran, is an exemplary portrayal of Iranian and Timurid (ca 1370 – 1507) architecture. This is due to its elaborate tilework, and the unique symmetry visible in its architecture and decoration from a visual and conceptual perspective, in terms of the calligraphic inscriptions, and their interplay with the other decorative elements adorning the mosque.

Hasti Safavi has studies at SOAS University of London in History of Art and Archaeology, and is an Islamic art specialist. She has been the Director of the Islamic Art Division of the London Academy of Iranian Studies since 2013, and has contributed three articles on Islamic art, architecture and calligraphy in the Contemporary Encyclopaedia of Holy Quran.

Pages: 190.

Figures: 65.

Price: £20.

Published by: London Academy of Iranian Studies Press.

Printed: London, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-909538-21-1.

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