The many followers of Islam are spread around the globe from traditional lands in the Middle East and parts of Africa to metropolitan European cities. This extremely varied group of people nevertheless shares a distinct and rich style of arts, architecture, poetry, epic literature, painting, and philosophy. This book follows the intriguing history of Islamic arts and literature through the ages from the Umayyad Dynasty to the modern Islamic world.
Kuiper's ambitious overview of eleven cultures within Islam attempts to define parameters and styles and to outline literary and artistic history, from the caliphate to the modern era. Essential to a thorough coverage, highlighted pages summarize noteworthy points, including the odes of Abu Nuwas of Baghdad, the polemics of Egyptian scholar Taha Husayn, churches built by Turkish architect Sinan, and a review of The Thousand and One Night, which includes a drawing of Ali Baba's gang. The illustrated text succeeds at differentiating types of Arabic script and elements of Mamluk fiber art, Umayyad earthenware, and the poetics of al-Rumi. Missing from the lineup of topics is the application of tiles in mosaic and wall decor, and the tughra in jewelry and personalized items, both valuable evidences of artisanal individuation. The most serious lapse of the text concerns too-short entries presenting few specifics, for example, a single unenlightening paragraph on folk verse, ciphers, and the ghazal and roba'i. An evaluation of contemporary trends says nothing of contributions by such Islamic feminist writers as Nawal El Saadawi and Margot Badran. The writing lacks an understanding of the educational scope of high school coursework and the ability of readers on the 9-12+ levels to integrate snatches of knowledge into their overall perception of Islam as the fount of Middle Eastern and North African culture. This text is guardedly recommended for large public and school libraries, and for the shelves of home schoolers. (The Islamic World) Reviewer: Ellen Snodgrass