Geometric patterns are an important aspect of the landscape of Islamic architecture, ever since their usage which dates back to a millennium ago. In order to stick to the religious laws, which state that its forbidden to depict any human form by a man, as it equates to attempting to compete with God’s brilliance, it is no surprise architects who choose to build in accordance to Islamic art and design incorporate design elements like octagons and stars and words- calligraphy. Arabesque patterns consist of various patterns such as stars, which often several scholars associate with mathematics that emerged in the Arab culture. These geometric patterns whether they are polychromatic or monochrome, both evoke a feeling of celestial balance. The eight-pointed star, which is created by the conjunction of two squares, is the origin of several patterns which can be spotted across the city of Morocco.
Much more complex celestial shapes are seen, such a 96 points star, which is a rare sight. Octagons and several shapes of the same family can be seen on brass doors across North Africa. Whether it be throne room in the Royal Palace in Rabat or the tiled graves in Marrakech, geometric patterns have made their mark everywhere. Squares, circles, polygons and other mathematical shapes all come together in the form of art in Islamic architecture. Islam has always avoided the use of figurative images and instead made use of geometric patterns that have immense mathematical elegance. The reason figurative art is avoided is that they don’t want to make it an object of worship.
There are three types of non-figural decoration in Islam and Geometric design is one of them. These geometric patterns consist of overlapped and interfacing squares and circles which are repeated. Intricate and complex patterns are formed using these designs. These stunning designs are a huge part of madrasas, mosques and palaces around the globe. One of the most common design structure is the 8-pointed star. These designs are based on grids very simple to sketch and require only a ruler and a compass for their construction.
These patterns denote mathematical tessellations which have indefinite extensions and thus steer towards the concept of infinity. These designs were derived from the age-old Greek geometry. In Greek geometry, you start with basic assumptions and then go on to make complex designs using the basic ones which are the exactly like Islamic art. Islamic art gives a visual confirmation that this complexity can be achieved. There are four basic shapes which are most commonly used; circles and interlaced circles, squares or four-sided polygons and the star pattern which has already been discussed. These beautiful designs that grace Islamic buildings have their humble beginnings. The earliest form of these geometric designs were the 8-point stars and lozenges enclosing squares. One of the oldest Islamic building in which this design was used is the Great Mosque of Kairouan.
This was the first stage in the history of Islamic art. The second stage goes further into the 11th century where 6 point stars also started being used. In 1086, 7 and 10 point girih patterns were used in the Barisan mosque and then in1086, 10 point girih patterns were widespread.
The final marking of the second stage is the use of 8 and 12 point girih rosette patterns which were first seen in the Alâeddin Mosque at Konya, Turkey. The last stage, 16- and 14- point patterns started being used. This was how geometric design in Islam evolved. The use of geometric design is widespread now and is not only used in Islam but around the world as well.