Masterpieces of the Islamic empires

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SHAFAQNA – The preservation of local traditions, heritages and artefacts illustrates Islam’s respect and appreciation of arts, culture and beauty.ISLAM’S THREE MOST influential dynasties — the Ottomans, Safavids and Moghuls — not only recorded some of the most magnificent eras to ever stem from Islam. They also showcased some of the world’s most memorable masterpieces. The glory of these Islamic empires has been influential around the world. We’ve compiled just some of the countless artistic treasures that they have left behind.

TURKEY: THE SUNNITE OTTOMAN EMPIRE (1299 – 1922)


The main themes of this dynasty’s masterpieces involve strong hybrids of Islamic culture, and that
of the Christians, Jews and other ethnic groups such as those from Armenia and Assyria, a kingdom of Mesopotamia in ancient Iraq. At that time, Christianity was particularly strong in Istanbul, which was then called Constantinople. When Islam came to Turkey, replacing Christianity’s domination, it didn’t abolish the Christian trails that were found in its architecture and artwork.

Take the Hagia Sophia, for example. Also known in Latin as Sancta Sophia, its construction lasted from the years 532 to 537—a short time, given its stature. Initially, the Hagia Sophia was an Orthodox patriarchal basilica church. It was the biggest cathedral in the world for several hundred years. Under Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire, the building was redeveloped into a mosque.

After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, Turkey became a secular country that practises democracy, and the Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum.

PERSIA: THE SHIA SAFAVID EMPIRE (1501 – 1722)


The Safavid Empire is the biggest Islamic power and influence to have spanned the region combining Persia (present day Iran), parts of Anatolia (present day Turkey) and Georgia. This Empire brought the world Persian carpets and Sufi poetry, as well as some of the most amazing paintings that continue to impress today.

The Safavids were also known for their unprecedented urban architecture with their capital city, Isfahan. Today, Isfahan remains one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is known as ‘half of the world’ because ‘to behold it is to have seen half of the world’ (as well as to remind of its position as the place where merchants from all over the world used to congregate). Isfahan boasts huge mosques, wide boulevards, luxurious homes and one of the oldest bazaars in the Middle East—all set in a manicured garden setting.

This Shiite dynasty served as a melting pot of people from around the region such as Kurdistani, Azerbaijani, Georgian and Greek. It was founded by a Safavid brotherhood that based themselves on the Sufi order. They started out as a religious group but in the 15th century became a military one as well.

Located in the city of Isfahan, Nagish-e Jahan Square is also called Image of the World Square. It’s officially known as Imam Square, and it stands as a legacy of the Safavid Empire, a glorious remnant of the Empire’s supremacy in architecture. Today, the square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

INDIA: THE MOGHUL EMPIRE (1526 – 1858)


Spanning across the Indian subcontinent, known as South Asia today, the Moghul Empire was one of the most powerful Islamic dynasties of its time, playing a prominent role in propagating Islam throughout the Eurasian continent. The dynasty’s customs were influenced by Persian, Mongolian and Hindu heritage, allowing us once again to appreciate the beautiful amalgamation between Islam and other cultures.


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