Film Highlights Islamic Art's Contribution to World Culture

Several weeks ago, I was at the Mirador San Nicolas in Granada, Spain with my gaze set on the Alhambra. The structure was bathed in the fading sunlight, with the snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains forming a backdrop to this grand fortress that was built in the 14th century by the Muslim rulers of Spain.

I was standing among many tourists and couldn't help but listen in on some of the conversations. One man was talking to a friend of his and, while he looked upon the Alhambra, said: "This is one of my top 5 experiences ever. And I've traveled a lot."

I'm not going to lie - I took a bit of pride in that statement. The Alhambra was built by Muslims and none of the tourists had any problem with the fact that they were revelling in something that was made possible by people who belonged to a religion that has been long under fire.

The Alhambra, both its structure, the intricate calligraphy present throughout it, and its garden, the Generalife, are only some of the examples of Islamic art and architecture that are present in many parts of the world. This is the subject of the new documentary Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World.  

Airing on July 6 on PBS, this documentary is next in the long line of documentaries  that have been produced by Alex Kronemer and Michael Wolfe through the Unity Productions Foundation, which aims to use the media to work for peace. The documentary explores several facets of Islamic art like the use of Word, Space, Color, and Water while taking the viewer across many nations such as Spain, Turkey, India, and even Mali.  

The film starts off with a basic introduction of Islam and from there, goes into the importance of writing in this religious tradition compared to others. After touching on this tradition of writing, the film goes into mosque architecture, showing the insides and outsides of different mosques around the world. One that really stuck out to me was the Grand Mosque in Djenne, Mali, which really made me rethink my notion of what a mosque is supposed to look like. The documentary continues exploring several themes to take this documentary beyond just looking at buildings but to also take a look at gardens, the use of water, and even figurative art. 

Islamic Art does a good job not only providing examples and showing the many examples of how Islamic art has flourished, but, through the testimonials of experts, also show how ingrained Islamic Art is and how it has meshed with other types of art. For example, in many cases, Muslims utilized local traditions upon which they built and created.

This documentary is made to be accessible to Western viewers and it is, giving the viewer ample opportunities to marvel at the ingenuity of art by Muslims. In fact, many people can use this documentary to create a list of places they need to travel to, if only to see all everything in person. 

Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World starts off slow but continues with a steady pace and in the end, I was quite surprised by how much they cover in its 90 minutes. This documentary airs on July 6th at 9pm. However, check your local listings to confirm when it's playing in your city.

                                                                Bushra Burney

Bushra is content editor and blogger for