This article is a brief comprehension of what Islamic arts is and how to understand its spiritual significance; as perceived from Nasr Hossain’s book, “Islamic arts and spirituality.” According to Nasr, Before we talk about the spiritual significance of Islamic arts we should first acquire the understanding of the word spirituality. The word spirituality has two roots, one root is the Arabic word ruh which means spirit and the other root is the Arabic word Ma’na or Manabyat in Persian which means meaning. This meaning is not taken in its ordinary sense as getting to know something through his outwardness or exterior representation but it’s about getting to know the inner realities of things (al-haqa’iq). Nasr Hossain in his book, ‘Islamic arts and spirituality’ has talked about two forms of knowledge one that is zahir (can be seen) and one that is batin (cannot be seen) and has related Islamic arts with the inner dimension of Islam that is the batin in this case. He has written in his book about the interiority Islamic art possesses, as follows:
“This inner dimension is moreover inextricably related to Islamic spirituality. The term for spirituality in Islamic languages is connected to either the word ruh denoting spirit or ma’na signifying meaning. In both cases the very terms imply inwardness and interiority. It is within the inner dimension of the Islamic tradition that one must seek the origin of Islamic art and the power which has created and sustained it over the ages while making possible the blinding unity and inebriating interiority which this art possesses” (Hossain, 1987, p. 6).
It is the basic metaphysical principle that there is an inward aspect to all things and you can’t believe in the world of pure outwardness and spirituality at the same time. Thus, when we speak about Islamic spirituality in its true essence, one thing that we should keep in our mind is that there are always two aspects to what we see, one is the outward aspect and the other one is the inward aspect. Although Islamic art has form which is external and can be seen from the naked eye but it does have the connection with the inward as well. Without the understanding of this relation between the outward and the inward one can’t interpret the Islamic art forms and the ma’na behind them.