Museums/Libraries of Islamic Art
Major centres of Islamic art, heritage and culture are located not just within the world of Islam, but across the globe.
Islamic arts and crafts embrace a wide range of creative forms including: architecture, illuminated/illustrated Qur'anic Manuscripts (Koran texts), calligraphic art, ceramic art, faience mosaic art, lustre-ware, drawing, painting, friezes, relief sculpture, wood and ivory carving, book-gilding, lacquer-painted bookbinding, textile art, goldsmithery, gemstone carving and metalwork.
See below for a list of the best art museums and libraries of Islamic culture, arts and crafts, from around the world.
Beit Al Qu'ran Museum, Bahrain
The Beit Al Qur'an Collection of illuminated Holy Koran manuscripts includes unique calligraphic works from as early as the first century Hijra (7th/8th Century Western Calendar) from all centres of Islamic culture, from China to Moorish Spain, written in a variety of styles like the classic Kufic script, with its emphasis on line geometry, and the cursive Naskhi style with its flowing rhythms.
Al Hayat Museum
ART GALLERIES USA
FINEST EUROPEAN GALLERIES
FINE ART CHRONOLOGY
MEANING OF ART
Museum of Islamic Art, Egypt
Cairo's Museum of Islamic Art houses an impressive collection of antiquities and religious art from various periods of Egypt's Islamic history. The collection encompasses Moslem textiles, tapestries, glassware, ceramics and calligraphy, as well as painted panels, mosque lights, decorated mushrabiyya window screens and pulpits, metalwork inlaid with precious stones, Iranian and Turkish carpets and prayer mats. There is also a collection of illuminated Qur'anic manuscripts, with ancient fragments of parchment dating to the 8th century.
Museum of Islamic Art
Museum of Islamic Ceramics, Egypt
This collection of Islamic ceramic art and crafts consists of more than 300 items dating from 900 to 1900. The collection features ceramic pieces from the Umayyad, Fatimid, Ayyubid, Mamluk, Turkish (Iznik and Kutahia) and Spanish Moorish cultures, exemplifying how Islamic ceramicists combined Greek, Byzantine, Persian Sassanian and Chinese traditions and techniques.
Museum of Islamic Ceramics
Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyya (Egyptian National Library)
One of the most extensive and important collections of Islamic manuscripts in the world, featuring some 47,000 Arabic texts, 1000 Persian and 2000 Turkish texts, it contains a number of priceless manuscripts from the first four centuries of hijra, as well as unique illuminated manuscripts.
National Museum of Iran
The National Museum of Iran in Tehran is divided into two buildings. Building One houses the pre-Islamic collection, while Building Two features Islamic pottery, textiles, illuminated manuscripts and calligraphy from 14 centuries of Iranian Islamic heritage. Building Two houses handwritten copies of the Holy Qur'an, as well as other rare texts from the Timurid to the Safavid era. Examples include Firdusi's Shahnameh (Book of Kings), Nezami's Khamseh (The Five), as well as the collections of poems of Hafez and Amir Alishir Navaee. Most of the books are in Nastaliq script and decorated with illustrations. Also on show are rare examples of hand-woven carpets, ceramics, and lustre-ware, as well as precious metalwork and jewellery made by engraving, grating, silver and gold printing.
National Museum of Iran (Iran Bastan
Astan-i Quds-i Razavi Library, Mashhad, Iran
Founded in 861 AH/1457 CE, this is one of the most important collections of Islamic manuscripts in the Muslim world. It amounts to over 29,000 texts, written in Arabic, Persian and Turkish, of which about 11,000 are manuscripts of the Qur'an, making it the largest Qur'anic manuscript collection in the world. It includes a large number of ancient illuminated Kufic style Qur'anic manuscripts, from 3rd century hijra (9th century CE).
Islamic Museum of the Temple Mount, Jerusalem
Situated on the Temple Mount adjacent to al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, the actual museum building was once a Mosque frequented by Muslim pilgrims from the Maghreb area of North Africa. Today, the museum houses a number of masterpieces of Islamic art and architecture from a variety of regions and historical periods. Highlights include: the al-Aqsa Mosque's collection of 600 copies of the Qur'an donated by caliphs, sultans and emirs from the Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Ayyubid, Mamluk, and Ottoman cultures, many with beautiful illuminations and decorations. One is a hand-written Qur'an text allegedly written by the great-great grandson of Muhammad. The museum also houses a diverse range of artifacts representing the heritage and culture of Islam, from ceramics to swords.
Islamic Museum of the Temple Mount
House of Islamic Antiques (Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah), Kuwait
Founded in 1983 by Shaykha Hussah al-Sabah and other members of the al-Sabah family, the museum's permanent collection of Islamic artworks is said to rival more established collections such as those in the Louvre and the British Museum.
Kuwait National Museum
Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM)
Opened to the public in December 1998 (23 Syaaban 1419) thanks to the Albukhary Foundation, together with the assistance of the Malaysian government, IAMM acts as a Custodian, Restorer, Preserver, Curator and Educator of Islamic Arts. The museum houses two floors of permanent galleries and two galleries for temporary exhibitions. In addition, on Level 3, there is the China Gallery, the India Gallery, and the Malay World Gallery, which serve as representative styles of Islamic heritage, art and culture. On the same level are the Qurans & Manuscripts Gallery, the Architecture Gallery, and the Ottoman Room. Galleries on level 4 showcase displays of Ceramics & Glass, Metalwork, Coins, Wood-Carving, Jewellery and Textile art.
Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar
Completed in 2008 to a design by architect I. M. Pei, and situated in the Qatari capital Doha, the museum has a substantial collection of Islamic art, as well as an extensive library.
Museum of Islamic Art
National Museum of Saudi Arabia
The museum is noted for its large-scale replicas of Saudi Arabia's Islamic architecture and archeological treasures.
The National Museum
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art (Turk-Islam Eserleri Muzesi), Turkey
Istanbul's Museum of Islamic Art, housed in the refurbished Palace of Ibrahim Pasha (Grand Vezir to Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent), close to the city's Blue Mosque, houses some 40,000 items exemplifying the heritage and culture of Islam in Turkey, notably the Seljuk and Ottoman eras. Exhibits include Turkish carpets, illuminated Qur'an manuscripts, calligraphic art, wood carvings and porcelain. The museum is 15-minute walk from the Istanbul Archeological Museums.
Turk Islam Eserleri Muzesi
Sharjah Islamic Museum, United Arab Emirates
The museum's permanent collection includes works of art and examples of fine craftsmanship from most Islamic eras, including scientific and literary religious manuscripts, pottery, glass, silver, jewellery and other metallic artifacts inlayed with precious metals. In addition, the collection contains silver dinars and dirhams from Islamic mints, dating to both Abbasid and Umayyad eras.
Sharjah Islamic Museum
Maktabat al-Jami' al-Kabir, The Great Mosque, San'a', Yemen
Founded in the 6th year of hijra and regarded as the first mosque in Yemen, its manuscript collection is housed in three libraries: the Al-Maktaba al-Sharqiya library, the Al-Maktaba al-Gharbiya library and the main modern library, the Maktabat al-Awqaf. It features some of the rarest known Islamic manuscripts, of the Qur'an, as well as texts on Qur'anic sciences, tafsir, terminology of hadith, and sciences of the Arabic langauge.
Established in 1753, the British Museum houses a host of world-famous artifacts from the Islamic world. Examples include the most comprehensive collection of sculpture from India, in Europe, including the famous Buddhist limestone reliefs from Amaravati. The Museum also features a wide range of ancient pottery, ceramic painted tiles, metalwork and glass objects.
Founded in 1852, the V & A is the world's greatest museum of decorative art. Its collection of decorative objects represents the Islamic culture and heritage of South and South-East Asia, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Malaysia. Exhibits include: paintings, ceramics, lustre-ware, furniture and woodwork, lacquerware, silver and jewellery, Islamic metalwork, and early Middle Eastern silks.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Nasser David Khalili Collection Of Islamic Art, London, UK
Managed by the Nour Foundation, this is probably the widest and most comprehensive collection of Qur'anic material in private hands. It covers almost the entire history of Qur'an production from regions of Islam as widespread as India and Morocco. Written in various scripts and dating from the late 1st century of hijra onwards the Qur'an collection includes works by many of the most famous Arabic and Persian calligraphers, including Seyh Hamdullah and Hafiz Osman.
Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology, Oxford
The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, belonging to Oxford University is one of the oldest public museums in the world. Its Museum of Eastern Art was established in 1949 as part of the Department of Fine Art, and its permanent collection of artworks is exceeded in Britain only by the British Museum and the V & A. Highlights include the Ashmolean's unique collection of Islamic pottery, one of the finest outside the Islamic world, and its Islamic, Chinese and Japanese ceramics.
Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology
One of the finest "bijou" museums in the world, the Chester Beatty Library contains over 5,000 items of Islamic art and culture - mostly manuscripts, Qurans, single-page paintings and calligraphies - some executed as early as the 8th century BCE by the foremost calligraphers of the Islamic world. The museum's collection also features a fine collection of miniature paintings.
The museum's extensive collection of Oriental Antiquities and Islamic arts features works from all regions and eras of Islam.
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France
Like its predecessor, the old Bibliotheque Royale, the Bibliotheque Nationale holds and preserves one of the greatest collections of Islamic manuscripts, covering subjects as diverse as religion, agriculture and law. Highlights include the library's Quranic manuscripts written during the first centuries after hijra.
Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin
Located in the south wing of the Pergamonmuseum, Berlin's Museum of Islamic Art features arts and crafts from 700-1900. Focused primarily on Middle Eastern art including that of Egypt and Iran, the collection encompasses architectural decorations, jewellery, ceramic tiles and other objects, metalwork, carvings in wood and bone, glass, textiles, carpets, illuminated manuscripts and miniatures.
Museum fuer Islamische Kunst
Museum for Early Islamic Art, Bamberg, Bavaria
Bamberg's Islamic museum houses the world's largest collection of early Islamic bronze sculpture dating from the 8th to the 11th centuries, mainly from Iran, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. The collection is owned by the Bumiller Art Foundation and is displayed in a beautiful 13th century mansion.
Museum fuer Fruehislamische Kunst
German Museum of Ceramics, Duesseldorf
Founded in 1909, the museum depicts the history of ceramic art, including Islamic ceramics, in modern and antique styles. Highlights include an Islamic tiled dome dating to 1680 CE.
Institute Of Oriental Studies, Russian
Academy of Sciences
Among some 85,000 manuscripts written in 65 living and dead Oriental languages, the Institute houses one of the oldest Qur'anic manuscripts dating to the last half of the 8th century CE. It comprises 81 large parchment pages (folios) in Hijazi (Makkan or Madinan) script and features a number of decorative coloured illustrations made from geometric patterns. Experts in Islamic calligraphy consider it to be one of the most important surviving manuscripts of Islam.
The museum's permanent collection of Islamic art totals some 12,000 items, mostly created for religious or decorative use in mosques. Highlights include celebrated miniature paintings from Iran and Mughal painting from India, as well as calligraphic texts from the Qur'an (Koran) and Suleiman the Magnificent.
Metropolitan Museum of Art New York
Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG), New York
The museum contains the world's greatest collection of glass art and artifacts, and is the library of record for the origins, history, art, and technical development of glassmaking. The permanent collection consists of some 33,000 items of glass exemplifying every country and historical period during which glassmaking occurred, from ancient Egypt of the third Millennium BCE, to the 21st century. Part of the collection showcases Islamic glassmaking (c.650-1350), when Islamic craftsmen produced some of the world's finest cut glass, and mastered the technique of enameling and gilding on glass. These achievements were celebrated in a major 2001 exhibition entitled "Glass of the Sultans," organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Corning Museum of Glass.
Corning Museum of Glass
Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago, Chicago, USA
The Museum's collection of Qur'anic manuscripts, dating from the late first century of hijra, are written in Makkan, Kufic and Maghribi caligraphic scripts indicating origins from several different Islamic cultures.
Other sources of Islamic antiquities and cultural objects in America, include: the Museum of Fine Arts Boston; as well as the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
For more information about the world's greatest art museums, see: Homepage.