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Islamic Art  
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Ibn Sina even wrote love poems to boys, but he never attempted to explicate homosexuality as a phenomenon in his philosophy, perhaps believing that to attempt to define it would violate Muslim decorum. Very often no distinction was made between the value of love for men and that for women in some Medieval Arab treatises on love.

Love Poetry

Islamic poetry, especially Persian, with its incredible stylization of themes, is frequently homoerotic. Homosexuality found a clear but not unequivocal voice in the "ghazal" or love poem of five to fifteen couplets. These poems, which are remarkable for their emphasis on "the amorous gaze," and on longing and unfulfilled desire, often focus on a beautiful boy.

Some claim that the use of the male pronoun in Islamic love dialogues is largely metaphoric or allegorical. However, the poets Abu Nuwas (ca 750-ca 810), al Hallaj (858-922), Ibn Hazm of Cordoba (994-1064), al-Ghazali (1058-1111), Jaladin-al Rumi (1207-1273), among others, all ecstatically praise male adolescent beauty.

Of these, Abu Nuwas, who in the Tales of One Thousand and One Nights eulogizes the relative beauty of three boys, is the most famous and most innovative. While editions of the One Thousand and One Nights, which were first assembled in late thirteenth-century Syria and Egypt, were rarely published with illustrations, its homoeroticism is nonetheless apparent.

Wine Poetry

Other instances of the homoerotic turn up in a form called "wine poetry." Intoxication, along with male beauty, was for a number of Sufi mystics and dervishes closely linked to the divine. They saw wine, boys, and dance as emblematic of the relationship to God, and a doorway into paradise from earth.

Another rhetorical form debated the relative merits of the love of girls and the love of boys. Though wit was relished, this conceit, especially in satirical poetry, should not always be taken literally. This genre was extremely popular in Egypt under the Mamluks (the Turkish or Circassian warrior slave class that came to power in the thirteenth century), who produced the beautiful Ibn Tulun and Mohammed Ali mosques in Cairo.

Illustrated books of aphorisms and anecdotes were a standard and much admired genre, perhaps because poetry was judged more on aesthetic criteria than on theological.

Figure Painting

Another conflicted issue in Islamic Art is mimesis or representation. Artwork that depicts human figures or animals is often classed as un-Islamic. Most artists, therefore, remained anonymous and figure painting was identified early on as an idolatrous practice.

While there is in fact no prohibition in the Qur'an against representing humans, the Hadith (the Islamic traditions) take the stance that representation emulates God, and should therefore be forbidden. Paradoxically, this may be why artists were so greatly honored, perhaps even feared.

Despite the religious stigma against figurative art, it never died out. It even flourished under the Timurids of Northern Iraq and during the Mughal dynasty of Babur (1483-1540) in India. Early Islamic figure painting was greatly influenced by Greek and Hellenistic artists and traditions.

Much of the best figure painting in books dates from twelfth-century Tabriz (Iran) or from sixteenth-century India in the Mughal period where miniatures flourished, and during the Ottoman period (the sixteenth century through the nineteenth century) in Turkey.

Some artists began to be celebrated for their individual style, or were both calligraphers and painters of illuminated manuscripts. One of the most famous court schools was in Herat (Khorasan, northwest Afghanistan), which was started by Bihzad (ca 1440-ca 1514). Along with Shiraz (Iran), the Herat school produced the finest miniatures of the period.

Erotic Miniature Painting

Although there are some frescoes depicting female nudes in private palaces of the Ummayads, there are few surviving works inspired by Eros. Saslow draws attention to "the one significant cluster of homerotic images" that center around court figures in Persian miniatures of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

These depict overdressed and overrefined cup bearers, usually male, in artificial, lascivious postures. That these lovers locked in ardent embraces are somewhat genderless merely added to the point the artists were making. Some of these miniatures depict lovers sinuously entwined; others portray elegant drinking companions, known as zarifs, who were expected to be entertaining conversationalists.

The cult of the dandy reached its zenith in Persia's Safavid dynasty (1502-1736). In Portrait of Shah Abbas with a Young Page (1627), Muhammed Qasim presents the handsome Shah and his young lover enfolded in a tender embrace. Other portraits of Shah Abbas, who was a great connoisseur of art as well as head of the Naqsbandiah Sufi order, show the page boy right behind his master, gazing at him lovingly.

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