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The Philosophy of Art of Geometry: The Significance of Geometry (al-handasah) in The Treatise of the Brethren of Purity (Rasāʾil Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ wa Khullān al-Wafāʾ) Open Access

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The Latin proverb “art without science is nothing” (ars sine scientia nihil est) precisely describes the art within Islamic tradition. Whether sonoral or plastic, Islamic art carries within it a scientific aspect drawn from the understanding of the universe. At once, Islamic art also carries mystical dimension that through its appearances, one is led to remembrance of the Divine. Geometry is the most apparent pattern in Islamic plastic art. It replaces the position of the Icon in Christianity and Idols in Hinduism. Beginning with its setting as one of seven liberal arts (Artes Liberales) Muslims inherited from the ancient sciences (al-ʿulūm al-awāʾil), geometry is apparent as basis for understanding the nature of form and shapes. Through understanding geometry, one is able to build or form an edifice. It is then also developed as a form of Islamic arts as can be seen in various mosques in many parts of the Islamic world.Ikhwān al-Safāʾ wa Khullān al-Wafāʾ or The Brethren of Purity are known to be one of the first expositors of the science of geometry within Islamic tradition deriving it from Euclid’s Elements (Stoekheia; kitāb uqlīdis fi al-uṣūl). It is elaborated in two parts within their Epistles (Rasāʾil Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ wa Khullān al-Wafāʾ). The first is the second epistle on geometry and its essence “The Second Epistle on The Branch of Mathematics Named as Geometry: In the Science of Measurement and the Exposition of Its Essence” (al-risālah al-thāniyah min al-qism al-riyāḍī al-mausūmah bijūmaṭriyā; fi al-handasah wa bayāni māhiyatihā) and the second is their elaboration that geometry along with arithmetic can function as the tool to discipline the soul and beautify human’s behavior (al-risālah al-sādisah min al-qism al-riyāḍī; fi al-nisbah al-ʿadadiyyah wa al-handasiyyah fī tahdhībi al-nafs wa iṣlāḥ al-akhlāq).The Ikhwān relate geometry with other sciences such as music and number. This relationship is the basis of the creation of the universe. In addition to that, they also relate geometry with human soul and theology. This thesis will focus more into esoteric philosophical values of geometry as exposed by the Ikhwān within their Epistles.

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