Professor Robert Hillenbrand









Religion and Culture


H.A.R. Gibb et al., The Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden, 1953)

The quickest way of getting at information on religious subjects: e.g. articles on Kur’an Muhammad, Hadith, Taswir, Masdjid


H.A.R. Gibb, Muhammadanism (now renamed Islam) (Oxford, many editions)

The ideal short book to orientate yourself


A.J. Arberry, Sufism (London, many editions)

Short and Sweet


J. Esposito, The Oxford History of Islam (Oxford, 1999)

A comprehensive survey, usefully divided up into bite-sized chapters


J. Bloom and S. S. Blair, Islam. A Thousand Years of Faith and Power (New York, 2000)

Excellent manageable introduction by a pair of art historians


J. Renard, Seven Doors to Islam: Spirituality and the Religious Life of Muslims (Los Angeles and London, 1996)

Challenging but accessible


G. Endress, An Introduction to Islam (Edinburgh, 1988)

The quickest way to orient yourself in matters of religion, history and culture


W. M. Watt, Muhammad. Prophet and Statesman (Oxford, many editions)

A brief digest of his two classic books on these two aspects of the prophet


B. Lewis, The Arabs in History (London, 1946; many editions and reprints; paperback)

An absolute classic in its ability to present connected historical and cultural perspective




K. A. C. Creswell, revised J. W. Allan, A Short Account of Early Muslim Architecture (Aldershot, 1988)

The best factual guide


G. Michel, ed., Architecture of the Islamic World (London, 1978)

Useful because of its thematic chapters


J. D. Hoag, Islamic Architecture (reprint, London, 1998)

Competent. Excellent illustrations


Various authors: articles in Encyclopaedia of Islam (1st edition) entitled ‘Masdjid’, ‘Manara’, ‘Mihrab’, ‘Minbar’, ‘Kubba’; and in Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd edition) entitled ‘Masdjid’, ‘Manara’, ‘Madrasa’


The Arts of the Book


S. Okasha, The Muslim Painter and the Divine (London, 1981)

Offbeat text. Useful pictures


M.-R. Séguy, The Miraculous Journey of Mahomet (London, 1977)

The fullest illustrated version of the mi’raj


T. W. Arnold, Painting in Islam (Oxford, 1928; many reprints)

The opening chapter is an unsuperseded classic


T. W. Arnold, The Old and the New Testaments in Muslim Religious Art (oxford, 1930)

Reliable survey


R. Ettinghausen, ‘Persian Ascension Miniatures of the Fourteenth Century’ in R. Ettinghausen (ed., M. Rosen-Ayalon), Islamic Art and Archaeology. Collected Papers (Berlin, 1984), 244-68

The basic study




M. Lings, The Quranic Art of Calligraphy (London, 1976)

Splendid colour plates. Allusive text


D. James, Mamluk Qur’ans (London, 1988)

The only thorough study; beautifully illustrated


Y. H. Safadi, Islamic Calligraphy (Leiden, 1978)

Minimal though excellent text. Remarkably varied illustrations


A. Schimmel, Islamic Calligraphy (Leiden, 1970)

Good brief guide


A. Schimmel, Calligraphy and Islamic Culture (New York and London, 1984)

An individual and at times rhapsodic mediation on the subject. Much information not available elsewhere, but sometimes hard to track down in the book.




E. Esin, Mecca the Blessed. Madinah the Radiant (London, 1963)

Required reading for the iconography of the Prophet


S. H. Nasr, Islamic Art and Spirituality (Ipswich, 1987)

Try it


T. Burckhardt, The art of Islam (London, 1976)

Typifies the Sufi approach; written by a Swiss Muslim


K. A. C. Creswell, ‘The Lawfulness of Painting in Early Islam’, Ars Islamica, 11-12 (1946)

The basic statement of the position


S. Melikian, ‘The Sufi Strain in the Art of Kashan’, Oriental Art, XII (1966)



O. Grabar, ‘Islamic Art and Byzantium’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, XVIII (1964), 69-88

Distinguishes between Islamic and Byzantine iconoclasm


R. Milstein, ‘Sufi Elements in Late Fifteenth Century Herat Painting’ in Studies in Memory of Gaston Wiet, ed., M. Rosen-Ayalon (Jerusalem, 1977)

Breaks much new ground


J. C. Burgel, The Feather of the Simurgh (New York, 1988)

Pioneering study which approaches Islamic art from the perspective of literature and religion


R. Ettinghausen, ‘Hilal in Islamic Art’, Collected Papers, 269-81

Unique study of an Islamic symbol


R. Ettinghausen, ‘The Early History, Use and Iconography of the Prayer Rug’, Collected Papers, 282-99

The only extended examination of this topic


R. Ettinghausen and E. MacDougal, eds., The Islamic Garden (Washington D. C., 1976)

The best short survey


J. Lehrman, Earthly Paradise. Garden and Courtyard in Islam (London, 1988)

Well illustrated general account, but too short


E. Moynihan, Paradise as a Garden in Persia and Mughal India (London, 1980)

Wide-ranging and adventurous text