The Scale Motif and its Meanings in Pre-Islamic to Islamic Art
Marmara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü, İslâm Tarihi ve Sanatları Bölümü, İstanbul/Türkiye
Keywords: Turkish, Islam, Art, Motif, Scale, Metaphor, Meaning, Sufism
Islamic arts have a very wide decoration repertoire in terms of the use of motifs and figures. The ornamentation found in these works shows both traces of pre-Islamic civilizations as well as entirely original designs characteristic of Islamic art. The scales are motifs that have existed before Islam and have been used by artists ever since. Pre-Islamic and Islamic artists have attributed multiple meanings to the motif. The types of motifs represented in this article range from the earliest historical examples to the latest Islamic examples. In this study, the aim is to discover the common meanings of the scale motif in pre-Islamic civilizations and Islamic art. The scale motif represents in the works of art daily life practices, commerce, justice, and the seventh sign of the Zodiac map. Many civilizations that have survived to the present day have depicted the mentioned meanings, including Ancient Egypt, Greece, Romans, and Mesopotamia. Furthermore, this motif appears in the architectural structures of the heavenly religions, Christianity and Judaism, as an ornamentation element symbolizing the belief in the afterlife and, accordingly, the divine judgment that will take place on the Day of Judgment. The depiction of the horoscope is the earliest known example of the motif in Islamic architecture. The motif was however used as a symbol of the afterlife in architecture in the late periods.The hand-drawn decorations of the mosques dating to the 16th century depict themes of the hereafter, such as heaven, hell, mizan, and sirat, along with the scales. It is an undeniable fact that all aspects of life have been shaped by beliefs throughout history. The art of Ancient Greece or Egypt was actually an expression of the religious beliefs of that time period. Islamic art exhibits the same characteristics. The article has attempted to explain the use of the scale motif in Islamic arts through religious and mystical sources. The purpose of this study is to examine the semantic links between the descriptions of the hereafter and world/state order found in Qur’an, Hadith, and mysticism texts. The original approach of the study highlights the links between metaphors used in religious texts and motifs or figures in art. As there is no specific study of the scale motif in Islamic art, this research aims to fill a valuable gap in the literature.