Malaysia is an Islamic paradise which features events, products and places of interest that adhere to Islamic values and practices. A true Islamic haven that lies in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, showcasing the beautiful wonders of Islamic civilization, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) is one of the world’s youngest museums. It proudly houses South East Asia’s largest collections of Islamic arts.
Delve into magnificent treasure Muslim dynasties and celebrate the glories of bygone Islamic eras. Get ready to open up your mind and embrace this diverse and highly decorative world. The museum holds 12 impressive galleries featuring 8,000 historical and cultural artefacts, ranging from the tiniest pieces of jewellery to one of the world’s largest scale models of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. Explore the 30,000 square metres of the museum’s interiors, and look up to admire its stately domes that represent the crowning colours of Central Asia. Did you know that the museum's turquoise domes are now a stunning landmark in Kuala Lumpur’s skyline?
Take your time as you journey through the cool, wide spaces of the galleries and study the details on each gem which forms the museum’s precious collections. The galleries are called the Architecture Gallery, the Qur’an and Manuscript Gallery, the Indian Gallery, the Chinese Gallery, the Malay Gallery, the Jewellery Gallery, the Arms and Armour Gallery, the Textile Gallery, the Woodwork Gallery, the Coin and Seal Gallery, the Metalwork Gallery and the Ceramics Gallery.
Cast Brass with Cloisonné Incense Burner
19th Century, China
Among the amazing artefacts displayed here are astrolabes from the 17th century, jugs from the 14th century, lacquered fans from 1883–1994, leaf from the Shahnameh in 1565, beard combs from the 17th–18th century, ceramic dishes and cotton batik. Take a closer look at the images as some may contain manuscripts depicting ancient civilizations.
Parcel-Gilt Silver Beard Comb
17th-18th Century, India
The Architecture Gallery pays tribute to the Islamic community’s devotion to the Muslim place of worship, the mosque. Most importantly, it contains a replica of the Ka’aba in Mecca. Every notable Islamic architectural icon is reproduced in miniature, from the Ka’aba to the more poignant beauty of Central Asian mausoleums dedicated to Timur and Amir Albukhary.
A close scrutiny of these miniatures will reveal that Islam does not impose specific designs or architectural guidelines. Instead, each nation has its own way of preserving and displaying Islamic elements. Among the features that are universally maintained are the crescents and the minarets. Certain mosques feature Qur’anic verses on the external walls. The size of the front of the mosque also varies. Mosques in Central Asia often have grand entrances whereas their Middle Eastern counterparts display smaller versions.
The oldest fragments of the Qur’an are usually attributed to North Africa or the Middle East, dating back to the 8th century. Significantly, Islamic manuscripts were not only used as reading materials or religious texts but also served other purposes. Some of the manuscripts were acknowledged as communication tools and tomes of philosophy. For instance, books on hadith and prayers, genealogies of the Prophet Muhammad, treatises on Islamic laws, and works on astronomy, mathematics and medicine were important genres.
Hadiths for Prayers and Protection,
Kitab Muntajat Sahih Al-Bukhari Selection of Hadiths
18th Century, India
In the Indian Gallery, you can relive the golden days of the Muslim dynasties that ruled Northern India three centuries before the Mughal era (1526–1828). The Mughal dynasty expressed their celebration of beauty and culture through the images of their rulers, courtiers and horses along with an appreciation of fashion and interior designs. It’s fascinating to know that even their daggers are made of jade!
In China, Islam was practised in major trading centres such as Xian and Guangdong. You will definitely fall in love with the delicate beauty of Chinese ceramics. In comparison to creations from other countries, the Chinese inventions are standout pieces due to their imaginative use of the colour red, blue and green. The quality is outstanding even though some Arabic inscriptions may be a little difficult to read as they were influenced by Chinese writing styles and characters. Some significant items are the calligraphy scroll from the 20th century, cloisonné enamel incense burner and porcelain rosewater sprinkler from the Kangxi period.
You may have heard of the legendary Sultans, Hang Tuah and other Malay warriors. Come face to face with the weaponries they used! By this, we mean the esteemed keris, the mystical daggers which carry secrets and stories of their own. You’ll be astonished to know that the keris’s distinctive features and characteristics serve beyond aesthetic or functional purposes. To determine a man’s rank in society, one can examine the wavy patterns engraved on his keris; the more waves the blade had, the more powerful the owner. Gold keris could only be used by the aristocracy while men with no royal blood were given silver keris.
Gayang Keris with Gold Sheath
17th-18th Century, Indonesia