Mostly Sufism we hear about on design; is always spoken in context to Sufi Gardens. The surrounding inspires design as a form of art. Surrounding means society. Therefore there must be some noteworthy aspect of the community that would derive the influence to design. Especially in the sense of inspiration. Because observation of day to day life is an inspiration for almost every artist. I still remember, that our art teacher would ask us to strictly take off once in a week. Instead, roaming the streets to observe people.

People make society. And the artist makes designs inspired by them. Hence both play an essential role when it comes to design.  Building an effective form. It seems like it is not just us humans do it.  Honey Bees do it too. Since it seems to be the basic instinct of survival. Forming the rules and breaking them. Destruction and Creation. Violence much needed. 

The design is the creation of a plan. Besides, a convention for the construction of an object, system or measurable human interaction. Or an interaction between everything that is alive. The energies.

If you look closely, it is an intersection of two perspectives. Design and Society. Sufism and Society both have design aspects to it.  And the meeting point of this intersection could be regarded as the strength of a healthy social structure. Of course, also to the art inspired by it.

Sufism can undoubtedly contribute to your personal growth. Since there is an interconnection between what the artist perceives and creates. Your observations, inputs decide his approach and execution of your design. This connection is parallel to what Sufism offers to Social Structure. To state it in simple words: A well-designed Philosophy inspires Physical and Collective Conscious of a social form – Design.

Let’s see some of the aspects of Sufism that are parallel to Design.


Patterns form Design and Society, Consciously  :


Naqshabandi in Sufism is Design of the institution: Naqshabandi translates to design. It is often associated with Sufi gardens. But It also has to do with social structure, system and its design.

Observation, Meditation (while in the act of doing it): Which also resembles to act of designing something. You are in action, moved towards the unmoving centre. And during the whole process, you naturally observe your thoughts. Sound familiar with what artist do. They follow the act unknowingly. Which stimulates a meditative experience. It transcends time. Meditation is just a device to reach a peaceful state of mind.

Like in Naqshbandi, every part of the puzzle holds its place and importance. No matter how small or significant it might seem. The seniors of the institution teach juniors, and they learn more in the process. The best way to understand what you know is to tell others what you know. Similarly, A dot or a long line, not specific to its size can make a huge difference to visual design. Sufi gardens are examples of these philosophical aspects of design. In the physical world.


The outcome is an Objective Art which is meditative : 


The sensitivity of an artist always makes him aware of the different aspects of the walk of life. Being a mirror to the society. He might just want to paint hideous interpretations of what he sees. The depiction of violence. But Sufism can channel the subject of violence to use it in execution. To reform and abstract. Yes, This also applies to Abstract art. In fact, every art is abstract art.

This is Transcendence of bad violence to a good one. And in this very process, he drops the unwanted, burdened of understandings. The subjective energy is used out to create something that is objective. Creation of art might be subjective. But The outcome is objective art after exhaustion of unwanted.

The art is no more symbol of something. But instead, it starts reflecting thoughts of the viewer. The watcher of this art becomes aware of himself. The Watcher Watching the Watcher. Like the master says.

As a result, mind at rest or peace is the outcome of a meditative device. Your artwork is too the outcome of techniques you apply. The rested mind has peacefulness of a painting. No movement, but alive, conveying something. Divine.


Perfect imbalance in the design like whirling in Sufism :


A better composition leads to better design. Although, may it be the composition of design or music or a photographic frame. Eventually, the weight of the mass (of thoughts or visual), if slightly off centred. Eventually, It gives the audience a notion of being centred. Because the human mind always tends to notice the things that are missing.

It is not difficult to understand as it sounds. If something is placed off centred, it is bound to be compared with the centre. As a result first thing one might think is what is off centre. Therefore an indication or suggesting a centre without even mentioning it.

Doesn’t this sound similar to Sufi Whirling that the dervish do? If you don’t know what it is read on. While the dervish is whirling. Due to the constant motion forcing body weight outwards, the body seems to focus the energy towards the centre.

It is a natural phenomenon. Consequently the same happens to the thoughts. You move toward the unmoving centre. Hence the motion inclined off direction leads you toward the balance. As in Design (Composition).


Transcendence through neti neti – Negative Spaces of design :


Neti Neti is borrowed from Bhudhism. But it has its traces in Sufism and all other existing philosophy.

Similarly like imbalance, off balance Or asymmetry. Negative space plays a crucial role in the formation of a design. A composition. How Sufism applies to this segment of design. Dropping. The very device of Sufi meditation is dropping the thoughts. The understanding of what we know and what we need to know and what we will never know. It is going beyond everything what “IS”.

We would never understand the value, volume of existing. Until and unless we focus on what is not. Light is the absence of darkness and darkness is the absence of light. Both compliment each other. They are incomplete without each other. Necessary for each other’s existence.

Like belief and disbelieve co-exist. Most of all believe would never have value without disbelieve. Because It irradiates the very possibility of conflict which burns the fuel. Which keep things moving. Alive. Much as the mass or volume of what you design would not exist in the negative space.  It adds beauty to its existence. Therefore a meaning for it’s being.

And at the end :


I started this post on foot forward to explore collusion of Sufism as Philosophy with Design. Therefore it possesses Power to evoke beauty in Social structure. While it also implements to the very basis of design theory if you like.

Do the act. Play your role. Be engaged with it. But at the end :


“We gave advice in its proper place,
Spending a lifetime in the task.
If it should not touch anyone’s ear of desire,
The messenger told his tale, it is enough.”

Muslih-Uddin Sa’di
13th c. Sufi poet
The Rose Garden


Let me know you thoughts : )

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