The ancient Egyptian arts such as sculpture, drawing, and inscription were closely connected to architecture. None of them were an independent art, but were used to decorate temples or tombs. This has greatly affected the general features of such arts, their themes, and the way they were used. The ancient Egyptian artist perceived the hereafter as the true, eternal life that he would enjoy and was inspired by this concept in his works. His objective was not to stress the aesthetics of the art form or make it prominent to viewers because these works of art were enclosed in sealed tombs. The ancient Egyptian artist had a deep perception of life, which he tried to portray as symbolic figures that express the community's prevailing values and concepts, such as the gods, king, man, woman, and family.
When Alexander the Great came to Egypt, Egyptian art blended with Greek art and adopted its styles of color and movement. It was also affected by the themes of the Greek mythology. The human body had a great role in that art. Portraits and sculptures portrayed the features of the human body in great detail, expressing the body's movement through the wavy clothes, in a genuine attempt to imitate nature. This style remained in use until the third century AD, and is known as Hellenistic art.
While Hellenistic art was interested in simulating the movements, colors, and features of nature, Islamic art was quite far from imitating nature, since that was not its concern or objective. Islamic art focused mainly on plant, animal, and geometric shapes, so much so that it has given the impression that portrayal of human figures was prohibited by Islam. It is worth mentioning here that no clear text prohibiting the portrayal of living creatures has been indicated in the Holy Qur'an. Its strong aesthetic appeal transcends distances in time and space, as well as differences in language, culture, and creed.
Among the prominent features of Islamic art were abstract, harmonious designs that attempted to adopt the mathematical rules governing the world. Universality was another prominent feature of Islamic art as it came to existence for a brief period of time, less than one century, specifically after the Arabs dominated several cultures extending from India to the Atlantic Ocean. It was natural then that Islamic art incorporated the diversified cultures of these great civilizations. Among these were the Pharaonic, Assyrian, Babylonian, Phoenician, Sassanide, Carthagean, Greek, and Byzantine civilizations. These diverse cultures were merged into new Islamic themes, forming a unified artistic and cultural wealth for nations that embraced Islam. The art styles that dominated the Islamic world can be referred to in brief as the Ommayyad style, which was followed by the Abbasid style, associated with the establishment of the Abbasid state in 750 AD. When the Abbasid caliphate became fragile, other regional styles existed, such as the Persian, Fatimid, Mamluk, Ottoman, and the Indian styles.