How to draw Islamic geometric patterns

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Looks awesome and sounds like fun. But are we just ‘Columbusing’ another cultural art form? Where is the line between sharing and appropriating?

Any chance it’ll help the average Joe recognize the beauty, integrity, and sophistication of Islamic culture in general?


Don’t try it. I did it and accidentally summoned a Muslim!


Do you still use Roman Numerals, because Arabic numbers were appropriated?

Did you ever study the Arabic discovery of algebra? Or look in the sky for Aldebaran?


The greatest animated film of all time (that was never completed) used Islamic geometry to great effects.


I’d argue there is a difference in social standards of communication (Arabic numerals) and art labeled as Islamic.

I’m not saying it is appropriation, I’m asking where the line is. Imagine “Draw your own Hindu mandalas” or “How to make your own Navajo art”. I don’t want a bland, beige monoculture. But at the same time, cultural appropriation exists and it generally profits the appropriators, not the people whose culture is stolen.

I would argue that imitation is not appropriation. Appropriation is when you try to turn things you took from others into your property. That is literally what Columbus did. Showing up, learning from the natives, and taking the knowledge home to enrich Europe would not have been an injustice. The European explorers’ acquisitiveness, not their inquisitiveness, was their transgression against the Indigenous cultures of the Americas and Asia. Knowledge, art and traditions are for sharing, not walling up in quarantined isolation to shield them from foreigners. Cultural appropriation is when one individual or group claims cultural artifacts (including artistic traditions) as their own without crediting the original creators and discoverers, as in the case of rock music borrowing from African American music without acknowledging who and where the ideas they remixed came from.

Anyway, that’s my 2¢.


There’s also the issue of minority vs. majority in this case.

I would take issue with calling these patterns “Islamic.” There’s a reason the Muslim world developed such beautiful abstract designs: the prohibition on representing humans, especially the Prophet.

But the geometry itself is universal. No culture owns the compass and striaightedge.


You mean like this?

Euclidean geometry may be universal but it still takes someone to decide what they want to make with it. There is a lot more freedom in designing these patterns than in say making solids from regular polygons, and we still call those Platonic and Archimedean for their discoverers.

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Yes there are platonic solids, but nobody accuses D&D players of appropriating Greek culture.

I think if you intend to make your living room look like the Taj Mahal, somebody is going to write a mean blog post about you. If you just happen to like how those triangles look… well… somebody is going to write a mean blog post about you, too. But you’ll have more of a leg to stand on in the inevitable flame war. Is that a kind of victory?

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Maybe not Greek culture… but


It appears that the book in question draws its inspiration from geometric art forms which (nod to @Boundegar here) became highly developed as ritually permissible art forms in Islamic cultures.

That being said, similar forms and methods of construction existed well before Mohammed was born. To insist that every such thing is inherently “Islamic” is in itself a form of cultural appropriation.

These patterns are found in ancient Greece, the ancient British Isles, ancient Scythia, and many other places, as well as in the pre-Islamic Middle East and north Africa. I learned them from studying pre-islamic picts. There are scratched patterns in the beams of my barn that show that the same arc method was used to create Pennsylvania Dutch “hex” patterns generations ago; I don’t think anyone looking at the hex signs on my barn (which feature oak leaves and chickens, among other things) would call them “Islamic”.


Honestly, when I was a kid? This came across as inclusionary in a way that maybe trumps the accusation of appropriation.

It doesn’t pass muster today, of course, but I’m inclined to regard it as a good faith effort that moved the D&D setting from its pretty exclusively European origins towards the more multiculturally open 5th ed. I expect that in 30 odd years there will be things we’re doing now won’t look jake, either.


I’m not sure which is worse - summoning a class 5 brain eater and getting a visit from the Laundry or buying the book and getting a visit from a security agency with a 3/4 letter acronym… i think i prefer the former.


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