In the narrowest sense, the arts of the Islamic peoples might be said to include only those arising directly from the practice of Islam.
The strict rules of the outward form of the poems (monorhyme, complicated metre) even in pre-Islamic times led to a certain formalism and encouraged imitation.
After the 13th century a highly refined art of miniature developed, primarily in the non-Arab countries; it dwells, however, only rarely upon religious subjects.
The typical expression of Muslim art is the arabesque, both in its geometric and in its organic form—one leaf, one flower growing out of the other, without beginning and end and capable of almost innumerable variations, only gradually detected by the eye, which never lose their charm.
Thus, the personality of the poet becomes visible only through the minimal changes of expression and rhythm and the application of certain preferred metaphors, just as the personality of the miniature painter can be detected by a careful observation of details, of his way of colouring a rock or deepening the shade of a turban.
The same holds true for the arabesques, which were developed according to a strict ritual to a mathematical pattern and were refined until they reached a perfection of geometrically complicated figures, as in the dome of the Karatay Medrese in Konya (1251); it corresponds both to the most intricate lacelike Kūfic inscriptions around this dome and to the poetical style of Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, who wrote in that very place and during those years.