Prophet Muhammad’s Attitude Towards Architecture (2)

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design
International Islamic University Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +603 2056 5248
Fax: +603 2056 4864
Email: spahico@yahoo.com

3. Building activities over graves

The Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have forbidden that the graves should be plastered, or that they be used as sitting places (for the people), or that a building should be constructed over them.[1] However, a piece of stone or wood is allowed to be placed on the graves for the sake of sheer identification. In this regard, the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have himself deposited a stone on the grave of a companion Uthman b. Maz’un, on the side where his head was, saying: “With it I shall know the grave of my brother, and the members of my family could be buried next to him.”[2]

 

The Prophet (pbuh) once ordered that the elevated and elaborate graves, which had been built out of arrogance or for the purpose of glorifying someone and his status, should be leveled to the ground, as narrated by ‘Ali b. Abi Talib.[3]

Taking graves and graveyards as places of worship and erecting mosques over them is strictly forbidden. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Do not ever make graves mosques, I hereby forbid you to do that.”[4]

Based on these and other similar traditions (hadiths) of the Prophet (pbuh), Islam proscribes building edifices over graves for whatever reasons, more so if the edifices built are meant to commemorate the dead or serve as places of worship (masjid). Even to mark graves with some discernible features in absence of a valid justification is deemed too detrimental to be admissible. Architecturally venerating the dead is much more strongly proscribed in public burial areas than in areas belonging to private individuals, because in doing so apart from squandering time and depleting resources, the availability of space for other graves is trimmed down, and the free movement of such as come to visit graves can also be affected.

More than a few reasons for this unyielding Islamic position could be given, the most important of which, certainly, is the close relationship between exalting and architecturally glorifying graves and rearing the causes that lead to associating other deities with Almighty Allah (shirk). Other reasons are: wasting space, resources and efforts; promoting the notion of bid’ah sayyi’ah (harmful invention); reducing or even denying the graves and graveyards their original role, that is, to remind people of death and to remember the dead through legitimate ways; paving the way for superstitions and other misconceptions about Islam to flourish; paving the way for harming the Islamic notion of unity and brotherhood, or for promoting schism; weakening people’s relationship with God.

 

4. Building houses

 

Islam pays so much attention to the issues of the house and housing. This is so because in Islam, the house is seen as an institution, not just a shelter. It is a place to rest, relax the body and mind and enjoy legitimate worldly delights. In the house we are to be surrounded with privacy, protection and security. Within the house realm we also worship, teach, learn and propagate the message of Islam. The house is one of the fundamental rights that must be enjoyed by every Muslim. Allah, be He exalted, says in the Qur’an: “It is Allah Who made your habitations homes of rest and quiet for you…” (Al-Nahl, 80)

Thus, there are four terms given in Arabic for the house. Firstly, the house is called dar, which is derived from an Arabic verb dara which means, among other things, to circulate, to take place, to go on, to be held, to center on or around, etc. The house is called dar because it is the physical locus of the family institution and its manifold activities which take place or circulate in the house. It is the family development center.

The house is also called bayt, which is derived from an Arabic verb bata, which means, among other things, to spend or pass the night, to stay overnight, etc. The house is called bayt because when the bustle of the day starts fading away with the arrival of the night, man, just like most of the terrestrial creatures, hasten to withdraw to his sanctuary (the house) so as to take rest, enjoy tranquility and seek refuge from the disadvantages, and even perils, associated with the night and its drawbacks. However, the significations of the word bayt (the house) must be viewed from a much wider perspective. Bayt does not imply just a place where one takes refuge overnight. Rather, it implies a place where one takes refuge whenever necessary from all the hazards of the outside world.

The house is also called manzil, which is derived from an Arabic verb nazala which means, among other things, to come down, to disembark, to make a stop at, to camp at, to stay at, to lodge at, to settle down in, to inhabit, and so on. The house is called manzil because it shows that one has started to, or has already settled down in a community, and in this worldly life taken as a whole. It symbolizes, furthermore, that one is perfectly clear as to his role, orientation and life goals. The house is a station, or a center, from which one ventures into life and to which one returns, having successfully dealt with the challenges of the outside world, or having just decided to take a break before finally prevailing over them.

And finally, the house is also called maskan, which is derived from an Arabic verb sakana which means, among other things, to calm down, to repose, to rest, to become quiet and tranquil, to feel at ease with. Hence, the words sukun and sakinah mean calmness, tranquility, peacefulness, serenity, peace of mind, etc. The house is called maskan or maskin because it offers its inhabitants a chance to take a break from the demands and pressure of the outside world and concentrate on doing that which leads to a physical, mental and even spiritual recuperation. The Islamic house is a retreat, sanctuary and one’s source of rest and leisure.

The Islamic house is a microcosm of Islamic culture and civilization in that individuals and families bred and nurtured therein constitute the fundamental units of the Islamic Ummah. The house institution, therefore, has a potential to take up the role of an educational and training center able to produce, in concert with other societal establishments, individuals capable of transforming the whole communities they belong to. Thence, the same persons would contribute, somehow or other, their decent share to making this earth a better place for living.

By the same token, if misconstrued and its role perverted, the house has a potential to become a breeding ground for virtually every social disease, which if left unchecked could one day paralyze entire communities and drug them to the bottommost. In this case, the only remedy for the predicament will be the restoration of the position and role of the house in society and with it the position and role of every individual as well as the family institution. On the word of Isma’il Raji al-Faruqi, the family is indispensable for the fulfillment of the divine purpose. “Regardless of which is cause and which effect, civilization and the family seem to be destined for rising together and falling together.”[5]

The Prophet (pbuh) has said that of man’s happiness are a good wife, a spacious house, a good neighbor, and a good mount.[6] He used to pray to God to forgive him, make his house more spacious and bless his sustenance.[7] Once a companion Khalid b. al-Walid complained to the Prophet (pbuh) that his house was too small to accommodate his family. At this, the Prophet (pbuh) asked him to build more rooms on the roof of the existing house and to ask God for abundance.[8]

When the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah was completed – the mosque was the first building the Prophet (pbuh) and the Muslims had built in Madinah following the migration (hijrah) — then private houses started clustering around it under the Prophet’s supervision. Due to the possible long-term impact of housing on society, the Prophet (pbuh) himself was involved in allotting and marking out many dwellings. Quite a long list of such dwellings, both their locations and owners, is supplied by some historians.[9] Likewise, the Prophet (pbuh) might have been involved in some way in planning and building some houses as well.[10]

Not all Madinah houses during the Prophet’s time were the same. By and large, most houses were characterized by several notable features, the most important one of which perhaps was their adequate spaciousness. As we are absolutely sure that loftiness was not their trademark, we are likewise in no doubt that spaciousness, as much as needed and in line with the standards of the day, was their underlying quality.

However, the Prophet (pbuh) and his household remained indifferent to the prospects of erecting and possessing more than that which was extremely rudimentary and really necessary. Such was the case throughout his life, even after the economic situation of the Muslims had notably improved. Some of the most often referred to furnishing elements in the Prophet’s houses were: a bed, a mat, a blanket, and curtains of black-hair cloth. The Prophet’s austere living was such that when Umar b. al-Khattab one day paid a visit to him he was moved to tears. The Prophet (pbuh) asked: “Ibn Khattab, what makes you weep?” Umar answered: “The Messenger of Allah, why should I not shed tears? This mat (which ‘Umar found the Prophet (pbuh) lying on) has left its marks on your sides and I do not see in your store room (except these few things) that I have seen. Persian and Byzantine sovereigns are leading their lives in plenty whereas you are Allah’s Messenger, His chosen one, and yet that is your store!” The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Ibn Khattab, aren’t you satisfied that for us is the prosperity of the Hereafter and for them the prosperity of this world?”[11]

Nevertheless, the houses of the Prophet (pbuh) — many of them, if not all — were bigger and roomy than what appears to many people who erroneously perceive them as small huts or no more than mere tiny rooms rather than adequate houses, for most of such houses must have had — at least and in accordance with the standards and norms of the day, of course — a bathroom, a kitchen, a sleeping room, a room (place) for visitors, a storage, etc. All these are necessities not only desirable for normal and decent living, but also necessitated by some religious tenets, such as privacy protection, neatness and cleanliness. When Umar b. al-Khattab visited the Prophet (pbuh), as in the aforementioned hadith, though he was moved to tears by the simplicity of the Prophet’s living, yet he reported that he found the Prophet (pbuh) in one of his houses in his attic to which one must climb by means of a ladder made of date-palm. At the end of the ladder the Prophet’s servant, Rabah, through whom Umar had obtained beforehand the Prophet’s permission to enter, was sitting. After the visit Umar climbed down with the Prophet (pbuh). While Umar had to do so catching hold of the wood of the palm-tree, the Prophet (pbuh) did the same with such ease that he seemed as though he was walking on the ground; he needed not hold anything for support.

If truth be told, had the Prophet’s houses been as small and as inconvenient as alleged by some people, his life and that of his household would have been seriously disturbed and interrupted, as there were always those coming to him for various purposes: to serve him, to visit him and his family, to learn from him, to ask questions, to seek counsel from him, etc. It would have been especially so during the early years when scores of hospitality manners, plus general rules of cultured social ethics, were yet to be consolidated in the hearts and minds of many individuals. In reality, every period of the Prophet’s mission was pretty much susceptible to this kind of discomfort for him, sometimes more and sometimes less, because scores of people from different places in the Arabian Peninsula never ceased to throng Madinah (the trend actually kept intensifying as time was passing by) accepting Islam and offering their allegiance to the Prophet (pbuh). Before the doors of the Hijrah became closed after the conquest of Makkah, some people would habitually seek to settle themselves in Madinah having embraced Islam and pledged their allegiance, whereas the others, after spending some time as the Prophet’s guests and the guests of the state, would return to their respective tribes and communities henceforth maintaining strong relationship with the center.

A partial description of the Prophet’s houses is given by Ibn Sa’d in his al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, due to a narrator named ‘Abd Allah b. Yazid, who saw them just before they were knocked down by the order of the caliph al-Walid b. ‘Abd al-Malik from Syria in the year 707 AC /88 H who wanted to enlarge the Prophet’s mosque. “There were four houses of mud brick, with apartments partitioned off by palm branches plastered with mud, and five houses made of palm branches plastered with mud and not divided into rooms. Over the doors were curtains of black hair-cloth. Each curtain measured 3 by 3 cubits. One could touch the roof with the hand.”[12] Several other eyewitnesses have given similar accounts on the matter, which are recorded elsewhere.[13]

In his book “History of Madinah Munawwarah”, Muhammad Ilyas asserted that each of the Prophet’s houses had a residential part as well as a tiny backyard: “The backyard was enclosed by the branches of palm trees and unbaked bricks. Blankets of hair were thrown on them to ensure privacy in the yard. The door of each Hujrah (apartment) was not built from an expensive wood. Each door had a rough blanket hanging there for privacy. Hence each Hujrah reflected humbleness and modesty. The dimension of each Hujrah was approximately 5 meters by 4 meters and the backyard was 5 meters by 3 ½ meters. A person standing in a Hujrah could touch the ceiling with his hand. Hasan Basri said, ‘I had not yet come of age and I used to visit the Hujrah. I could touch the ceiling with my hand when I was standing in a Hujrah’.”[14]

Normally, Madinah houses during the Prophet’s time were divided into several sections, each section functioning differently. A typical house was big enough to have a bathroom, a kitchen, a bedroom, a room for visitors, a storage for food, weapons, firewood, and other necessary items, a stable for some domestic animals (horses, donkeys, or camels) serving as a mode of transportation as well as a source of sustenance. The houses that belonged to extremely poor families, or to such as were bent on out-and-out asceticism, had fewer rooms and, as such, had to be multi-functional.

The Prophet’s storage had to be big enough to accommodate as many dates as would cover the needs of his family for a whole year, in addition to other food articles which had to be stored therein sporadically, such as grain, meat, etc.[15] The Prophet (pbuh) used to order during hard times that the meat of sacrifices (qurban) be consumed by means of feeding others within the first three days of the ‘Id festival. However, if the situation of the Muslims was better, he would then ask them to eat of their meat, feed others of it, and store of it and eat later on, i.e., after the three days of the ‘Id festival.[16]

Some households had their own wells, while others had to share bigger public ones. Even some businesses were conducted in certain houses.

The external walls of Madinah houses were generally built of mud bricks. Rooms were partitioned of by palm branches plastered with mud. Mud bricks may have been used for this purpose as well. The ground was covered with mats made of date-palm branches. In some instances – rare though – carpets were used. It was not odd if some portions of a house were bare or strewn with pebbles. Stone must have been used as a building material in various situations and in different degrees, as it was plentiful and had some desirable technical advantages, such as resisting weathering, firmness and durability.

In the main, roofs were made of palm-leaves. Mud must have been added in order to mitigate rain dripping onto the ground, something that could be a hazardous inconvenience during the cold rainy season. Some roofs might have been made even of timber or any other strong and permanent material, and were designed in such a way as to be utilized for other benefits, such as sleeping during hot nights, drying dates, etc. It seems as though towards this end is, in part, the Prophet’s counsel against sleeping on an exposed and unsafe surface, alluding thereby to the significance of both privacy and safety.[17]

Before the advent of Islam, entrances in the whole region of Arabia often had no doors; there were only curtains. Yet, seeking permission prior to entering a house was nonexistent in the culture of the Jahiliyyah Arabs. Seldom was somebody seriously concerned about the subject of privacy, as a result of which anyone running into a husband and wife indulged in some intimate affairs was frequent. The most that one was expected to say upon entering was “I am in”, or “Here I am”, and the like.[18] This is nothing of peculiarity, though, if we bring to mind that some pilgrimage rituals of some Arab tribes, including the Quraysh, entailed circumambulating the Ka’bah in a state of nakedness whistling and clapping the hands.[19] However, following the arrival of the Islamic code of life, which lays special emphasis on honoring human privacy, appropriate entrance screenings were bound to be introduced shortly to Madinah houses. Securing not only doorways but also the rest of house openings against the acts of privacy invasion was further promoted by the commandment of seeking permission prior to entering anybody’s house: “O ye who believe! Enter not houses other than your own, until ye have asked permission and saluted those in them: that is best for you, in order that ye may heed (what is seemly). If ye find no one in the house, enter not until permission is given to you: if ye are asked to go back, go back: that makes for greater purity for yourselves: and Allah knows well all that ye do.” (Al-Nur, 27-28)

The most common furnishing components found in Madinah houses were: cupboards, leather dining sheets, leather mats, mats made of palm leaves, leather bags, pillows and cushions (made of leather or any other suitable material which on occasion was decorated), trays, plates, jugs, vessels, utensils, baskets, beds (some of which were very strong and raised of the ground), covering sheets or blankets, benches and sometimes even dining tables, lamps (even though many a house for quite sometime might have been illuminated by burning up fronds), cooking stoves, hooks on the walls for hanging different objects, etc. Having carpets could have been a normal thing in rich families, because when a companion Jabir b. Abdullah got married, the Prophet (pbuh) asked him whether he had gotten one. Jabir replied that he was so poor that he could not afford it. At this, the Prophet (pbuh) said: “You shall soon possess them.”[20]

Although the emergence of the courtyard inspired by the Islamic vision of life and the reality needed some time to materialize, yet some instances of the courtyard in Madinah houses could be tracked down. In spite of some of the courtyards having been created much earlier prior to the advent of Islam, nevertheless, no sooner had the Islamic world-view illuminated the land of Madinah, and the minds and souls of its people, than the Islamization of the courtyard function got under way. The Prophet (pbuh) is not reported to have had a courtyard per se, but the house of his Egyptian slave-girl (surriyyah) Mariya, the mother of his son Ibrahim, is said to have been positioned in the midst of gardens on the eastern side of Madinah. Next to the house he had a loggia or terrace where he used to sit during summer.[21] The Prophet (pbuh) was very much fond of walking and relaxing in gardens, such as in that which belonged to the companion Abu Talhah called Bairuha. Once he visited the garden of one of his companions Jabir b. Abdullah where he ate of ripe fresh dates. Next, he asked for a bed to be spread out for him in a hut in the garden, whereupon he entered it and enjoyed a nap.[22]

 

5. Some of the Prophet’s disapproving traditions concerning building

There are several traditions (hadiths) of the Prophet (pbuh) in which he appears to have demeaned and condemned the building enterprise. He did it in different situations and in no ambiguous terms. Although the authenticity of some of those traditions can be easily questioned, yet the sheer quantity of the Prophet’s utterances and deeds concerning the subject matter and the variety of contexts in which they have been executed, plus a few traditions which are reasonably authentic and the Prophet’s overall ascetic outlook on building and that of a majority of his companions, all this grant a sufficient credibility to the messages behind the traditions in questions, provided they are properly grasped and understood. The messages must be carefully dealt with and applied, and the circumstances in which they have been conveyed must be properly contextualized.

Those traditions are as follows:

  1. “Every building is a misfortune for its owner, except what cannot, except what cannot, meaning except that which is essential.” The Prophet (pbuh) uttered these words in the following situation. Narrated Anas ibn Malik: The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) came out, and on seeing a high-domed building, he said: “What is it?” His companions replied to him: “It belongs to so and so, one of the Ansar.” The narrator said that the Prophet (pbuh) said nothing but kept the matter in mind. When its owner came and gave him a greeting among the people, he turned away from him. When he had done this several times, the man realized that he was the cause of the anger and the rebuff. So he complained about it to his companions, saying: “I swear by Allah that I cannot understand the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).” They said: “He went out and saw your domed building.” So the man returned to it and demolished it, leveling it to the ground. One day the Prophet (pbuh) came out and did not see it. He asked: “What has happened to the domed building?” They replied: “Its owner complained to us about your rebuff, and when we informed him about it, he demolished it.” Then the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Every building is a misfortune for its owner, except what cannot, except what cannot, meaning except that which is essential.”[23]
  2. “When God intends bad for a servant of His, He (as a mode of punishment) makes handling or molding bricks and the soil to be easy for him so that he could build.”
  3. “When God intends humiliation for a servant of His, He (as a mode of punishment) makes him spend his wealth on making buildings.”
  4. “He who builds more than what is sufficient for him, will be asked on the Day of Judgment to carry the extra of what he had built.”
  5. The Prophet’s uncle al-‘Abbas b. ‘Abd al-Mutallib once built a compartment, however, the Prophet (pbuh) asked him to demolish it. When he asked if it is better for him to demolish it or to give it away as charity, the Prophet (pbuh) told him: “Demolish it.”
  6. “Every act of kindness is a form charity. Whatever a person spends on his family is written for him as charity. Whatever a person does to safeguard his honor is written for him as charity. Whatever a person spends, if he leaves it to (if he does it for) God, God is the Guarantor, except for building and wrongdoing.”
  7. “All wealth that is spent is for the sake of God, except (wealth spent for) building. In it, there is no good.”
  8. “When a person raises a building more than seven cubits (3.5 m), he is called out: ‘O the most immoral one, where to…?”
  9. ‘Atiyyah b. Qays reported that the main building material in the houses of the Prophet’s wives were date-palm branches. When once the Prophet (pbuh) went off for a military expedition, Umm Salamah, one of the Prophet’s wives who was wealthy, replaced date-palm branches with bricks. When the Prophet (pbuh) returned, he asked: “What is this?” She replied: “I wanted to protect myself against the people peeping at me.” At that, notably without asking Umm Salamah to pull down what she had built, the Prophet (pbuh) said: “O Umm Salamah, the worst thing for which the wealth of a believer could be spent is building.”[24]
  10. “…The Day of Judgment will not come to pass till people start competing in erecting high buildings…”[25]

However, these and other similar traditions of the Prophet (pbuh), some of which are authentic and some of which are seriously questionable, do not represent his total or actual view of building. The Prophet (pbuh) did not regard building as intrinsically wrong. These traditions are conditional. They are meant for those building activities which are superfluous or are meant for a proliferation and competition rooted in bragging, showing off, materialism and jealousy. They are meant for building activities which are based on intentions and goals that go against the spirit of the Islamic message. They are meant for those building activities which are bound to bring their executors more harm than benefits.

This principle applies not only to all the types of building activities but also to all actions of men. It is for this, certainly, that people’s actions are judged solely on the basis of their intentions, as said by the Prophet (pbuh).[26] A deed that stems from a wrong intention is always wrong no matter how it is presented or seemed on the exterior. In Islam, neither the end nor the means could vindicate a bad intention. For example, during the Prophet’s time, the hypocrites of Madinah built a mosque in Quba’, a suburb in Madinah, which the Qur’an refers to as the “Mosque of Mischief”, pretending to advance Islam but in reality they intended to cause harm to the Muslim nascent society and to break it up. However, God instructed the Prophet (pbuh) to destroy the mosque before it started to malfunction, confuse and mislead the people. The mosque was destroyed and a garbage site was created on its ruins. The Qur’an reveals on this: “And there are those who put up a mosque by way of mischief and infidelity – to disunite the Believers – and in preparation for one who warred against Allah and his Messenger aforetime. They will indeed swear that their intention is nothing but good; but Allah declares that they are certainly liars.” (Al-Tawbah, 107-108)

The benefits of legitimately erected buildings are to be maximized by all means. They are not to be diminished or obstructed by associating with buildings some damaging perceptions and functions. One’s wealth constitutes a major portion of what one has been assigned from this fleeting world, which is to be meticulously managed for the benefits of both worlds. Both wealth and built environment are to be perceived only as means; neither one represents an end in itself. If one possesses a positive perception about wealth and the notion of creating buildings, which, in fact, reflects one’s positive total worldview, one is then able to recognize that whatever wealth he has been granted is sufficient for him. He will, furthermore, easily understand how much and what type of built environment he needs so that the execution of his divinely inspired life engagements is supported and facilitated. Hence, a believer will always be content with unassuming buildings, above all if they are private ones, thus allowing him to make use of his wealth for some other wholesome purposes, both personal and communal. This way, restraining the tendencies towards the crimes of wastefulness, greed, jealousy, ill feeling, haughtiness, and so forth, in a person will become a much easier proposition. It goes without saying, therefore, that the biggest fault, as well loss, is that one exhausts all the resources and amenities that God has bestowed upon him for the momentary joy and pleasures of this world, while procuring nothing, or very little, for the Hereafter. Definitely, true believers are immune to this agonizing scenario.

Moreover, if superficially studied and wrongly understood, the implications of some of the mentioned traditions plainly contradict the mainstream practices of the Prophet (pbuh) and the practices of his companions and those who came afterwards. As they contradict the total body of the Islamic value system, which is unacceptable. This is an important thing because it is commonly accepted as an Islamic tenet that the Muslim community shall under no circumstances agree on an error. One of the Prophet’s companions, ‘Abdullah b. Mas’ud, is reported to have said: “What Muslims end up regarding as a propriety, God too regards it that way; likewise, what they end up regarding as a sin, God too regards it as such.”[27]

Without doubt, no Muslim, including the Prophet (pbuh), ever viewed building as an inherently wicked domain. On the contrary, every true Muslim, including the Prophet (pbuh), regarded building as an inevitable and if properly construed and applied a potentially useful thing. No civilized life on earth can be imagined without a built environment, and no fulfillment of man’s most noble purpose on earth without it would ever be possible. Just like many other life’s pursuits should building be regarded: challenging and tricky but innately innocent and susceptible to becoming either bad or good depending on how and for what reasons they are taken up. Hence, the mentioned traditions are to be examined against the backdrop of the contexts in which they have been presented, of the person or the persons who were the main protagonists in those contexts, of the Prophet’s linguistic styles, of the Prophet’s specific intentions and objectives, if it is possible to be ascertained, due to which he might have wanted to say something particular for a particular person and in a particular situation, and most importantly, against the backdrop of the general and universally agreed upon body of Islamic teachings and values and the words and deeds of the Prophet (pbuh).

In his book “Deterrents from Committing Big Sins”, Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad b. Hajar al-Haythami categorized building beyond one’s needs and in response to some other serious transgressions as the two hundred and eleventh (211th) big sin (kabirah). His argument is that although creating needed buildings is necessary and invited, the building activity can be adulterated with a number of major vices which renders it a big sin itself. The Prophet’s well-recorded reactions to such acts unequivocally indicate that he viewed them on a par with the other big sins. As a support for his thesis, Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad b. Hajar al-Haythami quotes most of the Prophet’s traditions mentioned above.[28]

 

Conclusion

Islamic architecture exists because of the existence of Islam. Moreover, in so many ways it serves the noble goals of Islam. Islamic architecture serves Muslims too, in that it aids them to carry out successfully their vicegerency (khilafah) mission on earth. Islamic architecture aims to help rather than obstruct Muslims in fulfilling that which they have been created for. Islamic architecture is Islam manifested. Islamic architecture, Islam and Muslims are inseparable. Islamic architecture originated with the advent of Islam on the world scene. It never existed before, even though the peoples that became instrumental in molding and perpetuating its conspicuous identity lived where they were for centuries before embracing Islam and possessed the cultures and civilizations of their own.

Indeed, the fairly positive, flexible and, at the same time, principled and firm attitude of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) toward the enterprise of building serves as an excellent testimony to these truths – as explained earlier. Hence, studying Islamic architecture by no means can be separated from the total framework of Islam: its genesis, history, ethos, worldview, doctrines, laws and practices. Any approach by anybody and at any point of time to disconnect Islamic architecture from that which held sway over its conception and formation would result in failure and, worse yet, may lead to a distortion of the real picture of the entire subject matter and with it the picture of Islam. Studying Islamic architecture must always commence with studying the Holy Qur’an and the legacy of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as they signify the foundation, source and essence not only of Islamic architecture, but also of the whole of Islamic culture and civilization.


[1] Muslim, Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Salah, Hadith No. 2116.

[2] Abu Dawud, Sunan Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Jana’iz, Hadith No. 2791.

[3] Muslim, Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Jana’iz, Hadith No. 1608, 1609.

[4] Ibid., Kitab al-Masajid wa Mawadi’ al-Salah, Hadith No. 827.

[5] Isma’il Raji al-Faruqi, Al-Tawhid: its Implications for Thought and Life, p. 130.

[6] Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad Ahmad b. Hanbal, Kitab Musnad al-Makkiyyin, Hadith No. 14830.

[7] Al-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Kitab al- Da’wat, Hadith No. 3422.

[8] Muhammad  ‘Uthman ‘Abd al-Sattar, al-Madinah al-Islamiyyah, (Kuwait: ‘Alam al-Ma’rifah, 1988), p. 333.

[9] Al-Samhudi, Wafa’ al-Wafa, vol. 2 p. 717-734.

[10] Ibid., vol. 2 p. 489.

[11] Muslim, Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Talaq, Hadith No. 2704, 2705.

[12] Creswell K.A.C., A Short Account of Early Muslim Architecture, (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1989), p. 4.

[13] Al-Samhudi, Wafa’ al-Wafa’, vol. 1 p. 516 – 517.

[14] Muhammad Ilyas Abd al-Ghani, History of Madinah Munawwarah, (Madinah: al-Rasheed Printers, 2003), p. 93.

[15] Al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 7, Book 64, Hadith No. 270.

[16] Ibid., Kitab al-Adahi, Hadith No. 475-477.

[17] Al-Thirmidhi, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Kitab al-Adab, Hadith No. 2781.

[18]Mukhtasar Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Ikhtasarahu al-Sabuni Muhammad ‘Ali, (Beirut: Dar al-Qur’an al-Karim, 1981), vol. 2 p. 597.

[19] Ibid., vol. 2 p. 103.

[20] Muslim, Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Libas wa al-Zinah, Hadith No. 5188.

[21] Al-Kattani, al-Taratib al-Idariyyah, (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi, 1980), vol. 2 p. 84.

[22] Al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 7, Book 65, Hadith No. 354.

[23] Abu Dawud, Sunan Abi Dawud, Book 41 (Kitab al-Adab), Hadith No. 5218.

[24] Traditions (hadiths) from 2 to 9: Ahmad Sa’duddin, Da’if al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib li al-Mundhiri, http://vb.arabsgate.com/archive/index.php/t-410651.html.

[25] Al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Fitan, Hadith No. 6588.

[26] Ibid., Kitab al-Wahy, Hadith No. 1.

[27]Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad Ahmad ibn  Hanbal, Kitab Musnad al-Mukaththirin min al-Sahabah, Hadith No. 3418.

[28] Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad b. Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Zawajir ‘an Iqtiraf al-Kaba’ir, http://www.al-islam.com.

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