Based on Prophet Muhammad’s building experiences, we can conclude that Islamic architecture is not to be concerned about the form of buildings only. Islamic architecture signifies a process where all the phases and aspects are equally important. It is almost impossible to identify a phase or an aspect in that process and consider it more important than the others. The process of Islamic architecture starts with having a proper understanding and vision which leads to making a right intention. It continues with the planning, designing and building stages, and ends with attaining the net results and how people make use of and benefit from them. Islamic architecture is a fine blend of all these factors which are interwoven with the treads of the belief system, principles, teachings and values of Islam.
Furthermore, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) taught that at the core of Islamic architecture lies function with all of its dimensions: corporeal, cerebral and spiritual. The role of form is an important one too, but only inasmuch as it supplements and enhances function. Islamic architecture must embody the teachings, values and principles of Islam as a way of life, because it functions as the physical locus for human activities, facilitating and promoting them. It must be man-oriented, upholding his dignity and facilitating his spiritual progression while in this world. Architecture is a means, not an end. Moreover, one of the most recognizable features of Islamic architecture must always be sustainability. This is so because Islam, as a total worldview, ethics and jurisprudence, aims to preserve man and his total wellbeing, i.e. his religion, self, mental strength, progeny (future generations) and wealth (personal, societal and natural). The views of Islam and Prophet Muhammad concerning the natural environment and man’s relation thereto are unprecedented.
It goes without saying, therefore, that without Islam there can be no Islamic architecture. Likewise, without true Muslims, who in their thoughts, actions and words epitomise the total message of Islam, there can be no Islamic architecture either. Islamic architecture is a framework for the implementation of Islam, a framework which exists in order to facilitate, encourage and promote such an implementation. Hence, properly perceiving, creating, comprehending, studying and even using Islamic architecture, cannot be achieved in isolation from the total framework of Islam with its comprehensive worldview, ethos, doctrines, laws, practices, genesis and history. Any attempt or method that defies this very logical principle is bound to end up in failure, generating in the process sets of errors and misconceptions. Indeed, the existing studies on Islamic architecture, by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars alike, and the ways in which Islamic architecture is taught and “practiced” today, is the best testimony to the confusion that surrounds Islamic architecture as both a concept and sensory reality.
Prophet Muhammad’s time represents the first and certainly most decisive phase in the evolution of the identity of Islamic architecture, as it is known today. What the Prophet did with regard to architecture, by and large, amounts to sowing the seeds whose yield was harvested later during the Umayyad and Abbasid epochs and beyond. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) laid the foundation of Islamic architecture by introducing its invisible conceptual and ideological aspects that were later given their different outward appearances as dictated by different contexts. The aspects contributed by the Prophet (SAW) to Islamic architecture signify both the quintessence of Islamic architecture and the vitality that is permeates its every facet and feature. Thus, the permanent and most consequential side of Islamic architecture is as old as the Islamic message and the Islamic community but at the time of the Prophet (SAW), it could take no more than an austere and unsophisticated physical form. The evolution of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madīnah was the epitome of the Prophet’s contributions to the evolution of the phenomenon of Islamic architecture.