The Origins and Significance of Funerary Architecture in Islamic Civilization

funerary architecture islamic civilization

The Origins and Significance of Funerary Architecture in Islamic Civilization


Author: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Publishing Date:  2006
Pages: 296
Publisher: Research Center, International Islamic University Malaysia
ISBN: 983-2957-70-2

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About the book:


If we were to examine the subject of funerary architecture in Islamic civilization, we would come face-to-face with some crucial and extremely difficult questions yet to be comprehensively answered in light of the Islamic worldview, as well as in light of an unprejudiced investigation of the cultures and civilization of the Muslim peoples. Someof such questions are:

1. How could the phenomenon of architecturally glorifying the dead become a widespread phenomenon among the Muslims when the Prophet (pbuh) and the first two exemplary generations of the Muslims sternly rejected it, in both words and deeds?

2. What were the root causes of the institution of Muslim funerary architecture?

3. Why did the grave of the Prophet (pbuh), and the graves of his two closest companions: Abu Bakr and Umar b. al-Khattab, end up incorporated into the Prophet’s mosque proper? Did this occurrence — when all’s said and done — have any implications for the introduction of Muslim funerary architecture?

4. Once grave-veneration and building over graves started emerging, what was the reaction/position of the religious and intellectual leadership?

5. When exactly did the whole thing start?

6. Did funerary architecture enjoy widespread authorization?

7. Why do Muslims build no shrines, mausoleums and memorials today — with the exception of some extremely rare instances whereby no impact whatsoever is created on the general Muslim conscience?

This book aims to cast some light on the theme of Muslim funerary architecture, thus attempting to render the answers on some crucial questions often asked about it. The book focuses on the origins, roles and significance of funerary architecture in Islamic civilization. It follows that discussing the plans and structural designs of funerary structures is not a focus in the book. The topics discussed are divided into five chapters entitled: Death in Islam; Visiting Graves; The Prophet Muhammad’s Grave; The Birth of Funerary Architecture in Islamic Civilization; The Reasons for the Institution and Proliferation of Funerary Architecture in Islamic Civilization.

Few books have dealt thoroughly with the evolution and significance of Muslim funerary architecture alone. Basically, much of the information needed for the subject matter is scattered throughout numerous works mainly on Islamic art and architecture. Sets of information are presented in some places more abundantly and in others less, and sometimes in chapters dedicated to Muslim funerary architecture alone and sometimes in the context of other issues discussed. As such, the scope of most such studies is quite narrow and by no means adequate or exhaustive.

The issues of death, burial, bereavement and graves in Islam, how the Prophet (pbuh) and the first Muslims treated the dead, their graves and graveyards in general, etc., are discussed at length in numerous works of hadith (the Prophet’s tradition), sirah (history of the Prophet (pbuh), fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), and Islamic history and civilization.

Out of so many objectives that could be achieved by undertaking this kind of study, the following list presents the main objectives of this book:

1.To put the concept of Muslim funerary architecture in its proper religious and cultural context;

2.To help the readers recognize and understand the origins and significance of Muslim funerary architecture;

3.To show that funerary architecture, although having played an extremely prominent role in the history of Islamic civilization, has become neither a permanent nor ubiquitous feature of the Muslim reality;

4.To clarify and remove some pervasive misconceptions/misunderstandings about Islam in general and Muslim funerary architecture in particular.

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