There is no doubt that the Holy Koran, the Moslems' constitution, has tackled every matter in our life regardless how small or large. A thorough look from a building technology point of view, would notice that many verses of Koran have dealt with building materials, techniques and even structural systems. Some Architectural researches have employed Koran and Sonna to develop a theory and criteria of housing design and city planning from islamic perspective (1). However, the building technology signals in Koran haven't been discussed, which this study would try to shed some light on such divine knowledge.
A review of the Koran verses was conducted, which has revealed the application of appropriate building technology through the use of indigenous materials. In another instance, Soora El-Nahl teaches us how instant destruction of buildings could be, in Soora Al-Fajr, it shows the use of columns and beams, and Al-Araf mentions self build technology. Innovative building techniques of constructing invincible dams and raising roofs were revealed through the study. Moreover, it was found that most building elements and materials were mentioned in many cases, such as brimstone, burnt brick, adobe, iron bars, copper, silver, timber purlins and even transparent glass sheets.
The study depends on recognized explanation of Koran (Tafseer), both on Arabic and English, to understand the verses properly from different views, in addition to a computer program to survey building elements and materials.
The moslem author wishes to express that the paper is not trying to prove the Koran text with our limited knowledge which may change by time, however it tries to explore and extract building technology from this heavenly book.
Building Technology, Koran, Islam
Moslems believe that The holy Koran is the last heavenly message, consequently it has to tackle every subject, as Allah said in Soora El-Kahf 48, to be applicable anywhere and everywhere. This is what has driven many moslem specialists to seek knowledge and science from Koran. The universe formation – cal led as the big boom – mentioned in Soora Anbia'a 30, the earth egg shape shown in El-Naziat 30, and the process of fetus formation, embryology in Soora Mu'minoun 13 are few examples of the miraculous science of the Holy Koran. Needless to say, profit Mohammed could not have such knowledge 1400 years ago, this proves the Koran authenticity and eligibility to be the moslem's permanent constitution.
Some architectural researches have employed Koran and Sonna to develop a theory and criteria of Islamic housing design and even more city planning from Islamic perspective (1). However, the building technology signals in Koran haven't been discussed even though there are many verses of Koran dealing with building materials, techniques and structural systems. The Koran verses would be reviewed and explained using recognized explanation of Koran text (Tafseer), both on Arabic and the translation of the meanings of Koran in English. Luckily, The Holly Koran is set up on some computer programs, which enables to list the different building elements and materials.
BUILDING TECHNOLOGY IN KORAN VERSES
Although the review have revealed many verses dealing with building technology, it would be restricted on the obvious ones, which were found to be 17 verses as listed in the Appendix of the original Arabic text of Koran. The translation of the verses' meanings and its explanations is followed, arranged with the same arrangement of Soora (chapters) in Koran.
In Al-Bakara, the first Soora of Koran, Allah inspires Abraham that his first worship building -the Kaaba- should have a strong foundation : "Abraham raised the foundations of the house" (2) Al-Bakara 127. The Kaaba still exists where its foundations of granite blocks could be seen above ground level, while some recent buildings have fallen down because of weak foundations.
Al-Araf sets the principles of self build technology and its applicability to different buildings, sites and materials: " You build for yourself places and castles in open plains and carve out homes in the mountains" (2) Al-Araf 74.
In Al-Raad the Koran compels us to think of the meaning : "Allah who raised the heavens without any pillars, that you can see", meaning that there are unseen supports (2) El-Raad 2. This could inspire an innovative building technique for raising a lightweight roof, for instance of an exhibition hall, without physical supports. A roof of a dome-shape could be filled with hot air, or pressured gas, and tied to the ground, the same as balloon lifting. The dome could have an upper valve for controlling gas release to be kept on a certain height. The required gas flow could be calculated by computer to raise the roof to the needed height for a limited period.
Furthermore, a similar meaning in Soora An'Bia :"We have made the heavens a canopy well guarded" (2) An'Bia 32, can let us imagine a more sophisticated technique for the future. A roof of certain colored fines or dust, kept on a height above ground by a magnetic or other power field, could work as a canopy to shade a park or a fair ground. Even though the idea seems to be fantastic, it resembles an artificial cloud, applicable in a mild weather area.
Soora El-Hager describes how the people of El-Hager village were building their dwellings inside the rocky mountain : ”Carved out of the mountains to be safe", which proves their building skills. But although they were safe morally, living in rocks' core, Allah has eradicated them by a thunder which has killed them without harming their mountain dwellings (3)(p 2152). This proves that no matter how the buildings are fortified, the dwellers are perishable, reminding us with the mass destruction neutron bomb that abolish the people without the buildings. The same meaning is illustrated in Al-Sho'ara : "You carve houses out of rocky mountains", which both imply the use of indigenous building materials, and that building with stone was safer than other available materials (2) Al-Sho'ara 149.
In Soora El-Nahl, Allah learns us how instant and total destruction of buildings could be : "Allah took their structures from the foundations, and the roof fell down on them" (2) Nahl 26. Ibn katheer says that God had removed the buildings from its roots (4)(p567 v2). Qoutub thinks that no matter how the building is strong, shaking the foundations causes roof collapse, thus what was meant for protection turns into a dangerous grave (3)(p2168). Structural engineers should keep this in mind specially when designing for weak soils or earthquake regions, such as the Japanese who apply lightweight materials in their houses.
Also in El-Nahl : "Allah make your habitation homes of rest and quite, and made you dwellings (tents) from the animal skins, which you find so light and handy for travelling" (2) El Nahl 80. Here in, appropriate building technology is very well illustrated. The building technique should first achieve comfort and quietness while being appropriate for each environments. It should be versatile, strong and & lightweight material, if it would be carried for the long journeys in the desert and erected wherever they want (4)(p580 v2).
In Soora El-Hadeed (the iron), Allah mentions that iron is very strong and has a lot of benefits for us (2) El-Hadeed 25. Moreover, in Sura El-Kahf iron and copper were used in a sophisticated building method, when God has inspired a faithful king of how to build a dam to prevent the enemies. He has stacked piles of stones and asked the poople : "To bring him iron bars, which he filled up the space of two steep mountain sides, he said blow them (with bellows) until it were red as fire, then he pours over molten copper, thus the enemies made powerless to scale it or dig through" (2) Kahf 95. This defines a different technique of building impenetrable dams using traditional stacked stone walls, reinforced with steel between the courses, but moreover, the steel was melted together with copper to give a non-penetrated, solid and smooth dam. The dam was discovered in the 15th century by the German scientist, Berger and by the Spanish historian Klafigo, known as the dam of iron-gate city, in the way between Samarkand and India (3)(p 2293). Interestingly enough, it was found recently that adding a portion of copper to iron, increases its rigidity (3)(p 2293). The discovered technique is structurally sound and durable than steel reinforcing, the covering alloy is anti-rust and anti-erosion against wind, water and weather conditions.
A high building technology is demonstrated in El-Naml : 'The queen of Sheba was asked to enter the lofty palace, but when she saw it, she thought it was a lake of water.., He said -King Solomon- : this is but a palace paved smooth with slabs of glass" (2) Naml 44. The Tafseer tell us that the palace floor made by the genie of Solomon, was a transparent glass covering a water stream with fish (5). No matter how it was executed, as a work of geni, it gives us a marvelous idea of a unique floor made of an aquarium, that could be used in restaurants or public buildings.
In Ghafer 36 and Kassas 38, Pharaoh said: "Haman -his minsiter- light me (a kiln to bake bricks) out of clay and build me a lofty palace, where I can mount to Moses' god" (2) Kassas 38. This shows that burnt clay bricks is stronger than other available materials and can build high buildings, which engineers are reluctant to use nowadays, even though economical than concrete buildings.
The major criteria of masonry building is described in El-Saf : "God loves who fight for his cause as if they are a solid cemented structure" (2) El Saf 4. Ibn Kottada says it is like a building neatly stacked (4)(p359). Qoutub describes this with harmony in a defined system, where each brick has a function, which if abandoned, the building would collapse (3)(p3555). This shows that masonry requires strong bondage, accurate alignment, and considering the wall as one structural unit.
Finally, Soora Al-Fajer illustrates many technologies and structures : "the city of Iram with lofty pillars which weren't created in all land, and Thamoud who have brought stone to the valley, and Pharaoh who have pyramids" (2) Fajer 7. Here we see the erection of different structures, columns and beams, pyramids, and transporting cut stones from the quarry to the valley, showing the capability and validity of moving building materials to remote sites.
BUILDING ELEMENTS AND MATERIALS IN KORAN
The different building elements were mentioned several times: the foundations twice in Al-Bakara 127 and EL-Nahl 26, the roofs three times in An'bia 32, Zukhruf 33 and EL-Nahl. The walls were mentioned once in EL-Kahf 78 and another time in EL-Hadeed as a fence. The columns were mentioned three times, twice with the same meaning in Lokman 10 and in EL-Raad 2, and the doors fourteen times, mostly as heavens' gates. Furthermore, most of known building materials were mentioned : cut stones, rocks, brimstone, burnt brick, adobe, iron bars, copper, silver, timber purlins and even transparent glass sheets. Surprisingly, the elevators were described in Soora El-Zukhruf 33: "We made, for unbelievers, houses of silver roofs and elevators to be appeared on" (6).
Old Tafseer has no word for the Arabic word "Maarej" but stairs (4) & (5), however, recent ones (6), describes it as elevating means, where people appears on, which could be understood as elevators or even escalators, to be seen on ! The idea is that Allah could give fantastic homes for unbelievers in the present life, which we could see nowadays, while believers would have their uncountable blessings in the hereafter.
The paper has found out 17 verses of the Holy Koran dealing with building technology, which are listed in the Appendix of the original Arabic text.
The translation of the meanings and its explanations were reviewed, showing that the Koran text has included the principles of appropriate building technology, means of instant building demolishing, aspects of self build, in addition to the criteria of proper masonry. Two innovative building techniques of building invincible dams and raising roofs were revealed through the study. Proposals of roof raising in the air without physical support, and an interesting interior design of floor made of an aquarium were illustrated, upon the study of Koran verses. Different building elements such as foundations, walls, columns, roofs, doors, stairs and even vaults were described in many cases. Furthermore, most of known building materials were mentioned, e.g., brimstone, burnt brick, adobe, iron bars, copper, silver, timber purlins and even transparent glass sheets. Straingely enough, the elevators were described in Soora El-Zukhruf, where rich people could use in their homes to go up to the roof. Finally, the moslem author, wishes to express that this paper is not trying to prove the Koran text with our limited knowledge which may change by time, however it tries to explore building technology from this heavenly book.
1.IBRAHIM, ABEL-BAKI (1986) The Islamic perspective of the architectural theory CPAS, Cairo. In Arabic
2.YOUSEF ABD-ALLAH (1989), English explanation of the meanings of Koran, Amana Publishing, USA
3.QOUTUB, SAID (1976) In the Shade of Koran. Dar El-Shourok, Beirut & Cairo V4. In Arabic
4.IBN KATHEER, I. (1980) Tafseer of Holy koran. Al-Ershad Library, Cairo. In Arabic
5.THE HOLLY KORAN (1990), Computer software, by Zerosoft. Tafseer Al-Jlalin (1960) Elmalah Library, Damascus,
Kaaba : The mosque where moslems make thier pligrimage in Meka, Saudia.
Koran : The holy book of moslems.
Mohamed : Profit of Islam religion.
Soora : A chapter of holy Koran, that has a difinit name.
Sonna : Profit Mohamed sayings or doings.
Tafseer : Recognized explaination of Koran by a religious scientest.