Architecture and Society Book Cover Image

Architecture and Society: Some Lessons on Muslim Architecture from India

Book Title: Architecture and Society: Some Lessons on Muslim Architecture from India
Author: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Publisher: Research Management Center, International Islamic University Malaysia
ISBN: 978-967-418-402-5
First Edition, 2015

 

This book deals with the subject of the relationship between Muslim architecture and society and how they influence each other, taking some social and historical segments of complex Indian society as a case study. The book consists of three independent studies which cover three vital aspects of Muslim architecture, especially in India:

  • Converting Hindu temples into mosques;
  • The royal funerary architecture of the Mughals;
  • The social significance of Mr. Nazeer Khan’s architecture.

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Mohamed MAKIYYA Image

Mohamed Saleh Makiya (1914-2015)

Makiya design image

For its architectural quality and its revival of tradition, the work of Mohamed Saleh Makiya stands as a prototype for Iraq and for new developments in the third world in general. Like Hassan Fathy in Egypt, Makiya analyzed Iraq’s past in his architectural work, in his role as an influential teacher, and in his scholarly publications. His ideas can be found in his writings: The Arab Village, sponsored by UNESCO and published in Cairo in 1951, and The Architecture of Baghdad, published in 1969 with the assistance of the Gulbenkian Foundation. In both books the fundamental insights that he established led to a reappraisal of the Iraqi architectural past.

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The Selimiye Mosque in Edirne Image

God as the Only Creator: Implications for Conceptualizing Islamic Architecture

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer

Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences

International Islamic University Malaysia

E-mail: spahico@yahoo.com

Khwaju Bridge in Isfahan Image
Figure 1: Khwaju Bridge in Isfahan, Iran.

Abstract

This paper discusses the notion of God as the only Creator, exploring its main implications for conceptualizing the identity and purpose of Islamic architecture. The paper concludes that the concept of God as the Creator represents the core of the Islamic doctrine of tawhid (God’s Oneness and Uniqueness) which, in turn, presents Islamic architecture with its identity impressing it by its own mould. Buildings in Islam are conceived and erected only to serve God and the noble purpose of creation instituted by the Creator. Ascribing the terms ‘creation’ and ‘creators’ to human beings should always be conditional and metaphorical, not authentic or unqualified. Just as the Creator cannot become creation, similarly a creation cannot become a creator. Only against this backdrop, the role and objective of man on earth, and all his civilizational undertakings, including architecture, are to be viewed and assessed. The implications of this central Islamic tenet for Islamic architecture are studied under the sub-topics of the identity of Islamic architecture and the role of Islamic decorative arts.

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Kuala Lumpur Palace Image

Tradition versus Modernity: Islam’s or Muslims’ Dilemma

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer

Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences

International Islamic University Malaysia

E-mail: spahico@yahoo.com

 
KL Traditional and Modern buildings image
The best solution for Islamic architecture is to be traditional, but without just blindly imitating and repeating the past, and modern, albeit without rejecting tradition and constantly seeking to break with the past. Tradition and modernity in Islamic architecture must be at peace, rather than at loggerheads, with each other. Traditional and modern architecture in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The Popularity of the Theme

Undoubtedly, the subjects of tradition and modernity and how Muslims responded to them in late nineteenth and twentieth centuries are some of the most important topics that still preoccupy a great many scholars and researches, both Muslims and non-Muslims. A large corpus of literature, as a result, has emerged towards the end of twentieth and in early twenty-first centuries that addressed the subject matter. The studies and books carried different, but in essence very similar, titles such as – for instance – Islam and the Challenge of Modernity, edited by Sharifah Shifa al-Attas and published in 1996 by International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Islam: Motor or Challenge of Modernity, edited by Georg Stauth and published in 1998 by LIT Verlag in Hamburg, Germany; Muslims and Modernity, an Introduction to the Issues and Debates by Clinton Bennett, published in 2005 by Continuum in London, UK; Legitimizing Modernity in Islam by Husain Kassim, published in 2005 by the Edwin Mellen Press in Lewiston, New York, US; Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition: Reform, Rationality and Modernity by Samira Haj, published in 2009 by Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, US; Islam, Modernity and the Human Sciences by Ali Zaidi, published in 2011 by Palgrave, Macmillan, US; Tradition, Modernity and Islam, edited by A. Rahman Tang Abdullah and published in 2011 by the International Islamic University Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur; Islam between Tradition and Modernity, an Australian Perspective by Mehmet Ozalp, published in 2012 by Barton Books in Canberra, Australia, and many others. (more…)

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Islamic or Muslim Architecture

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences
International Islamic University Malaysia
E-mail: spahico@yahoo.com
 

Taj Mahal image

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, is regarded as one of the best gifts of Islamic art and architecture

to the world. However, the building is just a mausoleum and memorial extravagantly built.

As such, it stands at odds with some fundamental teachings and values of Islam.

Many people wonder what authentic Islamic architecture and its scope are, and whether it is appropriate to qualify such a wonder as Islamic, Muslim or something else, architecture. Much has been written and said about the subject, yet scholars and researchers vastly differ over it. It is an endless, but at the same time enthralling, debate.

Islamic architecture is an architecture that exemplifies Islamic teachings and values in an architectural process rather than in an architectural product. An architectural process 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 phases and elements which are interwoven with the threads of the belief system, tenets, teachings and values of Islam. What makes an architecture Islamic is its metaphysical, spiritual and ethical dimensions, rather than its sheer physical and observable aspects, in relation to all the parties involved in the process: patrons, architects, engineers and ordinary users, and the implications of their diverse conceptual and practical relationships with architecture.

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Origins and evolution of minarets

By Kerim Altuğ, World Bulletin

Minaret at Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

source: gallery.moeding.net

 

I. The origins and evolution of minaret

Minarets are tower-like structures usually associated with mosques or other religious buildings. They contain platforms, reached through stairs built inside the minaret, on which the ‘muezzin’ stands to call Muslims to prayer.

In trying to understand how the tower got its special meaning in Islamic societies, scholars have attempted—with mixed success—to trace minarets back to various traditions of tower building in the pre-Islamic cultures of Eurasia. Over a century ago, for example, A. J. Butler, the British historian of Roman Egypt, speculated that the multistoried form of the typical Cairene minaret of the Mamluk period might have been derived from the Pharos (lighthouse) of Alexandria, one of the wonders of the ancient world, which—although long destroyed—is known from descriptions by ancient writers to have been square in the lower part of its shaft, octagonal in the middle and cylindrical at the top. Butler’s contemporary, the German architectural historian Hermann Thiersch, elaborated this theory by publishing a detailed study of the history of the Pharos. He showed that the ancient tower had stood well into Islamic times and could have inspired Mamluk builders in Egypt.

 

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Medinanet celebrating its fifth anniversary

2010-2015

By April 16, 2015 medina-net, has completed its fifth year. On this occasion we would like to congratulate all colleagues and friends who contributed in building its platform and to students who enlarged its popularity and made it a source of knowledge on Islamic Architecture and Cities.

For sure that the site cannot be sustained without their help and contributions. And perhaps the pressing need now is to activate the Arab section and the establishment of the French section in addition to the existing English section.

Greetings Site Management.

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Sustainability and Piety

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design
International Islamic University Malaysia
E-mail: spahico@yahoo.com
 

Kalenderhane mosque Image

Kalenderhane Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. The mosque was formerly a church.

 

Sustainability in architecture is possible only when there is sustainability in values and philosophies that underpin the former, giving it its identity, vigor and direction. Moreover, sustainability in architecture is possible only when there is sustainability in people’s intellectual, spiritual and moral predilections whereby the philosophies and values of a sustainable architecture are one and the same as those personified by people: the conceivers, patrons, creators and users of architecture. It is for this reason that Koca Mimar Sinan, the chief architect of the Ottoman golden age, said that architecture is at once an estimable and the most difficult calling, and he who would practice it correctly and justly must, above all things, be pious.

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Prophets Ibrahim and Isma’il and the Ka’bah

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design
International Islamic University Malaysia
E-mail: spahico@yahoo.com
 

An artist’s imaginary rendition of the valley of Makkah before Prophets Ibrahim and Isma’il built the Ka’bah Image

An artist’s imaginary rendition of the valley of Makkah before Prophets Ibrahim and Isma’il built the Ka’bah. Courtesy of the Dar al-Madinah Museum, Madinah, Saudi Arabia.

 

 

There is little disagreement about Prophet Ibrahim’s relationship with the Ka’bah and al-Masjid al-Haram: about building it and actualizing its projected status and function. This is so because the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah are at once explicit and eloquent as regards the subject matter, unlike the eras that preceded Prophet Ibrahim and the relationship between their own prophets and the Ka’bah — if we assume that the Ka’bah was built before Ibrahim. While the Qur’an discloses that Ibrahim was shown the site of the Ka’bah (al-Hajj, 26), that he and his son Isma’il raised its foundations (al-Baqarah, 127), and that they were directed to purify or sanctify it for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves therein in prayer (al-Baqarah, 125), there are scores of authentic traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) which describe even certain details of their building it.

 

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Appreciating the Ka’bah

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design
International Islamic University Malaysia
E-mail: spahico@yahoo.com
 

kaaba Image

 

Prior to the epoch of Prophets Ibrahim and Isma’il, there existed only Makkah sanctuary (haram) and the location as well as foundations of the Ka’bah (al-Masjid al-Haram), which had been instituted or appointed for humankind as early as when God created the heavens and the earth. The Qur’an reveals: “Indeed, the first House (of worship) established for mankind was that at Makkah — blessed and a guidance for the worlds.” (Alu ‘Imran, 96) The Prophet (pbuh) also confirmed: “Allah made this town (Makkah) sacred on the day He created the earth and the heavens; so it is sacred by the sacredness conferred on it by Allah until the Day of Resurrection…” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith No. 3139) As a result, the prophets before Ibrahim and Isma’il and their followers — just like those who came after them — were to face the place (the site of the Ka’bah, its foundations and the haram) in their prayers. When needed or commanded, a form of the pilgrimage (Hajj) to the place, too, was undertaken.

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