The interior of an upper floor in a traditional house in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Image

Islamic Housing and the Role of Muslim Women

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer

Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences

International Islamic University Malaysia

E-mail: spahico@yahoo.com

Al-Suhaymi Mamluki house in Cairo, Egypt. Image
Al-Suhaymi Mamluki house in Cairo, Egypt.

What is Islamic housing?

Islam as a comprehensive way of life influenced the planning and designing of the houses of its adherents. Not only that, Islam also laid a solid foundation, in some instances in form of laws, for creating what came to be known as the phenomenon of Islamic housing.

The Holy Qur’an furnishes Muslims with a comprehensive conceptual framework for housing. This framework has been first applied, explained and further enriched by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). While developing the city of Madinah, upon his and his followers’ migration (hijrah) from Makkah, the Prophet (pbuh) under the aegis of revelation provided scores of lessons in Islamic housing. Since Muhammad (pbuh) was the last Messenger of Allah to mankind, such lessons are to be held by Muslims as both universal and everlasting. They stand for an important segment of the Prophet’s sunnah which each and every Muslim is required to follow as much as life conditions permit.

In Islam, the house is a place to rest, relax the body and mind, and enjoy legitimate worldly delights. Within the realm of their houses, Muslims also worship, teach, learn and propagate the message of Islam. Central to the standards by which a house may be categorized as “Islamic” are the holiness and purity of its philosophy, vision, function and utility, accompanied by convenience, efficiency, safety, awareness of the physical surroundings, and anything else that Islam reckons as indispensable for living a decent and accountable family life. The sheer physical and artistic appearance is therefore inferior and matters only when it comes into complete conformity with the above mentioned criteria. Muslim architects, planners, structural engineers and final users alike, should perceive the house phenomenon as a sheer means, an instrument, a carrier of the spiritual, not a goal itself. Islamic housing is a blend of the belief system, teachings and values of Islam, on the one hand, and the prerequisites and influences of indigenous cultures, climates, topographies, the availability and quality of building materials, talents, technologies and economies, on the other.

The house institution occupies an extraordinary place in Islam. It is a family development center. It 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 (community). The places where people live are the first and arguably most critical educational and development centers. If they function properly, such centers have a potential to produce, in concert with other societal establishments and centers, the individuals who will be capable of transforming and making better their immediate surroundings and the whole communities they belong to.

Conversely, if misconstrued and their roles distorted, the places where people live have a potential to become a breeding ground for a range of social ills, which if left unchecked could paralyze entire communities and stifle their civilizational undertakings. It follows that in Islamic society there ought to exist a high level of ideological compatibility between the house and other societal institutions. An ideological incompatibility, or dichotomy, between the two poles is unacceptable and can only hinder, if not thwart altogether, the progress of society.

Indeed, it is very difficult to live delightfully, honoring and applying the teachings and values of Islam in a residential architectural world that is alien to the same teachings and values and their divine philosophy. It is only when compatibility between the two ambits exists that people’s actual interests and welfare will be ensured, and that residential planning and architecture will become more than just a routine external process of planning, designing and erecting houses. Without a doubt, there is much more to Islamic housing than just that, that is, than the conventional physical aspect of the whole thing.

(more…)

Read More

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.

(more…)

Read More

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.

(more…)

Read More

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.

(more…)

Read More

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…)

Read More

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.

(more…)

Read More

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.

 

(more…)

Read More

light-568472_1280

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.

Read More

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.

(more…)

Read More

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.

 

(more…)

Read More