(Architectural conflicts, or incompatibilities, between yesterday and today are evident virtually everywhere in the Muslim world. Such conflicts signify one of the root causes of the lack of sustainable architecture in the Muslim world. An apartment building with several “traditional” elements and features reflected on the glass façade of a nearby “modern” commercial building in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.)
This paper discusses a conceptual framework for sustainability in Islamic architecture. Some major segments of such framework are elucidated along the theoretical, or philosophical, rather than empirical, lines. Firstly, the need for sustainable architecture is outlined. That is followed by discussing the concepts of man and the natural environment in Islam and how central those concepts are to the Islamic message and Islamic civilization, the latter serving as a physical manifestation and evidence of the former. Then, some main conceptual implications of the two concepts for sustainability in Islamic architecture are explained. The significance of the notion of the universality of the Islamic message for sustainability is also highlighted. The paper concludes that sustainable architecture needs to address not only environmental and economic, but also social, educational and spiritual concerns of people. This is especially applicable to Islamic architecture because of the role of its multi-tiered orb as facilities and, at the same time, a physical locus of the actualization of Islam as a comprehensive way of life. It also represents the identity, as well as a microcosm, of Islamic culture and civilization. The ideas of sustainability and architecture in Islam are inseparable on account of the significance of the Islamic principles of man, nature, life, comprehensive excellence and the universality of the Islamic cause, which constitute a conceptual framework for such a synthesis.
Read more: Sustainability and Islamic Architecture
A courtyard house in Fez, Morocco.
Islamic housing is a symbiosis of heavenly and terrestrial dimensions. Both sides are extremely important, playing their respective roles. They finely complement and add to each other’s strength and operation. Neglecting either of the two poles in Islamic housing inevitably leads to a serious damage in the latter’s fundamental nature, either at a conceptual or a practical plane.
The significance of a house in Islam can easily be discerned from the Arabic words used for it that are dar, bayt, manzil and maskan.Read more: The House: Dar, Bayt, Manzil and Maskan
Mr Nazeer Khan at work.
Mr Nazeer Khan’s Architecture and Kerala’s Interfaith Harmony
Islam entered India almost in the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Generally, it is thought that it came into India by way of invasion by Muhammad b. Qasim, a young general sent by Yusuf b. Hajjaj, the governor of Iraq during the Umayyad period in the later part of the 7th century CE. But this is not true. Islam entered India initially through Kerala on the west coast through the Arab traders in a peaceful manner. “The region called Malabar in Kerala is Indianised form of ma`bar which in Arabic means passage. Since the Arab traders passed through that region often it came to be known by that name. The Arabs, in fact, had been trading since pre-Islamic days and then embraced Islam after the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) began preaching. They married the local women in Kerala and their offspring spread in different parts of that region. Also, later they were accompanied by Sufi sheikhs who converted many local people, mainly from lower classes, to Islam. Thus, this was the real entry point of Islam into India.”Read more: The Social Significance of Mr Nazeer Khan’s Architecture (Part Two)
The construction of Mosques (and especially the Minaret) in Europe (and, until recently, to a lesser extent in the United States) often attracts fierce opposition by locals. Far-right elements play up suspicions that Muslims intend to take over Europe and America and impose Islamic law (Shariah).
And Mosques are supposedly the forts of the impending Muslim reign – such was the rhetoric employed by fascist Swiss fanatics in their successful bid to ban the construction of Minarets. The Minaret is seen as the most worrying of Islamic symbols – since it stands high, is easily visible and competes with Church bell-towers.
The hype over Minarets is, of course, unfounded Islamophobia. Minarets are not higher than many Church towers and the call to prayer is not broadcast – as is traditional – given Western noise ordinances.
But Western restrictions on Mosques have not lead to Muslim demoralization but to Muslim adaptation. European Muslims are changing the idea of a Minaret – why does the call to prayer have to be a voice, which cannot be broadcast in Europe, why not lighting the call?
That’s the concept behind this Marseilles, France mosque. The light would normally be Islamic green, but green is reserved for ship signals in this port city and red is also out of the question due to the exclusive use by firefighters. Instead the mosque will blink the call to prayer in purple. Noureddine Cheikh, president of the Marseille Mosque Association, says “It’s a good symbol of assimilation.”
Read more: Modern Mosques [Repost]