Sustainability and Islamic Architecture

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design
International Islamic University Malaysia
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modern old building

(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.)

 

Abstract

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.

 

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Towards an Islamization of Housing

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design
International Islamic University Malaysia
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islamic university malaysia

(Islamization of knowledge is an official doctrine of the International Islamic University Malaysia)

 

Abstract

This paper discusses the prospect of Islamizing the housing phenomenon in the context of the Muslim architectural reality. The paper concludes that such a task is an extremely serious, demanding and multifaceted one. It requires major contributions and high-spirited concerted efforts of many parties from across the wide spectrum of society: government, educators, practitioners, professional bodies, NGOs, members of the business community, students and the general public. In this paper, the focus is made on the role of education and educators and, to some extent, practitioners. In the process, the remarkable spiritual dimension of housing in Islam, and the importance of its proper handling, both at the conceptual and practical planes for the success of the project of Islamization, are emphasized. Islam distinguishes between the house, as a physical component, and home, as an aura, environment and ambiance generated by the former. In Islam, the house is an institution. It is a family development centre. 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. The paper seeks to enhance people’s awareness as to the significance of correctly conceptualizing Islamic housing and how some of the fundamental aspects of its potential revival could be related to the notion of Islamization of knowledge.

 

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God as the Only Creator: Implications for Islamic Architecture (Part Two)

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design
International Islamic University Malaysia
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miri school in bukhara in Uzbekistan

The Miri Arab Madrasah (School) in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.

 

The Identity of Islamic Architecture

The above somewhat philosophical accounts had more than a few explicit as well as implicit implications for conceptualizing Islamic architecture and its identity. Those implications were both conceptual and practical. They, to a large extent, helped shaping the perceptions of Muslims and non-Muslims alike towards the realm of Islamic architecture. It goes without saying that the lack, or misrepresentation, of the same, contributed -- and still does -- towards generating, cementing and spreading a great many misconceptions and fallacies about Islamic architecture.

 

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God as the Only Creator: Implications for Islamic Architecture (Part One)

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design
International Islamic University Malaysia
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 

qayrawan residence

A scene from a residential area in Qayrawan, Tunisia.

 

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 centralIslamic 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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The Qur’an and Sunnah as a Conceptual Foundation of Islamic Architecture (Part Two)

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design
International Islamic University Malaysia
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Ahmad mosque

View of the Mosque of Ahmad b. Tulun in Cairo, Egypt, through a screen on the roof of a nearby house.

 

The Qur’an and Sunnah and Perceiving Architecture

Concerning the realm of architecture, the role of the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah is to provide Muslims with an inspired outlook on life, in general, and on those issues that are pertinent to architecture, in particular, and with some broad rules of morality and guidelines of proper conduct which may or may not be directly related to architecture. Upon such a divine point of view and general principles and guidelines Muslims are invited to establish architectural theories, systems and styles that are consistent with both their religious preferences and the requirements of their diverse eras, geographic regions, cultures and other practical needs and conditions. Islamic architecture is a symbiosis between permanence, which is represented by the constant innate inclinations of essential human nature and the heavenly guiding principles and regulations meant for it, and impermanence which is necessitated and controlled by the time and space factors. It is the latter that changes, while the former is abiding and remains unchanged.

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