Elaborately decorated front facade of the al-Aqmar Mosque.
The Fatimids, it could be thus inferred, were among the first in Islamic civilization who used the power of writing signs on buildings in order to advance and publicize their ideological struggle. The earliest Muslim example of using buildings and building decoration systems as a means for promoting a spiritual mission and cause could be traced back to the creation of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem which was initially completed in 72 AH /691 CE at the order of the Umayyad caliph ‘Abd al-Malik b. Marwan (d. 86 AH /705 CE). Via the ways the building and its decorative styles and strategies were perceived, planned and executed, the local Jewish and Christian population was mainly targeted. However, the way the Fatimids made recourse to utilizing the power of letters and symbols on buildings for advertizing and promoting their struggle and cause was like what nobody has ever seen before.Read more: The Fatimids and the Institutionalization of Sunni-Shi’ah Conflicts (Part Two)
The courtyard of the Mosque of al-Azhar.
The Shi’ah Fatimids were a major Isma’ili Shi’ah dynasty. They founded their own caliphate, in rivalry with the ‘Abbasids, and ruled over different parts of the Islamic world, from North Africa and Sicily to Palestine and Syria. The Fatimid period was also the golden age of Isma’ili thought and literature. Established in 297 AH /909 CE in Ifriqiyah (today’s Tunisia, Western Libya and Eastern Algeria), the seat of the Fatimids was later transferred to Egypt in 362 AH /972 CE, and the dynasty was finally overthrown by Salahuddin al-Ayyubi (Saladin) (d. 590 AH /1193 CE) in 567 AH /1171 CE, when the fourteenth and last Fatimid caliph, al-‘Adid li Dinillah (d. 567 AH /1171 CE), lay dying in Cairo.Read more: The Fatimids and the Institutionalization of Sunni-Shi’ah Conflicts (Part One)
It was a mentality of duly applying the precept of following the religion of Islam and inventing civilization that caused Muslims to know no limits or constraints when it came to originality and creativity while inventing and using the legitimate matters of culture and civilization, with architecture being their integral part. However, when it came to religion: its permanent belief system, standard practices and the body of spiritual values and principles, there was no room whatsoever for any slightest compromise or disregard in relation to their proper interpretation and application. There was no room at all for inventing in religion because Islam had been perfected by Allah, so doing anything like that would have implied opposition to the authority of Allah and His will. Allah says on this: “…This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favor on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion.” (al-Tawbah, 3).Read more: Following Religion vs. Inventing Civilization: Implications for Islamic Architecture
In the new phase of the mosque’s existence, which was marked by a partial institutional decentralization, there came about three patterns in the mosque’s relationship with the newly modeled social, political, educational and religious institutions. Those three patterns were as follows.
Read more: Institutional Decentralization in the History of Islamic Cities: The Relationship between the...