Islam as the Final and Universal Revelation:
Implications for Islamic Architecture
Islam as the Final and Universal Revelation
That Islam is the final and universal revelation from God to mankind constitutes a foundation stone of the conceptual framework for Islamic architecture. The other three cornerstones of the same conceptual or philosophical framework are: tawhid (the idea of God’s Unity or Oneness), man as the vicegerent (khalifah) on earth and his peaceful and accountable relationship with environment, and comprehensive excellence (ihsan or itqan).Read more: Islam as the Final and Universal Revelation: Implications for Islamic Architecture
The meaning of excellence
Comprehensive excellence (ihsan or itqan) is one of the most important Islamic values. It likewise constitutes a vital aspect of the conceptual framework for Islamic architecture. Excellence saturates every dimension of the Islamic message. Since Islam is a complete way of life, it follows that excellence is to be felt in all life’s spheres. When the angel Jibril (Gabriel) asked Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) what excellence is, the Prophet’s reply was: “Excellence is to worship God as if you see him, for if you do not see Him He sees you.”
Excellence is prescribed (kataba) to Muslims as explicitly as the other fundamental obligations, such as praying (salah), fast (siyam) and struggle for the holy Islamic cause (jihad).
The Prophet (pbuh) once said: “Indeed, Allah loves when one of you does something that he does it to perfection.” It is interesting to call to mind the context in which these words of the Prophet (pbuh) were uttered, thus drawing attention to the seriousness of the matter. When the Prophet’s son Ibrahim died and was buried, some unevenness had been left in the earth on his grave. The unevenness must have been minor in that the people were able to overlook it. It was such a sad occasion, so it was unthinkable for anyone to say or do anything, no matter how trivial, that could aggravate the people’s feeling, in general, and that of the Prophet (pbuh), in particular. Noticing the unevenness, the Prophet (pbuh) leveled the earth by his hand and made the above statement.
During the process of building the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah in which practically all Muslims participated, the Prophet (pbuh) also called people’s attention to the significance of excellence. It is reported that a man in course of building the mosque was expertly treading clay for making bricks of which the mosque was built. On seeing him, the Prophet (pbuh) said: “May Allah have mercy upon him who excels in his profession.” And to the man he said: “Keep doing this job for I see that you excel in it.”
Therefore, Islam is a religion of excellence. Muslims are to strive for excellence in all that they do: in both religious rituals and pure worldly affairs. All forms of deliberate mediocrity, which is the opposite of excellence, are deemed against the spirit of Islam and are thus disproved off. Human actions, if executed in the spirit of deliberate mediocrity, are likely to be repudiated by God. So important in Islam is integrating excellence into human actions that it represents a condition for such actions to be accepted by God.Read more: Excellence in Islam: Implications for Islamic Architecture
Man and Environment in Islam: Implications for Islamic Architecture
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design
International Islamic University Malaysia
The skyline of the city of Lahore, Pakistan
Introduction: The significance of the conceptual framework for Islamic architecture
The issues that form the cornerstones of the conceptual framework for Islamic architecture, by and large, are: tawhid (the idea of God’s Oneness), man as the vicegerent (khalifah) on earth and his relationship with environment, comprehensive excellence (ihsan or itqan), and Islam as the final and universal revelation to mankind. This conceptual framework renders Islamic architecture such a unique subject and vastly different from other architectural expressions and schools.
Studying the conceptual framework for Islamic architecture, which due to its anchoring on some of the most important Islamic tenets constitutes a foremost segment of the Islamic worldview, is vital. This is so for two chief reasons.
Firstly, by knowing and absorbing the conceptual framework for Islamic architecture, Muslim architects, and practitioners in built environment in general, will possess a solid base on which restoring and advancing the phenomenon of Islamic architecture will be easily and confidently established. If the tenets on which the conceptual framework for Islamic architecture rests, permeate an architect’s or an engineer’s thinking and behaving paradigms, the total behavior that originates from such a mentality is bound to be in agreement with Islamic values and belief system. An architecture that stems from such a mentality is bound to be genuinely Islamic too. And when it comes into existence, it does so spontaneously, unassumingly and sincerely, fitting perfectly into the matrix of Muslim life activities. It does so without any ado during the process of its conceiving and execution, without any ambiguities or confusion in its substance and function, and without any superficialities, peculiarities and showiness in its style and appearance.Read more: Man and Environment in Islam: Implications for Islamic Architecture
Tawhid and its Implications for Islamic Architecture
Tawhid (God’s Oneness)
The notion of tawhid is the most important cornerstone in the conceptual framework for Islamic architecture. Tawhid means asserting the unity or oneness of Allah. Tawhid is the Islamic concept of monotheism. The word tawhid is derived from the words wahid and ahad which mean “one”, “unique” and “peerless”. Based on the concept of tawhid, Muslims believe that God cannot be held equal in any way or degree to any other being or concept. Maintaining that there is no God except Allah and that there is nothing comparable to Him constitutes the essence of tawhid and the essence of Islam. Thus, declaring God’s oneness, tawhid, together with Prophet Muhammad’s prophethood (shahadah), is the first requirement for one who wishes to embrace the Islamic religion. Shirk, or associating anybody or anything with God making it comparable to Him, is the opposite of tawhid. It is the gravest sin which God vowed never to forgive.
Tawhid has three aspects: (1) Oneness of the Lordship of God (Tawhid al-Rububiyyah) (2) Oneness of the Worship of God (Tawhid al-Uluhiyyah or Tawhid al-‘Ibadah) (3) Oneness of the Names and Qualities of God (Tawhid al-Asma’ wa al-Sifat).
According to these three aspects, there is only one Lord for all the universe, Who is its Creator, Organizer, Planner, Sustainer and Giver of security. He is the only Creator, the rest is His creation. He is the only Master, the rest are His servants. Nothing from His World can be a quality of the created world, and nothing from the created world can be ascribed to His World. Similarities that exist between the two realms, the divine and earthly, do not exceed the level of sheer names. Beyond that nothing is the same. There can never be an exchange in the arrangement of designations between the two dominions: that of the Creator and that of His creation.
Since the Lord and Master of the world remains as such forever, the servants too remain what they are forever. Since the Creator and Sustainer remains as such forever providing the everlasting source of all that exist, the creatures too remain forever mortal, recipients of and completely dependent on divine material and spiritual provisions. In all their undertakings, it stands to reason, people’s primary mission should always be to acknowledge this undeniable truth, unselfishly exhibit its effects and try to integrate it into each and every aspect of their cultural and civilizational accomplishments. People are never to get carried away by their ostensible earthly achievements and, as a result, rebel against the established spiritual paradigms in life and then attempt to modify or manipulate them. People’s earthly achievements ought always to reflect God’s greatness as opposed to man’s smallness, God’s self-sufficiency as opposed to man’s lack of it, God’s infinity and permanence as opposed to man’s wavering and insecurity, God’s supremacy as opposed to man’s fragility. Any other approach would signify a sheer falsehood, deception and fictitious optimism.Read more: Tawhid and its Implications for Islamic Architecture