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]
Mr Nazeer Khan in a furniture factory in Indonesia supervising the manufacturing of the furniture he designed for his buildings. The factory is one of two in Indonesia which cater primarily to his architectural and interior design needs.
In this paper, the social significance of Mr Nazeer Khan’s architecture will be discussed. The discussion will revolve around the relationship between Mr Nazeer Khan’s architecture and Kerala Muslims’ economic transformation, as well as Kerala state’s interfaith harmony. The study is not about delivering judgments concerning Mr Nazeer Khan and his architectural exploits from a sheer perspective of architecture as a synthesis of art, science and technology, for such could significantly narrow at once our purpose and focus, and could divert our attention from some vital thrusts of the subject at hand. Rather, the study is about Mr Nazeer Khan’s architecture and Kerala’s religious and socio-economic molds, and how they correlate with each other, the latter clearly dictating and shaping the former. It is only against this expansive and complex backdrop that Mr Nazeer Khan’s architecture could be properly observed and appreciated. A restricted and one-sided approach – regardless of what it might be -- would in all likelihood lead to some incomplete, patchy and even unfair opinions and inferences.Read more: The Social Significance of Mr Nazeer Khan’s Architecture (Part One)
(A replica of the Prophet’s mosque and some of his houses. Courtesy of the Hadarah Tayyibah Exhibition held in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, in 2010-2012.)
Introduction: the houses in Madinah
Not all houses in Madinah, during the Prophet’s time, were same. By and large, most houses were characterized by several notable features, the most important one of which perhaps was their moderate spaciousness. As we are absolutely sure that loftiness was not their trademark, we are likewise in no doubt that spaciousness, as much as needed and in line with the standards of the day, was their underlying quality.
Our argument is based first and foremost on the Prophet’s saying to the effect that of man’s happiness are a good wife, a spacious residence, a good neighbour, and a good mount.Read more: The Houses of the Prophet (PBUH)