Islamic Architecture: Its Philosophy, Spiritual Significance and some Early Developments
Author: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Publishing Date: 2009
Publisher: AS Noordeen, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (email@example.com)
About the book:
This book discusses the spiritual significance of Islamic architecture, as well as some early developments in relation to the evolution of its conspicuous identity. The book is divided into four chapters. The first two chapters, namely “Towards an Understanding of Islamic Architecture” and “A Conceptual Framework for Islamic Architecture”, represent what could be viewed as the first portion of the book which explores the meaning and significance of the spiritual dimension of Islamic architecture. The third and fourth chapters, entitled “Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Islamic Architecture” and “Islamic Architecture after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)” respectively, constitute the second part of the book which examines the overall conditions in the nascent Islamic state to which the process of the evolution of the total identity of Islamic architecture was subjected.
The historical periods covered by the book are: Prophet Muhammad’s period, the period of the four orthodox caliphs (al-khulafa’ al-rashidun), the Umayyads, and the first Abbasid period which ended approximately in 861 AC/247 H. It was towards the end of the first Abbasid period that Islamic architecture really matured. It reached its pinnacle in both technical and conceptual terms. It finally attained such qualities as artistic comprehensive excellence, universality, internationalism and profundity of styles and meanings that oozed unparalleled genius, innovation and creativity.
The main objectives of the book are as follows:
- To put the concept of Islamic architecture in its proper religious and cultural context based on the most authentic sources of Islam and Islamic scholarship.
- To help the readers recognize and grasp the origins, early developments, role and significance of Islamic architecture.
- To clarify and eliminate some pervasive misconceptions and misunderstandings about Islam in general and about the subject of Islamic architecture and some of its early developments in particular.
- To contribute to the growing Islamization awareness among Muslim students, scholars, professionals and the general public.
Islamic architecture is not concerned about the form of buildings only. Islamic architecture signifies a process where all the phases and aspects are equally important. It is almost impossible to identify a phase or an aspect in that process and consider it more important than the others. The Islamic architecture process starts with having a proper understanding and vision, which leads to making a right intention. It continues with the planning, designing and building stages, and ends with attaining the net results and how people make use of and benefit from them. Islamic architecture is a fine blend of all these elements which are interwoven with the treads of the belief system, principles, teachings and values of Islam. It was due to this that the first chapter in the book, which aims to explain the meaning, significance and the main characteristics of Islamic architecture, is followed by a chapter on a conceptual framework from which Islamic architecture originates and obtains its essence and character, and which serves as the point of reference of Islamic architecture and the source of its perpetual strength and survival.
It goes without saying, therefore, that without Islam there can be no Islamic architecture. Likewise, without true Muslims, who in their thoughts, actions and words epitomize the total message of Islam, there can be no Islamic architecture either. Islamic architecture is a framework for the implementation of Islam, a framework which exists in order to facilitate, encourage and promote such an implementation. Hence, none of the properly perceiving, creating, comprehending, studying and even the using of Islamic architecture can be achieved in isolation from the total framework of Islam: its comprehensive worldview, ethos, doctrines, laws, practices, genesis and history. Any attempt or method that defies this very logical principle is bound to end up in a failure generating in the process sets of errors and misconceptions. Indeed, the existing studies on Islamic architecture, by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars alike, and the ways in which Islamic architecture is taught and “practiced” today is the best testimony to the confusion that surrounds the theme of Islamic architecture as both a concept and sensory reality.
About the author:
Dr. Spahic Omer is a Bosnian who lives and works in Malaysia. He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. Presently, he is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design, International Islamic University Malaysia. His extensive research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and philosophy of Islamic built environment.