The Passion, A Vocation, A Calling In Islamic Art

Architecture is not only an art and technique of designing and building but is a passion, a vocation, a calling – as well as a science and a business. Architecture provides, in the words of Marcus Vitruvius, the great Roman architect and historian, “firmness, commodity and delight. Different types of architectures serve a different purpose such as a place like a restaurant or a cafe provides a leisurely and delightful experience, our houses are a place where we receive refuge, peace and is a sanctuary, similarly places like mosques and churches are proclaimed to be religious places. But do our homes serve their purpose entirely? Or does a place like mosque or a hotel serve only one purpose?. In fact each place serves more than one purpose and can be interpreted by an individual in a different way.

Architecture and mosques specifically became the center of my interest recently after I went on a vacation to the middle east. The intricate architecture and detailed structure of the mosque has always fascinated so I decided to study it in detail and portray their beauty in a unique way thus I chose it as my topic for this thesis.I went to look into my picture archives and picked out all pictures I had of mosques and other similar buildings these included pictures of mosques in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Dubai.These pictures proved out to be a great source of inspiration but I also wanted to include the local form of architecture in my work so I visited different local and old mosques in Lahore and Islamabad such as Badshahi Mosque, Wazir Khan Mosque, Faisal Mosque and took pictures of the interior as well as the whole mosque and its surrounding.So my overall aim was to represent this historically and religiously important part of mine and others Muslim’s lives in the best way possible.

For Muslims mosques are havens that provide peace, tranquility, harmony and unites Muslims but I believe that it is a place that is not open for Muslims only but anyone who wants to seek shelter, protection and peace, but people other than Muslims are hesitant to visit them. The rigid architecture of a mosque and because of it the societal claim that this piece of architecture only belongs to Muslims is one of the major reason behind it. In most of the places a mosque is built in an area which is surrounded by a majority of Muslims thus making it distant apart from the non muslim community. In order to make mosques accessible to both Muslim and non muslim community it is necessary to construct it in such an area that it is easily reachable for both.

What if the structure of a mosque is manipulated and changed, will people of different religious and cultural backgrounds be less reluctant to visit it whenever they want to? According to a report by ‘The Times Of India’ during the disastrous flood in Kerala in august 2018 a mosque in northern Malappuram, one of the worst hit districts, has offered shelter to 17 displaced Hindu families. If non Muslims are willing to seek shelter in a mosque during the time of a calamity and emergency without hesitation then they should feel the same way in any other situation.Nonetheless this is something i will be talking more about later on. Furthermore the idea that how the structure of a mosque can be changed is something that needs to be understood as well, I believe that the features of simple mosque can be elaborated, deconstructed or merged with other buildings in order to create new and unique form of architecture. This unique version of mosques that depict the idea that if the structure of a mosque is changed externally and internally it will become less rigid and more accessible for everyone and people will be less reluctant to travel to these places and stay there in order to seek serenity, similarly when rigorous labels are attached to a place i becomes slightly frightful automatically but if these labels are changed then the way a person perceives that place changes entirely for example Badshahi Mosque in Lahore is although a very large mosque but at the same time it is widely known as a famous historical place hence a lot of tourists don’t hesitate while visiting it. Majority of the tourists visit the mosque daily at different time for various purposes.

It was also important to consider whether Muslims will agree to this idea of changing the architecture of a mosque and sharing it with non- muslims and the reason behind their opinion. To carry out the overall research and reach a conclusion it was necessary to understand the point of view Muslims hold regarding this matter because as stated earlier a mosque is a major aspect of a Muslim’s life, so in order to find answers to questions related to this matter a survey was carried out and completed by people who go to the mosque regularly or not. One of the other questions asked by them was about what a mosque really means to them and the significance it holds in their lives, this was done to understand the perception each person holds about the place.

The Mughal period marked a striking revival of islamic architecture in northern India. Under the patronage of the Mughal emperors, Persian, Indian, and various provincial styles were fused to produce works of unusual quality and refinement. Early Mughal architecture first developed during the reign of Akbar the Great (1556–1605), who commissioned palaces, mosques , gardens, and mausoleums. The architecture was a synthesis of Persian, Turkic, Timurid Iranian, Central Asian, and Indian Hindu and Muslim styles. Akbari architecture is also remarkable for its large scale use of sandstone, evident both in the construction of Fatehpur Sikri, Akbar’s royal city, and Akbar’s own tomb in Sikandra. The Jama mosque at Fatehpur Sikri boasts the Buland Darwaza, the largest gateway of its kind in India. Early Mughal mosques had massive enclosed courtyards and domed shallow prayer halls. Beautiful mosques like the Jama mosque built during Akbar’s reign paved path for the construction of future mosques such as Nagina Masjid in Agra, India, the wazir khan mosque and badshahi mosque in lahore, Pakistan. The design of the facades of these mosques, the paintings on the walls, the calligraphy is something that still inspires and is incorporated in modern mosques like the grand mosque in Bahria Town, Lahore.

The book ‘Architecture of the Islamic World’ by Thames and Hudson is about the history and origin of Mosques and in the chapter ‘What is Islamic architecture?’ they explain the concept of ‘hidden architecture’

There are very few forms in Islamic architecture that can not be adapted for a variety of purposes; conversely, a Muslim Building serving a specific function can assume a variety of forms. Hence, when a place like a mosque adapts different forms, it can serve different purposes. For example the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan designed to include schools for all four of the Sunni schools of thought: Shafi'i, Maliki, Hanafi and Hanbali. George Michell the editor of this book mentions that more than one third Muslims live east of India,but the Islamic architecture of China and Southeast Asia still remains little known and poorly documented because Islamic architecture in these areas did not adapt distinctive forms, techniques and decoration.

In order to understand Islamic architecture more, i read Nughat Kazmi’s book ‘Islamic Art, the past and modern’ in this book she explains

Emre Arolat is a multi award-winning turkish architect who has been carving a niche for himself by designing highly contemporary but respectful sacred places. The Sancakclar Mosque is a mould breaking piece of architecture designed by him, it is an outlying Istanbul suburb, which sweeps away many architectural conventions for such buildings in Turkey. The mosque is a semi-submerged structure of brickwork and dry-stone walls. This finish contrasts with the thin reinforced concrete slab, which acts as a 6m-long canopy into the building. This, believes Arolat demonstrates 'the tension between the manmade and natural' worlds. The usual design and layout of the prayer halls have been changed as well, a smaller female prayer space has been replaced by two identical prayer spaces side by side.

'The building blends in completely with the topography and the outside world is left behind as one moves through the landscape, down the hill and in between the walls to enter the mosque,' he explains. Inside, there is no direct light, which would be usual. Instead the light is indirect, filtered through slits and fractures in the exterior walls. The architect thinks of it as a cavernous space, that 'becomes a dramatic and awe-inspiring place to pray and be alone with God'. 

07 July 2022
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now