Islamic Architecture
Islamic architecture
Is there Islamic Architecture?

And why do you believe that it is there or not?
Walaa Abdou
Islamic architecture

This is a very complicated question and there are a million answers to it. I will just ask you to think about these questions:

1. Is Islamic architecture Islamic because it wa sbuilt by Muslims during the Islamic empire? Or are there certian Islamic design principles?

2. If there are certain Islamic design principles, then on what are they based?

3. Can you identify the Islamic elements in Islamic architecture?

I would also like to know more about why you are interested in this question before I can start narrowing down my answer. I faced the same dilemma two years ago when I first started my Masters in Islamic Art and Architecture in AUC, and I've kind of identified several main strands of thought that are truly helping me orient my mind. I would be very glad to discuss this with you, but I need some feedback from you first- why are you asking this question in the first place?
Sara Sharaf
Islamic architecture
I believe in an urban fabric which allows and promotes the remembrance of God. I believe in an architecture that remembers what is it to be insahn. I believe in an architecture that respects nature and seeks to live in harmony with it(oppose to desroying it). If we are to judge Islamic architecture on this criteria, than yes it does exist. However, the question needs to be asked, do we want to create architecture with this criteria? I would say that the majority don't want too but what say you?

Walaa-There is numerous comments and perspectives on this issue, just look in the Islamic Architecture section and you will have plenty to learn from.

Sara-although Walaa may or may not respond, I would still like to learn on what you have concluded and learnt. I have myself written much about this topic in the various Islamic architecture threads. It seems to me that Islamic Architecture is an irrelevant reality, that few are interested to learn. Do you think Islamic architecture is irrelevant? and if so, how can you make it relevant once again?

I don't expect a detailed response, just want to get your overall take on it. Perhaps with some words, we can start the spark which can lead to the flame of real Islamic architecture in our times.

Anyways, hope to hear from you soon.

Best Regards,
Abdul Basit Mukri
Islamic architecture
Dear Walaa Abdou,

Yes, there is an ongoing evolution of Islamic Architecture understanding. The architecture has been there since time of creation and it will be there till the end of the world and beyond.

Islamic architecture is an understanding, which includes its components arts, crafts, sciences, technologies, philosophies, theories and practice, writings, discussions, criticism and appreciation etc.

Islamic architecture therefore existed, exists and will exists.

I do hope that you are also reading other related threads on the issues in Islamic Architecture.

With best wishes,
Akhtar Chauhan
Islamic architecture
Dear Abdul,

I am surprised to read your comment that "It seems to me that Islamic Architecture is an irrelevant reality, that few are interested to learn."

It would be interesting to get from you a more detailed explanation as to why do you think that Islamic Architecture is irrelevant.

"Do you think Islamic architecture is irrelevant? "

No, I do not think that Islamic Architecture is irrelevant in today's context or for that matter in any context.

"and if so, how can you make it relevant once again?"

Simply, by following the simple and straight path of Islam. One of the task before the believers is to enhance the understanding and work tirelessly for its further development towards the highest goals of Islam and therefore of Islamic Architecture.

We have to work towards perfection in material and spiritual ways of life that includes architecture: its understanding, creation, maintenance, conservation, development and redevelopment.

Islamic Architecture to become more relevant to our people will have to address the key issues faced by our people, communities and groups, and work with honesty, in a balanced and a just manner that will reflect the qualities that we associate with the way of Islam as guided by the Holy Quran and the life and work of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

This gives us tremendous freedom to innovate as well as to understand and to create architecture, and provides with opportunites to be responsible to create architecture that would please God almighty and His followers, that will include all from a humble citizen, families, communities, local groups to nationalities and humanity.

There is a way of knowing and giving and this can be accounted and evaluated. Islam like other religion teaches us these fundamental values and guides us to shape a path for our life and work.

How much do we know? How much are we willing to give? How critical are we in our evaluation?.. in our appreciation? How do we ensure that we are
balanced? ..and just?.. how do we attain the spiritual quality? We need to answer these questions when we discuss Islamic Architecture.

with best wishes,
Akhtar Chauhan
Islamic architecture
First of all i would like to thank you all for your answers. I would first tell you the story first. In the beginning I was interested so I studied it, but now, it is more than a study, it is my life. I would like to live in and study the masjid and come to know all about it and issues of privacy and how Islam is very clear on that point. I decided to learn more and to search about it in all the places I know.

I think when i want to know the Islamic architecture I search first in the Quran and in, but do not have time to search it all. I think someone in this forum will help me understand.

Abdul Basit Mukri, I read a lot of your writings. Really you are good, I admit it. I wish to be like you one day . I looked in the Islamic section before I wrote in this discussion. I am interested in this question; Islamic architecture existed already not that I want to create it , you may think we may enrich it or to give life to it , this my opinion at my little knoweledge . So, I want ot make a piont clear if you don't mind: What do you mean be irrelevant? i do not get the point.
Walaa Abdou
Islamic architecture
Professor Akthar,

It is only fair that before I answer any of your questions that you should answer the many unanswered of mine. However, since Walaa has posed the same question it is only fair to answer for her sake.

Walaa, Islamic architecture is not irrelevant but if Muslims in the Muslim world don't start moving and shaking it will become irrelevant. The Muslim world are its guardians, the Muslim world are its interperters and the Muslim world are the ones to propell it into the future. Don't pass the buck, don't leave the study of Islamic architecture for others to learn. You should also learn, interpert and speak about it as well.(trust me their is alot of work that needs to be done on it) Only when you do this kind of activity, will Islamic Architecture and civilization be relevant and viable to the newly globalized world. Islamic Architecture is what you make it, so don't squander and waste it away. Be smart, I know you are Walaa!

Islamic architecture is an important subject for us Muslims and the world to learn. Let's study this in depth and with knowledge and understanding. Let us open our minds and try not to be so narrow in our understanding of it.

Akhtar, now I do have a bone to pick with you and yes it does have to do with Islamic architecture. Your notion of it, seems to cover the world and the universe. Now according to your philosophy the CN Tower, cafes in Europe and anything that exists, is in some way Islamic architecture. Of course we all come from the same origins and yes I do believe in creationists theory and again, I do believe in the one and eternal message. However Islamic Architectural terminology has its limits; gothic, expressionists, japanese architecture may be good examples of architecture but it doesn't mean you classify it as Islamic. I would encourage you to open your mind and read books beyond the Islamic realm. Now don't take this as an attack and I don't question your commitment to Islam and Islamic architecture but there are more world views than just the Islamic one. Learn even if it be in China, expand your horizons and realize that there is a whole world out there. God sent the lesser quran because man forgot the greater quran! The world is our learning ground. Lets contemplate over this.

Take Care,
Abdul Basit Mukri
Islamic architecture
Dear Abdul,

It seems that one can not talk of Islam without creating a whole lot of confusion!

I do not know how you got the impression that I do not recognize that there are other world views!

The trouble is not with Islam, as many have tried in past, many are trying now and many may try in the future to sow the seeds of confusion and disinformation.

But with our limited understanding and in our imperfect communication about Islam ( firt of all this includes me as a person ) we invariably end up discussing a lot of trivial and leave out the important. I am not interested in discussing these trivial issues any longer. So if I leave out something please be clear in your mind that I did not think that was important. You and all others are free to do the same!

I do not mind any attack, for then one knows what one is confronted with and can deal with according to one's capacities. Please feel free to attack if you have any issues. I do not mind difference of opinions. Allah has created enough space for us all.

It may be worthwhile to ponder, living in the contemporary world how many identities and personalities have we accumulated and how are we resolving the conflict within and without.

To provide a proof that my thinking is not limited by Islam but on the contrary it has enabled me to think more rationally, creatively and comprehensively, I have taken initiative among several others to develop a world wide network on the issues of habitat through foundng of International Association for Humane Habitat. We have hosted six international conferences on the issues of affordable housing, sustainable development, appropriate technology, innovative architecture, quest for excellence, healing our habitats and now we are preparing to host the 7th ICHH on Enlightening Learning Environment: Education, Research and Practice for Evolving Sustainable Humane Habitats from Jan 29th to 31st, 2005 at Rizvi College of Architecture. We have hosted two international student design competitions on the themes of sustainable urban communities, revitalisation of urban areas and now the third on planning and designing sustainable academic communities. Architects and students from different regions, nationalities and religions take part as equal and contribute to the world wide movement in evolving humane habitat.

As I will be busy with the ICHH conference so I may not be able to respond to the discussion immediately but I shall try my best to contribute and participate in the discussion.

I was puzzled and surprised with your comment on relevance of Islam etc. so I thought I should contribute my response to the same. I have a lot of respect for your thoughts and please do not hesitate to say what you feel and think. I may agree with some of your views and may differ with you on some other views. My relationships are not conditional. I am thankful to ArchNet for providing an opportunity to share my thoughts with a world wide community of architects and interested citizens.

with best wishes and salams,
Akhtar Chauhan
Islamic architecture
Dear Abdul,

You made an interesting observation about classifying architecture.
" However Islamic Architectural terminology has its limits;"

Every terminology must assign limits to terms to specify meaning. There are terms which encompass general and there are terms which focus on specific. Each terminology has a structure. It is upto us to use the terminology to understand the universe and the world we live in.

"gothic, expressionists, japanese architecture may be good examples of architecture but it doesn't mean you classify it as Islamic."

Yes, I agree that there is many good examples in gothic and japanese architecture. I do not classify them as Islamic as alleged but I say that Islamic architectural understanding enables me to appreciate and critically view these and any other architecture. I am stressing the process, i.e. the verb understanding architecture rather than the product, i.e. the noun, as an architecture.

" I would encourage you to open your mind and read books beyond the Islamic realm."

Thanks for your reminder. But then I must inform you that I do read books from different countries, cultures and religions. In fact I have a large collection of books and these have been read by many students and colleagues through Abhivikas Niketan Library that I run from my office and home.

I have been taught my parents and teachers to see all religions as equals and to understand the essence of religions as a singular whole. So instead of limiting my world view by Islam, it has infact open my eyes and my mind, to all people, all religions and all architecture world wide.

Please do understand that being in Mumbai, India does not limit our world view! One does not have to be in the one of the industrially advanced countries in the West to open up the eyes and mind. It can be done in a jungle sitting under a tree with a guru or even in the small hut of a guru in a village. I am really thankful to all the teachers who taught me the fundamental values in various subjects quite early in my life.

The reason why Islam, and therefore its terminology is applicable universally, because it is not limited to a time period ( like Gothic) and a geographical space ( like Japanese) or a school of art like expressionism.

All religions are like languages for universal understanding. Therefore, they have different patterns of thoughts to evolve this wholistic expression. This is its unique design, as in architecture, we need to understand it fully to appreciate it. Let us explore this together, all of us in ArchNet community and our friends.

with best wishes and salams,
Akhtar Chauhan
Islamic architecture
Dear Walaa , please visit our web site ,

ou can find more about Dr. Baki , he is an Islamic Architecture master .. his thoughts about it is realistic & convincing ...

I invite you to have a look on his book ,, In Search of the Roots of Architecture in Islam .
( A Journey )
An Autobiography . The Book deals, through an autobiographical review of Dr. Abdel Baki Ibrahim, his academic career and work in the field of architecture and planning, with the perception of the Islamic approach in modern architecture and its development over time and place. It also explains how his thought was reflected in his projects and work.

I will add his articals & writings during the comming months ...

and you are wellcome to visit our library to view all books and articals ..

Best wishes ,
Arch.Heba A.Fayek .
CPAS web master .
Heba Ahmed Fayek
Islamic architecture
Dear Walaa,

Islamic architecture simply is part of the cultural production of Islamic society, it is an expression of Islamic values and philosophy, through forms, colors, ornaments, light, and so on. Thus, wherever there are Muslims communities, they will express in their architecture, their understanding and practice of Islam. That goes too for any culture by the way. How can we recognize it? How can we experience our religion through architecture? Hundreds of questions will arise.

I started studying Islamic architecture, in fine art faculty 2 years ago, and I advice you to be more specific about which trend are you welling to study. Be more clear about your target and goals.
Mai Hawas
Islamic architecture
NO, There is nO such thing as Islamic architecture, like music is art, and architecture is frozen music. and there is no such thing as Islamic Music .so there is no such thing as Islamic architecture
Zuhair Alam
Islamic architecture
Perhaps there was never an intention to clearly classify things but as humans, we need classification to bring order into our lives. Just as we recognise 'mine' and 'yours', so do we need to be able to identify the more complicated things in life.

Islam is a 'way of life' - surely this fact alone would impact upon design in the sense that because we LIVE Islam, because our very souls are breathing the name of the Almighty, because Islam is a part of us, and anything that is a part of you comes through in your manner, character, personality and these are traits which essentially embody the designer in you, surely then there exists that which we classify as 'Islamic Architecture'

I truly believe the designer can be seen in the design - care to disagree... passionate personalities clashing for the right to call a wall a wall - but what is a wall?

Sarah got me thinking anyway - now i think I may be getting ahead of myself but I strongly believe that design principles form the basis of Islamic Architecture - this explains why structures the world over designed by people from different cultures are different in perspective yet similar in layout. I can see the culture of a designers background having an impact on the design rather than his/her 'muslimness'

South Africa is often refered to as the 'Rainbow Nation' for the variety of its people. Living here, I can tell you that simply by looking at the different structures (eg. mosques) one can see the diversity of the nations designers. But the experience within every mosque is the same, the idea of a space to wash, a space for shoes, a space to pray... too simple?

As for the non-existence of Islamic Architecture using the idea of the non-existence of Islamic Music - I beg to differ... A wise man once wrote;
"A rose by any other name still smells as sweet..."
Spirituality in many communities is heightened through Zikr, Nasheeds, Qawali, etc. Once again culture steps in...

"Whats in a name?
That which we call a rose
By any other name
Would smell as sweet"

Maybe Shakespeare shared my sentiments or rather I share his... :)
Yumna Moosa
Islamic architecture
Dear All,
It is so enlightining and heart warming to read all of your comments. But to find out that we are discussing the exsistance of Islamic Architecture.
I think that it is an easy question to answer. All the Islamic building through the Islamic world say it does. However the Question is, what happened to the Islamic Architecture at the persent period?
This discussion says it does. Why are we all discussing something that doesnot exsist.
I know this looks as simple thinking
or even shallow but beleive me it is not.
Walaa I did a paper on the city of mansura evolution during the Islamic period. I went ot mansura for five days and I found a lot of Islamic buildings there so am sure you saw it yourself. How can you ask such a question now.
Ahmed Sabry
Islamic architecture
Hi all,

Architecture is but a physical manifestation of the respective society. Or in other words a reflection of the surrounding cultures mingled with the constraints of climate and the available building materials.

The world as it was a few centuiries back, was circumscribed by political boundaries which were incidently in most cases also the religious boundaries. That was before the migration and later on globalisation The architecture practised in the region of Islam became Islamic architecture. However, as time passed, the rulers attained a desire to conquer the world and so started migration.

In time, there was a rage of globalization and so the boundaries vanished like nothing and so in present scenario the terms like "Islamic architecure" have been limited to the forms and to the elements of the traditional Islamic structures such as mosques, madarsas, tombs, etc.
Vidhu Saxena
Islamic architecture

You are forgetting one of the biggest factors in establishing the so-called "Islamic identity" and that is Colonialism. As countries in the Muslim world were colonised, the populations began to reject the imposition of the new cultural idiom that was being imposed on their societies by European powers. These societies had to create an alternative, they did this by re-absorbing the "Oriental" view framed by the West and idealising an supposed "Islamic" past. This past was no longer plural, but rather, was monolithic.

Globalisation is pushing the same forces as Colonialism, in that western cultural and scientific hegemony is wiping out different forms of expression and prescribing normative values irregardless of societal traditions, and ethics. This is also why we see such terms today as 'Islamic militants", "Islamic websites", "Islamic clothing".

Anyway, its time for my "Islamic lunch" followed by an 'Islamic nap".
Shiraz Allibhai
Islamic architecture
Shiraz and Vidhu,

....This is also why we see such terms today as 'Islamic militants", "Islamic websites", "Islamic clothing",.... "ISLAMIC ARCHITECTURE"

It could be argued that your lunch can in fact be 'Islamic' and your nap can be 'Islamic' as well but I am not going to get into this right now! I'll spare everyone of this logic/illogic!!!

If the world is slowly becoming one, what culture and religion will define us than? If each respective religion believes it to be the sole truth, will we be able to overcome these obsticals in a globalizing world? Isn't the premise of Archnet to in fact feed this very idea; that we have to assert who we are as a people, Islamic peoples.

Islamic Architecture when typified is to promote the remembrance of God. Just like using local/indigenous materials promote living in harmony with our natural surroundings! If we are to use this premise that architecture is there to promote the remembrance of God, How relevant is this style of architecture in our globalizing, western-lead promethean world? Will God win out?

Best Regards,
Abdul Basit Mukri
Islamic architecture
we can always win.. but only if we change with times.. and accept this change with open hands.
similarly application of so catalagued islamic architecturally forms.. can be tried to be used in more secular and public buildings which will only promote the greatness of islam.. its just like the revitalizing any old heritage structure.. we have to redifine the islamic architecture of the past to be adapted properly in the world of today.
Vidhu Saxena
Islamic architecture
dear walaa,
i live in palestine and i live with the islamic architecture here in palestine. you can't understand the islamic architecture without living with it. i only can help u by giving the name of a doctor in palestine who discovered many islamic arch. rules by him self. his name is Dr. Haitham Ratrout. he also discovered how did muslims plan the dome of the rock (qubbet ilsakhra).search for his theory and u will understand the islamic architecture and its routs.
Ibrahim Karsou
Islamic architecture
Dear Shiraz,

What was the menu for the Islamic Lunch?

While none of us 'joke' about the american mini/midi/maxi/express lunch across the street in a McDonald outlet, we tend to laugh at ourselves enjoying Biryani or Kheer! It is a healty practice!

People world-over go to McDonald to experience the thrill of the american way! Though some critics discuss the adverse health impact of such food habits, but then at that historic moment who cares?

In fact, truly, it is much easier defining by tasting Islamic or American food at lunch or dinner, then defining Islamic or American architecture on web!

Enjoy your nap. It is very good for your health. In fact the industrial civilization almost killed this basic human instinct. Good to know that there are some fortunate persons who can still take a nap in this globalized world! If the rest of the world adopts this practice it will result in lessening of stresses and tension, and a much more relaxed humanity. But then it will require a whole lot of restructuring the economy, society and the habitat.

Interesting discussion. The plot is thickening!


with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Islamic architecture
hi ibrahim
u commented "u have to live in islamic architecture" to experience it..
i respect yur words.. however i feel tha t i can make a point..that architeture in itself cannot be connoted to any religion..although it could be vice-versa.
living in country like India where every religion and culture is interweaved to form beautiful and intermingling social patterns.
for every temple even in deep "ethnic" villages u will find a mosque nearby..
i remember a very interesting incident in which one of the most renownwed "Pundit:the hindu priest" of a city lived just adjoining the idgah..
and even still i could never feel "islamic" or "hindu" architecture..
i am just trying to assert that how can u percieve religion from a building???
please help me
Vidhu Saxena
Islamic architecture

I have been following your conversation and although I am not an architect, and who knows, may be I am miles away from your discussion yet, I am a common mortal that lives in a world built by architects. And therefore, sometimes I hate you and many times I thank that still in this world people with vision exist. So I would like to say what I feel and ask the following:

  • Isn't Islamic architecture, above all, a perfection of proportion and a serene geometry?
  • I mean, in a glimpse, is not the craved wood, the craved ceilings, the tiles or even the technologies or sciences that you see at the very first beginning. It is the emotion you get from it. It is something that has been touched by beauty.
  • When I look at Luis Barragan work, which is not directly related with Islamic architecture, I can feel in his architecture one finds place to meet and be with others, and place to live daily life and place to meditate.
  • When I look at Alvaro Siza's work at the Malagueira, at Evora in Portugal, which is related to town planning and architecture predicated on growth and expansion, where of course influence by History.
  • The low rise configuration and courtyard house type, typically Greco-Roman that were his inspiration, also reminds me somehow of Islamic architecture.
  • When I look at Fernando Caruncho's gardens and house, I can feel Islamic architecture. As I stayed there, in his gardens, I could hear the silence, and therefore, hear myself. Together with his house, they combine poetry, mystery, serenity and happiness.

These three examples make me think that there is Islamic architecture as History has exported to the world. The three of them have in common, the perfection of the proportions.   Light flows into the walls playing games with their geometry giving beautiful shadows. This is magic. There is intimacy and sensuality. I don't believe they were done with expensive materials or many different materials, yet they were the right ones. They surprise me, which is common with Islamic architecture. They provide me with what I need. They release emotion and spirituality.

I also came to another conclusion. Barragan, Siza, or Caruncho have a vision. They know and knew how to look beyond rational? Please allow me to say to you all that are studying and intend to build, please be inspired. Question yourselves before you build. For those that cannot find peace in themselves, we need places where we can throw away the tensions and enjoy the calm. We cannot find it in the outside world of today and some of the modern' and 'chaotic' architecture is not able to give it neither.   Tight your feet to the earth to reach the sky!

Maria De Morais
Islamic architecture
Dear Maria,

Wonderful exploration of architecture at its most sublime. I am delighted to read your posting and the way you can see and experience the common and distinctive aspects of Islamic Architecture in examples of good architecture. It reflects your insight and wisdom in experiencing architecture.

It would be great to have such postings from non-architect ArchNet members. It would broaden the field of reference and experience. It is also refreshing and inspiring!

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Islamic architecture
dear walla
don't forget that islam as a religion spread between different culturals. without changing the core of it... islamic architecture is the same, when u go to an area u could c the traditional style with the islamic spirit if not in the elevationsm in the plan or the (mashrabiyyat)on the windows or the trees in front of the gates or the high windows... all of that was made to make the privacy of the family speacialy the women...
also the materials, in middle east it's not the same in asia or europe or any other else.
Ibrahim Karsou
Islamic architecture
architecture in itself is a ecular practice.. yet it has threaded the whole world transcending social geographical and religional to classify architecture into any religion might b a lil difficult task.. however as of now the light has ben put on the privacy issue.. and use of jaalis and screens for that.. but i think the more bold statement is made by the Onion domes.. and that too with blue tilings..
for they are form the most conspicuous forms with greatest visibility
Vidhu Saxena
Islamic architecture
Dear Walaa,
Islamic Architecture is a part of Islamic Culture. It does exist whenever Mulsims exist. it is a part of their life even if they don't realize that. It is different from other architecture styles for one reason that it is not just architectural style. It is an ideology, life abd beleif translated into forms, and elements. If you go through the history of Islamic architecture, you will realize that Islamic architecture have so many forms, relations, ornaments, etc... Each of which is developed by local communities in their understanding of their believes in accordance with the available tools and technology, whish may differs from one area to another under the Islamic Empire. Some times they are creating and developing these tools and technologies and some times these technologies are imported.
The same situation is repeated these days. Due to the current circumstances and weakness in the Islamic world under the western pressure, local communities are loosing a lot of their cabaplities to create and develop their original products. Though, Islamic architecture is presented is a different way that is mixed with the western (Imported) architecture in some areas. But original works for Islamic architecture are still produced is very limited regions and aspects. You need to search hardly to find them.
I don't belive in such understanding that Islamic architecture is just historical style that is composed of specific forms, elements. these are the translation tools for the important part which is the meaning.

Note that this is a very limited period in the history that will not last forever. It will be recorded as weakness period in the history of Islamic architecture.
Mohamed Gamal
Islamic architecture
hi, all:
this walaa ,i read all your answers for my question and i am very happy that you all answer me ,first i want to make clear for one thing ,the word of mosque is not true ,if you please try to say masjed ,it isn't true to be islamic and say mosque.
this is first ,iam with ibrahim karsou and his opinion. The mean of my question is to know all the most opinion about the isalmic architecture, i am with who say that islamic architectureare exist and will for ever ,if allah wishes,so for that all i want to know why any of you believe that islamic architecture exists ?and what is his reasons for that ?
this is for you Maria,i am happy that a person is not architect and have all this insight and know much about architecture ,so i promise i will take your opinion in all my coming project ,thanks again
And about mansoura ,i know that their are very great buildings in which the islamic archecture is done in it ,so don't take it personal for me ,ahmed sabry,so i know that it is exist and will for ever ,so you know now all my piont of view about isamic architecture and why i ask my question ?!
thanks alot Heba ,really the site is great and i want to thanks you for it ,it really helps more that i expext
i wish you all very happy new year,
Walaa Abdou
Islamic architecture
Dear Professor Akhtar

I thank you very much for your compliments, yet I do think that I have much to learn from you, for many different reasons. I would love to continue the discussion that would certainly lead us to endless questions. As for me, Architecture is a sensitive experience, related to light, perspective, and environment. Space is made to live with. To stroll about. That��s also why I believe that Pompeii has still a lot to teach to the world of today. (I am sure that there are other examples in Asia, yet I do not know them). I also think that when an architect understands the importance of Shadow, then he has understood Architecture and therefore he is able to achieve interesting things.

But today my mind is somewhere else for what I heard on the radio. Babylonia Gardens are destroyed. Once again it confirms how Architecture is related with Politics, as Education depends on Politics. Beyond what happened, what I am trying to understand is the so many times copied western model of skyscrapers. In a scale, what percentage has lack of space in the city and what percentage has the demand of the population who tends to assimilate that type of way of life to a wealthy life? If traditional architecture, the way many people lived it, was not synonymous of unhealthy, poverty, but a cultural heritage could it be different?
Although I chose to live in Paris, I am Portuguese, and I could see the transformation of that country. The respect of the habit are in the south was kept during a certain period of time mainly due to a will of the left wing chairmen. Respect of the landscape. The north had another political view. Different because of many things, it is chaotic. One can find next to the old houses in old towns, a chalet like in Switzerland as its owner has immigrated there and for him this was the must, or houses with gates like the in Napoleon��s residence of Fontainebleau!

And this is one of the reasons why I think that since the very first moment we go to school, we should be sensitized to Philosophy and Architecture. As we need both to live in this world.
And also because I live in Paris, I can wonder and ask you so many questions as I am not confronted to the problems you have in a country with a big population like yours but still from whom, I believe, we have plenty to learn from. Between you and me, there is a McDonald a few meters across the street where I live. And since he was born, my son who is eleven, has only eaten may be ten times in his life a mini-maxi or whatever. But guess what I am trying to slow down? His consumption of byriani!
Not everything is lost in the world.

Warm regards,

Maria de Morais

16 January
Maria De Morais
Islamic architecture
Dear Maria,

Yes, it is wonderful feeling to experience architecture at its most sublime and share this understanding with each other. Living in different parts of the world we can share a lot more about variety and diversity and enlighten ourselves about architecture and culture of different regions and peoples. ArchNet provides us with a very stimulating platform to share the experience and understanding.

Every day, we are loosing out, part by part, a lot of heritage in the name of development. I am shocked to hear about the destruction of Babylonian hanging gardens. It used to be one of the most interesting topic in history of architecture during our studies and I used to love sketching it in my sketchbook and notebooks. Perhaps, the destruction is due to the prevailing conflict in the region where architecture is the last priority. I have been in Iraq during 1980--85. We have designed and built a township there and I have met many Iraqi citizens who loved peace, harmony and craved for development. Instead they have been subjected to uninterrupted war and destruction. We can pray and hope that the war ends soon enough so that real rebuilding of Iraq starts from within by the Iraqi people themselves. May be then they will rebuilt the hanging garden, just as the Polish people rebuilt their old towncentre of Warsaw, brick by brick and block by block.

Yes, we in India have a very different cultural and social context. With huge population we have immense problems of scale in whatever we do. Yet, we have rich variety and we love this diversity and plurality. The democratic goverance with its stregth and weaknesses enables each one of us to evolve in own way and yet we have something distinctive that we call it Indian! Over the years it has been increasingly difficult to define what is Indian Architecture! In fact it is more difficult to define it than Islamic Architecture for its inherent complexity and diversity. We have been able to conserve the rich heritage of architecture of different periods, primarily due to the timeless way they have been built to withstand centuries of use and abuse. We have monuments like the old forts across the country, Taj Mahal, Kutub Minar, Sun Temple, Buddhist Caves of Ajanta and Ellora, Stupas and Viharas, Jain Temple complexes and temple city of Palitana and Shetrunjay, Fatehpur Sikri,and the holy places like Varanasi, Nashik and Amritsar. But most interestingly we have conserved a rich variety of rural architecture and architecture of small towns in our country that reflects the spirit of India. This is being eroded gradually but surely with the influence of urban architecture of the metropolises and industrialisation. More and more glass boxes clad with aluminum are coming up all across the country. A new layer of an alien language of architecture is being superimposed on the architectural heritage, just as in many a Islamic country. So the question arises in the minds of friends like Walaa Abdou, about its existance and relevance. We need to continue to debate and discuss the issues involved. Thanks for your refreshing posting.

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Islamic architecture
Dear Professor Akthar

Yes, I came across Arch Net, looking for some information, and then well I just took time to look at it and read some of the topics and see the portfolios and books etc etc.

Yes I understood Walla s question and that is why I gave some examples of things happening in Portugal, but I could give the same examples everywhere in the world. I know that many people just want to live in buildings with aluminum windows. And that is why I talked about culture, about learning Architecture from the very beginnings of school days and to understand Cultural Heritage. But when Cultural Heritage has a relation even a small relation with poverty habitare who cares?
To mention again Portugal, the city of Porto, its downtown, which is classified by Unesco, is empty. There is no life. To the eyes of many, a XIX century building with wooden chestnut floors with blown glass windows and tiles or sculpture details is worth nothing comparatively to a new building with aluminum windows, with two lifts and a parking place for at least two cars.
What is the use of a building if you cannot bring your car under your bed?

About this, F. Coustols (do not know if you heard about him and the lime mortar ��Cal Fradical-the ancient Vitruve s lime mortar, he also received the RICS Award for Urban Regeneration) once told me that he has been proposing to French government for several years already and I will continue until it will be accepted a law that in each new built building for each parking places the same area of garden should be taken in consideration and obliged to be part of the builders program. Otherwise there will not be delivered permission of building. (He keeps on��)

I also noticed that when I mentioned Barragan or Caruncho, well it is true, they have worked for people with a different knowledge, but not Siza, the planning was for the city.

I was writing about Fernando Caruncho s work. At a certain moment I began to wonder whether I should explain the readers (and would they care to know) that the whole work of Caruncho, which is based on his studies of Philosophy, is a work about the Being, the inner self? How to make the readers understand that the sensation Lysander felt when entering Cyrus garden in Sardis, was not only a pure wonder, but a transformation of his being as he stepped in, inch by inch?
As when walking in a garden, not only we walk in a bright luminous space of life and positive energy but also we walk inside us?

I guess some readers will understand and others will not. Some will always see an error in a caption and some will see beyond. And I hope some will think about.
Those questions I asked myself more or less about Islamic Architecture

As for me Islamic Architecture had that strength too.

Of course there are still many others like ��what will be Islamic Architecture of tomorrow, are occidentals exploring the principles of Islamic Architecture in their homes while Islamic countries tend to incorporate occidental ones in their designs?

Was there a relation between Islamic Architecture and Tenochtitlan Aztec, in the principles of house buildings, as their houses had the same courtyard and green gardens? Or was this a common principle of spirituality in Ancient times only?

And there will be a lot of questions about Landscape-Gardens, these marvelous places that connect men to the world

But mainly tell me what do you think about: What are the chances of Man, in a world in which He is getting more and more disconnected with the four elements of Nature, Earth, Wind, Water and Fire?

Enjoy your ICHH

Maria de Morais, January 27, 2005
Maria De Morais
Islamic architecture
Dear Mario De Morais and Professor Akhtar Chauhan,
I have been following your discussion with a deep interest and enthusiasm. My research interests overlap with your work which is religion, psychology, and urban design/architecture. Can you please suggest a reading list of books on Islamic Architecture...What makes it Islamic? Universal? Beautiful? Books on other topics will be appreciated. Thanks and please continue your discussions. Next time I will contribute my own piece...
Samir Mahmoud
Islamic architecture
Dear Samir :

I would suggest reading “Architecture of the Islamic World”, (George Michell) and Islamic Architecture by John D Hoag. The introduction by Ernst J. Grube in the former publication enlightens both scholars and common men on the fundamental issues discussed earlier. Though you may find these books very basic and fundamental, they cover almost all the building types from Spain in North Africa to Indonesia in the Far East.

ArchNet has immense resources too in their digital library that can be down loaded. They are methodically characterized and therefore easy to identify areas of your particular interest. I am unaware of your specific interests and what you have already read and explored in this vast and diverse field of “Architecture in the Muslim World.”

Cheers !
Mohammed Faisal.
Faisal Mohammed
Islamic architecture
Dear Mohammed Faisal,
I will borrow the books you recommended thanks for your interest in Islamic Architecture is not as an architect, which I am not, but as a student of the city and urban design....more profoundly even my interest is in how Islamic Architecture reflects the cosmological view of interest in architecture is theoretical and philosophical more than practical....I for one am appalled by the disarray the discipline is in these days��..I have found most architects myopic in their view of the world and the built environment����my majors in sociology, philosophy, politics, and anthropology have given me an outsider��s view of the discipline��..which I must say is quite refreshing����..any suggestions on some further books will be really appreciated��..thanks once again��..
Samir Mahmoud
Islamic architecture
Dear Samir:

Thank you for writing me the text. Its good to interact with someone of a different profession having interests in Islamic Architecture. I guess, we architects and urban designers have similar ways of looking at things. Its really fascinating to see how a Sociologist or an Anthropologist looks at Urban Form and Space.

Try reading the elusive book, Sense of Unity (Ardalan Nader/Laila Bakhtiar). I am sure you will find it interesting and informative. Symbols and Signs in Islamic Architecture (Oleg Graber) is also an excellent paper which can be downloaded from Archnet’s digital library.

Mohammed Faisal.
Faisal Mohammed
Islamic architecture
Dear Samir,

thank you for your posting. Yet, may I remind you that the teacher is Professor Akhtar. Only he can recommend you books.
However, I think you will find a wide and very good selection through Arch net Digital Library
But I do think that Professor Akhtar s knowledge does not come from books only. I am sure he will tell you.

About the myopic view of the world of Architects, let us say that some forgot that Architecture was the most concrete and convincing expression to create eternal Beauty, which can be molded in different ways, and different styles, as the world is made of different people.

But how can you create Beauty? Or what makes you say that what you have created is Beauty?

Well since our conversation has some interest to you, let us wait for Professor Akhtar

Maria de Morais, 31 January 2005
Maria De Morais
Islamic architecture
first of all, pardon my english.

yes there are islamic architecture!
islamic architecture, i think, is tauhid; modesty, onesty, truth, and the omportance of afterlife (or in my sayings; akhirat).
remember that the mosque and the house of Muhammad SAW is like all of that.
don't be fooled by materials of the world.
"La taqumu al-sa'ah hatta yatabahannasu bil masajid" muhammad says.
"Alhakum at-takatsur hatta zurtumu al-maqobir"(at-Takatsur:1-2)

this is i think of islamic architecture. and only islamic heart can built this kind. Allah will give the road to the highest of islam in His way. and it is in all aspect of life. not only architecture.
Farid Nazaruddin
Islamic architecture

I do not mean to offense anyone, however I honestly have doubts about the validity of the term "Islamic Architecture". Reading the postings, I realized that you were unable to agree on even what "architecture" means let alone "Islamic". I do not think we can talk of an Islamic architecture. And here is why: The word "Islamic" is too general and vague. Categorizations are supposed to help us understand complicated issues, not become a black hole that will swallow us. If we use the term "Islamic Architecture" we are being unfair to several non-Muslim craftsman who actually designed and built some of these structures. Especially in Ottoman Empire it was a common practice to hire non-Muslims particularly Armenians, and Greeks.

There is not enough commonality between the various architectures of the then Islamic societies. For example, Turkish and Mughal Islamic architectures. Culture is dominant over religion in terms of forming the language of architecture. There are differences -and these are not subtle differences- between the interpretation of Islam in Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, or anywhere else. Societies cannot change over night just because they convert to a different religion. Turk will continue to weave kilim, have multi functional spaces, respect elders, choose collectivism over individualism, ride horses, drink tea several times a day, etc. Culture is powerful. There always has been a resistance to change.

Moreover, locale is even more powerful than religion. The climate, available local building materials are quite different in India and Turkey. Remember, the architectural practice was unlike what it is today. It was not always possible to use a material from the other end of the world as we do today (Utilizing Italian marble in a building in US, using African granite in Turkey, as we do now)
Also, the term "Islamic Architecture" is not fair to religious minorities. For example, think about the Christian Arabs. Who can advocate that they contributed less for the development of the Arab house than the Muslim Arab? They are part of that society and should not be eliminated. Overall, the term "Islamic Architecture" excludes and marginalizes.

The other interesting point is the lack of that term in Turkish for example. The words obviously exist. But it is almost never used in literature. There is "Islamic Arts" however. For architecture, it is "Ottoman architecture" or Seljuk, or Republic, Arab, Indian, and Mughal. I wonder if this is true for other languages. "Islamic Architecture" as a term and categorization is an invention of the West. And I do not want to accept it as dictated.
Gulen Ozden
Islamic architecture
I am sorry to regurgitate this topic again. I was hoping that it would remain dead and buried, however, yesterday while browsing the Internet, as I am apt to do when sleep is elusive, I came across an article that articulates the problems and dangers posed by the collapsing of pluralities into a singular identity. The article entitled, "What Clash of Civilizations" was written by Amartya Sen, Lamont University Professor at Harvard University and the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics. The article is featured online at
Shiraz Allibhai
Islamic architecture
I am sorry to regurgitate this topic again. I was hoping that it would remain dead and buried, however, yesterday while browsing the Internet, as I am apt to do when sleep is elusive, I came across an article that articulates the problems and dangers posed by the collapsing of pluralities into a singular identity. The article entitled, "What Clash of Civilizations" was written by Amartya Sen, Lamont University Professor at Harvard University and the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics. The article is featured online at

The article, while not addressing the question of Islamic architecture, does tackle the idea of the considering the world in groupings based strictly on religious identities. It does, I believe have great bearing on this topic and similar postings in the ArchNet Discussion Forum on the concept of "Islamic architecture"

Shiraz Allibhai
Islamic architecture
Shiraz, If I may address one of your postings in this topic on January 10th.

I agree with you, there is a tendency within European thought structures and systems to "monolithize" (my new word) culture and Globalisation is the ultimate ideal of monolithization.

This is why I (not always gently) push for a return to the use of the word culture when speaking about countries and peoples. The term "society" which has replaced the word culture, does not mean the same because it is an abstract and not a concrete idea.

The built-in implication with the use of "society" is that it represents the ideal universal form of human culture.
This is dangerous because it turns every culture into "pretty prettyness" as "pretty meaningless wallpaper".

Pretty soon (joke) the world will have a universally uniform global society based on this monolithizing "ideal".

For myself humanity is only here today because of diversity and difference. An example of difference is the way the existence of clocks monolithises time. Before accurate clocks, dawn was the start of the day and dusk was the end of the day. Whereas after clocks and in particular after radio and TV everyones' day in a country starts and ends at the "monolithically same time" with no reference to dawn or dusk.

Maybe this automatically monolithizing abstractive tendency in European thought structures is because the European Christian Calendar is fixed to daytime and to fixed dates. Every year is divided into 12 months, etc. Whereas, the Islamic Calendar is moon orientated (13 moons per year) and so Holy Days are not fixed to day dates.
Frank John Snelling
Islamic architecture
What a question. Who has an answer? I don't, but i have some ideas. I find Mukri's comments true. As a terminology, Islamic architecture is as complex and as easy as Islam itself.

That is why we find it difficult to fix it within one school or style, as, for example, Gothic architecture. Yet Islamic architecture is as real as humankind himself.

I believe that the richness of Islamic architecture comes from geography. It is the mother of Islamic architecture; each geographic region of the Islamic world has contributed strongly to the mainstream of Islamic architecture. This is the source of diversity in Islamic architecture that was in the past.

Today I find Islamic architeture as rich, controversial, and as promising as modern architecture. In fact I find the two to be twins. Modern architecture and iIslamic architecture are similar in many ways. They are full of ideas, they are international, they are cross cultural, they are full of pleasant surprises.

This should not come as a surprise. Islam once was a superpower, and its architecture came to reflect that status. I think that Islamic architeture can provide new enlightment for today's architecture,be a house, a skyscaper, a civic centre, a housing complex, you name it.

The fact that Muslims do not get the right education and right political, social and economic systems [means that] their architeture will suffer. When Muslims - as Mukri stated - appreciate their own architeture, it will then flourish, hopefully.
Hani Alqahtani
Islamic architecture
Dear friends,

I am really happy to note that this thread started by Walaa Abdou is kept alive by so many responses by friends from all over the world.

Just a few comments. Hani Alqahtani refers to Islam as a has been superpower. I would like to submit that Islam is a superpower by the virtue of its inner strength and beauty. Muslim sultanates and empires may have come and gone, but the power of Islam is not diminished. It is like an eternal flame that shows the simple and straight path to humankind for all time.

As Mukri has said so often in so many words, and I quite agree with his views, Muslims need to focus their energies on learning and educating themselves, it is their important duty. We need to contribute to the sustainable development and spiritual enrichment of humankind through our creative ideas, constructive activities and spiritual quest.

While we debate these issues, there are reports, predictions and prophesies about imminent wars and destructions, great Islamic cities are in danger of destruction. There is still time for us to use wisdom, to sit together and to resolve the issues. Innocent children, women and men are dying in many a city and region, their homes, farms, workplaces, neighbourhoods and cities are being destroyed and we are watching helplessly, almost.

The world can still be saved from a looming global economic and political crisis through a vision guided by Islam's message for peace, harmony and unity of humankind, these are the pre-requisites for any architecture to be conserved, developed and evolved.

So I request you all to reach out to your family, friends, neighbours, communites, country and world-wide family that humanity is, to spread the message that Islam stands for peace, harmony and unity of humankind, and show your concern at the local and regional levels as much as we do on the wolrd wide web through your creative abilities as architects, students and educators. Islamic architecture can be understood as an on -going quest for excellence and perfection in reaching out to the poorest of the poor on one side and showing concern for the humanity on the other, guided by the eternal message of Islam.

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Islamic architecture
I would like to ask a question to the experts out there.

How can I understand the architectural forms that Islam adopted from other cultures and how Islam in turn changed them?

Are there any references or studies on this issue?

I want to understand and demonstrate the borrowings of Islamic architecture and how it then in turn modified other architectural styles in India, Europe, etc...
Samir Mahmoud
Islamic architecture
Islamic architecture
I do think that Islamic architecture needs a definition in which we can all assume that we are working within a boundary or maybe out of it(an individual boundary), our understanding to Islamic architecture is the first step, but which understanding are we ambitioning? Getting a conclusion of a hidden myth(s) which reflects the beyond meaning, that are fulfilled through Islamic design, searching for symbols that are written architecturally would help to develop new architectural translation(s) ,in away that would lead us to construct new symbols and try to translate them again within or without the boundary ,with knowledge of symbols we can invert them and mold them in many different ways, since Islamic architecture is not a stylistic architecture the martial translation of the architectural symbols shouldn�t be a stereotypical Islamic architectural product, it can be expressed in any frame .
Fayez Sharabaty
Islamic architecture
"Back to the future" Is there an islamic Architecture?
My friend.
You have some hypotheses to test first: 1-Is there an Islamic Architecture?.2- Which Islamic values in time and geographic location you want to focus on/apply?
For me:
1-Architecture is : space, envelope, organization, and interaction. Its element is easy to analyze in term of time and geographic location. For example if I see a Doric column, immediately I can say it is a 2000 B.C Greek Architecture. (Regardless of the time and geographical location of the place I have seen the column.)
2- a) Islam has started with the massage of prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H) and will last till the end of the world.
b) It started from Makkah and spread all over the world (geographically expanded, and shrinked through history)
c) Its follower is living in Islamic and Non Islamic Countries.
d) Its follower sometime close to its teachings, and other times little bit away.
3- Can the dynamic (Islamic) be attached to Static (Architecture)?.
a)If we say yes it means that the Islamic architecture is the dome and the arch founded in India in the 17th century, or in Egypt in the 11 th centy, .
b)If you say no it means there is no Islamic Architecture. There is Indian Architecture, or Egyptian Architecture but it not Islamic Architecture.
In summery Islamic is very dynamic in time, location, and application. Architecture is static in one location in specific time, therefore well defined (space, envelop, organization, and interaction).
In order to attach dynamic to static, we have to specify a geographic location (i.e. India, Iraq, China, etc., and specify a time frame (i.e. 1st century, 11th century, 20 th century etc.)
I strongly support the argument: Yes there is Islamic Architecture. It can be studied if we specify the time and the geographic location( i.e. THE ISLAMIC ARCHITECTURE IN EGYPT DURING THE 19 TH CENTURY). This architecture, similar to Moslems themselves, might be of a direct application of Islamic believes ( i.e. faithful Islamic Architecture) or distanced from the application of the Islamic believes (i.e. not fithful or FASEQ Islamic Architecture).
Again this is just an opinion ( or hypotheses) that need to be researched.
Thanks for introducing a very long lasting question (IS THERE AN ISLAMIC ARCHITECTURE).
Fahad Said


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