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ArchNet
 
ArchNet and Islamic Architecture
Hello all,

Archnet's primary interest is Islamic architecture in particular and architecture in general. I was wondering how this affects members who are not necessarily interested in Islamic architecture. Do you find that the site is not pluralistic enough and to one-sidedly Islamic?, Do you think that Archnet should broaden their perspective?, or more importantly have you learned anything from Islamic architecture? Your input is just as valuable as those concerned with Islamic architecture. Let me know your thoughts, opinions and insights.

Best regards,
Abdul Basit Mukri
Responses
 
ArchNet and Islamic Architecture
In fact, architecture is the mother of all the arts. All religions came latter and religious buildings became a vehicle in culture to pronounce superiority. I would have loved ArchNet without the religious enclosure.
Dushyant Nathwani
ArchNet and Islamic Architecture
Abdul- I would argue that a site on the specific topic of architecture in the Muslim world is exaclty what is needed. There exists hundreds of sites, countless journals, and publications on architecture in general. This usually means architecture in Europe, America, or Japan. The entire Islamic world with its rich contributions to the arts and architecture has been completely marginalised from architectural discourse. How many critical journals of architecture related to the Muslim world can you name? Our broad membership from non-Muslim countries tells me that the issues facing architecture, cities, and the environment are similar everywhere. Take this with a grain of salt as I administer ArchNet. But I truly believe that the Muslim world needs its own voice(s) in order to be heard. Opposed to what Dushyant has said, there is no religion on this site. It is about architecture. If a member wanted to start a discussion on Frank Gehry, they are free to do so. If an educator wanted to create a Group Workspace to teach a class on Gothic architecture, they are free to do so. Let me state again, that ArchNet is a site for Architecture, but with a special focus on, but not limited to Muslim societies.
Shiraz Allibhai
ArchNet and Islamic Architecture
Prefix Islamic does segregate religiously. Well I have come across many such platforms in the world. In the introduction of the portal it is clearly mantioned as Islamic, it is sectorial.
Dushyant Nathwani
ArchNet and Islamic Architecture
Dushyant, the term Islamic in the case of ArchNet does not segregate by religion but is used to emphasise the history and geographic spread of Muslim civilisations. Perhaps the term 'Islamicate' would be more appropriate. The term comes from Marshall Hodgson, historian, who defined Islamicate as something that "...would refer not directly to the religion, Islam, itself, but to the social and cultural complex historically associated with Islam and the Muslims, both among Muslims themselves and even when found among non-Muslims."(Venture of Islam, v. 1, p. 59).

I am very fond of this usage as it castrates the monolithic normative Islam into a plural, open Islam, which one can now discuss as part of world history. The aim of ArchNet is not to marginalise, but to engage.
Shiraz Allibhai
ArchNet and Islamic Architecture
The reality of Islam is that it deals with all aspects of life, architecture as well. It is only Muslims that define Archtecture with a religious prefix. To get Islamic Architecture away from its religious understanding, another term should be used. In the meanwhile Islamic Architecture will always be islamicated.

Archnet doesn't define modern expressions of architecture in the Muslim World as Islamic. When discussing Islamic Architecture we are discussing the architecture of Islamic yesteryears/glory days. As you may or may not know that Islam deals with all aspects of life, secular and spiritual domains which include architecture. The latter sultans of yesteryears proclaimed their allegiance to Allah and were given leadership roles for Islamic ideological reasons only. The Islamic empire was distinguished by its unifying political/spiritual structure(God's Law is mans law- atleast ideally).The idea of Nationhood and countries is something new and foreign to Islam. A Muslim in those days were able to travel from the present Morrocco to the present China, without the hassle of going through country borders, it was one big Muslim country, if you like. That is why when we speak about architecture of the Muslim world we refer to it in a unifying term such as Islamic.

Islam makes no distinction between an Indonesian,Moroccan,French,Indian Muslim. Although each communtiy has their complexities, it is unified under the banner of Islam. Look at the experience of Hajj per instance.Or how about Muslim country flags, Islam the religion is its proclamation. Islam has a unifying nature and this applies to both religious and secular planes. Islam deals with everything you name it - Architecture as well.

Archnets main purpous is the preservation of historical Islamic architecture and to define new architecture in the Muslim world. If new architecture is minimalism, Muslims want too practice it and define it into something new. Architecture is an ever evolving form and has many different forms. Archnet wants to define it in the context of the Muslim world and since developing countries are in a similar situation, we are trying and learning from their input as well.

More impotantly what have you learned from ArchNet?
Abdul Basit Mukri
ArchNet and Islamic Architecture
Abdul- I am not sure that Islam deals with architecture. "Islam doesn't speak. Muslims do" (Hussein ibn Rashid). I am also not sure that Muslims defined architecture through a religious lens. The architects of the past were certainly inspired by the Word and Revelation, but they were creating architecture. It is the historians that wanted to categorise and box this collection into a tightly knit unit, thereby removing all cultural expressions from the design equation.

I also beg to differ. The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard and MIT deals with both the historic and contemporary architectural expressions of Muslim societies. See my post on the word 'Islamicate'. It is a much better word. The word Islamic has been used and misused for centuries. You seem to have misunderstood the definition of 'Islamicate".
Shiraz Allibhai
ArchNet and Islamic Architecture
Dear friends,

In the name of pluralism, one can not negate one's own identity. Each initiative such as ArchNet has its own identity. It is expressed in terms of its aims, objects and concerns. Today, one can choose a site depending on one's own interest and move on! ArchNet has provided an open forum on which there are some issues related to Islamic Architecture which are debated. There are several other issues which are discussed with an open mind by the discussants. This is perhaps one of the most plurastic site that I have known.

Each ideology, philosophy or religion will have its own vision in its own context. It enables one to explore the expanse from a framework which is evolved from the core concepts of the given ideology, philosophy or religion.

A humble believer submits to the will of God Almighty and has faith that truth shall prevail. There are arrogant non-believers who may not like to submit to the will of God, well, they are free to pursue their own path.

It has been said very clearly, do not use force, let them follow their own way and let us follow our own! Thank God that we have ArchNet to discuss these issues without any fear in an open manner and with a sense of equality.

We are debating the issues to enhance our understanding of the issue and not to score individual points against one another. Each one of us has an identity and we should respect each other for what we are as equal.

It is immaterial whether one is an educator or one is a practitioner, or for that mattar one is idealist or the other is a pragmatist. We all are humans and part of a civil society with rich heritage. We all are interested in human and social development and relate the issues in an architectural context.
So let us relax, and let us continue the debate freely, fearlessly and faithfully!

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
ArchNet and Islamic Architecture
Hi Akhtar,

Glad you could join in. Always happy to see you in the Forum. I am sorry if I gave the impression that I was not relaxed. I am enjoying some of these topics and as usual am learning a great deal. I hope that I am not trying to 'score points'. I am just aiming to further the discussion. I am grateful for your post and sorry for your recent loss.

What are your thoughts on Hodgsons term 'Islamicate'?
Shiraz Allibhai
ArchNet and Islamic Architecture
Shiraz,

The basis of my argument is that if you want to describe an architecture as Islamic, you will always get it mixed up with religiuos ideology. 'Islamic' defines many things besides architecture. If the desired affect is to get away from religious ideologies than use a different term ie. Wahi Architecture, Beautiful Architecture, or just plain Architecture, anything but 'Islamic' Architecture. The same difficulties that occur with the word 'Islamic' in architecture will also happen when used with 'Islamicate'. If you want to get away from Islam as religion when discussing architecture, one must remove the word 'islam' in the terms used.

I am aware what 'islamicate' means but I don't prefer to use it. It sounds to much like complicate, which complicates the issue of describing/referring to 'Islamic' Architecture. I have heard that the word has not quite caught on.

"...The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard and MIT deals with both the historic and contemporary architectural expressions of Muslim societies."

I do not disagree.

Take Care,
Abdul Basit Mukri
ArchNet and Islamic Architecture
Akhtar Bhai,

"...We all are humans and part of a civil society with rich heritage...."

I don't know how civil a country like Pakistan, India are, or for that fact, a France, Germany or America, and lets not disclude, Russia and China. What does it exactly mean to be 'civil'?

Answer for the sake of understanding things better.

Shiraz,

"Islam doesn't speak. Muslims do" (Hussein ibn Rashid).

Let me quote something different.

"By the way, I think Prophet Muhammad would have embraced this distinction between the real and the ideal. He was reportedly asked, "What is religion?" And he reportedly replied, "Religion is the way we conduct ourselves toward others." By that distinction, how we Muslims behave -- not in theory, but in reality -- is Islam." www.muslim-refusenik.com

Sidenote:Let me know if my participation is too pro-active. I understand you guys work, I do as well(Craftsman/woodworker). I just get enthused on meaningful issues. If it is too much, I understand. I would rather the discussion continue than someone drop out of it because it becomes too much.

Lets not digress, this question is aimed at members who don't have Muslim names. This is your opportunity to speak, so scream if you have to and get your points across. We are all friends here.

Best Regards,
Abdul Basit Mukri
ArchNet and Islamic Architecture
Dear Abdul,

The perfect civil society like any other ideal societal construct is an abstraction. Well, the ancient civilization were founded with the idea of some basic civil value. These were transmitted to other parts of the world which learned about the need for being civil or culutured. In years to come some of these new cultures developed at a faster rate some became more civil too. India and Pakistan share common roots of civilization. While the governance may leave a lot to be desired, the civility that prevails among the citizens is the key to their culture. Yes, we need a lot of reforms, restructuring and may be revolutionary changes in many of our sectors of governance and societal management. At the same time I am aware about the rich heritage of core civil values that prevail among citizens. Islam like any other religion preaches civil values in so many different forms. The core values of these ancient cultures reflect these religious concepts and practices. It is these deep roots of civil culture that interests me. I am glad that we have many advanced nations where they have achieved high standard of civility but I wonder why they are so insecure that they find it difficult to allow simple practices such as covering heads in French schools or sporting a beard or travelling with a muslim surname on an airline. The real test of civility is, as you have rightly pointed out, in our behaviour with others, particularly those who are poor, underprivileged or helpless. One of the key illustration is the treatment of prisoners or enemies in a state of war. Many a reputations have found a place in the dustbin of history when one evaluates on the critical scale of history. There is a need therefore to be humble and reverential, to the reality of highest spiritual force, in order to become human and civil. No religion has prohibited progress of the society, in fact, they always promoted it through their faith systems and encouragement to the good thought, good deeds and good behaviour. Islam is not an exception it shares these common concerns of civility with other faiths.

with best wishes,
Akhtar Chauhan
ArchNet and Islamic Architecture
Old wine, new bottle!!
This is Deja vu for me!

A continuation of the wonderful debate on Islamic architecture that we had last year.

Is it possible for ArchNet to put forward its own definition of Islamic Architeture as the term is used in the title of this portal.

Shiraz, do you guys have a mission statement or a description of this site where the objectives and definitions are given? If it says 'promotion of Islamic architecture' or something of the sort, then what exactly does it encompass? A formal description, as understood by ArchNet could be a starting point of this discussion!

My regards, Professor Akhtar and once again, please accept my condolences on your irreplacable loss.

Regards,
Hammad Husain
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