Islamic Architecture – part 3

Islamic Architecture - part 3

Islamic Architecture – part 3

Adopted from a lecture by Mr. Raefipour- a religious scholar and researcher.

 March, 2016.

part 1

part 2


The impact of architecture on the society and ethics

There were two short platforms in front of the main entrance of a house in old Iranian houses named “made for the elders”. When you opened the door of your house, you would see your neighbor or a passerby had sat on the platform. “Hello there, Are you fine?” – “Thanks”. “Sorry, Can I sit here for a short time?” – “Certainly, don’t mention it”. This style of architecture and developing cities makes you have interactions with the outside world. Nowadays, privacy has been lifted and consequently ethics has faded away. I saw a man one day telling me that his wife had betrayed him and I asked him why he said such a thing. “What has happened?” he answered that his wife had seen the neighbor in the elevator and this had happened for some time and they started to have relations with each other. The apartments are built very small. 45-meter apartments are very small for couples with children. This type of architecture has removed privacy.

These days, they have concluded that highways should be destroyed. They wish there weren’t highways. They say if they could travel around without using highways, it would be much better. While shopping, everyone has to see around him and this way they start to know their environment better. When they have a better understanding of their environment and people, the rate of crimes such as suicide will decrease and it helps develop the environment.

All our social interactions in the society is actually without contact. The only connection is through your own touch phone. Laugh or cry in this virtual reality. Become happy or surprised there and live there. This is your only window, the window which they have defined for you.

Modernists devised new physical fitness standards. They set a western human as their basis. For example, the height should be this size and the width of tables should be that size. They came up with definite and standard sizes and set them for everyone and asked others to conform to them. Why should windows be big in new modern European architecture? Because the sun shines less in Europe. And some stupid architects in hot and dry countries install big windows which make the house quite hot in summer and make it very hard to warm up the house in the winter.

We really need to get back to ourselves in architecture since every architecture theory has been discarded in the last one hundred years. This is the result of blindly following the west, they themselves have to destroy something and so do we. They want to stop building highways in Europe or after the demise of Modern Architecture in Saint Louis they passed a law that houses should be made as in one unit. Now, you can see in their movies that houses are built equally the same in appearance in one street. One unit houses with yards in which boxwood trees would form boundaries for houses.

The effect of architecture on lifestyle

The influence of architecture in lifestyle is also obvious. For instance, when you want to realize how some tribes lived according to archeology, you study the style of their houses, life and architecture. You understand how they lived by their houses! By considering their chapels you realize how they worshipped, and you figure out about their health by studying their bathhouses. Architecture shows us the lifestyle, architecture influences your lifestyle.

For example, the construction of megamalls[1] in the Easter countries propagate the Western lifestyle. You go into the parking area with your car, you park your car there, you get into elevators and you go shopping then you get back to your car and you directly head home. When you park your car in the parking of your house you go to your room and this way you don’t get to know your next door neighbors. You don’t know the salespeople in your neighborhood and you see your neighbor nowhere. Some of these megamalls belong to Israelis, they belong to Zionists. Open kitchens broke the privacy, and they go ahead and make other rooms as open ones: an open room, open bathroom and open toilets!




Nowadays, in some luxurious houses, a glass bathroom is built in the corner of a room, if they want to keep a bit of privacy they use blurred glass. But it completely reflects the silhouette of a body… then what happens to a kid who grows up in this house? See, what they are doing to us. Search on the number of binoculars sold in the western countries. Some people are into sitting down and watching other people’s nudity and the privacy-less of today’s architecture paves the way for them. Modernity or rudeness? That’s the question.

However, the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) says: “Among the rights of your neighbor is that you don’t build your house higher that his.” (Nahj-al Fesaha, p.291). You see how privacy is observed this way.

Imam Sadiq (PBUH) also says: “A faithful is comfortable having three things: one of them is having a big house in which his private times are hidden from others and keeps his privacy.” (Usul al-Kafi, v. 5, p.327, the sixth narration).

These days, they have gone so far in breaking privacy that in Times Square in New York you find completely naked women who take a photo with you for 10-20 dollars. A tourist feels proud to have taken photos with such women. The sexual affairs which should be private have been open to public. What will the result be? They get used to seeing group sexual relations. When it becomes popular, the media help them popularize it even more and ultimately such a person will not search for a partner, they resemble pigs. What’s wrong with pigs? A male pig mates with its female mate and another pig looks at them and this stimulates the animal and it goes mating itself.

It was mentioned in conditioning that sexual stimulation is very influential on humans. Whatever one sees or smells or whatever visage they see or whatever music they listen to, they become conditioned. If a person watches a clip on sexual relations he becomes accustomed to watching two other people’s sexual relations. The problematic idea behind such thoughts come up with the same mentality through architecture, cinema or whatever other domain. Using different medium they get the person to the same result.  What will the result be?  Piggish characteristics propagate. Like, forming lives on the basis of misleading gnostic trends such as Osho. There is a city named Osho where everyone who feels to have fallen in love with someone can have sexual relations with them and if they have children, those children would be parentless. They are left in kindergartens to be fostered. It means the bond between a mother and child should be removed, everything, a family should not exist.

Islamic architecture, the society and ethics

There have been many books written on Islamic architecture many of which unfortunately have serious shortcomings. Because, some of the writers do not know Islam well. They restrict Islamic architecture to an arch or an arabesque and then come up with wrong interpretations. For instance, it is written in a book on Islamic architecture that there is no mention about urbanization in the Quran! While words such as country, village, nation are used in the Holy Quran, or the word “اَمصارُکُم” which means your cities. Amir Al-Momenin (PBUH) says in Nahj-al Balaghah that “وَ اسکُنِ الاَمصارَ العِظام[2] “Live in big cities”. This sentence is said to those who live in the oasis. Why? So they can solve people’s problems better. Or for example, to do their religious rituals they go to mosques, then if they are absent one day; others wonder why and search for him. “What has happened?” they find out that the person has become ill. Others decide to pay him a visit. On their visit, they understand that he needs some money for an operation and they decide to gather some money for him and this way they help him out. This way people knew about each other and their problems were solved by mutual cooperation.

Paul Oliver[3] has written a book on Iranians after he had visited Isfahan and Yazd. In a section in his book, he says: “They suffer from duality”. Because in Yazd, the houses are the same in appearance but different inside. This interpretation is wrong since he does not know about Islam’s viewpoint. Islam orders not to adorn and decorate the appearance of the houses in a way which causes flaunting. This, leads to spite and negative rivalry. Today, in the U.S. socialists[4] pass laws that people should build their houses on one level and the same in appearance. However, they reached this conclusion through experience; I mean during years and through ordeals they have reached to the conclusion which was mentioned by our Imams 1400 years ago.

The distinction between Islamic architecture and the architecture constructed by Muslims

Islam enjoys strategies, theoretical foundations and principles on city planning for an Islamic city. We mentioned so far that most of architectural schools have philosophical origins, therefore, we should find Islamic architecture in Islam. In Islamic architecture, decorations or arabesques are not the focus but privacy matters. Therefore, Islam orders us to construct houses in a way that privacy does not fade away. Now, no matter the shape of the direction of the house is.

A true faithful Muslim sets his life on the basis of Islam. Because he is a Muslim he has decency and has a set of dos and don’ts. Because he is a Muslim, “mahram” and “non-mahram” matters to him. As he is a Muslim, he has been trained not to be eager to accumulate luxury. A Muslim may be fond of luxury but controls himself not to go to extremes. We don’t mean they hate beauty. When we say they are not after luxury, some people think that Muslims’ houses are slums made by clay, no we don’t mean this. I see many people who are modern but do not accumulate luxury. If you look at their appearance, I mean their clothes and dressing clothes, you see that they are simple and neat.

The Quran describes itself as “the Book explaining all things” (16:89), it declares that everything can be found in it, whatever you want. Imam Sadiq (PBUH) has said: “Very truly, the Almighty God has explained everything in the Quran, by God that God has not neglected his creatures’ needs and has explained everything in the Quran insofar that no one can say “I wish, this had been mentioned in the Quran” there is nothing among the needs of people unmentioned in the Quran, except that God has revealed them in the Quran”[5]. So I should know how to search. We have another verse (16:43) which says if you don’t know something go and ask “those who possess the Message.” (16:43) so who should you ask? Those who possess the Message which are the Ahl-al Bayt. Thus, we should refer to their narrations.

The general interpretation of the architecture colleges from Islamic architecture is limited to the geology and application of religious and classical monuments and sometimes do not grasp the Islamic Jurisprudence of the Islamic architecture. Even they sometimes mistake Islamic architecture for Muslims’ architecture; while Islamic architecture is the architecture which has Islam as its basis and because the basis is Islam, it fosters Islamic lifestyle. Western architecture generates western lifestyle. However, the architectures of Muslims were historical interpretations from Muslims in different historical periods all over the world. The examples are like Iranian, Egyptian, Yemeni architecture.

For instance, a big number of the population of Iran were Sunnis before the Safavid Dynasty, hence the architecture was based on Sunni Jurisprudence. According to Sunni Jurisprudence, they have one Grand Mosque (Jame Mosque) and a number of other mosques for sermons. For example, Tunisia, had 19 mosques for sermons and one Jame Mosque. However, in Shiite Jurisprudence only the Friday Prayer should be held at one specific place in a city, because the prayer should be performed by one person and others follow him.

Often, the number and style of the architecture was due to the dictatorship of a ruler not based on Islamic principles. For instance, Shah Abbas[6] ordered to have two Jameh Mosques built. Now, if you conclude that in Islamic architecture there can be 10 Jame Mosques because of this, it would be wrong. Generally, the prime time of Islamic architecture in Iran is considered to have happened in this era and many refer to Safavid monuments to search about Islamic architecture. But your interpretations are about Muslim’s architecture but not Islamic architecture and these two are different.

to be continued ….

[1] . big commercial centers

[2] . Nahj-al Balaghah, letter no.69

[3] . He was a scholar in architecture with cultural-societal viewpoint

[4] . A socialist believes in economic and social systems characterized by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production; as well as the political ideologies, theories, and movements that aim at their establishment.

[5] . Usul al-Kafi, v. 1 “The book of Al-Fazl Elm”/ Bihar Al-Anwar v.92 p.81.

[6] . Shāh Abbās the Great or Shāh Abbās I of Persia was the 5th Safavid Shah of Iran, and is generally considered the strongest ruler of the Safavid dynasty. He was the third son of Shah Mohammad Khodabanda.

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