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Islamic Architecture (see also Moorish, Persian, Timurid, Ottoman Turkish, Fatimid, Mamluks, Mughal, Sino-Islamic, Afro-Islamic)

     
     
 


the interior of the Selimiye Mosque (Minar Sinan), Edirne.

Islamic architecture (Arabic عمارة إسلامية) has encompassed a wide range of both secular and religious architecture styles from the foundation of Islam to the present day, influencing the design and construction of buildings and structures within the sphere of Islamic culture.

The principle architectural types of Islamic architecture are; the Mosque, the Tomb, the Palace and the Fort. From these four types, the vocabularly of Islamic architecture is derived and used for buildings of lesser importance such as Public baths, Fountains and domestic architecture.[1]

History
In 630C.E. Muhammad's army reconquered the city of Mecca from the Banu Quraish tribe. The holy sanctuary of Ka'ba was rebuilt and re-dedicated to Islam, the reconstruction being carried out before Muhammad's death in 632C.E. by a shipwrecked Abyssinian carpenter in his native style. This sanctuary was amongst the first major works of Islamic architecture. The walls were decorated with paintings of Jesus, Mary, Abraham, prophets, angels and trees. Later doctrines of Islam dating from the eighth century and originating from the Hadith, forbade the use of such icons in architecture, specifically those of humans and animals.[1]

In the 7th century, Muslim armies invaded and conquered a huge expanse of land. Once the Muslims had taken control of a region, their first need was for somewhere to worship - a mosque. The simple layout provided elements that were to be incorporated into all mosques and the early Muslims put up simple buildings based on the model of the Prophet's house or adapted existing buildings, such as churches for their own use.

Influences and styles



the Dome of the Rock is a key example of Islamic architecture



Arabic Calligraphy on large pishtaq of the Taj Mahal

A specifically recognisable Islamic architectural style developed soon after the time of the Prophet Muhammad, developing from Roman, Egyptian, Persian/Sassanid, and Byzantine models. An early example may be identified as early as 691 AD with the completion of the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhrah) in Jerusalem. It featured interior vaulted spaces, a circular dome, and the use of stylized repeating decorative patterns (arabesque).

The Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq, completed in 847 AD, combined the hypostyle architecture of rows of columns supporting a flat base above which a huge spiraling minaret was constructed.

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul also influenced Islamic architecture. When the Ottomans captured the city from the Byzantines, they converted the basilica to a mosque (now a museum) and incorporated Byzantine architectural elements into their own work (e.g. domes). The Hagia Sophia also served as model for many of the Ottoman mosques such as the Shehzade Mosque, the Suleiman Mosque, and the Rüstem Pasha Mosque.

Interpretation

Common interpretations of Islamic architecture include the following: The concept of Allah's infinite power is evoked by designs with repeating themes which suggest infinity. Human and animal forms are rarely depicted in decorative art as Allah's work is considered to be matchless. Foliage is a frequent motif but typically stylized or simplified for the same reason. Arabic Calligraphy is used to enhance the interior of a building by providing quotations from the Qur'an. Islamic architecture has been called the "architecture of the veil" because the beauty lies in the inner spaces (courtyards and rooms) which are not visible from the outside (street view). Furthermore, the use of grandiose forms such as large domes, towering minarets, and large courtyards are intended to convey power.

Architecture of mosques and buildings in Muslim countries

Forms


the interior of the Mezquita in Córdoba, Spain.


Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco. 210m high. A floor with room for 25,000 worshippers.

Many forms of Islamic architecture have evolved in different regions of the Islamic world. Notable Islamic architectural types include the early Abbasid buildings, T-type mosques, and the central-dome mosques of Anatolia. The oil-wealth of the 20th century drove a great deal of mosque construction using designs from leading non-Muslim modern architects and promoting the careers of important contemporary Muslim architects.

Arab-plan or hypostyle mosques are the earliest type of mosques, pioneered under the Umayyad Dynasty. These mosques are square or rectangular in plan with an enclosed courtyard and a covered prayer hall. Historically, because of the warm Mediterranean and Middle Eastern climates, the courtyard served to accommodate the large number of worshipers during Friday prayers. Most early hypostyle mosques have flat roofs on top of prayer halls, necessitating the use of numerous columns and supports. One of the most notable hypostyle mosques is the Mezquita in Córdoba, Spain, as the building is supported by over 850 columns. Frequently, hypostyle mosques have outer arcades so that visitors can enjoy some shade. Arab-plan mosques were constructed mostly under the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties; subsequently, however, the simplicity of the Arab plan limited the opportunities for further development, and as a result, these mosques gradually fell out of popularity.

The Ottomans introduced central dome mosques in the 15th century and have a large dome centered over the prayer hall. In addition to having one large dome at the center, there are often smaller domes that exist off-center over the prayer hall or throughout the rest of the mosque, where prayer is not performed. This style was heavily influenced by the Byzantine religious architecture with its use of large central domes.

Iwan


the iwan entrance to the Taj Mahal in Agra

An iwan (Persian ايوان derived from Pahlavi word Bān meaning house) is defined as a vaulted hall or space, walled on three sides, with one end entirely open.

Iwans were a trademark of the Sassanid architecture of Persia, later finding their way into Islamic architecture. This transition reached its peak during the Seljuki era when iwans became established as a fundamental design unit in Islamic architecture. Typically, iwans open on to a central courtyard, and have been used in both public and residential architecture.

Iwan mosques are most notable for their domed chambers and iwans, which are vaulted spaces open out on one end. In iwan mosques, one or more iwans face a central courtyard that serves as the prayer hall. The style represents a borrowing from pre-Islamic Iranian architecture and has been used almost exclusively for mosques in Iran. Many iwan mosques are converted Zoroastrian fire temples where the courtyard was used to house the sacred fire. Today, iwan mosques are no longer built.

Sahn


A simple Sahn, with a howz in the middle. Notice flanking domed arcade.

Almost every mosque and many houses and buildings in areas of the Muslim World contain a religious courtyard known as a sahn (Arabic صحن), which are surrounded on all sides by an arcade. Sahns usually feature a centrally positioned, symmetrical axis pool known as a howz, where ablutions are performed. Some sahns also contain drinking fountains.

If a sahn is in a mosque, it is used for performing ablutions. If a sahn is in a traditional house or private courtyard, it is used for bathing, for aesthetics, or for both.

Arabesque
An element of Islamic art usually found decorating the walls of mosques and Muslim homes and buildings, the arabesque is an elaborate application of repeating geometric forms that often echo the forms of plants, shapes and sometimes animals (specifically birds). The choice of which geometric forms are to be used and how they are to be formatted is based upon the Islamic view of the world. To Muslims, these forms, taken together, constitute an infinite pattern that extends beyond the visible material world. To many in the Islamic world, they in fact symbolize the infinite, and therefore uncentralized, nature of the creation of the one God (Allah). Furthermore, the Islamic Arabesque artist conveys a definite spirituality without the iconography of Christian art. Arabesque is used in mosques and building around the Muslim world, and it is a way of decorating using beautiful, embellishing and repetitive Islamic art instead of using pictures of humans and animals (which is forbidden Haram in Islam).

Calligraphy
Arabic calligraphy is associated with geometric Islamic art (the Arabesque) on the walls and ceilings of mosques as well as on the page. Contemporary artists in the Islamic world draw on the heritage of calligraphy to use calligraphic inscriptions or abstractions in their work.

Instead of recalling something related to the reality of the spoken word, calligraphy for the Muslim is a visible expression of the highest art of all, the art of the spiritual world. Calligraphy has arguably become the most venerated form of Islamic art because it provides a link between the languages of the Muslims with the religion of Islam. The holy book of Islam, al-Qur'an, has played an important role in the development and evolution of the Arabic language, and by extension, calligraphy in the Arabic alphabet. Proverbs and complete passages from the Qur'an are still active sources for Islamic calligraphy.

Elements of Islamic style
Islamic architecture may be identified with the following design elements, which were inherited from the first mosque built by Muhammad in Medina, as well as from other pre-Islamic features adapted from churches, temples and synagogues. Byzantine architecture had a great influence on early Islamic architecture with its characteristic round arches, vaults and domes.

Large courtyards often merged with a central prayer hall (originally a feature of the Masjid al-Nabawi).
Minarets or towers (these were originally used as torch-lit watchtowers, as seen in the Great Mosque of Damascus; hence the derivation of the word from the Arabic nur, meaning "light").
Mihrab or niche on an inside wall indicating the direction to Mecca. This may have been derived from previous uses of niches for the setting of the torah scrolls in Jewish synagogues or the haikal of Coptic churches.
Domes and Cupolas.
Iwans to intermediate between different sections.
The use of geometric shapes and repetitive art (arabesque).
The use of decorative Islamic calligraphy instead of pictures which were haram (forbidden) in mosque architecture. Note that in secular architecture, pictures were indeed present.
The ablution of fountains (once used as a wudu area for Muslims).
The use of bright color.
Focus both on the interior space of a building and the exterior

Differences between Islamic architecture and Persian architecture
Like this of other nations that became part of the Islamic realm, Persian Architecture is not to be confused with Islamic Architecture and refers broadly to architectural styles across the Islamic world. Islamic architecture, therefore, does not directly include reference to Persian styles prior to the rise of Islam. Persian architecture, like other nations', predates Islamic architecture and can be correctly understood as an important influence on overall Islamic architecture as well as a branch of Islamic architecture since the introduction of Islam in Persia. Islamic architecture can be classified according to chronology, geography, and building typology.

Notes
^ a b Copplestone, p.149
^ Cowen, Jill S.. "Muslims in China: The Mosque", Saudi Aramco World, July/August 1985, pp. 30-35. Retrieved on 2006-04-08.
^ a b c d Hillenbrand, R. "Masdjid. I. In the central Islamic lands". Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Ed. P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912.
^ Religious Architecture and Islamic Cultures. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved on 2006-04-09.
^ a b Vocabulary of Islamic Architecture. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved on 2006-04-09.

References
Ettinghausen, Richard and Grabar, Oleg. (1987) The Art and Architecture of Islam: 650 - 1250, Penguin, USA
Pourjafar, M.Reza and Taghvaee, Ali A. (January-June 2006) Indo-Iranian Socio-Cultural Relations at Past, Present and Future Vol. 1 in -Web Journal on Cultural Patrimony (Fabio Maniscalco ed.)
Copplestone, Trewin. (ed). (1963). World architecture - An illustrated history. Hamlyn, London.
Hillenbrand, R. "Masdjid. I. In the central Islamic lands". Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Ed. P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912.
Creswell, K. A. C. (1958) A Short Account of Early Muslim Architecture

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