Like every other Islamic discipline, architecture and its development was very much influenced and directed by the Holy Qur'an and its philosophy of life.
The spirit of Islamic faith was the unifying factor which kept together different designs of building and molded them into a style representing the spirit of Unity in multiplicity - a unique characteristic of the Islamic architecture. It also reflects the remarkable sense of harmony and equilibrium between the different, and even the opposite elements. This is because the keynote of the Islamic sciences, including architecture, is the interdependence and interrelation of all things in the Universe. There is complete equilibrium in Islamic architectural designing, as well as in city planning, between the natural environment and the natural forces and elements, like water, air and light, which are essential to human life. In planning their buildings for residence, worship or business and the streets within the town area and for other basic necessities of the city life, Muslim architects made the maximum use of the natural factors available in the area. In hot areas, narrow streets were built to preserve the cool air of the night during the hot hours of the day. When the temperatures were very high, wind towers were built to ventilate residential buildings and low basements were used during summer for spending the hot hours of noon and also for cisterns to keep the water cool.
The Holy Qur'an presents the ideal architectural style which offers the maximum comforts, joy and beauty to the residents and is in complete equilibrium with the natural environment, making the maximum use of the natural factors with the least possible waste. It is described in very simple words in Surah Al-Imran, "But those who fear their Lord, for them are gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they are to dwell forever. A gift of welcome from their Lord." (Qur'an 3:198)
And in Surah Al-Tawbah, we read, "Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide, and beautiful mansions in gardens of everlasting bliss." (Qur'an 9:72)
And in Surah Al-Sajdah is this revelation, "For those who believe and do righteous good deeds, for them are gardens (Paradise) as an entertainment, for what they used to do." (Qur'an 32:19)
In other words, their normal residence will be in gardens with all the usual facilities, comforts and peace of home but with the added pleasure and joy of a natural environment.
The Qur'an further mentions some of the additional facilities of these residential gardens in these words, "We shall soon admit (them) to gardens, with rivers flowing beneath, - their eternal home; and We shall admit them to shades, cool and ever deepening." (Qur'an 4:57)
And in Surah Al-Ra'd, we read, "A similitude of the garden which is promised to the righteous! Beneath it rivers flow; everlasting is the enjoyment thereof and its shade (cool and temperate)." (Qur'an 13:35)
This quality of their blissful residence is clearly described in this verse, "Reclining therein upon the couches, they will find there neither (heat of) a Sun nor (the Moon's) bitter cold. The shade of the (garden trees) is close upon them and the clustered fruits thereof hang low." (Qur'an 76:13-14)
And in Surah Al-Mursalat, we read, "As to the righteous, they shall be amidst (cool) shades and springs (of water). And they shall have fruits such as they desire." (Qur'an 77:41-42)
These descriptions of ideal buildings amidst a natural environment stimulated architectural styles in the early Islamic Era and produced architectural wonders such as the Alhambra of Granada, the beautiful and massive mosques of Cordoba and Seville, Medinat al-Zehra near Cordoba, the Dome of the Rock of Jerusalem, the mosques of Istanbul, the Ibn Tulun Mosque of Cairo and the Taj Mahal of Agra. Innumerable mosques, palaces and castles in Spain, North Africa, India, Turkistan, Iran and other Muslim countries bear evidence of the grandeur and majesty of the architectural styles and modes which sprang from the Qur'anic studies. The massive structural beauty and simplicity of these buildings, especially of mosques remind one of the Majesty and Greatness of The Creator.
Among many other aspects of the Islamic architecture, its identification with the environment is predominant. It is the influence of the Qur'an and the Islamic faith that a Muslim has always felt that his life on this Earth is that of a traveler on a journey and that his permanent home is elsewhere. He has therefore tried to live in peace and harmony with his environment with the least disturbance of the latter, and his architectural designs and town planning fully reflect this philosophy of life. Sayyed H Nasr in his article on Islamic Science states, "He has thus lived in equilibrium with his environment because he has submitted himself to the universal laws which dominate all levels of existence and which are the metaphysical source of the laws governing the natural world. He has lived in peace and harmony with The Almighty and His Laws and therefore with the natural environment which reflects on its own level the harmony and the equilibrium of the universal order."
The Islamic Bulletin
P.O. Box 410186, San Francisco, CA 94141-0186
|July / August 1991|
|Letters to the Editor|
|Islamic World News|
|Happy New Year|
|The Kid's Corner|
|Women in Islam|
|Qur'an and Science|
|Teachings of the Prophet|
|Why I Embraced Islam|
|The Islamic Calendar|
|The Prophet Salih|
|Stories of the Sahabah|
|Islamic Dietary Laws|