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Architecture in Islamic Civilization

Thursday, 17 June 2010
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Written by Dr. Ragheb Elsergany

One of the aspects of greatness and perfection of Islamic civilization is that it did not ignore the aesthetic factor as an important value in man’s life. It dealt with the concept of beauty on the ground that feeling of and inclination to beauty is an innate disposition in the bottom of sound human souls, which like beauty and get fascinated by everything that is beautiful and stay aloof from everything that is ugly. Undoubtedly, aesthetic creativity is a basic dimension in human civilization. Any civilization lacking in the element of beauty and methodologies or manners of expressing beauty fails to respond to the natural human feelings and satisfy psychological desires, which always long for everything that is beautiful. In these articles, we review part of beauty aspects in Islamic civilization – those aspects that shaped the general frame for that civilization, imbuing it with perfection and glory, as well as with a human nature.

Islamic Arts
Arts in general are considered as a basic aspect of the society-dominating culture. In particular, Islamic art is one of the purest and most accurate forms narrating the story of Islamic civilization and mirroring the human civilization. Islamic art is one of the greatest arts produced by world civilizations in the old and modern ages. However, it did not receive the research and study it really deserves. A lot of those who had written about the Islamic art, their writings have not actually been based on the intellectual and cultural criteria of the Islamic arts, but rather on Western criteria. Several artistic forms carried an Islamic style and set the Islamic civilization above others. Those forms include architecture, arabesque and Arabic calligraphy.

Islamic Architecture
Producing Islamic architecture has a special identity and style, which eyes never deny because of its beautiful designing, unique architectural elements and ornamentations, Muslim engineers have been architectural professionals. They set the designs and minute details as well as the solid models required for implementation, side by side with initial measurements. Doubtlessly, this required them to get deeper into sciences of engineering, math and mechanics in which Muslims took the lead as we have illustrated in previous articles.

Such complex and sophisticated structures such as Qubat Asakhra (Dome of the Rock). Examples include the dome of the Al-Masjid Al-Jami (the Congregational Mosque) in Qairawan. Cairo and Andalusia – are from A to Z based on complex math.[2] (2) Columns Columns are important part of Islamic art. Domes have thoroughly developed and. There are two types of stalactite vaults: Internal and external: The former is usually built in prayer niches and ceilings and the latter in minarets' naves.took several geometrical shapes. mark the evolution of Islamic civilization in field of architecture. in Jerusalem. and the domes of mosques in Astana. with their pointed chapiters and knots and wooden bonds.Muslims’ Influences on Islamic Architecture Techniques Below is a presentation of some Islamic architecture techniques to put our thumbs on their importance and get acquainted with Muslims’ influences to their innovation and development.[1] (1) Domes Muslims were excellent builders of huge domes and succeeded in conducting their complex calculations. plus other productions. Actually. there had been arcs before that. The influences of such evolution were later noticeable in European architecture in the 11th and 12th centuries. (4) Mashrabiyat They are one of the most outstanding elements of Islamic architecture. Exactly from that innovation appeared a branch of architecture exclusively for structural knots. Domes turn mosques into pieces of beauty. but Muslims changed their shape. The horseshoe-shaped arcs became a distinguishing sign for Islamic architecture. They are a type of projecting oriel window enclosed with carved wood latticework located on the second . They are one of the major features of Islamic architecture. Domes. palaces' doors and balconies. Sultan Ahmed mosque in Istanbul tells the story of beauty that makes one realize the greatness of the Islamic civilization. (3) Muqarnasat They are stalactite vaults. which are based on shells analysis methods.throughout their development course. az-Zaytounah mosque in Tunisia and Al-Masjid Al-Jami in Cordoba. Mashrabiyat – singular is mashrabiya – are also called shanashil or by windows.

They knew that sound reflects on concave surfaces and gathers in one focus just like light. particularly in the Arab Maghreb and Andalusia countries. Theaters and large celebration halls are currently getting concave walls at the background in order to repeat the sound and make it louder and clearer. Pneumatic arches have spread across Europe and could be seen in their churches and monasteries. pneumatic arches have been built on a larger scale and became a distinctive element of Islamic architecture. This has become a basic feature in Islamic houses. Sabine[4] almost in 1900 started studying the reasons of poor sound characteristics of lecture halls at US Harvard University. and before his studying of the behavior of sound characteristics of halls and music rooms. which reflects on surfaces of concave mirrors. Pneumatic arches can be seen in the al-Masjid al-Amawi in Damascus. The ceiling and walls of the mosque used to be concave surfaces distributed excellently in the corners of the mosque in order to ensure that the speaker's voice will reach every corner inside the mosque. They are called moon mashrabiyat if they are round-shaped. suffice it to say that the focusing of sound. are the best evidence of the leadership of Islamic civilization in the architectural engineering acoustics technique.[3] (5) Architectural Acoustics Muslims employed the applications of acoustics – believed to be originated and established by Muslims – in developing the acoustic engineering technique and using it in what is now called the architectural acoustics. They also provide a good place for women to watch the street without being seen by people outside. Mashrabiyat are either perforated or ornamented. (6) Arches Historical references and studies say the pneumatic arch was the first pattern of arches to appear in Muslims’ architectural engineering. One of their benefits is mollifying the light sharpness coming from outside. Later on. Muslim engineers used the focusing of sound technique in purposes of construction and building. The objective was to transmit and make the orator's voice stronger during lessons on Fridays and feasts. still can be seen. even before the well-known scientist Wallace C. They are made of wood cut to work as curtains for the windows of the building. Syria. . Those Islamic achievements. whose application-associated benefits have later been highlighted. particularly in large congregational mosques. often lined with stained glass.storey of a building or higher. al-Adiliya Mosque in Aleppo and some old mosques in Baghdad. is used in the modern civilization as a basic element of architectural acoustics engineering. Examples of Islamic architectural acoustics can be seen in: The old Esfahan Mosque. In order to discover the significance of Muslims’ development of architectural acoustics field. and sun mashrabiyat is they are not round-shaped or even shutter.

This was later discovered by researchers in light of a drawing on a wall in the debris of az-Zahra’a city. solid arches and divergent arches. which was carrying water from the mouth of the bay to the castle built over al-Muqattam Mountain. as well as barrages and huge dams such as anNahrawan Dam. (9) Fortresses Arabic fortresses were among the top architectural additions borrowed by the West from Muslim . solid and divergent arches were carried out in Mashreq and Maghreb countries. various other patterns of arches emerged in Islamic architecture: Pointed arches.Muslims also developed the three-opening arches. The complete features of lobated arches are clear in the structure of the dome of al-Masjid al-Jami in Qairawan in the year (221 AH. it took a pure Islamic geometrical shape and became one of Muslims’ architectural innovations. Examples of pointed. There was animal-revolving waterwheel lifting water 10 meters up to let it flows in the canal over the wall with the communicating vessels method. They give water passing through canals and in rivers an additional beautiful dimension. dams and canals with unique designing and execution techniques. They are arches with their internal edges cut in a chain-shaped set of semicircles or similar to a necklace with semi-lobes. appearing first in the Islamic monuments in the early second Hijri century. al-Rastan Dam and the Euphrates Dam. (8) Walls Islamic architecture was based on the applications of mechanics. and al-Azhar in Cairo. which developed mainly from a pure engineering idea based on arithmetic division. the lobated arches interlaced and more lobes have been added in next structures. Lobated arches are another architectural pattern. Lobated arches maintained their engineering shape during the course of their evolution despite the emergence of many other patterns. Pointed. and Majra el-Uyoon Wall in Cairo during Salahuddin's era. for instance. France and Italy. moved to English architecture and had largely applied in the 6th Century under the name Tudor arch. Andalusia.836 AD). The three-opening arches became part of the structure of churches in Spain. In later centuries. This simply means Islamic architecture and its geometrical and aesthetic patterns were natural reflections of ages of boom and advance in Islamic civilization. al-Aqmar. Although this lobated arch has probably come from the shape of the edge of an oyster. The divergent arch pattern. Islamic architecture knew divergent arches nearly five centuries earlier in mosques of alJiyushi. This was obvious in the structure of very high mosques and minarets.[5] (7) Dams and Barrages The beautiful features of Islamic architecture had also appeared in barrages. divergent and solid arches can be seen in European architecture. In addition to these kinds of arches.

"[7] .architects. which is the shape preserving its existence. This is a historical rule. Construction without a State is impossible. they got in close contact with the West during the Crusades and since then fortress construction patterns changed to the Arabic style characterized by its square design for the most part. A State without construction is unimaginable. according to Ibn Khaldun.[6] Architecture uniqueness always reflects the uniqueness of the civilization where they were originated. The West knew only the circular pattern of fortress design. With Muslims' conquest of Andalusia and later Cecelia. The non-existence of either of them affects the non-existence of the other. according to Sigrid Hunke. They are inseparable and this is the rule of wisdom. Arabs built watchtowers and towers for defense purposes at the corners of their fortresses. Misbalance of either of them means the misbalance of the other. who says: "The State and kingdom are as important for construction as the image for the matter.

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