Islamic architecture has encompassed a wide range of both secular and religious 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 vocabulary of Islamic architecture is derived and used for buildings of lesser importance such as public baths, fountains and domestic architecture.
In the 7th century, Muslim armies 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 for their own use.
Recently discoveries have shown that quasicrystal patterns were first employed in the girih tiles found in medieval Islamic architecture dating back over five centuries ago. In 2007, Professor Peter Lu of Harvard University and Professor Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University published a paper in the journal Science suggesting that girih tilings possessed properties consistent with self-similar fractal quasicrystalline tilings such as the Penrose tilings, predating them by five centuries.
A specifically recognisable Islamic architectural style developed soon after the time of the Prophet Muhammad, developing from localized adaptations of Roman, Egyptian, Byzantine, and Persian/Sassanid 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 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.
Distinguishing motifs of Islamic architecture have always been ordered repetition, radiating structures, and rhythmic, metric patterns. In this respect, fractal geometry has been a key utility, especially for mosques and palaces. Other significant features employed as motifs include columns, piers and arches, organized and interwoven with alternating sequences of niches and colonnettes. The role of domes in Islamic architecture has been considerable. Its usage spans centuries, first appearing in 691 with the construction of the Dome of the Rock mosque, and recurring even up until the 17th century with the Taj Mahal. And as late as the 19th century, Islamic domes had been incorporated into Western architecture.
One of the first civilizations that Islam came into contact with during and after its birth was that of Persia. The eastern banks of the Tigris and Euphrates was where the capital of the Persian empire lay during the 7th century. Hence the proximity often led early Islamic architects to not just borrow, but adopt the traditions and ways of the fallen Persian empire.
Islamic architecture borrows heavily from Persian architecture and in many ways can be called an extension and further evolution of Persian architecture.
Many cities such as Baghdad, for example, were based on precedents such as Firouzabad in Persia. In fact, it is now known that the two designers hired by al-Mansur to plan the city's design were Naubakht (نوبخت), a former Persian Zoroastrian, and Mashallah (ماشاءالله), a former Jew from Khorasan, Iran.
Persian-style mosques are characterized by: their tapered brick pillars, large arcades, and arches each supported by several pillars. In South Asia, elements of Hindu architecture were employed, but were later superseded by Persian designs.
Construction of the Great Mosque at Cordoba (now a Christian Cathedral) beginning in 785 CE marks the beginning of Islamic architecture in the Iberian peninsula and North Africa (see Moors). The mosque is noted for its striking interior arches. Moorish architecture reached its peak with the construction of the Alhambra, the magnificent palace/fortress of Granada, with its open and breezy interior spaces adorned in red, blue, and gold. The walls are decorated with stylize foliage motifs, Arabic inscriptions, and arabesque design work, with walls covered in glazed tile. Moorish architecture has its roots deeply established in the Arab tradition of architecture and design established during the era of the first Caliphate of the Ummayyads in the Levant circa 660AD with its capital Damascus having very well preserved examples of fine Arab Islamic design and geometrics, including the carmen, which is the typical Damascene house, opening on the inside with a fountain as the house's centre piece. Even after the completion of the Reconquista, Islamic influence had a lasting impact on the architecture of Spain. In particular, medieval Spaniards used the Mudéjar style, highly influenced by Islamic design. One of the best examples of the Moors' lasting impact on Spanish architecture is the Alcázar of Seville.
Timurid architecture is the pinnacle of Islamic art in Central Asia. Spectacular and stately edifices erected by Timur and his successors in Samarkand and Herat helped to disseminate the influence of the Ilkhanid school of art in India, thus giving rise to the celebrated Mughal school of architecture. Timurid architecture started with the sanctuary of Ahmed Yasawi in present-day Kazakhstan and culminated in Timur's mausoleum Gur-e Amir in Samarkand. The style is largely derived from Persian architecture. Axial symmetry is a characteristic of all major Timurid structures, notably the Shah-e Zendah in Samarkand and the mosque of Gowhar Shad in Mashhad. Double domes of various shapes abound, and the outsides are perfused with brilliant colors.
The most numerous and largest of mosques exist in Turkey, which obtained influence from Byzantine, Persian and Syrian-Arab designs. Turkish architects implemented their own style of cupola domes. The architecture of the Turkish Ottoman Empire forms a distinctive whole, especially the great mosques by and in the style of Sinan, like the mid-16th century Suleiman Mosque. For almost 500 years Byzantine architecture such as the church of Hagia Sophia served as models for many of the Ottoman mosques such as the Shehzade Mosque, the Suleiman Mosque, and the Rüstem Pasha Mosque.
The Ottomans mastered the technique of building vast inner spaces confined by seemingly weightless yet massive domes, and achieving perfect harmony between inner and outer spaces, as well as light and shadow. Islamic religious architecture which until then consisted of simple buildings with extensive decorations, was transformed by the Ottomans through a dynamic architectural vocabulary of vaults, domes, semidomes and columns. The mosque was transformed from being a cramped and dark chamber with arabesque-covered walls into a sanctuary of esthetic and technical balance, refined elegance and a hint of heavenly transcendence.
Al-Hakim Mosque (990-1012) was renovated by Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (head of Dawoodi Bohra community) and Al-Jame-al-Aqmar built in 1125 in Cairo, Egypt features with its Fatimi philosophy and symbolism and bring its architecture vividly to life.
"The Fatemi rulers in North Africa and Egypt made the masjid the focal point of the uninterrupted flow of both the water of life and water of learning. They fostered noble traditions of thought and philosophy. They Produced and preserved an immense wealth of literature. They founded Cairo and Al-Azher university. They built Jame-Anwer, the second largest masjid in Egypt which was restored and renovated in 1982 by the 52nd Fatemi Dai His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin(TUS). They initiated an efflorescence and resurgence of art, culture and thought which posterity remembers as the resplendent Fatemi civilization and which to this day nourishes human intellect and imparts strength and richness to life and living. Al-Jamea-tus-Saifiyah today is the continuing link in that long chain of centuries which inspired scholarship, valiant leadership and lofty thought." By: Dr. Y. Najmuddin, Rector, Al-Jamea-tus-Saifiyah.
The reign of Baybars's ally and successor, Qala’un (r. 1280–90), initiated the patronage of public and pious foundations that included madrasas, mausolea, minarets, and hospitals. Such endowed complexes not only ensured the survival of the patron's wealth but also perpetuated his name, both of which were endangered by legal problems relating to inheritance and confiscation of family fortunes. Besides Qala’un's complex, other important commissions by Bahri Mamluk sultans include those of al-Nasir Muhammad (1295–1304) as well as the immense and splendid complex of Hasan (begun 1356).
The Burji Mamluk sultans followed the artistic traditions established by their Bahri predecessors. Mamluk textiles and carpets were prized in international trade. In architecture, endowed public and pious foundations continued to be favored. Major commissions in the early Burji period in Egypt included the complexes built by Barquq (r. 1382–99), Faraj (r. 1399–1412), Mu’ayyad Shaykh (r. 1412–21), and Barsbay (r. 1422–38).
In the eastern Mediterranean provinces, the lucrative trade in textiles between Iran and Europe helped revive the economy. Also significant was the commercial activity of pilgrims en route to Mecca and Medina. Large warehouses, such as the Khan al-Qadi (1441), were erected to satisfy the surge in trade. Other public foundations in the region included the mosques of Aqbugha al-Utrush (Aleppo, 1399–1410) and Sabun (Damascus, 1464) as well as the Madrasa Jaqmaqiyya (Damascus, 1421).
In the second half of the fifteenth century, the arts thrived under the patronage of Qa’itbay (r. 1468–96), the greatest of the later Mamluk sultans. During his reign, the shrines of Mecca and Medina were extensively restored. Major cities were endowed with commercial buildings, religious foundations, and bridges. In Cairo, the complex of Qa’itbay in the Northern Cemetery (1472–74) is the best known and admired structure of this period. Building continued under the last Mamluk sultan, Qansuh al-Ghawri (r. 1501–17), who commissioned his own complex (1503–5); however, construction methods reflected the finances of the state. Though the Mamluk realm was soon incorporated into the Ottoman empire (1517), Mamluk visual culture continued to inspire Ottoman and other Islamic artistic traditions.
Another distinctive sub-style is the architecture of the Mughal Empire in India in the 16th century and a fusion of Arabic, Persian and Hindu elements. The Mughal emperor Akbar constructed the royal city of Fatehpur Sikri, located 26 miles west of Agra, in the late 1500s.
The most famous example of Mughal architecture is the Taj Mahal, the "teardrop on eternity," completed in 1648 by emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died while giving birth to their 14th child. The extensive use of precious and semiprecious stones as inlay and the vast quantity of white marble required nearly bankrupted the empire. The Taj Mahal is completely symmetric other than Shah Jahan's sarcophagus, which is placed off center in the crypt room below the main floor. This symmetry extended to the building of an entire mirror mosque in red sandstone to complement the Mecca-facing mosque place to the west of the main structure. Another structure that showed great depth of Mughal influence was the Shalimar Gardens. hi :)
The first Chinese mosque was established in the 7th century during the Tang Dynasty in Xi'an. The Great Mosque of Xi'an, whose current buildings date from the Ming Dynasty, does not replicate many of the features often associated with traditional mosques. Instead, it follows traditional Chinese architecture. Some Chinese mosques in parts of western China were more likely to incorporate minarets and domes while eastern Chinese mosques were more likely to look like pagodas.
An important feature in Chinese architecture is its emphasis on symmetry, which connotes a sense of grandeur; this applies to everything from palaces to mosques. One notable exception is in the design of gardens, which tends to be as asymmetrical as possible. Like Chinese scroll paintings, the principle underlying the garden's composition is to create enduring flow; to let the patron wander and enjoy the garden without prescription, as in nature herself.
Chinese buildings may be built with either red or grey bricks, but wooden structures are the most common; these are more capable of withstanding earthquakes, but are vulnerable to fire. The roof of a typical Chinese building is curved; there are strict classifications of gable types, comparable with the classical orders of European columns.
Most mosques have certain aspects in common with each other however as with other regions Chinese Islamic architecture reflects the local architecture in its style. China is renowned for its beautiful mosques, which resemble temples. However in western China the mosques resemble those of the Arab World, with tall, slender minarets, curvy arches and dome shaped roofs. In northwest China where the Chinese Hui have built their mosques, there is a combination of eastern and western styles. The mosques have flared Buddhist style roofs set in walled courtyards entered through archways with miniature domes and minarets (see Beytullah Mosque).
In West Africa, Islamic merchants played a vital role in the Western Sahel region since the Kingdom of Ghana. At Kumbi Saleh, locals lived in domed-shaped dwellings in the king's section of the city, surrounded by a great enclosure. Traders lived in stone houses in a section which possessed 12 beautiful mosques (as described by al-bakri), one centered on Friday prayer. The king is said to have owned several mansions, one of which was sixty-six feet long, forty-two feet wide, contained seven rooms, was two stories high, and had a staircase; with the walls and chambers filled with sculpture and painting. Sahelian architecture initially grew from the two cities of Djenné and Timbuktu. The Sankore Mosque in Timbuktu, constructed from mud on timber, was similar in style to the Great Mosque of Djenné.
Modern Islamic architecture has recently been taken on to a whole new level with such buildings being erected such as the Burj Dubai, which is soon to be the world's tallest building. The Burj Dubai's design is derived from the patterning systems embodied in Islamic architecture, with the triple-lobed footprint of the building based on an abstracted version of the desert flower hymenocallis which is native to the Dubai region. Nature and flowers have often been the focal point in most traditional Islamic designs. Many modern interpretations of Islamic architecture can be found in Dubai due to the architectural boom of the Arab World. Yet to be built is Madinat al-Hareer in Kuwait which also has modern versions of Islamic architecture in its super tall tower.
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 modern 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.
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 seldom built. A notable example of a more recent four iwan design is the King Saud Mosque in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, finished in 1987.
Almost every mosque and traditionally all houses and buildings in areas of the Arab World contain a courtyard known as a sahn (Arabic صحن), which are surrounded on all sides by rooms and sometimes an arcade. Sahns usually feature a centrally positioned pool known as a howz.
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 aesthetics and to cool the summer heat.
Instead of recalling something related to the reality of the spoken word, calligraphy for the Muslim is a visible expression of spiritual concepts. 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'ān, has played a vital role in the development 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.
Islamic architecture may be identified with the following design elements, which were inherited from the first mosque built byr hall (originally a feature of the Masjid al-Nabawi).
Islamic Architecture, What's That?: The Defining Elements of the Indo-Saracenic Style Have Nothing to Do with Any Religion
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