Theology of a Mosque: The Sacred Inspiring Form, Function and Design in Islamic Architecture

Longhurst, Christopher E.
March 2012
Lonaard Journal;Mar2012, Vol. 2 Issue 8, p3
Academic Journal
"Theology of a Mosque" looks at how the architectural features and decoration of the mosque (Arabic: masjid) stem from Islamic principles and Islam's kalām. It considers how the mosque is inextricably bound to convey the message of Islam through its architecture and decorative designs according to the mosque's fundamental purpose as articulated in Qur'ān 24:36-7: "[...] to be erected for the commemoration of His name, where He is glorified morning and evening [...]." Ironically, however, looking at the mosque's architecture theologically will reveal that a distinction between grandeur and simplicity is misleading based on the fact that the mosque is not only an example of religious architectural design but also constructed and decorated in a manner faithful to Islam's understanding of itself. The paper is divided into two sections. The first part looks at the mosque as the architectural embodiment of Islam's fundamental message. It emphasises the principle of "oneness and unity" (tawḥīd), and investigates how mosque architecture symbolises heavenly realities and the perfection of nature. The second part looks at how specific mosque features contribute to an understanding of Islam and how these add to or derive from Islamic theology and in turn reflect the Muslim confession of faith. The limits of the paper are within the Qur'ān and Sunnah, and in particular, texts commenting on the Divine Names which are seen as a font of inspiration for mosque architecture and decoration. Conclusions reached demonstrate that the typical mosque is more than a religious building or place for Islamic worship. It is a projection into form and matter, colour, shape and volume, of the fundamental message of Islam, the embodiment of "peace" and "submission"--terms defining islām from which the mosque derives its unique architectural typology.


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