Tolerance in Islamic architecture
Aya Mohamed el-Hakim
Since the divine message of Islam was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, he constantly maintained that Islam would ensure the continuation of all the preceding divine revelations, and that Muslims would hold non-Muslim cultural values in reverence as long as they contributed to the human endeavour to uphold truth, beauty, and goodness. Surprisingly, the Prophet Muhammad learnt for the first time about his Prophethood from a Christian, Warqah bin Nawfal, when the Prophet, while meditating in the Cave of Hiraâ , saw an angel, and rushed to Warqah seeking to solve the mystery. The Prophet Muhammad continually maintained good interfaith relations with the People of the Book and demonstrated to Muslims, through deeds and words, that they should give good treatment to non Muslims in their communities (the concept of birr). Finally, when the Prophet Muhammad died, his sword was pawned with a Jew, which seems to emphasize that Muslims should ensure unprejudiced treatment to the People of the Book. In fact, Jews, like Arabs, are Semites; they should be more tolerant to each other without any religious bias. The study aims to examine tolerance in Islam and its reflection in Islamic architecture in Turkey, Syria, Egypt, North Africa and Spain. In the thesis, the comparative case study method is employed to contrast cases of Islamic conquests where Muslims changed churches into mosques with cases where Muslims did not resort to the use of non-Muslim houses of worship. The thesis investigates whether the historical reuse of houses of worship was temporarily practiced to send political messages to the Byzantines and Persians, or extensively practiced along the Islamic history to assert Muslim supremacy over conquered cities. The question is addressed by analyzing some architectural cases that reveal tolerance and others that reveal intolerance, in order to understand the status of Islamic architecture within its social and religious contexts over time.
Aya Mohamed el-Hakim
The American University in Cairo- School of Humanities and Social Sciences