In Week 6, we looked at the various intricacies of mosque décor and discussed their significance within Islam. As we heard in both of our guest lectures and in the film Islamic Art: Mirror of an Invisible World, there are no laws of Islam that necessarily mandate a standard form or shape from which sacred spaces of ritual and prayer are to be constructed. In other words, the design of a mosque is not dictated or informed by religious doctrine. Furthermore, mosque architecture is not specific to any particular denomination or sect of Islam.
Whereas in Christianity, Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox churches can be visually distinguished, every mosque may be unique in its design but still serves as a place of worship for Muslims of all kinds. Over time, the architectural staples of mosques have evolved and transformed, each reflecting new symbolic values and embodying different facets of Islam throughout the centuries and across the Muslim world. These singular expressions of Muslim identity serve to highlight the diversity that exists within the different communities of Islam.
Though mosques or “masjids” literally signify “places of worship,” these architectural masterpieces have been seen throughout history to take on secular functions. Since Islam’s very foundation in the 7th century, mosques have taken on various roles within Muslim societies. Though their primary purpose is to provide a place for prayer and worship, mosques are common settings for educational, social, and civic celebrations.
Spatial and aesthetic conventions only began to emerge as a response to both political and social conditions. For example, as shown in this media compilation, the spreading influence of Islamic art and architecture to southern Spain created an entirely new genre of mosque architecture, reflective of this morphing of Arab and Spanish culture. This particular geographic region is one that is especially interesting to me because I have actually visited the south of Spain and seen some of these magnum opuses of Islamic grandeur first-hand. The musical mashup that accompanies the video includes some of my favorite artists from this area of Spain, singing about “Andalucia,” the almost ethereal region of Spain that is a visible blend of the three still present and lasting cultures of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. I chose to create both a visual and audible representation of the powerful influence that diversity plays in molding a culture and people. The architecture and music that is a tangible consequence of history is felt by anyone who witnesses their beauty.