||If, admittedly, some of the Islamic housing styles and designs somewhat failed to cope with dramatic changes in the Muslim world during a couple of last centuries, and were sluggish and irresponsive to rapid advancements in modern science, technology and engineering, that in no way renders them outdated, worn-out and worthless.
Islamic Housing and Critical Thinking
- Culture Social - Article Ref: IC1204-5062
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By: Dr. Spahic Omer
|"Traditional" houses in Istanbul, Turkey
At the same time, however, adopting a foreign housing design and style, partly or completely, in the same Muslim metropolises, which evolved somewhere else in the West as a result of fluctuating, often wintry, continental weather and other environmental factors, foreign cultural orientations and penchants, as well as different belief systems incompatible with Islam - that, unfortunately, will not be regarded as strange, unsuitable and ridiculous a course of action. To make things worse, there will be even those who would perceive that as a sign of modernization and progress. The proponents of this phenomenon would normally espouse that Islam either has nothing to do with the matter in question, or it does to some extent but there could be no out-and-out conflicts and discrepancies between the two.
Moreover, while a foreign dress style that does not respect the Islamic tenet of covering the
'awrah (parts of the human body that must be properly covered in certain situations and under certain circumstances) will be frowned upon by many and in most of the referred to Muslim cities, a foreign Western housing style and design which not only does not respect the subjects of the
'awrah of the body and the 'awrah of the family institution and human life in general (various levels of the privacy right among the family members and visitors), but also through its design and layout it promotes their outright violation - that, in contrast, will rarely be frowned upon, let alone rejected and substituted with better and more appropriate alternatives.
Also, as another example, if a person within the unique cultural, environmental and religious contexts of his life were to completely abandon his native cuisine in favor of a foreign one, which evolved as a result of a totally different cultural, environmental and religious contexts, his actions too will be looked upon as weird, inappropriate and ridiculous.
Undoubtedly, this principle of inevitable diversity, due to the diversity of life contexts and conditions, applies to virtually all aspects of culture and civilization. It even applies to the ways people conduct their political, economic, social, family and leisure activities. Calling for unity and standardization in sheer cultural matters would be extremely unfair and aberrant. It would be tantamount to betraying the human nature and instinct. Thus, people ought to be always mindful of cultural and life diversities and their inevitability, in turn appreciating, conforming to, and trying to get the best out of it for the sake of ensuring their earthly wellbeing.
|Terrace houses are very popular in Malaysia. Some terrace houses in Kuala Lumpur
That virtually everything in human life, including the way people look like and the languages they speak, is greatly influenced by natural elements, i.e., by the way the heavens and earth have been created, Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of everything, says in the Qur'an: "And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors: verily in that are Signs for those who know."
22) Placing the words "the variations in your languages and your colors" after the words "the creation of the heavens and the earth" implies that the ways the heavens and earth have been created and function hold sway over the ways people conduct much of their lives. As there are permanent and immutable rules and laws of physics, similarly, there are permanent and immutable rules and laws of culture as well, as there are permanent and immutable laws and rules of human ethics and morality, etc. From this unity of truth, which is akin to the roots and trunk of a healthy tree, springs out diversity of cultural and civilizational expressions and achievements, which is akin to the brunches, leafs and fruits of the same tree. Each brunch, leaf or a fruit is independent, a world on its own, however, they all are tied to the same source, the tree's roots and trunk. Undeniably, unity in diversity is the ethos and the trademark of Islam and its tawhidic worldview.Ê
The words "verily in that are Signs for those who know" in the above-mentioned verse from the Qur'an, represents an invitation to man, Allah's vicegerent on earth for whom everything thereon has been created and to whom everything has been subjected, to explore and at the same time adhere to those Signs, i.e., the permanent laws and paradigms of life. The same Signs (laws of existence) man is to scrupulously observe and conform to in all of his dealings and pursuits while on a quest for the realization of his honorable earthly mission. Man is not to rebel against, or to defy, his own nature, and the nature of things that surround him. Man, and everything that he does, must at all times be realistic, rational, "natural", and nature, or creation, friendly.
Dr. Spahic Omer, a Bosnian currently residing in Malaysia, is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design, International Islamic University Malaysia. He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. His research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and philosophy of the Islamic built environment. He can be reached at spahico [@] yahoo.com; his blog is at
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