Saturday, November 17, 2007

Islam and architecture

Lately I came across an article on a development project in Putrajaya. A grand mosque was to be built near Tasik Putrajaya. As an architecture student, especially one who is a Muslim, and studying in overseas, I was always intrigued with the design of a mosque, because I don't really get to explore much here in Australia. It would be very interesting to learn to design a mosque. Considering the fact that it is a religious place and also very open to the public, there are surely lots of things to consider in terms of the relationship between the inner and outer space, the allocation of space for different purposes, etc. (I wont elaborate more cause not all people would be able to understand the things I write architecturally)

Anyways, back to the topic; the development of a big grandeur mosque in Putrajaya. You can read the news here. The figures are pretty awesome;

  • RM180 mil - construction cost

  • 60,156 - meter square of covered area

  • 20,000 - jamaah capacity

  • Masjid Besi @ Steel Mosque as they called it

    Big numbers, big project, big money. The developers and most people are proud of it.

    Not me.

    The way I see it, it is just a waste of money, effort, and time to erect yet another big mosque, when people still don't use the existing mosques to the fullest. We can count how many individuals who prayed fardh prayer in the mosque. The only time the mosque is full with Muslims is during the Eid celebration and Friday prayer, which only last for 30 minutes at most. After the prayer is over, people will quickly disperse to the exit to get back to their daily life. In a way, the mosques only serve as temporary praying facilities for the Muslims. So why do we want to spend RM 180 MILLION to build a mosque that is yet to be deserted most of the time? I just think that this is truly wasting our funds.

    During the time of the prophet, there were no grand mosque; only a simple shelter with adobe walls, topped with palm leaves for the prophet Muhammad SAW, the companions and the Muslims to gather every single day to pray, discuss, get to know each other, etc. It was the centre of the whole nation. The quantity are less impressive, but the quality that was given to it by the acts of the Muslims at that time was far greater than what we have now.

    Coming back to the reality that we're living in now, the millions of dollars could have been used to educate the young generations nowadays to know Islam better, in a true way. No bida'a, no bias, no extreme cult, etc. The financial support would be a great aid in organizing seminars and camps that aim to expose the problems of the ummah nowadays and make them realize their responsibilities as Muslims. Some people will not understand what kind of seminar I am talking about, therefore, I suggest that those people go and search for a talk by Dr Tariq Suwaidan called "The Future of Our Religion" in the net. There are some videos in Youtube.

    Thinking about the Mosque also made me think about my prospective career as an architect. How can I contribute to Islam using the potential in architecture that Allah has given me? Building mosque for people was surely an option, but looking at the situation of the Muslims nowadays...i guess it is pointless. For now, I can only think of one thing. It relates back to the very existence of architects; to provide shelter in which people inhabits. I would consider that the task of providing a shelter for people is one of the ways to make good deeds. And the best thing is, the buildings that are built will continue to provide shelter even after architects finished with the project, which means that the good deeds of an architect continues to rise exponentially until the building collapse. It is an opportunity for me to ensure that even after I die, my works remains to provide benefits for people in this world.

    Anyways, I still have a long road ahead of me. 4 more years, and I will graduate with a Master of Architecture certificate. In the mean time, I'll try to learn to be good in what I'm enrolling in now. Insya Allah, I will be able to contribute to Islam through architecture; the ability to design places for people, with great consideration of all the surrounding aspects, via Allah's guidance for those who seek for His help. That is my interpretation of the word architecture.

    May Allah SWT continue to guide me in the right direction until I finally reach his Jannah.