A Sacred Place

A Sacred Place

By Hwaa Irfan

Of those who have struggled to obtain greater insight into God’s law, they have been blessed with a greater responsibility, to teach and guide the rest of us. As we tend to believe what is visible, importance is placed on the physical. When we seek refuge we run to a physical place. Rather than make the environment in which we live in a place of worship and remembrance we separate worship as something that can only be done in the domain of a building that has been designed specifically for that purpose.

A fundamental aspect to the design of some sacred places is geodesy meaning earthlike or spheroidal. Abu Raihan Muhammed ibn Ahmad Al-Biruni (362 A.H/973 B.C.) as a naturalist, geographer, astronomer, and astrologer, geodesy was classified as natural philosophy involving matter + form, and time + space, whereas it was classified as a mathematical science under ibn Sina. In the reductive times in which we live, geodesy has fallen under the physical domain, as a branch of mathematics that focuses on the size and shape of the earth. Regardless, it still involved geometry which is rooted in the religious sciences as sacred geometry.
Islamic religious architectural design is based on sacred geometry. One can find geometry in the design of all life forms from the cells of our bodies, plant forms, water, and geological structures hence the expression “geometry is God manifest”. As much as we try to move away from God, His presence is wherever we are. Water molecules, carbon atoms, proteins, cells, bodily tissues etc, are able to facilitate their purpose in the cycle of life because of their geometrical design. The ability of organisms to stabilize mechanically is due to their connectedness to a frame of triangles, pentagons, and hexagons etc.

Rahul Singhvi and others believed that by changing the shape of cells, they could switch God’s genetic programming. They tried to force living cells to take on other geometrical shapes, but their knowledge achieved little. Instead the cells became flat away from their geodesic dome shapes and developed a propensity to divide and activate apoptosis – death program. This is man dabbling with the laws of His nature.

Following through, an analogy can be drawn with man who forces others to be the same – we are not all squares or rectangles. Man is splitting and dividing the world, against the laws of nature, triggering a death wish can be witnessed by the extent of the violence that is occurring today at all levels of society.

The problem for man’s ego is, that geodesic forms existed in inorganic forms long before DNA existed even water molecules are structurally geodesic for all matter is subject to the same spatial parameters regardless of scale or position. This confirms that The Plan was set from the very beginning of creation.

Everything as a purpose and a purpose for everything, even art once served a greater purpose as objective art. George Gurdjieff, a philosopher who traveled much in the Islamic and pre-Islamic world described objective art as follows:

    “Among works of art, especially ancient works of art, you meet with many things you cannot explain, and which contains a certain something you do not feel in modern works of art.

    “Objective art requires at least flashes of objective consciousness; in order to understand these flashes properly and to make proper use of them a great inner unity is necessary and a great control of one’s self”

Both geodesy and objective art reflect fundamentals of Islamic architecture. Mechanically domes are power enhancers. A whisper on one side of a sound-reflecting dome building is easily heard because the sound becomes focused towards the center of the spherical shape. This principle applies to all forms of energy under a dome: a concave lens, dish antennae’s and electromagnetic waves.

Arab and Muslim builders who adopted the dome from traditions prior to Islam, introduced other concepts, and applied this knowledge into Islamic architecture. They have made the non-physical physical, through centuries of experience, knowledge, craftsmanship and artistry using local materials. From these contributions the attempt at environmental harmony as a reflection of the divine concept of humanity was made.

An Example in Time

It is this transcendence of objective art that the Dome of the Rock – El-Qubbet El-Sakhrah speaks of. In ancient Semetic tradition, this site was the intersection of the underworld and upperworld (which brings to mind the Hermetic axiom “As above, so below”). It was where Prophet Ibrahim/Abraham built an alter to sacrifice his son Ishmael, it was where God through Prophet Nathaniel rejected David’s wish to build a temple because he had shed blood (Bible: Samuel II 7:12 -13), it was where the Hellenic and Greek god Apollo was worshipped in the belief that this is the intersection of both worlds. It was there that Prophet Muhammed (SAW) ascended to his “Night Journey” leading prophet Abraham/Ibrahim, Musa/Moses, Issa/Jesus, and others in prayer. Today, Muslims do not pray inside the Dome, for it is forbidden for anyone to pray inside what is seen as the gateway between two worlds. Even the “halakhah” in rabbinical text does not permit entry into this site. Mustafa Mould, a convert to Islam from Judaism recounted:

“Standing at the wall of Solomon’s Temple, the Dome of the Rock, and El-Aqsa gave me an intense feeling I could not describe at the time. I can describe it now: I was sensing a feeling of holiness; it’s no wonder the Islamic name is El-Quds.”

Yitzhak Hayat-Ma’n describes the design of the Dome as one that creates movement in physical space causing the pilgrim to move in comprehension. This sense of circumambulation is reflect in the sensation of spiraling upwards as in the Sufi dance, the centrifugal force and the double helix of DNA.

Brian Wingate who loves to visit sites of Islamic architecture pondered on the Dome and said:

    “The designs are so intricate and geometric that they seem to turn in endlessly upon themselves, inviting your own mind to do the same”.

This is the difference between objective art, and modern art, as modern art has a different effect on each onlooker, whereas with objective art the effect is the same on all onlookers calling on the unification of man.

This was first written in 2002.

Sources:
‘Abu-Sway, M. “Towards an Islamic Jurisprudence of the Environment” http://www.muslimonline.com/bicnews.Articles/environment.htm 1998.

Fathy, H. “Architecture and the Environment”. Arid Land Newsletter. 36 (1994) Arizona.edu.

Hayat-Ma’n,Y. “Investigation of the Dome of the Rock” Academy of Jerusalem”
http://www.thehope.org/domeinvs.htm

Ingber, D. “The Architecture of Life” http://www.sciam.com/1998/0198issue/0198ingber.html 1998.

Integraton.com. “The Virtues of the Dome”. http://www.integraton.com/5sacredGeometry/SacredGeometry.html 2001

Lapidus, I. “A History of Islamic Societies”. Britain: Cambridge University Press. 1995.

Mould, M. “Odyssey to Islam”. http://jews-for-allah/Jewish-Converts-to-islam/odyssey_to_islam.htm 2001.

Nasr, S. “Islamic Cosmological Doctrines” Britain: Thames & Hudson. 1978.

Ouspensky, P. “In Search of the Miraculous” Britain: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1983.

Sacred Sites. “Dome of the Rock” http://www.sacredsites.com/1st30/domeof.html 2002

Sakkal, M. “(Computational) Geometry in Islam Architecture”. University of Washington. http://www.kalam.org/abst.htm 2002

Templemount Faithful. “The Riddle of the Dome of the Rock”. http:///www.templemountfaithful.org/Newsletters/2001/5761-12.htm 2001

Related Topics:
The Great Flood & Noah’s Ark
The Patterns of Our Lives

4 thoughts on “A Sacred Place

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