Explore the intricate geometry and the spiritual symbolism embedded in this award-winning Mosque.
Amir Shakib Arslan Mosque does not follow the usual Cube, Dome, or Minaret aspect of typical Mosque construction. Its design conveys a much lighter and more modern expression of a Mosque’s traditional architectural typology.
The Chief Designers, Makram el Kadi, and Ziad Jamaleddine embarked on a journey of studying sacred Islamic architecture in 2013. Never in their wildest dream did they imagine that they would be allowed to build a Mosque two years later until a client walked in requesting them to construct a small Mosque of 100 m2 in Moukhtara, a village with a Muslim minority in the southeast of Beirut, Lebanon.
During their study, they were impressed with how Mosques served as a bridge between the sacred spiritual interior space and the exterior space representing everyday life. The generalized view that a Masjid or Camii means a gathering place was a good starting place for these two architects tasked with converting an existing cross-vaulted space into a Mosque.
EXPLORE THE INTRICATE GEOMETRY AND THE SPIRITUAL SYMBOLISM EMBEDDED IN THIS AWARD-WINNING MOSQUE.
The project consisted of renovating a hillside structure consisting of 2 floors: a ground floor built in the 18th century and the top floor at the beginning of the 20th century. In addition to adding a Minaret, the main challenge for these architects was ensuring the Mosque’s orientation aligned with Mecca. They did this by adding a new skylight that illuminates the direction towards the Kaaba, fixing the carpeting, and adding an angular external white steel structure that partially covers the existing stone building.
On top of this steel structure, which serves as a Minaret, you can see the word “Allah” written in a pixelated pattern symbolizing Divine presence in the vast sky. On the bottom, at ground level, you can see the word “Insan” or “human” inscribed in Arabic. The symbolism is not lost on anyone since the word “Allah” is an integral part of the structure and reinforces the steel. The minaret would collapse structurally if not for the Calligraphic words “Allah.” The same holds for us all humans; if you take away Allah swt from your life, then we are lost souls that would collapse just like the building. These two essential words remind worshippers coming to the Mosque of the dialogue and relationship between them and their Lord.
The architects converted the space outside into a plaza with seats, fountains, an ablution area, and a cool shaded area under a fig tree. An Olive tree already existed before, and thus, they subtly highlighted the first verse of Surah Al-Teen, alluding to the “Fig and Olive,” which is also crucial in Christian traditions.
Depending on the angle you sit outside, you can see the white metal structure as steel stacks that fully enclose the Mosque. Or, these stacks disappear due to their thinness and blend into the existing natural background if viewed from the front, reinforcing the idea of how there is nothing permanent in this world except Allah swt and that we are just a tiny piece of a larger whole.
IT IS SO IMPORTANT THAT WE NEED TO READ THE QURAN CRITICALLY , TRYINGTO UNDERSTAND WHAT IT SAYS INSTEAD OF JUST RECITING IT BLINDLY.
The vertical steel elements found outside are duplicated again on the inside towards the back of the building, but this time with wooden features and with the word “Iqra,” meaning “Read” in Arabic, taking prominence here. Again, the symbolism is evident. This area usually is where people would sit to read the Quran. Still, the way the word “Iqra” is emphasized is a reminder that “Read” was the first word revealed from the Quran, and there is a reason why it was chosen to take that honor. It is so important that we need to read the Quran critically, trying to understand what it says instead of just reciting it blindly.
A mosque of contrasts with heavy stone walls on the one hand and a light steel structure on the other reinforces Islam as a balanced way of life, with moderation being the norm and not the exception. Our Islamic creed is built on the middle path or “wasat” Arabic for moderation in all our affairs.
Every element of this Mosque is functional as it is decorative, teaching us that the simple things in life are beautiful. We must think about how to achieve and maintain that beauty. Beauty in all its simplicity fits the natural aura of this Mosque. No wonder it is an award-winning Mosque, an award that is truly deserved.