Deconstructing the American Mosque

Deconstructing the American Mosque

Akel Ismail Kahera
Copyright Date: 2002
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/743441
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  • Book Info
    Deconstructing the American Mosque
    Book Description:

    From the avant-garde design of the Islamic Cultural Center in New York City to the simplicity of the Dar al-Islam Mosque in Abiquiu, New Mexico, the American mosque takes many forms of visual and architectural expression. The absence of a single, authoritative model and the plurality of design nuances reflect the heterogeneity of the American Muslim community itself, which embodies a whole spectrum of ethnic origins, traditions, and religious practices.

    In this book, Akel Ismail Kahera explores the history and theory of Muslim religious aesthetics in the United States since 1950. Using a notion of deconstruction based on the concepts of "jamal" (beauty), "subject," and "object" found in the writings of Ibn Arabi (d. 1240), he interprets the forms and meanings of several American mosques from across the country. His analysis contributes to three debates within the formulation of a Muslim aesthetics in North America-first, over the meaning, purpose, and function of visual religious expression; second, over the spatial and visual affinities between American and non-American mosques, including the Prophet's mosque at Madinah, Arabia; and third, over the relevance of culture, place, and identity to the making of contemporary religious expression in North America.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79836-6
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    AIK
  5. Introduction THE POLEMICS OF DECONSTRUCTION
    (pp. 1-24)

    In the United States, the design and interpretation of Muslim religious art and architecture have been influenced by both the exclusion and the inclusion of historical fact, cultural bias, and a host of subtle contradictions. Each anomaly gives rise to a new discourse, and these discourses inform the corpus of this inquiry.Moreover, the AmericanMuslim community has also claimed the freedom to compose and ultimately to forge a set of religious expressions apropos to the North American environment. The most obvious result of the freedom to compose is the generation of a new spatial form—the American mosque. My justification for...

  6. Chapter One AESTHETIC ORIGINS AND END CONDITIONS
    (pp. 25-62)

    In the performance of daily Muslim devotions, the repeated act of communal prostration intrinsically defines an interval of time and, invariably, a sense of space and place. Communal worship is a devotional act, and space and place can be expressed in terms of a referential cognition, which regulates the spatial order of a mosque (masjid).¹ While these remarks provide general information about the function of a mosque, they do not adequately plain the purpose or the meaning of spatial order. Because spatial order is both a system of aesthetics and the making of architectural space and form, an analytical discourse...

  7. Chapter Two INTERPRETATIONS OF IMAGE, TEXT, AND FORM
    (pp. 63-90)

    The aesthetic features of the American mosque can be codified under the rubrics of ‘‘image,’’ ‘‘text,’’ and ‘‘form.’’¹ These three features suggest an anachronistic language corresponding to the use of ornament, inscription, and architectural form.The occurrence of image, text, and form, therefore, prompts an inquiry that must address two pivotal thematic assumptions:

    1. The primacy of prayer (salat) is a necessary criterion in determining the characteristics of a liturgical space suited for the American environment.²

    2. The embellishment of a space forsalatis a contingent matter. Although ornament, inscription, and architectural form have been nuanced as integral aspects of the aesthetic...

  8. Chapter Three SPACE, PLACE, AND PUBLIC GATHERING
    (pp. 91-144)

    Kevin Lynch, the renowned author ofGood City Form, remarks that a ‘‘substantial equity of environmental access, at least up to some reasonable range of space and diversity of setting, must surely be one fundamental characteristic of a good city.’’¹ In general, Lynch’s observation is correct; it is evident that the normative aspects of habitat in urban America maintain a spatial logic that is diverse, balanced, or mixed, with preference given to public space (i.e., space for public housing, shopping, working, schooling, worshipping, and recreating).² Our discussion of the urban mosque will suffice to explain a new type of urban...

  9. Conclusion REVERSIBLE SPACE AND LINEAR TIME
    (pp. 145-160)

    Our introductory remarks posited a dynamic relationship between architectural meaning and aesthetic representation by illustrating three major aesthetic genres of Muslim religious architecture in America: syncretic, traditional, and avant-garde. The specific idiom of these particular aesthetic genres is what we have come to call the American mosque. There are several conclusions that can be drawn from the foregoing discussion. Our first conclusion is general; it reasserts our initial hypothesis—which allowed for the precedent of tradition—but with a difference. It acknowledges that no single authoritative aesthetic tradition exists in Islam that can be individually claimed by any community. Instead,...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 161-174)
  11. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 175-178)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 179-186)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 187-194)