Islamic architecture vs modern architecture –Our Identity, and the direction that architects of the Muslim world are taking.


I meet and see many international Muslim architects and I see their work and note that they are peddling contemporary/modernist design and appear ashamed of their own heritage; their own religion even. Muslims designing hotels, houses, apartments-even mosques and all buildings have no reference to the history and identity of Islam. Making combined/mixed corridors where male/female openly mix. Giving no privacy; no light; no air. They are happy to conjure up refined modernist detailing. They studied at university and studied historical giants Corbusier, Mies, Johnson, Bauhaus or contemporaries such as Foster, Rogers, Neuveau, Gehry. They fussed over the detailing and frequently speak (fallacies) such as ‘God is in the detail’. They are proud to show off to their non-Muslim contemporaries their refined modernist works and buildings with not a single element of Islamic identity.


If you ask them about or show them pictures of Granada or Andalusia or Cordoba or of the Ka’bah or Madina or beautiful Islamic buildings-they will generally all unanimously agree that they are proud of these buildings and may explain to you that this is their heritage and ‘their architecture’; Islamic architecture.  But if you ask them to build upon that tradition-in face of the contemporary modern architectural discourse-then you will see them buckle; fail or even worse say that that architecture is banished to the pages of history and of pretty pictures in Islamic architecture books.


Did they spend equal time at university (especially at architecture schools ay universities in Muslim countries) studying the great works of Sinan, of the Ottoman Empire and the marvels these wonderful giants of history achieved? Did they study closely the house & mosque of the Prophet in Madinah and learn the wonders that the messenger of Allah, SalAllahu alayhi wassalam built with his own hands? Did they ponder the marvels of Granada or Andalusia ; architecture that even today hypnotizes everyone whom enters it. Did they study the historical & architectural development of the great empire of Islam an empire that the last prophet of Almighty God Muhammad SalAllahu alayhi wassalam said will be victorious in the end, who are indeed upon truth.


Why is that so? Why is Islamic architecture relegated to our mosques and Islamic centres only? Why are Muslim architects ashamed to make a beautiful Islamic arch on their buildings? Or to insert peaceful, private & functional courtyards into our buildings? Why are we ashamed to separate male & female-creating the necessary privacy that this religion commands.  Why are Muslim architects so ashamed of their own identity? Is it weakness? Is it ignorance? Or even worse-do you even hate your won heritage; yearning tom escape from the clutches of faith to follow the non-Muslims-even if they went down a lizard hole?



The Muslims have no need to imitate any of the other nations in matters of religious rituals and acts of worship, for Allah has perfected His religion and completed His Favour, and chosen for us Islam as our religion, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):


“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion”[Quran-  al-Maa’idah 5:3]


It was narrated from Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “You will certainly follow the ways of those who came before you hand span by hand span, cubit by cubit, to the extent that if they entered the hole of a lizard, you will enter it too.” We said: “O Messenger of Allah, (do you mean) the Jews and the Christians?” He said: “Who else?” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1397; Muslim, 4822.


This hadeeth indicates that it is haram to imitate the Jews and the Christians, and that those who follow them and tread the same path as them are criticized. Islam has reinforced this prohibition, by describing those who imitate the kuffaar as being of them.


It was narrated that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.” Narrated by Abu Dawood, 3512; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Irwa’ al-Ghaleel, 2691.


My fellow Muslim architects; surely this matter is no laughing matter and the very purpose of this group and my life’s work.


I reverted to Islam in 2000 (17 years ago) and ever since have moved away from my system, my architecture (western) and embraced Islam but I see the Muslims doing the exact opposite!


You hold, as Muslims, the most wonderful historical legacy. The Muslims conquered the east, west, north, south so rapidly that no other empire grew so fast; It wasn’t by the sword; it was form the Qur’an and the power that it gave people and the character, principles and communities that it taught.


We must be proud of Islamic architecture and proud of our own identity. We are the Muslims.  Ideas such as serenity/tranquility, separation/privacy, beauty, simplicity are indeed Islamic. The idea of the central courtyard is the major Islamic typology. We can go further by adding Islamic arches and other detailing such as privacy screens/lattice screens that help with ventilation.


So my suggesting, hope and plea; Is to be proud of who you are; Don’t follow the non-Muslims in their architecture;



Whoever would like to be honoured in this world and the Hereafter, let him adhere to obedience to Allah, then he will attain what he wants, because Allah is the Sovereign of this world and the Hereafter, and all honour, power and glory belong to Him, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):


“Those who take disbelievers for Awliyaa’ (protectors or helpers or friends) instead of believers, do they seek honour, power and glory with them? Verily, then to Allaah belongs all honour, power and glory”

[al-Nisa’ 4:139]





Ibrahim Conlon Architect, Sydney NSW Australia


Islamic Architecture-Contemporary & Traditional-Buildings Designed by Muslims; For Muslims


ISC DESIGN; Architectural Design, Documentation & Approvals

Auburn, Sydney NSW Australia 2144 ABN: 74648069051


Serenity, Privacy, Islamic Identity, Separation, Geometry, Simplicity, Austerity, Functionalism, Sustainability, Beauty, Cost-efficiency


Buildings designed on principles of Qu’ran & Sunnah





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