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Title: The influence of traditional Muslim beliefs on medieval religious architecture : of the Bahri Mamluk period
Author: Gabr, Aly Hatem
ISNI:       0000 0004 2699 6491
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1992
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Mamlük medieval religious architecture was designed and built through a process which involved a deep knowledge of Sufism, the inner dimension of Islam. Through the symbolism implicit in this process, the external, limited, and sensible forms of these buildings carried within themselves inner transcendental qualities. This thesis adopts the traditionalist approach which has its foundation in objective truth based on Islamic metaphysical interpretations. This approach is applied to reach the symbolism of medieval religious buildings, focusing specifically on the Bahri Mamlük period in Cairo as a case study. The need for such a study is twofold: firstly, to know the truth about the intent and design process of the medieval Mamlük tradition; and secondly, to see if it is possible to formulate new guidelines for contemporary architects to use in today's mosque designs. Medieval historical sources emphasize that the Mamlük society had its roots in Sufi thought. Sultäns, emirs, scientists, intellectuals, the common people, and even some of the `ulama', respected and participated in Sufi rites. The hypothesis behind this study is that the Sufi thought which pervaded Mamluk society at large must have influenced the craftsmen who produced artifacts, particularly the sacred ones. A purely historical approach is used to introduce the buildings of the case study. This immediately raises several queries that have either been answered inadequately, or remain unanswered within a stylistic and historical approach; this shows the limitations of its scope of interpretation. By adopting the traditionalist approach it is possible to re-create the traditional Mamlük context applying both exoteric and esoteric dimensions of interpretation to these buildings. The context consists of both the setting and the design and building processes involved in creating a traditional product, as well as the traditional view of the relationship between the Süfi masters, the Süfi craftsmen, and the general craftsmen who were not necessarily Sufis. It is here that the relation between the symbol and the act of "creation" of traditional forms is revealed from a SO point of view to imitate the process of Divine Creation. This line of argument is adopted and applied to the different notions of architectural form which are in turn analyzed from a traditional viewpoint. Subsequently, specific architectural analyses reveal several layers of understanding in the symbolism of traditional religious buildings: the level of the elements, the level of the relationships which incorporates several elements visually and results in a second layer of symbolism, the temporal level through the sequence of spaces of a building which gives yet a further dimension to this wholistic system of symbolism. Bafiri Mamlük cases are analyzed at these three levels, and the results confirm the value of the methodology adopted in this thesis. The findings bring about a more vivid picture of how and why a traditional member of the society designed and used these buildings down to their constituents. It is at this level where architect, craftsman, and user are unified in their relations to the traditional artefact that the symbol of unity is found to be operative. The thesis ends in a general review of how a traditional prototype would have been created in the Bafiri Mamlük period. The benefits of adopting the traditionalist approach in order to re-create a lost tradition are then discussed. This is followed by a review of the basic differences between the modern and traditional processes, which sheds light on the extent of our contemporary displacement from our traditional past. The question of the relevance of this study to the contemporary situation is raised. It is here that it becomes evident that there can be no return to traditional principles while living in a modernistic society governed by modern values. The suggestion that is set forth is that there must neither be a faked tradition nor a faked modernity. If the contemporary architect is to make use of such traditional findings and symbolisms, he must first adapt his method of form-creation by learning from the principles of the traditional process so as to be able to reuse them to fit the society's contemporary needs and using the means of today.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available