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Researcher Details
Research Projects

Theme

1st Track : Evolution of Mosque Architecture through the Ages

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Author

Research paper Title

The Symbolism of the Cave and its Relation to the Iwan

Personal Biography

Zain Mankani is a Ph.D. student at the Department of Architecture and Planning at NED University, Karachi. He is a practicing architect and also a regular contributor to the local architecture publication, Archi Times, to which he has contributed several articles on Islamic Architecture. He has a keen interest in the design of mosques, and has built / rebuilt two mosques in his home city of Karachi.

Paper Abstract

This study looks at the meaning of ‘cave’ and its relation to sacred spaces, in particular to the architectural unit ‘Iwan’ that figures prominently in Islamic Architecture. One of the likely predecessors of the Iwan are the Urartian rock niches. These were monumental niches carved into rocks. The carvings created recessed portals into the rocks and some scholars have suggested that it was connected to the belief that the god would someday emerge from the rock through the framed portal. A cave is also a recess in a rock, the difference in the niche and the cave being one of depth. In the Urartian temples, while the doors to the interior of the temple were closed, their appearance was similar to the rock niches. But with the doors open, the appearance was more of a cave from which the statue of the god emerged. The cave carries significant symbolic meaning in Islam as well. The first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) in a cave. Therefore, in essence, the word of God emerges from the cave in the Islamic conception. There is also a chapter of the Quran titled ‘The Cave’ (Surah Al-Kahf, 18th Chapter of the Holy Quran) which deals with, among other things, encounters with the Divine that have a transformative effect on the soul. The question that this study investigates is whether these symbolic concepts have a potential relation to the Iwan, which may have contributed to the uptake of this architectural device by Muslims. This paper contributes to the existing body of knowledge on the symbolic meaning of Iwans by investigating the meaning of the cave symbol and its relevance to the religious philosophy of Islam. It draws on the theory of archetypes in Analytical Psychology to assert that symbols have a generic meaning that is universal but incommunicable, and also a host of specific meanings that are interchangeably applicable depending on the cultural context. This research is a descriptive-analytical study of the multifaceted meaning of cave symbolism and its potential relevance and application in Islamic Architecture. It is based on a review of literature and documents on analytical psychology, mythology, Islamic philosophy, Islamic Architecture, and symbolism. The findings show that the cave is an important symbol in the Islamic conception of the Divine and is linked to important philosophical concepts. This may explain the ease of adoption of the Iwan as an architectural element in Islamic Architecture. Keywords: Islamic Architecture, Mythology, Symbolism, Cave, Iwan
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لوريم إيبسوم دولور سيت أميت، كونسيكتيتور أديبيسينغ إليت. سد كونسيكوات فيليت أت أنتي بيبندوم، إن ديكتوم إليت ديغنيسيم. إنتيجر أك ليغولا إو كوام كومودو إليمنتوم. أليكوام إيرات فولوتبات. فيسللوس أوت جوستو فيل سابين إيفيسيتور كورسوس. بروين نك ليو فيل دولور جرافيدا كونسيكتيتور. أوت إيد تورتور نيك توربيس لاسينيا فيوغيات. أليكوام إيرات فولوتبات. بيلينتيسكو
لوريم إيبسوم دولور سيت أميت، كونسيكتيتور أديبيسينغ إليت. سد كونسيكوات فيليت أت أنتي بيبندوم، إن ديكتوم إليت ديغنيسيم. إنتيجر أك ليغولا إو كوام كومودو إليمنتوم. أليكوام إيرات فولوتبات. فيسللوس أوت جوستو فيل سابين إيفيسيتور كورسوس. بروين نك ليو فيل دولور جرافيدا كونسيكتيتور. أوت إيد تورتور نيك توربيس لاسينيا فيوغيات. أليكوام إيرات فولوتبات. بيلينتيسكو