A Sad Day for Islamic Architecture


Perhaps the only humbling thing about religion in my opinion is religious architecture (and here, I’m not only talking about Islamic religious architecture, but religious architecure in general). In fact, nothing has ever made me feel as spiritual as stepping into the vast openness of a great mosque, such as the Sultan Hassan mosque in Cairo or the Ummayyad Mosque in Damascus. When we visited Mecca a few years ago, the beauty of il-Haram almost brought me to tears.

So today, as I was looking at pictures of the bombed out Islamic monument the Askariya Shrine in one of the capitals of the Islamic Civilization, Samarra, I got really depressed. The dome has basically collapsed and an adjoining wall was heavily damaged.

Unbelieavably depressing! I will echo the thoughts of Tareq Kahlawi (who has a superb blog on Islamic art and architecture), “Why such architectural treasures, that should be not only Iraqi treasures but also international treasures, why should they suffer from the political struggles?!”

Read more on the Askariya Shrine here.
Also, check out this post by Prometheus(Arabic).

And while we’re on this, here’s a cartoon by the late Naji il-Ali (via The Damascene Blog),


-Are you Muslim or Christian? Sunni or Shiite? Druze or Alawite? Coptic or Maronite? Greek Catholic or Greek Ortho…
-I am Arab, jackass!

19 thoughts on “A Sad Day for Islamic Architecture”

  1. Thanks Roba.
    Naji Alali’s cartoon is just great and says many things.
    Sectarian conflicts are always destructive and they symbolize backwardness and lack of reason.

  2. Never had the chance to visit that place and never will. Why do fanatics attack innocent buildings? Not to say that attacking people would be right but there’s no way a beautiful mosque would do you any harm because it’s an architectural monument. On the Internet, I’ve already seen comparisons to what the Taliban did to that Buddhist monument.

    Not that we Europeans wouldn’t be capable of cultural destruction ourselves. Ceausescu has some dozens of churches destroyed in Bucharest in the 1980s in order to create his model of a socialist Romanian mega(lomania)polis, and during the Bosnian war the national library was deliberately shelled and destroyed… and before that the old town of Dubrovnik in Croatia. The latter, however, has been extremely well repaired unlike the others.

    What is also sad is that I’ve already heard there are conspiracy theories about Americans and/or Zionists (the usual culpits, eh?) being behind this. It’s very unfortunate that there are people who can be brainwashed to believing this.

    The Wave

  3. The vandalized shrine in the other photo is just awful. It shows quite clear the ‘ugly face’ of the US (neo)colonial policy in Iraq.

    I felt no less shame when I visited some Islamic monuments in Rossetta (in Egypt) and was horrified by the ‘restoration’ done by some infamous contracting Co. in Egypt to renovate Ashrad Qalawoun Mosque over there!!

  4. hmmm…

    I feel that i need to write an introduction here, Shea’s faith is based on believeing the fact that there are twelve 2a2imma ma39oomeen min il kha6a2 (we have no such thing as 3i9ma in islam, “kol ibn 2adam kha66a2, o khayro ilkha66a2een attawwaboon”), that everybody must follow, 11 of them were born and died (including the two burried in the shrine that was bombed), and number 12 is Al mahdi, who they think was born before and then got into some hole and disappeared some hundreds years ago and they are still waiting for him to come back (no, seriously thats what they believe) and Shea believe that those twelve 2a2imma have a very special status so to speak and are very close to God, so they go to their maraqid and then they ask the dead 2a2imma to do things for them, to heal someone or to get them more money or have 7amdiyya tkhallif walad or whatever, and they tie a green cloth on the window inside the shrine as a mark of their request, and when the request is answered ( like the dead people have anything to do with that ) they come and untie the cloth and then distribute chocolates in the shrine and talk about the ability of that 2imam in healing sick people, etc, and this is, in the eye of Sonna, a total shirk Billah, Sonna believe as you know that only God has the power to do these thigns and that you shouldn’t ask any living (let alone dead) person to do thigns that only God can do.
    For Shea if you only try to start telling them about the Ayat and 2a7adeeth that says bluntly that this is shirk, you would be marked as wahhabi, takfeeri before you even open your mouth, for Sonna all these acts are so unacceptable, and should be stopped, nevertheless both sides have been wise enough to avoid a public war about that since ever adn till now, inspite of all the occupation’s ugly plicies in Iraq. there is a huge conflict in 3aqeeda here, and beside all that extremely complicated religious problem that might lead to war between Sonna and Shee3a that can never stop, putting in consideration the presence of weapons in both sides’ every-room-in-the-house, a war that is only in the best interest of the occupation and will lead to prolonging its existance, add to all that the political tragedy that involves Sonna and Shea that is manipulated by foreign sides like Iran and also USA itself, in all that very tense mixture of poltical-religious crisis and the fear of triggering the civil war, all what you are concerned about is the architect?

  5. I thing it was the ultimate irony. attacking religious places of worship is forbidden in Islam, let alone a mosque!

    as usual someone is trying to light to fire of sunni-shia conflicts to widen the chaos.

    to zarqawi and his likes shia are not real Muslims. they apply the same logic to say the people in the hotels in amman are not really Muslims either.

    but i suppose the ultimate irony here is that Iraq used to be the giant of Islamic architecture and art for centuries and centuries, only to be reduced to rubble by the U.S. (with a little help from Saddam) in a matter of 15 years.

  6. what a shame!
    nothing hurts me more than seeing historical, and cultural places like this getting destroyed, no matter what the culutre or religion

  7. While I understand that many of us are depressed at the destruction of such a glorious architectural monument, personally I’m more concerned about how much the shrine is valued by the Shi’ite communities of the world.

    What a sad day. A terrible, terrible shame.

    A news report I was reading suggested that the importance of this shrine is as much as the importance that, for example, St. Peters has for Christians. A friend of mine thinks maybe more, arguably! If only people were to realize the relativism of religious sects and groups, and have some respect for other traditions that they can’t make sense of but should still respect…

  8. The real shame is that Muslims are destroying Muslims and whatever they hold dear. There is no excuse or justification whatsoever!

  9. Roba, I appreciate so much that although not a religious person, you are very spiritual!

    I am mourning the Muslim on Muslim violence and destruction as well. This is a huge chance to build and grow, to show through unity what teh Arab world can do, and the op is being blown to bits.

  10. Khalid, atrocities have been going on in Iraq for years now, no one underestimates the possible socio-political impact of such an inhumane act. Just look at the newspapers, the various blogs, and word on the street.

  11. Roba,you nearly brought me to ters.I did not know that this is the mosque that was destroyed.I had oly seen the bombed up photos and felt sd even without realizing that this was the destroyed mosques.This is grotesque.Remeber the statues that the Talban bombed a few years ago?what a shame for humanity!

  12. it is such a shame indeed that such a monument would be destroyed… and i know some people who appreciate art and architecture would sympathize even more! ‘i couldn’t help it myself’!!
    even more sad is that it is a musilm mosque!
    now two basic points i wanna say!
    i don’t [believe] in having a sunni/shii sects! islam is all about the unity! worshipping ONE God! worshipping in ONE way! being ONE ummah!! it is shia who actually came up with the idea of sunni!! so i think we should stop labelling ourselves and others! for God’s sake! WE ARE MUSLIMS(fullstop).
    the cartoon! am sorry but if you consider ur self an arab! doesn’t this sould racist?! come on! did you had any choice in that?! i didn’t! and i choose not to define myself this way! I’m a muslim!! and i love all human beings!!!!! it is part of my deen!!!
    last point to Kinzi! spirituallity is such easily used! but i wonder what does it mean? so am spiritual? does this mean i love God? i respect God? and yet i don’t worship Him? what is spirituality?

  13. Super Devoika, first of all, I personally think that seceterianism is too complex an issue for us to “believe” in or otherwise- after centuries, it is a given, tainted with bloodshed, a different belief system, and historical and political factors. We would be overlooking the essence of time by minimizing the whole deal to belief and disbelief.
    Similarly, it is literally impossible to unite the entire Muslim world under one banner. In fact, the peak of the Islamic civilzation – which is usually considered the Abbassid – was achieved by realizing the strength of tolerance. The Abbassid caliphs, although Sunni, had forged an alliance with the Shiaa of Persia and Iraq, thus creating a larger unity under the banner of tolerance rather than way of worship.
    Secondly, identity is quite a relative aspect that very much depends on personal preference. Some people may choose to identify with Islam… Others may choose to identitfy with a nation… Or a region… Or an ethnicity… Personally, I identify with being an Arab more than with being a Muslim. But again, like I said, it’s just a personal choice, and it really is quite beside the point from loving all human beings or whatever. The atrocities against humanity done in the name of Islam have been much greater than the atrocities done in the name of being Arab (note that I said in the name of, I’m not saying Islam endorses this or that).
    Finally, although I’m not agreeing or disagreeing here, remember the story about the noneMuslim woman who fed a kitten and who the Prophet said will go to Heaven just for that little reason?

  14. well roba!
    i resepct your choices! but i disagree! there is a hadeeth that sayes that there is no difference between Arabs and none Arabs expect according to thier good deeds! so if God won’t judge or identify by my ethnic origin why should I or anyone do that??
    the difference between people is amazing and God created us this way so that we’ll meet and know each other and more over love and respect each other! being proud of being an Arab won’t help much! and for me i care less if you are an arab or not!
    i can write a whole essay about this so i should stop here cause it isn’t the right time or place!
    as for the story you gave! check your story again! the hadeeth says that a woman was casted to Hell because she locked a kitten not feeding here not letting her find its own food! and a man entered Heaven cause he found a thrirsty dog in the middle of the desert and he fetched it water!
    i don’t beleive that only muslims will enter Heaven! God knows best who will and who won’t! i don’t judge people! we all should stop judgeing eachother and labelling each other!!

  15. super.devoika, from what I understand, you are talking about stereotyping/judging people due to their ethnic roots, and that is most certainly not what I’m preaching. I’m personally very much against stereotyping and labelling. What I’m refering here to is identity.

  16. Islam is the best, and khilafah Islamiyah is the solution for all this trouble. ALLAH AKBAR!!!!!!

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