This paper will discuss the Ibn Tulun Mosque in Cairo, one of the first Islamic Mosques built in Egypt. It will explore the symbolic meaning and the cultural aspects of the mosque design and its place within Tulun's dynasty. Petersen writes that the mosque is the central architectural form of Islamic culture because it is a building used for prayer, and religion is central to Islamic society. (Petersen: 195) The first Islamic Mosque is Muhammad's house situated in Medina. (Petersen: 195) In a mosque there is a shaded area at the South, called the qibla wall (Petersen: 196) directed towards Mecca, the spiritual centre of Islam. Mosques are enclosed spaces, usually rectangular in shape. (Petersen: 195)The Ibn Tulun mosque is one of the few mosques surviving in partial form from the 9th century. (Petersen:44) Cairo in Arabic is al-Qahira. (Petersen: 44) The modern city is built on the partial ruins of four early Islamic cities, including Fustat and al-Askar.
[...] (Stewart: 55) Though the labor was mandatory, Rappoport suggests that historically the Egyptian Coptic peoples (many of whom were Christian, rather than Islamic) were generally content during Turun's rule because he was generally benevolent to his people. This included, as Golia notes, using revenues from war and taxes to build a public hospital. (Golia, 2004). Overall, the culture in ancient Cairo was a mixture of Islamic, Christian, Hebrew and other religious traditions. (Rappoport, Gutenberg.org) In the Islamic mosques, the sanctuary roof is supported by either palm tree columns or brick. After the 9th century, domes begin to appear as the shape of roofs. [...]
[...] Its ideological use is to provide a sense of mystery about the ruler and his relationship to Muhammad, as well as a visual representation of the ruler's central place in the hierarchical Islamic culture. (Petersen: 196) The palace, called Dar al-Imara, would be built adjoining the mosque, with the connecting door placed beyond the important qibla prayer wall. (Petersen: 196) As the illustration below (from Rappaport, Chapter Gutenberg. Org) shows, the monumental scale of the mosque and compound around it, of arches, high walkways, gates, minaret and rectangular domed buildings, lend it a majesty in scope and scale within the city's layout. [...]
[...] A dream interpreter described the light as “God's splendor before which all must saying that only the mosque would withstand (Golia: 51) The story comes down to us from Medieval Islamic times, hence is a way for later eras to spiritually understand the survival of the Mosque revealing how God's power, invested in the mosque architecture, ultimately overrides earthly power. Innovations to Islamic mosque design would continue into the Medieval period, with the Ibn Tulun Mosque remaining as a testament to a time when Islam was both fragmented and expanding, finding its cultural and legal focus, as it began to spread militarily, spiritually and architecturally throughout the middle east. Work [...]
[...] (Petersen: 287) However this opulence is common among rulers of the time, as is evident in the wealth of Samarra, Ibn Tulun's extravagance in the building projects of the city he founded, and in the Fatimid dynasty which followed after Tulunid rule. The mosque is described by Alice O'Keeffe as having inscrutable, minimalist appearance .bare sun bleached brick .with Gothic-like arches punctuated by hanging lamps.” Keefe: As O'Keeffe notes, religious Islam forbids art that represents figures, which can account for the bare, unadorned appearance of much religious architecture, including mosques. [...]
[...] (Golia, 2004; Stewart, 1996) The Tulun mosque is therefore a mix of tradition and innovation, reflective of the contradiction between the ruler's adherence to the culture of Sammara and his own ambitions to set himself apart and establish a dynasty. Other standard features of mosques found at the Great Mosque include a minbar, which is the pulpit, modeled upon the one where Muhammad himself led prayers. (Petersen: 196) There are also areas for ablutions including a central pool or fountain. [...]
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