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A Case of a Space

March 23rd, 2014

We’ve spoken about the mosque extensively in one or two lectures, through which we discussed its structural and architectural evolution that varied with time and place. Hence, I thought it was necessary to post a blog entry about experiencing the space and not just viewing it as a mosque. I have visited and viewed several mosques in several different countries, from the U.S., India, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and London. Some countries preserved a specific form and style, others have been inspired by more dominant Islamic cultural forms, while the rest had varied architecturally from one mosque to another. Although it is of significance to speak about this aspect, it is nevertheless important to shed light on the evolution of this space as a platform for social engagement, public expression, and in some occasions of political reform. Mosques throughout history have been open spaces where issues such as, yet not restricted to, exchanging trades, breaking class identifications, holding campaigns against an unjust ruler, and introducing marginalized voices into society.

In the following ink-drawing, I intended to exemplify experiencing the fusion between the sound and the structure of mosques in some Arab countries that I have visited. During the five prayers of the day, one will hear an echo of all the different voices stemming from the mosques in a neighborhood and in the surrounding areas; an experience so profound that I wonder how some people are advocating for unifying them into a single voice. Although these mosques speak the same language and recite verses from a single book, one should not forget that each mosque represents an ideology, an understanding, and a leading message that it advocates. Thinking of it, I thought the differences in minarets’ structure, length, and shape can resemble this multitude of voices, hence, my choice to do this:

Minarets are symbols of our similarities and differences – Watercolor and Ink on paper

Mosques can speak volumes about a culture, or at least about the community of attendees that are regular visitors to a mosque in their neighborhood. For example, some of the things one can take from simple observations would be how organized the people are by simply looking at the shoes and how assorted they are on the floor or on the shelves, by seeing whether or not they are of known fashion brands, by looking at the amount of water wasted during abolition, by the social vibes that fill the hall, and by seeing where women are located. Moreover and most importantly, by the Friday prayer khutba (speech) contents. In this entry, after having briefly portrayed the voices through the minarets, I will talk about experiencing this space at Harvard, which touches on the mosque being a space for cultural exchange, empowerment, and a way to understand a community of Muslims.

The following post and photo may not be an art piece, but it is certainly a catalyst for a cultural studies approach happening not so far away from the classroom.

  • “Today was the first time I ever actively contribute to a Juma’a (Friday) Prayer, an experience in the Islamic tradition that was gradually taken away from female Muslims, both in attendance and in voice. My friend, the khateeb/imam (Preacher/Prayer Leader), agreed to voice out my ideas and thoughts that I had written down for him. His voice merged with my ideas on the issue of “going beyond tolerance through a sincere engagement with the word “لتعارفوا” from the verb form “لتفاعلوا” “to know one another,” which is based on an active two-sided participation, to hybridise with the “other” rather than to simply “tolerate the other.”

A Case of a Space – Panoramic Photo

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