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In the Name of God بسم الله
Propaganda_of_the_Deed

Adornment and extravagance in masjids

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I could not help but notice in a recent thread on images of important shrines:

That it can be argued the visuals of the interiors, although undeniably remarkable and striking, can appear distracting and over the top.

I recall (Sunni) narrations against the adornment and extravagance in mosques and not to follow the way of ahlulkitab, especially as the Prophet's mosque in Madinah was so modest and simple.

Al-Bukhaari entitled a chapter in his Saheeh: “Chapter on the building of mosques; Abu Sa’eed said: The roof of the mosque – I.e., the mosque of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) – was made of palm branches. ‘Umar ordered that the mosque be rebuilt and he said: Protect the people from rain, but beware of using red or yellow (for adornment) and distracting the people. Anas said: They build mosques about boast about that, but they do not use them for worship except rarely. Ibn ‘Abbaas said: You are going toadorn (mosques) as the Jews and Christians adorn (their places of worship). 

Abu Dawood (448) narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “I have not been commanded to build lofty mosques.” Ibn ‘Abbaas said: You are going toadorn (mosques) as the Jews and Christians adorn (their places of worship). This hadeeth was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood.

 

it was cited by ʻAbdur-Razzaaq in his book Al-Musannaf as a mawqoof report (I.e. a narration attributed to a Companion) on the authority of Abu Ad-Dardaa’ may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him reading, “When you adorn your mus-hafs (I.e. the written copies of the Qur'an) and embellish your mosques, then destruction will be your lot.

I think there are also Sunni narrations regarding the adornment of masajid as among the Signs of the end times.

I am unsure if we have similar ones.

I may be alone on this and I expect some to disagree, but does anyone else find the interiors of the shrines to be OTT and distracting? Surely back in the day they were more modest and humble in layout. As large and modernised as the Haramain are, certainly they are still not overly distracting visually.

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IMO there is far too much bling. Although elaborate and detailed, the Prophet's s.a w mosque in Madinah still has a subdued, less eye-catching look to it:

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I understand you have to expand and modernise to keep with the times, but it is unfortunate if at the cost of aesthetics and simplicity.

Contrast an Orientalist depiction of the shrine of Imam Hussain (عليه السلام) (1824-1904) by Jean Leon Gerome. Of course one expect it to be less adorned but can you imagine how much more spiritual the experience might be?

May we all have the honour of visiting our Imams (عليه السلام) and the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), insha'Allah

 

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I do agree, but these mosques have had to be largely increased due to demand, what I wonder is, can you expand somewhere without making it blingey by default? Would you get the same amount of people come through the doors?

I often think how beautiful Mecca and Medina would be if the Saudis just left it be, I think about the graveyard and how it is totally unremarkable, you wouldn't know who was buried where, other than Hamza, he has a small mound I believe? So if other places were plain, would they be remarkable to the eye? The pomp creates a feeling of 'wow, I'm somewhere'. Or would you disagree? There is a deep connection even with plain places, the connection to those who lived there, walked there and whatnot, but at surface level we get sucked into visual theatrics I feel.

Edited by aaaz1618

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1 hour ago, Propaganda_of_the_Deed said:

They do in the West.

Come up north west England and every other corner house has  uncle sahib ji in it.

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9 minutes ago, Propaganda_of_the_Deed said:

In my area alone there are several in walking distance, most are shopfronts or houses converted into musallas/centres.

Ditto. Nothing wrong with that I must add, but the language issue makes it hard for converts. Many places have one English speaking mosque which are usually like Dewsbury Mosque, which is usually where converts and other less favourable faces are are drawn to. 

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On 6/11/2019 at 11:25 AM, Propaganda_of_the_Deed said:

That it can be argued the visuals of the interiors, although undeniably remarkable and striking, can appear distracting and over the top

The aesthetics of the shrines are monolitiic in style and quite frankly visually and spiritually ugly.

Edited by Muhammed Ali

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4 minutes ago, Propaganda_of_the_Deed said:

Honestly I was just trying to be diplomatic and polite about it ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I can't be diplomatic about the numerous failings. They need to fire the people that decorated these holy places. And force them to decorate their own houses in the same manner. With metal and glass as the only material. How is a person supposed to be at ease and feel spiritual in a place so far away from nature? Anyhow, it isn't the topic of this thread.

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I understand that people want to construct masajid generously without feeling like they have made their own homes more beautiful than the masjid.

However, extravagance doesn't suit our religion and therefore our places of worship. I think there is a good balance that can be found where masajid are constructed in a nice manner without being heavily adorned or ornamented.

Wallahu a'lam 

Edited by Mahdavist

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18 hours ago, Mahdavist said:

I understand that people want to construct masajid generously without feeling like they have made their own homes more beautiful than the masjid.

However, extravagance doesn't suit our religion and therefore our places of worship. I think there is a good balance that can be found where masajid are constructed in a nice manner without being heavily adorned or ornamented.

Wallahu a'lam 

There is an incident from Time of Uthman when several sahaba inc miqdad protested against adoration of masjid nabawi 

We need solid sound structures that can protect worshippers from elements and provide comfort to them without extravagance. The brilliance of our faith is in its logic  , devotion to almighty and practicality of laws and not in uniqueness of architecture or intricacies of their artistic displays.

 

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Even more despicable is the "endless repairs and renovations" being done at crazy costs. Are the people we seek to honour by doing these displays of gold and glitz happy about this while several people even amongst their zuwaar are strangled by extreme poverty and hardship easily solvable by well organized funding bein spent to create opulent "palaces" as opposed to places of worship.

I remember one child innocently commented about the shrine of Imam Ridha's (عليه السلام) brother in shiraz that "Imam Reza shode!" (It/he has become Imam Ridha!) As his form of childish appreciation of the added opulence and decor done to the place. 

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Have a read of this:

Jamkaran:

The learned Shi'ite research scholars and historians in their books have narrated from Hasan b. Mathleh Jamakarani - a righteous man of upright conduct and noble character, and a lover of the family of the revelation and Prophethood (I.e. the Ahlul Bayt, the holy progeny of the Prophet ) - regarding the construction of the Holy Jamkaran Mosque in the outskirts of Qom as follows:

“I was sleeping at my home in the village of Jamkaran on Tuesday night, the 17th day of the blessed and holy month of Ramadhan of 393 A.H. (Lunar Calendar). It was after midnight that a group of people came to my home and awakened me up and said:

'O Hasan! Wake up and arise, and obey the command of your Lord and Master of the Age - Imam al-Mahdi [a] who has summoned you.' After hearing this command, I woke up immediately to get ready and said:

'Please permit me to put on my clothes', and being amazed and confused in total darkness, I picked up a shirt to put on then I heard a voice saying:

'Hasan don't put it on, because it does not belong to you.' After removing it and putting on my own shirt, I picked up a trouser, then again I heard the voice saying: 'Hasan. This is not your trouser don't put it on', and finally I was able to dress up wearing my own shirt and trouser in the darkness. Then I started looking for the key to open the door, when again I was told not to search for the key as the door had already been opened.

When finally I came out of the door I saw a group of pious personalities and offered them salutations. They reciprocated my salutations and spoke to me kindly and with appreciation. Then they directed me to a place - the present location of the Holy Jamkaran Mosque - and after looking carefully I saw a couch covered with fine carpets and pillows.

A young man of approximately thirty years with grandeur and special dignity was sitting on that couch resting his back against those pillows and besides him an old man was holding a book in his hand reading for the young man. There were more than sixty people, some of them dressed in white, while others dressed in green who had surrounded the couch, and were busy in offering prayers and praises of God Almighty.

Suddenly it occurred to me that this young man is the Lord and Master of the age, Wali al-Asr [a] (may our soul be sacrificed for him) and the old man with beautiful features sitting besides him was Prophet Khizr [a], who asked me to be seated; and then the Lord of the Age, Wali al-Asr [a] commanded me as follows:

'Oh Hasan! You must go to see Hasan bin Muslim - the farmer of this land - and tell him that for five continuous years he has been farming on this Holy Land, in spite of my warning signals during all these years. This is a blessed holy land and God-Almighty has distinguished it over other lands by bestowing it distinction and dignity; even this year he is intending to cultivate this land, while he has neither any rights over this land nor is authorized to do so.

Therefore, till now whatever financial earnings he has earned and all relevant benefits achieved because of commissioning this land must be returned by him for the building of a Holy Mosque at this sacred land.

Also, emphasize upon him that because of his transgressions for annexing this Holy Land into his own estate, God Almighty had taken away his two young sons as punishment for his offense. But it seems that even this severe punishment has not awakened him. You must warn him that if he still persists and does not change his course, he must be ready for a horrible catastrophic punishment beyond his imagination, from God Almighty.

After carefully listening to these heart-appealing words of my Master I replied:

'Oh my Master and Lord! I must have some unique convincing signs for delivering your message, because otherwise people will not believe my words, and it will be quite difficult to convince them.'

 

The Imam [a] replied:

'We will mark some special signs showing the boundaries of the Holy Mosque, which will prove the truthfulness of your statement. Go and convey my message to the people.'

The Imam [a] further added: 'Go and see Sayyid Abul Hasan and ask him to accompany you to visit Hasan bin Muslim, and together you both collect from him the earnings of that farm land for past couple of years; and use this money for laying the foundation of the mosque structure. For the remaining expenditure, you may collect it form the village of Rehaq in the Ardhaal region (near the city of Kashan), which belongs to me; and in this manner, complete the remaining super structure of the Holy Mosque. Also, half of the estate of the village of Rehaq has been made as an endowment for the maintenance of the Holy Mosque, and the yearly income of the said endowment should be spent for its improvement and habitation.'“

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Edited by Ali~J

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People approach God in different ways. Those who believe that adornment takes away from the spirituality really should not be paying so much attention to it in the first place - since they should be focusing on their own aamal.

Personally I don't begrudge the adornment because the shrines are visited by many poor people for whom the ziarat is the only respite/holiday they get and if they can enjoy a bit of public bling in the process, I see no harm.

The people who are after asceticism in their ziarats will likely be taking their kids somewhere nice for their hols, or driving a nice car during the rest of their lives, but not everyone has that luxury.

FWIW I have recently been helping a young Greek lady with a travel business and it seems that asceticism nowadays is a 'thing' amongst some richer travellers (regardless of religion).

Returning to the main point, from what I have seen of the more recent constructions e.g. in Iran, they may look elaborate but they seem to be quite easy and I'd guess cheap to put up. What seems to be intricate tilework is just a slab stuck onto a metal frame and the bare plaster beneath has been left as is.

As for the Qajar dynasty mirrorwork, I think that's quite clever, in an interior room where there are no windows there is a problem with light; by having tiles made of mirrors you make the most of whatever light you have. It's reflective (no pun intended) of a historic Shia dynasty and I don't get the hate.

Also having different styles of decoration in different rooms makes navigation easier and also makes it easier to date the different rooms  (if you are into that sort of thing).

Edited by Haji 2003

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On 6/17/2019 at 7:03 PM, habib e najjaar said:

^ source?

Book published by The Holy Mosque of Jamkaran Publications, Qom, Iran. 1996. 

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