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     The Madrasah Mosque

 

 

Below is an article written by famous mosque architect Prof. Abdel Wahid El-Wakil for issue 26 (Autumn 1998) of Common Sense on the topic of The Madrasah Mosque.

KNOWLEDGE AND EDUCATION

In tradition, Education nourished both the spiritual and mental aspects of human nature. It endeavored to stimulate the Soul and Intellect by dissipating true knowledge.

True Knowledge consisted of Revealed (Intuitive) Knowledge, and Acquired (Deductive) Knowledge. The former was known as the "Intelligence of the Heart"; inspired from the soul, poetic and imaginative by nature, and guided by Faith. Its element is Certainty. The latter was referred to as the "Cerebral Intelligence"; a mental operation based on observation and perception, discursive and analytical in nature and guided by Reason. Its element is Doubt. Both these aspects of knowledge are essential to the development of Human Intelligence.

Jean Piaget, the Swiss Pedagogue, in his analysis of the development of human intelligence has described this dual mentality as: the "Magical-Symbolic" and the "Logical-mathematical"; The one bordering on the irrational the other on the rational. Both are required for a true knowledge.

In the past, education considered both requirements by teaching Physics and Metaphysics. At the present, modern education, in quest of the practical, has concerned itself with the material and utilitarian; unaware that, with spiritual impoverishment comes material impoverishment. It should be of no surprise to witness a remarkable decline of standards in present education. Further to that, in an ever increasing world of change, most of what has been taught is made obsolete or inapplicable. The related cost and time spent in learning and relearning is proving to be beyond individual means and public funds. This matter is vital and crucial to economies with limited budgets.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE

A culture establishes its identity by the interaction between the Collective Intelligence and the Environment. Consequently, changes whether in human ideals or environment will have a remarkable effect on the culture of a society.

Man's predetermined environment is the natural habitat of the "God Created-Universe". The "Man-Fashioned World" is the particular environment shaped by his will: the virtue of what he does and what he makes will be the footprint of his culture.

Yet, a true culture exists in history. For beyond the extensions of the physical world is the duration of a temporal world. A World of history, filled by memory, remembering the Past and speculating upon the Future. A true culture is sustained in Cosmos as well as History; in Space and in Time. Modern man, with all the technical ingenuity he possesses in extending space and time, finds himself choking for space in his crowded cities and feeling bankrupt for time. Without a metaphysical dream, he is constantly falling out of space and running out of time: Destroying nature and squandering his heritage through the whole process.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

In the 20th century, Science has become the distinctive enterprise of Western civilisation. Yet, it is perhaps the least understood. Above that, is the common misunderstanding between science and technology. Science is the branch of knowledge concerned with the investigation of the natural or physical: - It is of a "universal" nature. Technology, defined in Webster's Dictionary as the application of Science to the social, cultural and economic benefit of a people or society, is "particular" in nature. The false notion that it could be universal has forced upon us 'appropriate' and 'alternate' to rectify the definition for a true and working technology.

Further to being inappropriate, many of the products cunningly imposed upon us today, are based upon personal greed instead of general benefit. The worst comes when a struggling economy, duped into the myth of scientific progress, undertakes to import the harmful gadgetry of such an industry. This science of deceit is eventually polluting our prime means of survival. In spite of the alarming evidence to the end results of our present situation, the hysterical optimism in modern technology has not diminished. Not even the obvious adulteration of our food, water and air, has managed to shake this hysteria.

In France, a recent study, on agriculture and the food industry, predicted a near future when man might be limited to the choice of either dying by food poisoning or by starvation.

ECONOMY AND PRODUCTION

Recently, the "microprocessor" revolution has introduced a new quality of acceleration into the displacement of human by non-human "employment". So far, no accepted party has faced the realities of a 'robot' industry: an industry that has excelled in the technique of mass-producing beyond the capacity of human consumption. "Waste and "pollution" are the names given to the unused excesses of this modern industry. Not least, is the waste of human resources resulting from an increasingly redundant workforce. Ironically, the cynical view regarding the return to handicrafts advocated by William Morris, a return which would, in fact, now be possible not 'in spite of' the machines but 'because' of them.

This progressive magnification of waste and pollution has produced its reaction in the Ecology Movement; which triggered the recent Environment Summit in Tokyo.

However, the problem remains. For, the solution is not that of compromise, but that of eliminating the cancerous economy of excess. We are constantly being reminded of scarcity amidst a world of plenty.

"In fact, we live in a world of technical brilliance and cultural barbarity" writes Eric de Mare in his book titled: " A Matter of Life or Debt"- an inspiring solution to the social and economic crisis.

RELIGION AND THE COMMUNITY

Renaissance culture brought about a radical change of climate to the universe of Medieval civilisation. The Middle Ages were referred to as the "Dark Ages" while the Renaissance was looked upon as the "Age of Enlightenment". A change of perspective gradually transformed the vertical axis of a spiritual universe into the horizontal axis of a temporal world. Instead of looking up to find his origins in heaven, man looked back, only to find an ape at the dawn of his evolution. The concept of "traditional" and "progressive" marked the dividing line on that horizontal axis. On one side, was the backwardness of the "religious" and "humanistic", while on the other side, was the progressives of the "secular" and "scientific". The "modern" mind was then well established.

Tradition was rejected in favour of technological advancement. Tradition was looked upon as fossilised belief and not in its true function as the transmitter of the universal truths that lie at the heart of all religions. Above all, there came to be no spiritual bond linking the different religious communities. No matter how sharply their religious differences had divided them, the Christians, Jews, and Muslims of the Middle Ages had inhabited the same spiritual universe. For Renaissance culture, this universe no longer existed. Marked on their edifices was the signature of this new age:- The genius of Gothic architecture (symbol of an idea) was replaced by imitations of a pagan Greco-Roman architecture.

REMEDY AND RESTORATION

Courage and will are the first steps towards remedy and rehabilitation: the courage to admit that something is not right and the will to regain a new state of well-being. Remedy requires a thorough knowledge of the patient's history to indicate the periods of good health and degeneration and a proper Diagnosis to determine the causes of the disease. Treatment will be in the will to restore good health and the discipline in adhering to the cure.

MADRASSAH-MOSQUE

As a centre of Epistemology (study of human knowledge), the Madrassah-Mosque will have a major role in restoring the self esteem of community by serving as a Bank of Knowledge and Information.

A selected group of key persons will be formed to diagnose the problems and shortcomings of the community and its related institutions.

The program could be based on themes that bring forth the various branches of human knowledge.

This could be achieved by debates, seminars, exhibitions, and documentaries.

The main themes could be established by delving upon subjects related to issues mentioned in the above topics.

A theme on the knowledge of HISTORY will be specific in restoring the image of the Arab world by revealing the grandeur of Arab civilisation in the past. It will demonstrate the spirit behind the greatness that once influenced the development of the Western world: the younger generation is not reminded of this noble heritage left with a feeling of inferiority amidst the glorified media that at the moment surrounds Western culture.

A theme on the subject of RELIGION would be to show its critical role in promoting knowledge and understanding rather than orthodoxy and fanaticism. How faith should fill the air with the fragrance of a spiritual universe rather than carve our walls with morals and dogma. How love and gratuity is more ennobling to our lives than hate and greed; and that duty and servitude is the most enduring asset to oneself and the community.

A theme on ART and CRAFTS would reveal its relevance in our daily lives. It will redefine the role of the artist. It will stress on making every man a special artist and not every artist a special man. It will teach people to make every useful object beautiful, instead of making, every beautiful object useless. It will demonstrate how Beauty is the expression of truth and therefore everlasting; that fashion is wasteful and should not be the order of the day. Crafts will be presented as an asset to the economy. It will explain why the skill of sculpting a chair has more use and sanity than that of sculpting statues; the skill of weaving a carpet as of more precious than the splashing of paint unto canvas. Most of all, it will show that art could be part of our everyday objects rather than be the occasional visit to the art gallery.

A theme on SCIENCE could instruct and inform the community on its needs. The science of nutrition could promote good health and savings to the community. A theme on technology could show the simpler methods in harnessing energy and churning production. A true Technology is that which legitimately resolves the essential needs of a community; rather than cater for the desire of fancy gadgetry. A centre for future inventors will provide the means for research and development for genuine ideas to be actualised. Solar energy would have a major concern within the science program.

A theme on ECONOMICS could discuss the financial problems of the community and establish workshops to improve the local income. The themes could range from the home industries to that of the region.

A theme on ARCHITECTURE could analyse the optimum configurations for built up space. The maximum allowable population density. The use of local materials in construction. The planning of neighbourhoods (modern planning being the most uneconomical in urban history).

The proposed centre will house all the facilities required for creating a Think Tank and Knowledge Bank for the community. The administrative program and managerial functions will be developed through the key persons involved for this initial set-up.

Author: Prof. Abdel Wahid El-Wakil
Date Published: Autumn 1998

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