Interpreting the Islamic Concept of Piety into Architecture

By Seyed Mahdi Khatami and Michael Tawa.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In Islamic theology, taqwa is the highest standard for personal conduct in daily life in the sight of God (Quran, 49:13), and as such is an important foundation for morals and ethics. The term is usually translated into English as 'piety', but this concept does not transfer readily into the spatial realm of architecture. However taqwa has other layers of meaning which may better accommodate translation from a theological to an architectural context. Taqwa comes from the Arabic root t-q-y and literally means 'to protect and preserve oneself.' The analogy between taqwa and clothing arrives, in the Quran, from its semantic affinity with the concept of covering and adornment, which already indicates certain architectural possibilities. The relationship of the term to humility in early Islamic Hadiths also allows new aspects of this traditional term to be related to architecture. The translation from theology to architecture being attempted in this paper involves a number of movements. The first is the movement from Arabic into English. The second is the movement of the traditional ethical concept, first recorded in 1400 year old scriptures, to a contemporary ethical milieu. And the final movement is from a theological and ethical realm to that of architecture. In order to protect and preserve the original concept of taqwa and better extract its potential architectural layers from its foundation, this paper will clarify the interlinear version of scripture in its traditional context in the Quran and Hadiths.

Keywords: Architecture, Piety, Islamic Virtue

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 5, Issue 3, September 2015, pp.43-51. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 413.739KB).

Seyed Mahdi Khatami

PhD Candidate, Faculty of Architecture, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Prof. Michael Tawa

Professor of Architecture, The faculty of Architecture, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia