Matt Kauffman in Jordan

Divine Geometry

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Monday, we started our morning off with a visit to King Abdullah I Mosque, a sight I had ear-marked since first learning our trip had changed from Cairo to Amman. I’ve always been fascinated by religion and Islam has always seemed the most striking to me. It is at once familiar and foreign; close enough to discern its shape, but not its finer details.

I think the visit to the mosque, or masjid in arabic, perfectly distills this duality. For most westerners, there is a shape and layout to our holy sites or places of worship that is practically ubiquitous. The entrance is located at the back and opens up to a long main nave leading the eye toward the building’s focal point: most often an alter and a pulpit.

The Qibla

King Abdullah I Mosque though, has no such linear floorplan. Heavy wood doors of a rich amber hue open and for the uninitiated, the first glance can be disorienting. The interior is shocking in its simplicity: a bright red and royal blue carpet under one of the widest domes I’ve ever seen. If it weren’t for the qibla — a subtle recession in the building’s wall to the left of the entrance, which serves as a compass towards Mecca — the circular building would have no focal point, no final destination to which the eye is drawn.

Yet like so many of the Italian churches I’ve stepped inside, I couldn’t help but feel insignificant standing beneath that immense dome ornamented in shapes of white, gold and azure.

I’m particularly struck by the art of Mosques, which are completely devoid of any representational figures. In Islam it is forbidden (haram) to depict Allah or the prophet Muhammad. If there were pieces of art of either, the well-meaning worshipper would then be idolizing the image, not Allah himself. As a result, mosques are instead littered with with stars, triangles, hexagons, parallelograms and all other matter of geometric shapes.

Here’s a few of them in detail:


Written by kauffmant

16/05/2012 at 7:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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