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Geometry of Islamic Art and Application on Architecture Thesis


The modernization process that started at the beginning of the twentieth century has raised the problem of reconcilability of Islamic geometry and architecture with those used by non-Muslims (Mortada 127). The bifurcation of scholarly opinions on the place of modernity in traditional Islamic building design is a testament to the complexity of the issue. Taking into consideration the need to recognize a sacred role of geometry in Islamic philosophy, the influence of modernity on Muslim built environments should be closely investigated (Meehan 112). This part of the thesis proposal outlines arguments pertaining to the research topic. Research objectives and questions will also be discussed in detail.

Statement of Motivation

  • Even though geometry in Islamic Art and architecture are two interconnected and diverse entities that cannot be easily generalized, it is not possible to disregard the homogeneity of conflicting arguments on these two fundamental cultural components. The discourse of Islamic identity inevitably enters the analysis of architectural expression of structural needs, forms, and functions that are often treated as eternal truths that can be discovered through contemplation. According to Al-Meheid, the “metaphysical reality of Allah’s existence” is recognizable in Islamic geometry and architecture (Meehan, 112). It means that the interpretation of the influence of modernity on geometrical and architectural expressions of Islamic culture should not be analyzed separately from its philosophical and religious underpinnings.
  • It has been well established in a variety of publications that two opposing viewpoints on the issue under discussion are expressed with equal intensity of scientific rigor. Some scholars defend the proposition that modern approaches to Muslim built environments should be shunned at all costs (Frampton et al., 46). Others maintain that Islamic architecture and geometry have immensely benefited from the process of modernization (Gonzalez, 72). The emergence of these two views marks the turning point in the analysis of Islamic spatial organizations and layouts. The need for a new analytical discourse is emphasized by the ever-growing pace of economic development of the Middle East. In the age of global capitalism and an almost palpable sense of temporariness, it is essential to recognize the two perspectives in order to better understand the transformation of the key artifacts of the Islamic culture under the influence of modernity.

Thesis Objectives / Aims

The study will be based on the following research objectives:

  • Explore the evolution of geometry in Islamic Art and patterns.
  • Study the applicability of geometrical patterns in Architecture and decorations throughout the Islamic world.
  • Discover possibilities of new geometrical patterns while reviving the past motives.

Research Question

  • The following research questions will help to structure the research:
  • What are the perspectives of Islamic scholars on geometry in Islamic Art and Architecture?
  • Are Islamic building design and geometry compatible with globalization and the international style of architecture?
  • In what means geometry may be applied in Arts and decoration of buildings?

Target Group

The global Muslim community needs to know whether modernity has a negative impact on the unique features of Islamic geometry and its distinctive character. The proposed research is going to address the problem with the help of an objective review of findings reported by modern researchers. Also, considering the great impact of religious beliefs on all spheres of life of Muslims, the interpretation of the influence of modernity on geometrical and architectural expressions of Islamic culture should not be analyzed separately from its philosophical and religious.

Target audience

The research sample in this case will include peer-reviewed journals, books, and websites of reliable sources. Islamic architecture is followed by Muslims and non-Muslims. Therefore, the sample will include research by academics and research fellows, irrespective of religious beliefs. The works will need to have sections that examine the subject from multiple approaches.

Designing the Research

  • Type: The proposed study is a qualitative literature review based on the works by modern Islamic researchers.
  • Sample and Target Audience: The sample will include studies found in academic databases. To be included in the sample, academic works will need to be written by Islamic researchers, be pertinent to the topic, and demonstrate academic novelty.


Considering the complex nature of the subject, a highly structured framework is suggested. The core issues of traditional Islamic philosophy will be the focus. Ontological and epistemological positions need to be examined to ensure that the positivist approach does to force the results to one side. As indicated in the previous sections, traditional views require adherence to Islamic views of social, forms, and cultural beliefs. Other scholars argue that Islam needs to be contemporary and integrate traditional and modern perspective, without distorting the core tenets. There is a choice between using qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative methods are selected since data generated is in the form of views, comments, perceptions, and positions. These cannot be interpreted as mathematical and statistical models as required by quantitative methods. Certain criteria are needed to create an inclusive list of scope, topics, and issues. Clarity, consistency, pertinence to the studies will be examined. Peer-reviewed publications will form the main sources for research (Walliman 56).

Type of Research

Considering the extensive breadth and depth of research involved and the need to examine concepts and views, a qualitative methodology will be used. The researcher will need to make a value judgment and use and emancipatory approach. Inconsistencies, contradictions will have to be eliminated while divergent and contradictory views will be gathered. The focus is on obtaining views from sources that support and criticize the subject of modernity (Johnson 121). The beliefs and concepts used in qualitative methods are different from those adopted by positivist approaches. Emancipatory approaches researchers are open and do not subscribe to a unitary interpretation of reality that is evident in experimental research. They posit that environmental and individual bias tends to distort and skew perceptions of reality (O’leary 127). An important aspect is that the study will focus on physical structures. Even if these spaces are modern, their identity cannot be detached from the dimensions of Islamic culture, aesthetics, and social values (Hillenbrand 57). Therefore, the study will cover a wide range of theoretical and tautological values and value judgments.


The research Techniques in two groups:

1-Primary Research

There are several ways of collecting the appropriate data which differ considerably in the context of cost, time, and other resources at the disposal of the researcher. Primary data can be collected either through experiments or through surveys. In the case of a survey, data can be collected by any one or more of the following ways; By observation,

  • Through personal interviews.
  • Through telephonic interviews.
  • By mailing of questionnaires or
  • Through schedules. (2)

2-Secondary Research

  • Books, Journals, magazines, and newspapers.
  • Gathering information from the internet
  • Take notes from visual DVDs, films.
  • Collecting articles from the newspaper.

Analysis of Findings

The analysis is very important since a structured approach imparts reliability and validity to the research. Therefore, data design and gathering methods are important. The recommendation is to split the topic into sub-topics and this structure will allow for easier analysis of the subject. Keywords and themes are important and a search run in scholarly databases to find articles based on modernity, Islamic geometry and forms, Islamic architecture, and religious significance of various motifs and symbols, will help in finding appropriate publications (Cooper 136).

Contextual and keyword analysis will be used to evaluate data since these methods allow the context of keywords and content to be analyzed. Attitudes, beliefs, and postures towards modernity and diversity in perspectives will be considered in the literature review.

Table 1 gives an example of Islamic motifs and symbols that will be examined.

Table 1. Matrix of Islamic motif and symbols (Critchlow 45; Hakim 45; Azarshahr 72; Gharipour 38; Damadi 6).

Islamic Motif/ Symbol Description Present in traditional form Present in a contemporary form Impact on modernity
Centrality The central courtyard may be missing in modern architecture. In older spaces, the whole building with all rooms was arranged around a central courtyard, an open or covered meeting, and a prayer place.
Contrast Islamic structures used green, blue, and red colors, different sized arches and columns, windows, to create a contrast. Modern structures are limited in this space due to building constraints, and they use decoration to create contrasts
Similarity Older Islamic structures had similar forms or arches and columns, small and big, designed to create a specific perspective.
Harmony All components such as columns, beams, arches, minarets, water pools, and floor patterns are harmonic. In modern structures, some of these elements may be missing.
Symmetry Components and motifs are repeated through the external facade and the interiors.
Repetition Components and motifs are repeated through the external facade and the interiors.
Walls The wall enclosing the inner rooms is usually large, made of stone masonry, giving a perception of solidness. Main wooden doors are provided that open to the inner spaces. Some of these doors and decorations have ornate Arabic motifs and designs, calligraphy geometric shapes intersecting, and some doors may have color combinations that reflect the sunlight
Minarets These are an important element and usually placed at four corners of the plot. Some minarets are decorative while others have stepped inside and served as watchtowers. Islamic structures see a predominance of a horseshoe and pointed arches, and these were derived from western arches and domes. Engineers use advanced CAD systems to design towers and project 3D images so that project owners know how the structure appears.

Methodology Diagram

The methodology diagram given in Figure 1, illustrates the methodology for the research.

Methodology Diagram

As illustrated in Figure 1, the methodology is focused on answering the three-research question, presented in the top frame. Five steps are planned for the research. These include context, selection of Meta-analytic tool, analysis, and conclusions.

Context presents the areas where the research is conducted. It includes defining elements from traditional and contemporary Islamic structures, systematic comparison, assessing the extent of the impact on form and functionality, and drawing conclusions. This step provides the boundary for the research. Where feasible, case studies of traditional and contemporary structures from articles will be examined. This approach will help to illustrate the elements. In this step, the inclusive and exclusive criteria will be developed that will be used to search a database for articles. Diverse articles, which agree and disagree on modernity, will be accessed.

In the second step of selecting Meta-analytic tools, the elements for comparison, obtained from inclusive and exclusive criteria will be developed. A systematic comparison will be done for these elements. The articles will help to understand the extent of the impact on the form and functionality of modern Islamic structures. In the third step, the systematic comparison with selected elements will be applied to the journal articles. After this stage, we will have a list of elements and symbols that scholars agree and disagree with. The impact of these elements on Islamic architecture will be ascertained by reviewing the number, size, and reputation of such structures. The last step is conclusions, where data and observations from previous steps will be presented as a set of observations. A conclusion will be drawn from the research, the research questions will be answered and the impact of modernity in Islamic structures will be presented.

Case Studies

The case study approach will also be used in order to strengthen the proposed research. It was decided to include the case study research method in the planned research as it possesses numerous advantages that are especially important in connection with art and architecture. The approach allows conducting an in-depth analysis of a subject, and the proposed study is aimed at analyzing common Islamic architectural patterns related to different periods of Islamic architecture and the way that they are manifested in ancient and modern architectural monuments in Muslim countries.

The case studies that will be conducted within the frame of the research will be aimed at analyzing the use of traditional decorative elements associated with a certain period in Islamic architecture. The period under consideration is the era of the Umayyad caliphate that is ranked among the most powerful empires in the Middle East. The subjects of the planned case studies will be presented by three large mosques in Muslim-majority countries. The case studies will attempt at collecting and analyzing the data on the use of Umayyad era-related decorative elements in modern sacred architecture. Thus, the use of decorative elements widespread in Morocco and Qatar will be analyzed with regard to the following monuments of architecture:

  1. Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca: the building was consecrated in 1993, and it is ranked among the world’s largest mosques (Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca). Among the most outstanding features of the mosque’s design is its minaret whose height exceeds two hundred meters. The particular sacred building was chosen for analysis due to its large seating capacity. More than twenty thousand people can perform praying inside the building. The use of Moroccan design elements remains the focus of the research.
  2. The Msheireb Mosque in Doha, Qatar. The sacred building under consideration has been recently opened for prayers (Golzari and Fraser 359). The given mosque can be visited by people of both sexes, and Qatari architectural motifs and patterns are widely presented in the external finish of the building. The design of the given building is relevant to the proposed research due to the way that traditional geometry is transformed.
  3. Domes Mosque in Doha, Qatar (Domes Mosque). The building is among the key places of worship for Muslims in Qatar. The mosque has been included in the proposed case studies due to the unique design in which traditional Qatari architectural patterns are combined with more modern principles of space organization that support the effective use of space and ensures large seating capacity.

Thesis Timeline

Table 2 presents the Gantt chart of the thesis timelines. The project is estimated to take three months to complete.

Gantt chart of thesis timeline.
Table 2. Gantt chart of thesis timeline.

Proposed table of Contents

Part 1: Introduction

Chapter 1: Introduction

  1. Designing the Research.
  2. Research Question.
  3. Target Group.
  4. Thesis Objectives.

Chapter 2: Introduction to geometry in Islamic Art and patterns

  1. A Brief History of geometry in Islamic Art and patterns.
  2. The Historical Importance of Islamic Engineering in Art.

Part 2 Applications of geometry in Islamic Art and patterns

Chapter 3: Islamic Art geometry of Construction.

  1. Islamic Art geometry of Islamic mosques.
  2. Islamic Art geometry of palaces and civil buildings.
  3. Islamic Art geometry of castles.

Chapter 4: Islamic Art geometry in Decoration

  1. Islamic Art geometry in the interior construction of mosques.
  2. Islamic Art geometry in the interior construction of palaces and civil buildings.

Chapter 5: Islamic Art geometry in Sculpture, Decoration, and ornamentation

  1. Islamic Art geometry in Sculpture.
  2. Islamic Art geometry in Decoration and ornamentation.

Part 3: The evolution of geometry in Islamic Art and decorative patterns with regard to Umayyad era

Chapter 6: Geometry in Islamic Art and decorative patterns in Morocco during the Umayyad rule

  1. The development of Islamic Art geometry of building in Morocco in Umayyad era.
  2. The development of Islamic Art geometry of decorative patterns in Morocco in Umayyad era.
  3. The development of Islamic Art geometry of sculpture and painting patterns in Morocco in Umayyad era.

Chapter 7: Geometry in Islamic Art and patterns in Andalus during the Umayyad rule

  1. The development of Islamic Art geometry of building in Andalus in Umayyad era.
  2. The development of Islamic Art geometry of decorative patterns in Andalus in Umayyad era.
  3. The development of Islamic Art geometry of sculpture and painting patterns in Andalus in Umayyad era.

Chapter 8: Between Islamic Art geometry and the modern geometry

  1. The compatibility of Islamic Art geometry with modern times.
  2. The possibility of combining modern engineering with the old Islamic Art geometry.

Part 4: Application of geometry in Islamic Art and patterns

Chapter 9: Geometry in Islamic Art and patterns around the world.

Chapter 10: Geometry in Islamic Art and patterns in Qatar.



Works Cited

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Alexander, Chris. A Pattern Language. Oxford University Press, 1977.

Azarshahr, Farid. “New Technologies in Modern Architecture and its Interaction with Traditional Architecture.” Research Journal Chemical Environment Science, vol. 1, no. 3, 2013, pp. 70-80.

Campos, Albert. “The importance of the keyword-generation method in keyword mnemonics.” Experimental Psychology, vol. 51, no. 2, 2004, pp.125-131.

Conway, Harry. Understanding Architecture: An Introduction to Architecture and Architectural History. Routledge, 2006.

Cooper, Donald. 2006. Business research methods, Vol. 9. McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2006.

Critchlow, Keith. Islamic Patterns-An Analytical and Cosmological Approach. Thames and Hudson, 1976.

Damadi, Mazar. “Characteristics of Islamic and Iranian Architecture.” International Journal of Advanced Research in Engineering and Applied Sciences, vol. 2. no. 9, 2013, pp. 1-13.

“Domes Mosque.” Places Map, Web.

Felix, Arnold. Islamic Palace Architecture in the Western Mediterranean: A History. Oxford University Press, 2017.

Fletcher, Richard. Moorish Spain. University of California Press, 1993.

Fodor, James. “Connectionism and cognitive architecture: A critical analysis”. Cognition, vol. 28, no. 1, 1988, pp.3-71.

Frampton, Karl, Correa, Chris, and Robson, Daniel. Modernity and community: architecture in the Islamic world. Thames & Hudson, 2001.

Gharipour, Mir. Tradition versus Modernity: The challenge of identity in contemporary Islamic architecture. Morgan State University, USA, 2013.

Golzari, Nasser, and Murray Fraser, editors. Architecture and Globalisation in the Persian Gulf Region. Routledge, 2013.

Groat, Linda, and Wang, David. Architectural research methods. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.

Hakim, Bashir. Arabic Islamic Cities: Buildings and Planning Principles. Kogan Paul, 1986.

Sacred Destinations, Web.

Hillenbrand, Robert. Islamic architecture: Form, function, and meaning. Columbia University Press, 1994.

Jayyusi, Salma Khadra. The Legacy of Muslim Spain. Brill, 1992.

John, Dane. Islamic Architecture. Harry N Abrans Ins, 1977.

Johnson, Ron. “Toward a definition of mixed methods research.” Journal of mixed methods research, vol. 1, no. 2, 2007, pp.112-133.

O’leary, Zack. The essential guide to doing research. Sage, 2004.

Rahman, Fazir. Islam and modernity: Transformation of an intellectual tradition, Vol. 15. University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Rosie, Mitchel. Spain: Islamic and European Influences in Spanish Art. Manual of Fine Arts, 2010.

Roth, Norman. Jews, Visigoths and Muslims in Medieval Spain: Cooperation and Conflict. Brill, 1994.

Saleh, Mir. “The integration of tradition and modernity: A search for an urban and architectural identity in Arriyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.” Habitat International, vol. 22, no. 4, 1988, pp.571-589.

Sidawi, Bhzad. (2013). Understanding the Vocabulary of the Islamic Architectural Heritage. GBER, vol. 8, no. 2, 2013, pp. 26-39.

Toorabally, Muhammad, Sieng, Chiong, Hoe, Norman, Hafizah, and Razalli, Ziyan. “Impact of Modern Technologies on Islamic Architecture in Malaysia and Middle East.” Nova Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences, vol. 5, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1-22.

Vukoszávlyev, Zoe. “A peripheral area of historical monument protection-the community approach to heritage protection in contemporary Spanish architecture.” Periodica Polytechnica Architecture, vol. 45, no. 1, 2014, pp. 39-52.

Walliman, Norman. Research methods: The basics. Routledge, 2017.

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