Symbol of Divine Light The Lamp in Islamic Culture and Other Traditions

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2018-01-07
  • Publisher: World Wisdom

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Symbol of Divine Light surveys the history of the mosque lamp, describing the numerous variants made in different historical periods and containing more than 200 stunning color and b/w illustrations. The deep significance of light and the lamp in Islamic culture and other traditions—Jewish, Christian, Zoroastrian, Hindu, and Buddhist—is also explored, with reference made to the writings of authors belonging to the “Traditionalist school,” notably Frithjof Schuon, René Guénon, Titus Burckhardt, and Martin Lings. The book presents a detailed exploration of the famous Koranic Verse of Light and the symbolism of its constituent elements: light, the niche, the lamp, glass, oil, and the tree. Parallels are also drawn with other traditions, indicating a universal symbolism. Symbol of Divine Light concludes that the most important function of the mosque lamp was as a symbolic reminder of the Verse of Light, as demonstrated by examples that were virtually non-functional as lighting devices and also the extensive use of the mosque lamp as a decorative motif in Islamic architecture. The book aims to give the reader an opportunity to contemplate the meaning of the mosque lamp as a symbol of Divine Light.

Author Biography

Nicholas Stone is an architect, dedicated to using traditional forms and techniques. Early in his career he worked with the Egyptian architect, Abdel Wahed El-Wakil, on projects reviving traditional brickwork techniques—notably at Al-Qiblatain Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Thereafter he worked on domes for the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, involving Islamic craft work, and further dome projects in Malaysia. There, in partnership with his wife, Nazanin Sheikhi, he established a design company, undertaking the design of the atrium of the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya; the design and construction of the prayer niche (mihrab), pulpit (minbar), and honeycomb vaults (muqarnas) for Al-Bukhary Mosque in Alor Setar; tropical house and Islamic garden designs; as well as the design and fabrication of a perforated brass mosque lamp, which ultimately led to the publication of this book.

Table of Contents

Introduction vii
I. Symbolism of Light and the Lamp
1. The Verse of Light 3
Koranic Exegesis 5
2. Symbolism 7
Light 8
Light in the Islamic Doctrines of Creation 10
Muhammad as the Embodiment of Light 12
Light and the Mystery of the Veils 14
The Symbolism of Light in the Judeo-Christian Traditions 16
The Symbolism of Light in Other Religious Traditions 22
Niche 23
The Cave 23
The Mihrab 26
The Prayer Niche and the Virgin Mary 27
Etymology of the Word Mishkah 29
Lamp 30
The Oil Lamp in Religions around the World 31
Glass 39
Oil 40
Olive Oil for Food 41
Olive Oil for Anointing 41
Olive Oil for Lamps 42
The Symbolism of Oil 44
Tree 45
3. Commentaries on the Verse of Light 49
Al-Ghazali 50
Mulla ?adra 52
Dara Shikuh 52
Shaykh Ma?mud Shabistari 54
?afi ‘Ali Shah Ni‘matullahi 55
Abu Bakr Siraj Ed-Din 56
Frithjof Schuon 57
Other Interpretations 59
4. The Verse of Light in Islamic Art and Architecture 63

II. History of the Lamp
5. The Historical Context 71
References in the Early Islamic Traditions 74
6. Historical Development of the Mosque Lamp 77
Develo pment of the Glass Lamp 77
Early Glass Lamps 77
Mamluk Glass 78
Ottoman Glass 80
Rock C rystal Lamps 81
Develo pment of the M etalwork Lamp 83
Fragments of Earliest Islamic Lamps 83
Tenth-Century Lamp in David Collection 84
Great Lamp of al-Mu'izz 84
Lamp from Umayyad Mosque Damascus 85
Lamp from Konya 87
Lamp from Dome of the Rock 89
Mamluk Lamps 89
Post-Mamluk Islamic Metalwork 93
A Contemporary Design based on Traditional Examples 95
Larger, M ore C omplex T ypes of C hand elier 96
Lamp from Mosque of the Alhambra 96
Diverse Lamp Types 96
Regional Variations 100
Later Lamp Types 101
Opaque “Lamps” 103
Develo pment of the C eramic Lamp 103
Hanging ornaments 105
The Form of Iznik Mosque Lamps 107
7. How Would Early Mosque Lamps Have Looked? 109
8. The Mosque Lamp in the Contemporary Context 117
9. The Mosque Lamp Motif in Islamic Art and Architecture 121
10. Conclusions 149
Notes 151
List of Illustrations 167
Biographical Notes 173
Index 174

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