Towards an Ontological Understanding of Architecture (Focusing on Mystical Experiences of Ibn Arabi)

Document Type : Research Article


science and culture university


Problem statement: It is needless to say that Iran’s original Islamic architecture after several centuries is still catching the eyes and minds. To study this continuous influence and desirability, one of those items that seem to be important is the existence of forms, which can be frequently found in these works. It seems that some of these forms have always had validity and originality and represent particular concepts. But there are few studies in the theoretical literature as regards Islamic architectural works that are devoted to the study of the true relationship between these forms and meanings (from an ontological point of view).
Research objectives: The present essay aims to provide the ground for understanding the true relationship between forms and meanings of architecture relying on the rich wealth of Islamic mysticism (intellectual school of Ibn Arabi). In doing so, it struggles to be an effort towards understanding the truth of architecture through the reading of sources of Islamic mysticism from the perspective of a more general horizon.
Research method: This study is composed of two document-analysis-based and inferential parts and its main “strategy” is based on “logical argument”.
Conclusion: Relying on the implications of Ibn Arabi’s mysticism, one can see an architectural work as a living and hierarchically existential entity just like the totality of the phenomena in the world. Thus conceived, an architectural work can be of vertical expansion in the system of the universe ranging from the essential or primordial level to the external or superficial level. Meanwhile, the essence or “spirit of architecture” can be considered to be its incorporeal form in the world of quiddities which has no form and matter and represents the existential origin of architecture insofar as this essential quality determines the life span of the work and in one sense, it is the very existential cause of the work as a whole. Then, the life span of architectural works is relative. “Body of Architecture” is also equal to the emergence of the work in the sensory world and material body. These formal and semantic levels are interdependent, co-originated, and existentially related and represent the rings of a chain and are continuously present in architectural work.
The other point is that the thing that is created by man including architecture is influenced by his internal belief and perspective of the universe. In the mystical field, an understanding of the world and its phenomena is presented in which the presence of Absolute Truth plays the main role in evident and hidden layers. Then, since the man who has been cultivated by Islamic ontology with his vertical vision sees the world as a hierarchical entity, Islamic architecture is also seen as a vertical chain the sensory form of which is of a vertical and existential relation with its essence and meaning. Moreover, in this perspective, forms of architecture are interpreted in relation and interaction to/with the Origin of Existence and just like all other phenomena, the virtue of architecture has a perfect share of existence and a higher level of life. One can state that Muslim architects struggle in line with their ontological doctrines to design a living and perfect work as a mirror of Truth and express the existential and evolving meanings within the framework of an appropriate and desirable form.


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