Sunday, June 12, 2005

Architechture of al-Jamea Tus Saifiyah

Al Jamea-tus-Saifiyah is a response to the way of life and thought of the Bohra community. The building complex attempts to embody the high Muslim ideals and values which this institution strives to inculcate in its students. Through form and materials, structure and layout, it tries to reinforce these ideals and values. To be successful it must not only provide all the facilities required by a modern residential academy for young men and women, but its very fabric and disposition should facilitate and contribute toward their physical, intellectual and spiritual growth.


Just as in life the controlling force is the will of Allah, so here the whole complex centres around the Masjid.  Its dominance is underscored by the fact that all the buildings follow its Qibia orientation. It lies at the heart of the campus, with the Minar on its central axis facing it. Around the courtyard between Masjid and Minar are those parts of the Jamea devoted to its next most important concern, education - the classroom block, the library and the seminar room. Other more social or private areas such as the dining hall and residential blocks lie beyond but because of their orientation they also relate strongly to the Masjid.


The solid stone of the Masjid, inside and out, contrasts with the white walls of the other buildings, distinguishing it further. This stone is meant to convey a sense of the unadulterated strength and purity of the Muslim tradition and the character of the Mujahids which this institution intends to produce. The Fatimi detailing of arches and columns is not ornamentation; it is there as testimony that the spirit of tenth century Egypt, the period of the greatest achievements of the Bohris' forbears, continues up to today as a living force.


The hierarchic organization of this disciplined community of masters and students is reflected in a hierarchy of scale and spaces, both within and outside the buildings. There is, for example, a progression from the loftiness of the Masjid to the high ceilings of the academic areas to the domestic proportions of the living quarters, and from the large sahan of the Masjid to the much smaller courtyards within the hostel blocks.


Because the location is suburban, the buildings spread out rather than rising high, so as to harmonize with the surrounding neighborhood, while at the same time their Qibla axis sets them apart. The highest feature, the Minar, has been placed at the end of two streets at right angles in order to finish these streets with something of visual interest and to contribute as much as possible to the environment.


Overall the aim has been to create a work which is not only appropriate to the functions of the Jamea and to our present age but, more significantly, appropriate to the spiritual needs and historical traditions of Bohra Muslims.