Tile Mosaic Decoration and Colour Philosophy in Ablution Area of the Faisal Mosque, Islamabad.


Byline: Samina Nasim

Throughout the Islamic world ablution area has been constructed as an important part of mosque construction to fulfill the requirement of cleanliness. It has been constructed with variety of decorative elements, techniques, and patterns. Comparatively Faisal Mosque has an unusual ablution area meet the height of complexity and stylized conceptual decorative elements in built form and surface decoration. In the present research an attempt has been made to explain the significance of ablution area of the Faisal Mosque with its structural importance and surface decoration having tile mosaic work, stylized geometrical designs and symbolic conceptual representation of colours. The mosque presents a traditional and modern phase of decoration in Pakistan having deep aesthetic value.

The tiles are classified by simple technique in marvelous colour schemes. The study explains the geometrical designs, philosophical interpretation; psudo knotted kufic calligraphy, geometrical designs and abstract representation of the mosaic work of the area.

The Faisal Mosque completed in 1988 is an unusual and exceptional Muslim religious building in Pakistan. Its forms convey the modern language of construction but ornament uses classical decorations and traditional techniques with creative concepts. The mosque is carefully designed to reflect the character of the site with its exotic view of the Margala Hills. From the ground plan we can imagine that the Faisal Mosque complex is all on one level but actually it is built on a mount with the sanctuary at the highest point. The double story rectangular plan of the mosque complex has four main areas, entrance courtyard, ablution area, main courtyard and sanctuary (figure 1). The most prominent feature ofground plan of the mosque is the spacious ablution area.Study of the location, plan, architectural decoration in built form, surface decoration, architectural elements, colour philosophy and aesthetics of ablution area of the mosque will be mentioned thoroughly.

The Mosque has its own importance because of its unusual, classy and modern architectural decorative values. Review of literature makes clear that the area needs a detailed study of its architectural elements including their origin, aesthetic value, comparative analysis of architectural decoration of the area with other mosques of South Asia and its influences on the contemporary construction of the ablution areas. The mosque is discussed by many scholars and art historians but no body focused to write about its ablution area and the architectural decoration of the area inbuilt form and on surface. The present research has been made to explain the importance of its unusual construction, style, and decoration.

Ablution means cleaning with clean water or the washing of one's body or specific parts of it, as in a religious rite. It is an essential part of the prayer. The worshipper has to be in a ritually purifying state before beginning prayers. A central fountain for ablution seems to make its first appearance in the Abbasid period.1Yemeni mosques had large pools for ablution.2 Historically fountains or marble jars with basin and taps fulfilled the requirement of ablution. Fountains either in the center of the courtyard of the mosque or on the side, were often sheltered by a dome. In the mosque of Ibn TuluA-n Cairo begun in 876 and completed in 879, a fountain has been set in the center of the courtyard.3

In South Asia, Mughal mosques usually have fountain pool in the center of the courtyard too. Jami Masjid Ahmedabad(1424), Masjid Wazir Khan(1634), Badshahi Mosque Lahore(1648), Moti Masjid Agra Fort (1648 - 1654). Sunehri Masjid (1753), all are the splendid examples of fountain pool in the center of courtyard. As in case of the Mughal mosques, the Faisal Mosque has itsfountain in the center of the courtyard. The fountain is constructed as a part of ablution area below the main courtyard (figure 2).

The area of the fountain is not covered rather it is open to the sky. The modest ablution area is much different from the traditional leveled fountain pool of the historical mosques. Historically an ablution tank was usually set in the courtyard in front of sanctuary. At the Faisal Mosque the concept is same but ablution tanks and spigots are built on ground floor and are not visible from the first floor of the sanctuary.

The most prominent feature of the ground plan of the mosque is the spacious ablution area built below the main courtyard.The area stands on a marble plinth four steps high from the southern entrance court of the Mosque. Each of the white marble steps is six and a half inches high. The university area faces the ablution area on the east and north sides, and an administrative block is on the west side. The university block has a grilled entrance. Both the east and north entrances are usually closed; the worshippers use only two staircases on the north-west and the south-west...

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