Lecture - What Can a Mosque Tell Us About History?, Kambiz GhaneaBassiri - April 18, Columbia University

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Submitted by Avinoam Shalem:

Lecture by Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, Reed College

Date: April 18th, 2023, 6:15 to 8:00 pm

Place: Columbia University, 612 Schermerhorn Hall


What Can a Mosque Tell Us About History?

Monumental religious architecture is generally presumed to carry meaning relevant to its historical contexts. Such buildings are thus interpreted as architectural expressions of the structuring concepts of their times (e.g. modernity or nationalism), reflecting the identities of their respective makers and communities in relation to changing historical circumstances. But what if a space that is being monumentalized through architecture has its own structuring principles that carries meaning outside of its time and place? This talk explores the mosque—a central institution of Islam that is as old as the religion and can be found wherever its practitioners have settled—as an example of such structuring spaces. It aims to answer the question of what the mosque can tell us about the role of Islamic beliefs and practices in history by analyzing the monumental Alabaster Mosque built in the Citadel of Cairo by the influential nineteenth-century ruler of Egypt Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha.