Part 24

Architecture

January 26, 2022

This is the first and oldest craft of sedentary civilization. It is the knowledge of how to go about using houses and mansions for cover and shelter. This is because man has the natural disposition to reflect upon the outcome of things.

Thus, he must reflect upon how to avert the harm arising from heat and cold by using houses which have walls. and roofs to intervene between him and those things on all sides. This natural disposition to think, which is the real meaning of humanity, exists among (men) in different degrees.

Some men are more or less temperate in this respect. They use (housing) with moderation, as, for instance, the inhabitants of the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth zones. The inhabitants of the first and seventh zones, on the other hand, are unfamiliar with the use of (housing), because they are intemperate and their thinking does not go far enough to enable them to practice human crafts. Therefore, they take shelter in caverns and caves, just as they (also) eat unprepared and uncooked food.

Now, the temperate people who use houses for shelter become very numerous and have many houses in one area. They become strangers to each other and no longer know each other.

They fear surprise attacks at night. Therefore, they must protect their community by surrounding it with a wall to guard them. The whole thing thus becomes a single town or city in which they are guarded by authorities which keep them apart. They (also) need protection against the enemy.

Thus, they use fortresses and castles for themselves and for the people under their control. These men (who control fortresses and castles) are like rulers or amirs or tribal chieftains of a corresponding position.

Also, building conditions are different in the (various) towns. Each city follows in this respect the procedure known to and within the technical (competence) of (its inhabitants) and corresponding to the climate and the different conditions of (the inhabitants) with regard to wealth and poverty.

The situation of the inhabitants within each individual city also (differs). Some use castles and far-flung constructions comprising a number of dwellings and houses and rooms, because they have a great number of children, servants, dependents, and followers.

They make their walls of stones, which they join together with quicklime. They cover them with paint and plaster, and do the utmost to furnish and decorate everything.

They do so in order to show how greatly they are concerned for their shelter. In addition, they prepare cellars and underground rooms for the storage of their food, and also stables for tying up their horses, 112 if they are army people and have many followers and guests, such as amirs and people of a corresponding position.

Others build a small dwelling or house for themselves and for their children to live in. Their desire goes no farther, because their situation permits them no more. Thus, they restrict themselves to a mere shelter, which is natural to human beings. Between the two (extremes), there are innumerable degrees.

Architecture is also needed when rulers and people of a dynasty build large towns and high monuments (hayakil). They try their utmost to make good plans and build tall structures with technical perfection, so that (architecture) can reach its highest development. Architecture is the craft that satisfies requirements in all theserespects. It is found most (widely represented) in the temperate zones, that is, in the fourth zone and the adjacent area. In the intemperate zones, there is no building activity.

The people there use enclosures of reeds and clay as houses, or take shelter in caverns and caves. The architects who exercise the craft differ. Some are intelligent and skillful. Others are inferior.

Furthermore, (architecture) has many subdivisions. Thus, the building material may be smoothed 114 stones or bricks. 115 The walls made of (such material) are joined and firmly held together by clay and quicklime. They thus hold together as fast as if they were of one piece.

Another (material) is simply earth. One builds walls with it by using 116 two wooden boards, the measurements of which vary according to (local) custom. The average measurements are four cubits by two. They are set upon a foundation. The distance between them depends on the width of the foundation the builder considers appropriate.

They are joined together with pieces of wood fastened with ropes or twine. The two remaining sides of the empty space between the two boards are joined by two other small boards. Then, one puts earth mixed with quicklime into this frame.

The earth and quicklime are pounded with special mixers used only for this purpose, until everything is well mixed throughout. Earth is then added a second and third time, until the space between the two boards is filled. The earth and quicklime have combined and become one substance.

Then, two other boards are set up in the same fashion, and (the earth) is treated in the same manner, until it is ready. All the boards are then properly set up piece upon piece, until the whole wall is set up and joined together as tightly as if it were of one piece.

This construction is called tabiyah, 119 and the builder of it is called tawwab.

Another technique of construction is the covering of walls with quicklime. The quicklime is first diluted with water and let soak for a week or two depending on how long is required for it to become well-balanced in its temper and to lose any excess igneousness detrimental to its adhesiveness.

When this process is completed to the satisfaction of (the builder), he puts it on the wall beginning at the top and rubs it in until it sticks. Another technique of construction is roofing. Pieces of wood (beams), either carefully smoothed by a carpenter or left rough, are placed over two walls of the house, and more boards are placed on top of them. They are joined together with nails.

Upon that, earth and quicklime are poured. They are pounded with mixers until they combine and hold together. The roof is thus covered with quicklime (plaster), exactly as the walls were covered with it.

Another technique of construction is decoration and ornamentation. Thus, figures formed from gypsum are placed upon the walls. (The gypsum) is mixed with water, and then solidified again, with some humidity remaining in it. Symmetrical figures are chiseled out of it with iron drills, until it looks brilliant and pleasant. The walls are occasionally also covered with pieces of marble, brick, clay, shells (mother-of-pearl), or jet. 120 (The material) may be divided either into identically shaped or differently shaped pieces.

These pieces are arranged in whatever symmetrical figures and arrangements are being utilized by the (various artisans), and set into the quicklime (with which the walls have been covered). Thus, the walls come to look like colorful flower beds. There are (other techniques of construction), such as the construction of wells and cisterns for running water. In the houses, large, well-cut marble basins are prepared.

They have orifices in the middle to permit the water of the cistern to flowout. The water comes to the cistern from the outside through conduits bringing it into the houses.

There are other similar kinds of architectural activity. The workmen who do all these things differ in skill and intelligence. They grow in number when the civilization of a town increases and widens.

The authorities often have recourse to the opinions of these men, about construction matters which they understand better. For in towns with large populations, people live in very crowded conditions. Therefore, they compete with each other for space and air above and below and for the use of the outside of a building.

The owner fears lest (any encroachment) cause damage 121 to the walls, and, therefore, forbids it to his neighbor, except where the neighbor has a legal right to it. People also have differences over rightof-way and about outlets for running water and about refuse disposed of through subterranean conduits.

Occasionally, someone claims somebody else’s right to (use of) a wall, eaves, or a gutter, because the houses are so close to each other. Or someone may claim that his neighbor’s wall is in bad condition and he fears that it will collapse. He needs a judgment against the other party from an expert 123 to force the other party to tear the wall down and prevent damage to the neighbor(ing house).

Or, a house or courtyard has to be divided between two parties, so that no damage to the house or curtailment of its usefulness is caused, and similar things. All these matters are clear only to those who know architecture in all its details.

They can judge these details by looking at the joints and ties and the wooden parts. 124 (They can see whether) the walls are leaning over or are straight, (whether) dwellings are divided as. required by their construction and (intended) use, and (whether) water can flow in and out the conduits without causing harm to the houses or walls it flows through, and other things.

They know about them and have the experience that others do not have.

However, the quality of (architects) differs in the different groups. It depends on the (ruling) dynasties and their power. We have stated before that the perfection of the crafts depends on the perfection of sedentary culture and their extent (depends) on the number of those who demand them. At the beginning, the dynasty is a Bedouin one, and therefore needs for its construction activities (the help of) other regions. This was the case when al-Walid b. ‘Abd-al-Malik decided to build the mosques of Medina and Jerusalem and his own mosque in Damascus.

He sent to the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople for workmen skilled in construction work, and the Byzantine emperor sent him enough men to build these mosques as he had planned them.

Architects also make some use of geometry (engineering). For instance, they use the plumb to make walls perpendicular, and they use devices for lifting water, to make it flow, and similar things. Thus, they must know something about the problems connected with (engineering).

They also must know how to move heavy loads with the help of machines. Big blocks of large stones cannot be lifted into place on a wall by the unaided strength of workmen alone. Therefore, the architect must contrive to multiply the strength of the rope by passing it through holes, constructed according to geometrical proportions, of the attachments called mikhal “pulleys.”

They make the load easier to lift, so that the intended work can be completed without difficulty. This can be achieved only with the help of geometrical (engineering) principles which are commonly known among men. Such things made it possible to build the (ancient) monuments that are standing to this day.

They are believed to have been built in pre-Islamic times and by persons whose bodies were(of a size) corresponding (to the) large (size of the monuments). This is not so. The people who built them used engineering devices.

25. Carpentry

This is necessary to civilization. Its material is wood. This is as follows= God made all created things useful for man, so as to supply his necessities and needs. Trees belong among these things. They have innumerable uses known to everybody.

One of their uses is their use as wood when they are dry. The first use of wood is as wood for fires, which man needs to live; as sticks for support, protection (of flocks), and other necessities; and as supports for loads that one fears might topple over. After that, wood has other uses, for the inhabitants of the desert as well as for those of settled areas.

Bedouins use wood for tent poles and pegs, for camel litters for their women, and for the lances, bows, and arrows they use for weapons. Sedentary people use wood for the roofs of their houses, for the locks of their doors, and for chairs to sit on.

Wood is the raw material for all these things. The particular form needed in each case is the result of craftsmanship. The craft concerned with that and which gives every wooden object its form is carpentry in all its different grades. The master of (this craft) must first split the wood into smaller pieces or into boards.

Then, he puts these pieces together in the required form. In this connection, he attempts with the aid of his craft to prepare these pieces by the proper arrangement for (their) becoming parts of the (desired) particular shape. The man in charge of this craft is the carpenter. He is necessary to civilization. Then, when sedentary culture increases and luxury makes its appearance and people want to use elegant types of roofs, doors, chairs, and furniture, these things come to be produced in a most elegant way through mastery of remarkable techniques which are luxuries and in no way necessities. Such (techniques) include, for instance, the use of carvings for doors and chairs. Or, one skillfully turns and shapes pieces of wood in a lathe, and then one puts these pieces together in certain symmetrical arrangements and nails them together, so that they appear to the eye to be of one piece.

They consist of different shapes all symmetrically combined. This is done with all the (possible) shapes into which wood may be cut, which turn out to be very elegant things. The same applies to all wooden utensils (alat) of whatever kind. Carpentry is also needed for the construction of ships, which are made of boards and nails. Ships are bodies (constructed with the help) of geometry (engineering), fashioned after the form of a fish and the way a fish swims in the water with its fins and belly.

The shape is intended to make it easier for the ship to brave the water. Instead of the animal motion that the fish has, the ship is moved by the winds. It is often supported by the movement of oars, as is the case in (naval) fleets. In view of its origin, carpentry needs a good deal of .geometry of all kinds.

It requires either a general or a specialized knowledge of proportion and measurement, in order to bring the forms (of things) from potentiality into actuality in the proper manner, and for the knowledge of - proportions one must have recourse to the geometrician.

Therefore, the leading Greek geometricians were all master carpenters.

Euclid, the author of the Book of the Principles, on geometry, was a carpenter. The same was the case with Apollonius, the author of the book on Conic Sections, and Menelaus, and others.

Noah taught carpentry first in the world. With its help, he constructed the ship of salvation (the Ark) with which he performed his miracle 133 during the Flood. This story may be possible, that is, (Noah) may have been a carpenter. However, there is no reliable proof that he was the first to practice (carpentry), because (the event) lies so far back in the past.

The story shows the great age of carpentry. There is no sound information about its (existence) before the story of Noah. Therefore, he was, in a way, considered the first to learn it. The true secrets (significance) of the crafts in the world should be understood.

26. Weaving and tailoring

It should be known that people who are temperate in their humanity cannot avoid giving some thought to keeping warm, as they do to shelter.

One manages to keep warm by using woven material as protective cover against both heat and cold. This requires the interlacing of yarn, until it turns out to be a complete garment. This is spinning and weaving.

Desert people restrict themselves to this. But people who are inclined toward sedentary culture cut the woven material into pieces of the right size to cover the form of the body and all of its numerous limbs in their various locations. They then put the different pieces together with thread, until they turn out to be a complete garment that fits the body and can be worn by people. The craft that makes things fit is tailoring.

These two crafts are necessary in civilization, because human beings must keep warm.

The purpose of weaving is to weave wool and cotton yarn in warp and woof and do it well, so that the texture will be strong.

Pieces of cloth of certain measurements are thus produced. Some are garments of wool for covering. Others are garments of cotton and linen for wear.

The purpose of tailoring is to give the woven material a certain form in accordance with the many different shapes and customs (that may occur in this connection).

The material is first cut with scissors into pieces that fit the limbs of the body. The pieces are then joined together with the help of skillful tailoring according to ’the rules, either by the use of thread, or with bands, or (one) quilts (them), or cuts openings.

This (craft) is restricted to sedentary culture, since the inhabitants of the desert can dispense with it. They merely cover themselves with cloth. The tailoring of clothes, the cutting, fitting, and sewing of the material, is one of the various methods and aspects of sedentary culture.

This should be understood, in order to understand the reason why the wearing of sewn garments is forbidden on the pilgrimage. According to the religious law, the pilgrimage requires, among other things, the discarding of all worldly attachments and the return to God as He created us in the beginning.

Man should not set his heart upon any of his luxury customs, such as perfume, women, sewn garments, or boots. He should not go hunting or expose himself to any other of the customs with which his soul and character have become colored. When he dies, he will necessarily lose them (anyhow). He should come (to the pilgrimage) as if he were going to the Last Judgment, humble in his heart, sincerely devoted to his Lord.

If he is completely sincere in this respect, his reward will be that he will shed his sins (and be) like he was on the day when his mother gave birth to him. Praised be You! How kind have You been with Your servants and how compassionate have You been with them in their search for guidance toward You!

These two crafts are very ancient in the world, because it is necessary for man in a temperate civilization to keep warm. The inhabitants of less temperate, hotter zones do not need to keep warm. Therefore, we hear that the Negro inhabitants of the first zone are mostly naked. Because of the great age of these crafts, they are attributed by the common people to Idris, the most ancient of theprophets.

They are also often attributed to Hermes.138 Hermes is said to be identical with Idris.