Nasser Rabbat is the Aga Khan Professor and the Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT. A historian and architect, his research interests include the history and historiography of Islamic architecture, urbanism, and cultures, Mamluk history, modern Arab history, contemporary Arab art, and post-colonial criticism.
Professor Rabbat has published several books and numerous scholarly articles. His most recent books are The Destruction of Cultural Heritage: From Napoléon to ISIS (2016), co-edited with Pamela Karimi, and Al- Naqd Iltizaman: Nazarat fi-l Tarikh wal ‘Ururba wal Thawra (Criticism as Commitment: Viewpoints on History, Arabism, and Revolution) (2015). He is currently completing an intellectual biography of the 15th century historian al-Maqrizi and a book on the “Dead Cities”, a unique and threatened late-antique site in Syria.
He has previously published: Mamluk History Through Architecture: Building, Culture, and Politics in Mamluk Egypt and Syria (2010); Thaqafat al-Bina’ wa-Bina’ al-Thaqafa (The Culture of Building and Building Culture) (2002); and The Citadel of Cairo: A New Interpretation of Royal Mamluk Architecture (1995). He edited The Courtyard House between Cultural Reference and Universal Relevance (2010, 2nd edition 2016), co-edited Making Cairo Medieval (2005), and co-authored Interpreting the Self: Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition (2001).
Professor Rabbat regularly contributes to a number of Arabic newspapers on political and cultural issues. He lectures extensively in the US and abroad, consults with international design firms on projects in the Islamic world, and maintains several websites focused on Islamic architecture and urbanism. He has recently become involved in the debate on reconstruction and heritage conservation in Syria. He has established a collaborative research project at MIT, named “Ethics of Intervention”; co-founded Syrians for Heritage (SIMAT), an association concerned with the preservation of Syria’s cultural heritage; and co-curated, with Filiz Çakır Phillip, the exhibition “Syria: A Living History” at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto in 2016-17.
Rabbat, Nasser. "Religious Architecture in Islamic Cultures." Syllabus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 2002.
This document is a syllabus reflecting course content developed for "Religious Architecture in Islamic Cultures," by Nasser Rabbat of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Architecture.
This course introduces the history of Islamic cultures through their most vibrant material signs: their religious architecture that spans fourteen centuries and threecontinents, Asia, Africa, and Europe. It reviews a number of representative architectural examples (mosques, madrasas, mausolea, etc.) from various periods and places and discusses their architectural, urban, and stylistic characteristics in conjunction with their historical, political, and intellectual environments.
The course also analyzes the development of the sacred, commemorative, pious, and educational architecture in the Islamic world in light of a changing Islam from a reform movement in 7th-century Arabia to a global power straddling three continents in the medieval period to a world religion professed by one-sixth of humanity in the present. Films and discussions are used to elucidate the artistic/cultural varieties and historical developments of this architectural vision within both the Islamic and the larger, universal, and cross-cultural contexts.
Throughout the course, a number of critical issues will be considered: How do we define and/or qualify architecture? What is the relationship between architecture and culture? How do we study an architectural tradition that covers several regions and encompasses a variety of cultures and national and ethnic identities? And, what, if anything, is Islamic about this architecture, and how do we understand and describe vis-a-vis the global history of architecture?
Religious architecture: Visual impressions and intellectual contours
Simple origins and influences of pre-Islamic traditions
Hourani, "The Making of a World," 1-21.
The life and message of the Prophet. The Mosque of the Prophet in Madina and other early mosques
Ibn Batuta, Travels, vol. 1, chapter 3, pp. 163-75; chapter 4, pp. 188-208.
Allan and Creswell, Early Muslim Architecture, 3-10, 15-17.
Hoag, Introduction and Chapter 1: The Beginning of Islamic Architecture.
Ettinghausen and Grabar, The Art and Architecture of Islam, 17-25.
Rituals of worship: The vocabulary of religious architecture
James Dickie, "Allah and Eternity: Mosques, Madrasas, and Tombs," in G. Michell, Architecture of the Islamic World, 65-79.
A. B. Prochazka, Mosques, 16-25.
Hourani, "Ways of Islam," 147-52;"The Articulation of Islam," 59-79.
General Background Reading:
Arthur Jeffery, A reader on Islam: Selections from the Qur'an: 17-25; 49-62; 67-72.
The Sira (Biography of the Prophet): 284-336; The Mantle Poem of al-Busiri: 605-20
On the Merits of Mecca: 598-604.
Karen Armstrong, Muhammad : a biography of the prophet.
Nabia Abbott, Aishah: the beloved of Mohammed.
Roy Mottahedeh, Loyalty and leadership in an early Islamic society, 6-39.
The conquests and the adaptation of ancient motifs as assertive elements of a new faith. The First Islamic monument: the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Competing ideologies, myths, and world views.
Jeffery, "The Story of the Night Journey and the Ascencion," 621-39.
Hourani, "The Formation of an Empire," 22-37.
Ettinghausen and Grabar, 26-34.
Grabar, Formation, 45-67.
Allan and Creswell, 19-40.
First Caliphal Expressions: Umayyad Mosques (715-50). Islamization of the empire and Arabization of the state.
Ettinghausen and Grabar, 35-45.
Allan and Creswell, 43-88.
Hoag. Chapter 2. Umayyad architecture.
Grabar. Formation, 104-38, "Islamic Religious Art: The Mosque."
The splendors of the Abbasids at Baghdad and Samarra. An Islamic architectural language: Monumentalizing the hypostyle type.
Ettinghausen and Grabar, 75-92
Allan and Creswell, 359-76.
Hoag. Chapter 3.
Religious monuments of the West: Ifriqiya and Spain. Imperial versus provincial expressions of power
Ettinghausen and Grabar, 92-105, 127-40.
Allan and Creswell, 291-330, 391-406.
Hoag. Chapters 4 & 5.
Jerrilynn Dodds, "The Great Mosque of Cordoba," Al-Andalus , 11-25.
Fatimid Cairo: New traditions and old forms. Muqarnas: decorative purposes and symbolic meanings.
Wheeler Thackston, (trans.), Naser-e Khosraw's book of travels (Safarnama).
Behrens-Abouseif, Islamic Architecture of Cairo, 58-67.
Ettinghausen and Grabar, 167-86.
Hoag. Chapter 8.
Iran and Central Asia: developments on the Eastern frontier. The survival and revival of pre-Islamic modes of construction and expression.
The introduction of the mausoleum.
Allan and Creswell, 264-69, 345-51.
Ettinghausen and Grabar, 209-22.
Hoag. Chapter 10: The Early Islamic Architecture of Persia.
Kuban, Muslim Religious Architecture, 2: 27-33
FRAGMENTATION AND IMAGES OF UNITY
The Achitecture of the Great Seljuqs: the four-iwan plan; from palatial to religious
Hoag. Chapter 11: The Seljuks.
Ettinghausen and Grabar, 253-84.
Mohammad al-Asad, "Applications of Geometry," in Frishman and Khan The mosque, 55-75
The architecture of the Sunni revival: Eastern influences and western traditions. The Introduction and spread of the Madrasa and the Khanqah
Hourani, "Ways of Islam," 147-57, and "The Culture of the ŒUlama," 158-66.
Arthur Jeffery, A reader on Islam: " Sufism," 640-66.
Allan, James W. and K.A.C. Creswell. A Short Account of Early Muslim Architecture. Cairo: American University Press, 1989.
Armstrong, Karen. Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet. San Francisco, Calif: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992.
Asher, Catherine. Architecture of Mughal India. Cambridge [England]; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Bassiouni, M. Cherif. Introduction to Islam. Chicago, IL : Rand McNally & Co.: 1988.
Behrens-Abouseif, Doris. Islamic Architecture of Cairo, An Introduction. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1989.
Blair, Sheila, and Jonathan Bloom. The Art and Architecture of Islam 1250-1800. New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, 1994.
Bloom, Jonathan. The Minaret Symbol of Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Burckhardt Titus. Sacred Art in East and West: Its Principles and Methods. London: Perennial Books, 1967.
Dodds, Jerrilynn D (ed.). Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art . Distributed by H.N. Abrams, 1992.
Ettinghausen, Richard and Oleg Grabar. The Art and Architecture of Islam: 650-1250. London and N.Y.: Penguin Books, 1987.
Martin Frishman and Hasan-Uddin Khan (eds). The Aosque: History, Architectural Development and Regional Diversity. New York, 1994.
Goodwin, Godfrey. A History of Ottoman Architecture. London:Thames and Hudson, 1971.
Grabar, Oleg. The Formation of Islamic Art. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2d. ed., 1987.
Grabar, Oleg. The Great Mosque of Isfahan. New York: New York University Press, 1990.
Golombek, Liza and Donald Wilber. The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.
Hoag, John D. Islamic Architecture. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1977.
Hillenbrand, Robert. Islamic Architecture: Form, Function and Meaning. Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press, 1994.
Ibn Batuta. Travels, A.D. 1325-1354. Cambridge [Eng.], 1958.
Ibn Khaldun. The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History. Princeton, N.J., 1967.
Irwin, Robert. Islamic Art in Context: Art, Architecture and the Literary World. New York, 1997.
Kuban, Dogan. Muslim Religious Architecture. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1974.
Michell, George ed. Architecture of the Islamic World: Its History and Social Meaning. London: Thames and Hudson, 1978.
Prochazka, A. B. Mosques. Zurich: Muslim Architecture Research Program, 1986.
Rahman, Fazlur. Islam. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.
Rogers, Michael. The Spread of Islam. New York: Elsevier-Phaidon, 1976.
Soucek, Priscilla ed. Content and Context of Visual Arts in the Islamic World. Philadelphia, l988.
Vogt, Ulya G. Mosquees: grand courants de l'architecture islamique. Paris: 1975.
Encyclopedia of Islam, 2d Edition, article "Masdjid," 6: 644-706.