From the Dome of the Rock completed in Jerusalem in 692 to the Taj Mahal and the Pearl Mosques constructed by the Moghul emperors in India in the seventeenth century, from the Topkapi Seray in Istanbul to the glories of Isfahan, from Cordoba and Toledo in Spain to the Gur-i-Amir in Samarkand, architectural triumphs have signposted the development of Islamic civilisation, many of them designed to reflect the promises of our faith.
Here I must explain the importance of the faith to every aspect of a Muslim’s life including his physical environment: all beings are affected positively or negatively by their surroundings but for Muslims it is a particularly critical matter.
Muslims believe in an all-encompassing unit of man and nature. To them there is no fundamental division between the spiritual and the material while the whole world, whether it be the earth, sea or air, or the living creatures that inhabit them, is an expression of God’s creation. The aesthetics of the environment we build and the quality of the social interactions that take place within those environments reverberate on our spiritual life, and there has always been a very definite ethos guiding the best Islamic Architecture.
Excerpt from speech given by His Highness the Aga Khan on receiving the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture, University of Virgina, Charlottesville, Virginia, 13 April 1984