TEACHING METHOD FOR DEVELOPING AN ISLAMIC
WAY OF THINKING FOR STUDENTS OF ARCHITECTURE
Case Example: Project - Jamiat -al- Bir 4th year design project for interior architecture
Author: Dr.Nadia Basir
Department of Interior Architecture girls
King Faisal University Dammam
PO Box 2397
Co-author: Uzma Zain ul Abedin
Department of Interior Architecture girls
King Faisal University Dammam
PO Box 2397
This paper discusses teaching methods for the subject of architectural design to students in
Muslim societies. The aim is to develop a process of clear thinking in students in an Islamic
way, which integrates both ecology and Islamic concepts as one and encourage a sense of
responsibility in the Muslim architect towards the society.
During the process of teaching design it is noticed that the information available in standards
and other books is usually not adequate and does not conform to the needs and values of the
society. The existing buildings are also not good examples as most of the time these are not
built according to cultural and social needs. When the students follow these standards or try to
take example from existing environment they tend to get confused as they do not find what
they are looking for. In this way the designs produced by students repeat the mistakes made in
the past and do not reflect the cultural and Islamic values.
Teaching method discussed in this paper addresses this issue and tries to resolve it in the light
of Islamic knowledge and concepts of ecology as one. The project given to the 4th
was Jamiat Bir: Sadaqa e Jaria (continuing charity) as a broader concept. Students selected
suitable projects under this concept and developed the requirements themselves. This
encouraged students to think well and result was some very new and interesting ideas for the
projects not done previously. These ideas would help develop norms which are actually
needed for the culture and society. Following are some suggestions for effective teaching of
subject of design in the institutions of Muslim world.
students need to be given possibility to develop a number of different concepts for the same project
to reach a good Islamic understanding, discussions with students need to be encouraged.
instead of giving all project requirements to the students let them develop their own requirements
let students relate the standards, case studies and their Islamic knowledge together for the projects
courses on ecology need to be integrated with the teaching of interior design and architecture
List of key words (10)
Teaching methods, ecology, projects, Sadaqa e Jaria, charity, Islamic, design project, norms,
standards, architecture projects, studio.
This paper discusses teaching methods for the subject of architectural design to
students in Muslim societies. A project given to the students of 4th year Interior Architecture
(girls) at the King Faisal University, Dammam KSA, is taken as a case example.
The main concept behind this teaching method is to encourage a sense of
responsibility in the Muslim architect towards the society. The aim is to develop a process of
clear thinking by students in an Islamic way, which integrates both ecology and Islamic
concepts as one. This method does not teach Islamic figh, but uses students Islamic knowledge
to direct their thinking to solve design problems.
The need for a different method for teaching comes from the fact that the existing
system of information and examples used by students for learning are based on western
standards and criteria.
At present when students are given a design problem such as a hotel, or school, or
hostel as a clear and specific function, they follow a definite process for designing which
includes using existing examples as case studies and to follow set standards given in prescribed
books such as Neufert and Time Saver Standards. Students automatically tend to follow these
examples and norms believing these to be suitable and without realizing that they do not fit
their culture and society.
The chaos in existing buildings and environment in this part of the world reflects this
mixture of western standards with cultural needs.
During the process of teaching students faculty face some basic problems which are
1. NORMS ARE NOT ADEQUATE: we do not have our own standards or norms and we
are inclined to follow western standards.
Sometimes when students realize that what they are looking for in the standards
does not exist they think that the standards are wrong because they do not include norms
according to their culture
2. EXISTING EXAMPLES ARE NOT SUITABLE: examples which are used for studying
are either based on western standards or are built by the users themselves based on their
needs. These may or may not be suitable as there are no norms available to evaluate
Students copy projects from exiting buildings and develop designs similar to
Thus, students get ready made information from examples they do not
think deep about but copy information as they get it.
3. STUDENTS DO NOT USE THEIR ISLAMIC KNOWLEDGE
While studying design students do not relate their existing Islamic knowledge to their projects.
Accordingly, we follow Western models - we build buildings that fit another culture, we think
like another culture and we teach like another culture. It is very important that we try to find a
way, which is ours, a way for the Muslim culture.
To be able to realize this level of awareness we need to teach students to think along
these lines so that they believe in themselves and in their culture.
THE RELATIONSHIP OF ISLAM AND ECOLOGY TO SADAQA JARIA AND ISRAF
IN THE PROJECT
The Teaching Method
The conventional method of teaching uses specific functions like hotels, schools and
museums, the method suggested here would give these functions to students as a broader
The idea is to initiate a thinking process in students to determine the subjects or topics
for their design within the main theme. This may result either in customary projects or it may
lead to entirely new concepts which do not exist but are in reality needed for the people and
This approach can help suggest new solutions to existing issues to create a healthy
environment. This would also help develop a sense of responsibility in architects towards their
As a first step to bring about this awareness students were given broad concepts in
the form of a philosophy or a theme which explains the main idea behind the
project. In the case of this studio the theme was sadaga jaria (continuous charity).
This main theme was further developed through class discussions to lead to
the concept of Jamiat-al-Bir, welfare or something good for the society. Jamiat-al-Bir
generated a variety of different projects which were developed by different students. The
project was thus Jamiat-al- Bir as a part of Sadaga e Jaria.
The second but equally important step to create the awareness was to make use of
ecology as an important aspect of the thinking process in Islam. Islam discourages
israf which is wastefulness or extravagance, which is very related to eco-thinking.
We do have information in this 20th
century about awareness on ecology issues but
what is missing is its relationship with Islam in the context of buildings. Discussions among
students and teachers lead to the integration of the project with ecological emphasis within
The main principles for ecology for urban areas are: (KrauseBasir, 1994-2000)
1. Economic use of spaces
2. The best use of climatic factors in buildings
3. Optimal use of energy in buildings
4. Recycling of water in buildings
5. Recycling of building materials
All these points are related to economy in buildings. This means that as Muslim
designers we must be careful about Israf and try to economize, not to spend more than what is
required; i.e. not to waste spaces, work done by people, materials and money among many
other things. We need to be aware of the fact that whatever we make or build costs money e.g.,
steel, cement, labor etc.
Keeping this in view, students were taught that it is very important to avoid israf
There are many ways by which israf can be avoided and in this project it has been
attempted in the following ways:
Re-use of old buildings.
Choosing of the right function for the right structure.
Economy in design in plans and circulation.
Developing ideas suitable for Islamic concept of Sadaga Jariah.
Re-use of old buildings:
By reusing the buildings we do not waste them but we can use these for a better
function. Reusing buildings not only make them efficient but they are also sustained for a
longer period of time (Haefele, G.,OED, W. 1998).