September 4, 2011
I wish Casablanca to be endowed with a large, fine building of which it can be proud until the end of time … I want to build this mosque on the water, because God’s throne is on the water. Therefore, the faithful who go there to pray, to praise the creator on firm soil, can contemplate God’s sky and ocean.
— Hassan II, King of Morocco
I’m sitting over the edge of the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. It is early morning and a brisk wind chills my skin. Waves break against the rocky shore and a breeze wafts the salty sea’s potent smell. The white city lies before me — geometric designs and unique patterns permeate Casablanca.
The landscape before me resembles a crescent that encircles the straight horizon. It reminds me of the mosque’s doorways where half an oval outlines the top of the doors. The mosaics found within the mosque are handmade, with each small colorful piece stacked over the other, one by one.
I wonder how repetitive patterns affect a Muslim’s way of life versus the organic figures found in Christian art. Perhaps Muslims are more appreciative of the cycles of life and the patterns that exist among us. Christ himself is an organic figure and Christians have no hesitation in describing or replicating the image of God. But Muslims, on the other hand, do not believe in creating a figurative representation of God. This religious modesty is also reflected in their demeanor, their dress (especially a woman’s), and virtually any social construct that represents their piety.
So, do patterns make a difference?
Click here for further reading on the history of patterns in Islamic art. The final section, “The Islamic Paradise”, is the most insightful.