International Journal for Islamic Architecture: Climate Change and the Built Environment in the Islamic World

Thematic volume planned for May 2024 (IJIA 13.2)

This special issue of IJIA focuses on the impact of the current climate crisis on the built environments of the Islamic world. Environmentalist scholar and eco-theologist Seyyed Hossein Nasr once said that the natural environment occupies a type of ‘sacred’ space in the world, an elevated position that exists only because nature is ‘always in danger of desecration’. In fact, many scientists are now seeing our current global predicament as evidence of the emergence of a ‘fifth nature’ or ‘post nature’, referring to a world ‘after’ nature or potentially beyond or in addition to it, which expands the central definition of the ‘natural’ to include man-made waste, environmental pollution, and importantly climate change as part and parcel of a lived and living ecosystem. To this end, this special issue takes up the challenge of unpacking this complex topic by utilizing architecture as a space of discourse for thinking about how one might craft a theory of ‘critical environmentalism’ across the Islamic world. Currently accounting for 40 percent of the world’s total energy usage per year, the built environment provides a fitting platform for a consideration of climate change and attendant environmental themes such as sustainability – broadly defined as ‘the endurance of systems and processes’ – towards examining how such realities are made manifest through the lens of diverse spatial templates within Muslim societies around the globe.

To this point, many architectural approaches being explored in the contemporary period as potential solutions to building in an increasingly unstable climatic future are rooted in historical practices, many of which emerged in proto-Islamic lands. Archaeological evidence from North Africa and the Middle East, for example, not only suggest that early civilizations used thermodynamically efficient materials like earth to build in desert environments, but also developed an understanding of how to generate liveable microclimates through infrastructural design and engineering. Some of these early approaches have also served as the basis for some of the first modern attempts at crafting climate-appropriate design, spearheaded by architects such as Hassan Fathy (Egypt) and his utilisation of AT (Appropriate Technology), and even certain contemporary structural counterparts like Dubai’s new eco-mosque in Hatta, which opened in 2021 and uses both solar panels to reduce its energy usage and water treatment units to reuse water for irrigation and cleaning due to the lack of potable water sources in the region. Importantly as well, such building projects and approaches also gesture towards shifting conditions and modes of being in the world, realities informed by numerous different perspectives ranging from social, cultural, economic, and even religious modes of existence. In 2021, the Saudi Arabian government issued a fatwa on the topic of water reuse, requiring mosques in both Mecca and Medina to recycle wastewater or ‘grey water’ due to the limited area water sources and the extreme drain on regional water resources that events like the annual Hajj provoke. Some see this as evidence of the emergence of a ‘Green Deen’, or an approach to sustainability that positions environmental stewardship as a faith-based ordinance.

Articles offering historical and theoretical analysis (DiT papers) should be between 6000 and 8000 words, and those on design and practice (DiP papers) between 3000 and 4000 words. Practitioners are welcome to contribute insofar as they address the critical framework of the journal. Please send a title and a 400-word abstract to the guest editor, Michelle Apotsos, Williams College (IJIAsustainability@gmail.com), by April 30, 2022. Authors of accepted proposals will be contacted soon thereafter and will be requested to submit full papers by January 30, 2023. All papers will be subject to blind peer review. For author instructions, please consult this page.

More information can be found in the full call for papers here.

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