The Genesis of a Mosque: Negotiating Sacred Space in Downtown Beirut
Title: The Genesis of a Mosque: Negotiating Sacred Space in Downtown Beirut
Author: VLOEBERGHS, Ward
Series/Report no.: EUI RSCAS; 2008/17; Mediterranean Programme Series
In this paper, we will provide an overview of different stages in the coming about of the Muhammad al-Amin mosque, the so-called “Hariri mosque”, a construction completed in 2005. By focusing on five determining phases of the project, five situations of bargaining over space, we wish to allow the reader to take a look into the complex history of the mosque by documenting how a selection of actors became, willing or not, associated with what is now Lebanon’s largest congregational mosque. We will pay special attention to identify the major actors involved and see how the project has in itself, physically and spatially, evolved over the decades. It is our objective too to illustrate that and how legality has been treated throughout these different periods as a flexible given that could be accommodated according to the necessity of the situation or in function of the preferences of the respective actors. In doing so, this religious building’s emergence recalls the history of Beirut and its significant, diversified Sunni community. What follows is a description and an analysis of how a 30 million dollar project bestowed on the Lebanese capital a major landmark, after a dynamic and surprising trajectory that compasses almost a century and a half. This contribution attempts to highlight how, by constant actions and reactions, and with an impressive variety of national and international actors, an exceptional and highly symbolical place of worship emerged into the skyline of a cosmopolitan metropolis in an ongoing, transformative process of acquiring, claiming and appropriating (sacred) land.
Subject: religious architecture; urban politics; anthropology of space; Islam; Lebanon
Type of Access: openAccess