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How The Kaaba Operates in the Islamic World

Celie Hanson

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How The Kaaba Operates in the Islamic World

About Dr. Simon O’Meara and this TKS episode:

Dr. Simon O’Meara is a Lecturer in the History of Architecture and Archaeology of the Islamic Middle East at SOAS, University of London. In this episode of The Know Show Podcast, he delves into what drew him to this area of study and talks to Hussain about his research, focussing mainly on North Africa and, specifically, Morocco. 

 

A brief synopsis:

Dr. Simon O’Meara begins by telling us how he discovered his interest in Islamic art. During his time as a student, he traveled to Morocco, where he was fascinated by Islamic art. He tells Hussain that he became determined to do a Ph.D. in Islamic studies, learn Arabic, and move to Morocco. Simon was intrigued by the way Islamic art is hidden in Morocco, its modesty, and the architecture of its cities. 

He continues by giving us an overview of the Kaaba, and Simon critiques the way it has been dismissed as art by some senior Islamic historians. He describes the Kaaba as an essential part of Islamic culture, full of mysteries and misinterpretations. He makes a point to show how he has tried to understand the Kaaba from literature and other external sources. Simon uses this to note the way Islamic art has and hasn’t changed throughout history:

Islamic art continues on a single trajectory, and it was not impacted by the changes of dynasties. The genius of Islamic art continues despite the regime changes. That allows us to see a continuity between the 17th century and the 7th century.

Dr. Simon O'Meara

 

He then goes on to summarise his book, The Kaʿba Orientations: Readings in Islam’s Ancient House. In the book, he explores how Muslims conceptualise, represent, and use the Kaaba. Simon further explores the significance of the Kaaba by examining how it functions architecturally and how Muslims view it culturally. 

My research is in technical terms synchronic, not diachronic. I'm not following a particular conceptualisation of the Kaaba across time. I take ways that it has been conceptualised at a major level. One concept is that people still talk about the Kaaba as the heart of humankind.

Dr. Simon O'Meara

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TKS take home points:

In this TKS episode, we learnt about new ways of seeing Islamic art, and how the Kaaba operates as a whole. He discusses the ways it has been consistently prominent over time, and how impressive it remains in terms of its meanings and intricate details. Simon O’Meara acknowledges his positionality, and shows how he has drawn on various sources, especially poetry, to try and offer a deep understanding of what Islamic culture means to Muslims and humankind.

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