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Bernard O’Kane. Stars and Symmetry: The Prophet Muhammad’s Name in Architectural Inscriptions

Bernard O’Kane

Dr Bernard O’Kane is Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at The American University in Cairo, where he has been teaching since 1980. He has also been a visiting professor at Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of several books including The Mosques of Egypt and Timurid Architecture in Khurasan. O’Kane is also an avid photographer and recently directed the creation of the The Monumental Inscriptions of Cairo database.

Stars and Symmetry: The Prophet Muhammad’s name in architectural inscriptions

As we would expect, the name of Muhammad is among the most celebrated in architectural inscriptions. The two part Muslim profession of faith that mentioned God and well as his Prophet also makes it unsurprising that Allah is among the most frequent accompaniment to the name of Muhammad. This lecture will present examples from the central Islamic lands of Egypt, Syria, Turkey and Iran, and from the 11th to the 16th centuries. I will also raise the question of why some of their forms were so popular, in particular the symmetrical star-shaped examples. Another point to be explored is the further possibility of a connection between the Solomonic hexagram and the polylobed rosette found in architectural examples and in devotional manuscripts.