The most important building in Islamic architecture is the mosque, which well represents the significance of Islamic architecture as well as dominates the Muslim cityscape and provides a sense of identity to the place.
Islamic architecture includes number of different types of buildings such as mosques, madrasas (theological schools), markets, tombs, fortifications, palaces and houses. The most important one of these buildings is the mosque, which well represents the significance of Islamic architecture as well as dominates the Muslim cityscape and provides a sense of identity to the place. The development of mosque architecture was influenced by many important factors including, a wide variety of local building materials and methods of construction, climate, tradition, and culture. Although, these factors gave rise from the beginning to highly different styles, the architectural elements of the mosque remained common to most mosques everywhere. These elements include the dome, the minaret, the mihrab, the arch and the ablution fountain.
1. THE DOME
A dome is a hemispherical structure, which first appeared in small buildings and tombs in the ancient Middle East, India, and the Mediterranean. Of course, the dome of the Pantheon is one of the earliest monumental examples of a large-scale masonry dome in Rome. Byzantine architecture also featured large-scale domes, such as Aya Sophia cathederal, which influenced the early Islamic architecture. The architecture of the mosque exhibited many different forms of domes including:
1. The hemispherical dome, which can be seen in the Mediterranean and Anatolia architecture (fig.1).
2. The slightly pointed dome, which dominates the architecture of Iran and Central Asia (fig.2).
3. The bulbous dome, or onion dome, which represents the most important features of the architecture of Indian subcontinent (fig.3).
Fig. 1. Hemispherical dome, Al-Azhar Mosque, Mosque, 10th , cairo, (Fatimid)
Fig. 2. Slightly pointed dome, Shaykh Lutfallah Mosque,17th, Isfahan, Iran
Fig. 3. Bulbous dome, Friday Mosque of Old Delhi, 17th, Delhi, India, (Mughal)
2. THE MINARET
The minaret is a tower, from which the Muezzin (man who has a good and loud voice) announces the time of the prayer. Most mosques have one or more minaret, which are usually placed at the corners of a mosque. The minaret has many different forms such as:
1. Octagonal minaret, usually found in Egypt’s mosques. (Fig. 4)
2. Square minaret, which can be seen in the mosques of Spain and Maghreb, (Fig. 5)
3. Square with octagon minaret in Syria and Egypt, (Fig. 6)
4. Square with circular minaret is also in Egypt (Fig. 7)
5. Spiral staircase minaret, can be found only in the architecture of Iraq and Egypt (Fig. 8)
6. Free-standing slim conical minaret is a feature of the mosques of Iran and Central Asia, (Fig. 9)
7. Two slim-tower minarets flanking the portal appeared in the mosques of Iran, (Fig. 10)
8. Minaret with domed pavilion-like top, an important feature of the architecture of the Indian subcontinent (F.g.11)
9. Pencil-like minaret dominates the architecture of the mosques in Turkey, (Fig. 12)
10. Three floor-tower minaret, which can be seen only in China, (Fig. 13)
Fig. 4. Minaret, Al-Azhar Mosque, Mosque, 10th , cairo, Fatimid
Fig. 5. Minaret, Ali bin Yusuf Mosque, 12th, Marrakech, Morocco, almoravid
Fig. 6. MinaretGreat mosque of Damascus, Syria, 8th,Umayyad
Fig. 7. Minaret Sultan Faraj ibn Barquq Funerary Complex, 15th Cairo, Mamluk
Fig. 8. Minaret of the Great mosque of Samara’a, Iraq (Abbasid)
Fig. 9. Arslan Jadhib Mausoleum and Minaret, 11th, Sang Bast, Iran, ghaznavid
Fig. 10. Friday Mosque of Yazd, 14th, Yazd, Iran, Timuid
Fig. 11. Lahore Fort Complex: Badshaahi Mosque, 17th, Lahore, Pakistan, Mughal
Fig. 12. Sokollu Mehmet Pasa Complex at Lüleburgaz, 16th, Lüleburgaz, Turkey, Ottoman
Fig. 13. minaret of the Great Mosque of Xi'an, China
3. The Mihrab
The Mihrab is a Semicircular prayer niche in the qiblah wall (the wall facing the direction of Mecca city in Saudi Arabia) of a mosque, and the place of the prayer leader (imam). The mihrab originated in the time of the Umayyad dynasty in the beginning of the eighth century, when the famous mosques at Jerusalem, and Damascus were built. Mihrabs are usually ornamentally decorated. (Figs. 14-19)
Fig.14. Mihrab, Al-Azhar Mosque, Mosque, 10th , cairo, Fatimid
Fig.15. Mirab, Great Mosque of Córdoba, 9th,Umayyad
Fig.16. Mihrab, Ali bin Yusuf Mosque, 12th, Marrakech, Morocco, almoravid
Fig.17. Mihrab, Esrefoglu Süleyman Bey Mosque, 13th, Beysehir, Turkey, Seljuk
Fig.18. Mihrab, Friday Mosque of Yazd, 14th, Yazd, Iran, Timuid
Fig.19. Mihrab, Friday Mosque of Old Delhi, 17th, Delhi, India, Mughal
4. THE ARCHE
Another important feature of the mosque is the arch. There are many different types of arches, whose shapes differ according to its region’s culture, traditions, building materials and method of construction. The most important common one is the pointed arch, which was used in Iran and Central Asia. Other shapes were also used in different parts of the Islamic world including the Polylobed arch in Spain and, the keel-shaped arch, in Egypt, the horse-shoe arch in Maghreb, and the Ogee Arch in the Indian subcontinent (figs.20-24).
Fig.20. Pointed arch, Friday Mosque at Qum, 14th, Qum, Iran, Ilkhanid
Fig.21. Polylobed arch, Great Mosque of Córdoba, 9th polylobd archs, Spain Umayyad
Fig.22. keel-shaped arche, the Mosque of al-Aqmar (1125) Cairo, Fatimid
Fig.23. Horse-shoe arch, Qarawiyyin Mosque, 9th, Fez, Morocco , almoravid
Fig.24. Ogee Arch, Friday Mosque of Old Delhi, 17th, Delhi, India, Mughal
5. THE ABLUTION FOUNTAIN
Cleansing is an important ritual for a Muslim to prepare himself/herself to perform prayer. However, the ablution fountain represented an important element to be added to the characteristics of a mosque. Muslims use fountains to clean their faces, hands, feet, and rinse their mouths before the prayer. Similar to the other features of a mosque, the ablution fountain took different forms and styles according to the culture and tradition of its region.
Fig.25. Ablution fountain, Great mosque of Damascus, Syria, 8th , Umayyad
Fig.26. Ablution fountain, Ali bin Yusuf Mosque, 12th, Morocco, almoravid
Fig.27. Ablution Fountain, Qarawiyyin Mosque, 9th, Fez, Morocco , almoravid
Fig.28. Ablution fountain, Sokollu Mehmet Pasa Complex, 16th, Lüleburgaz, Turkey, Ottoman