Resplendent mosque architecture from around the world

Arts and influences of the time are infused in every detail of a mosque's Islamic architecture.

    Resplendent mosque architecture from around the world
    Wazir Khan Mosque in the walled city of Old Lahore on July 9, 2010 Lahore, Pakistan [Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images]

    When it comes to the architectural design of mosques, nothing is arbitrary.

    Mosques function not just as a tangible place of worship, but also as a space in which architectural language itself glorifies God with its resplendent colonnades, sloping domes, kaleidoscopic frescos, and dizzying geometric designs.

    The mosque is not merely beautiful, although beauty in all its nuances is a quality highly revered in Islam.

    It is a physical manifestation of love and reverence for an omnipotent God who is unseen.

    It is what assistant professor of Religious Studies at the College of William and Mary, Oludamini Ogunnaike, calls the "silent theology of Islamic art".

    From Cuba to Japan, as Muslim communities around the world grow, and diasporic Muslim communities flourish, mosques are still being built today.

    The arts and influences of the time are infused in their every detail, leaving an indelible footprint in the cultural landscape of wherever they are built.


    Last month in the UK it was announced that several mosques had been given protected heritage status for their historical, architectural and cultural significance to Britain.

    The Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking was the first purpose-built mosque in Britain to be given Grade I listed status.

    Shahed Saleem, an academic, architect and author of The British Mosque, a book that maps the evolution of mosque buildings in the UK, spoke to Al Jazeera about how the aesthetic of the mosque is metamorphosing.

    "The design of a mosque is actually of very little importance to its purpose as a place of prayer and worship. This only requires that the prayer is in congregation towards Mecca, so a mosque is a very minimal thing. It can be a simple room, a wall, or even just a line," he said.  

    "The architecture and design of the mosques that we see, therefore, have evolved over time, and while not essential for the performance of prayer, they are important in terms of social and cultural meaning of the mosque, how it is understood and what it communicates in the society in which it is placed."

    Here are some mosques from around the world that are resplendent examples of Islamic architecture. 

    Artist's impression of the Cambridge Mosque [Cambridge Mosque Project]

    Cambridge Mosque, Cambridge, United Kingdom

    Set to be Europe's first eco-mosque, the simple design of the yet to be completed Cambridge mosque gives it the appearance of an oasis.

    The design will incorporate a golden dome, but the traditional minarets are noticeably absent.

    Central to the mosque's design is its reliance on green energy and solar panels, similar to the Ambar all-women's mosque in Lucknow, India.

    With its Tolkienesque wooden columns reaching out inside like treetops and wells of light pouring into the prayer area through skylights, it is a fitting answer to what a British mosque should look like.

    Lahore, Pakistan - Wazir Khan Mosque [Khaula Jamil]

    Wazir Khan Mosque, Lahore, Pakistan

    Surrounded by a shoal of bustling markets and narrow winding streets, the Wazir Khan mosque is nestled deep in the old quarter of Lahore's ancient walled city.

    Adorned with calligraphy, floral frescos, and kasha kari (tiled mosaics), its architecture harks back to the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.

    Istanbul, Turkey - the newly-built Sakirin Mosque [Archiv Mehrl/ullstein bild via Getty Images]

    Sakirin Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

    Set in a city that boasts the largest number of mosques in the world, the Sakirin mosque is the first in Turkey to have its interior designed by a female architect, Zeynep Fadillioglu; while the architectural design of the building was by Husrev Tayla.

    With its aluminium dome, Seljuk-inspired art and an acrylic minbar adorned with leaves and carnations; its design melds contemporary design and traditional Ottoman features.

    The women's area, a balcony hovering above the lower prayer hall, affords an intimate view of the vast chandelier that showers worshippers in dappled light reflected by its crystals, each inscribed with the 99 names of God. 

    Djenne, Mali - The Great Mosque [DeAgostini/Getty Images]

    The Great Mosque, Djenne, Mali

    Located in a city continuously inhabited since 250 BC, the Great Mosque of Djenne is the largest mud-brick building in the world.

    It is exemplary of Sudano-Sahelian architecture. During the Middle Ages, the mosque was the centre of Quranic studies, evidence of the extraordinary history of Islam within the African continent.

    Constructed from sun-dried mud bricks, the mosque needs frequent replastering as a result of its exposure to the dry heat and torrential rains of Mali.

    In an annual festival named Crepissage de la Grande Mosquee, the locals of Djenne gather to replaster the mosque with fresh mud, restoring it to its imposing beauty.

    Male, Maldives - the Friday Mosque. [Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images]

    Friday Mosque, Male, Maldives 

    The coral-stone mosques of the Maldives date back to the 16th century when Islam was introduced to what was then a predominantly Buddhist country.

    The corals, sourced locally from surrounding coral reefs, were dried, cut and carved into intricate interlocking designs.

    One of the defining features of Islamic architecture is its tendency to integrate local cultures with Islamic architecture.

    Thus the stone carving techniques of the East African Swahili region were combined with the techniques of the Buddhist period, resulting in the varied coral architecture seen across the Maldives.

    The Old Friday Mosque in the capital Male is the most well-known coral stone mosque.

    Shiraz, Iran - Nasir al-Mulk mosque [Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images]

    Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran 

    Also known as the Pink Mosque because of the rose pink tiles covering its interior, the Nasir al-Mulk mosque was built during the Qajar era in Shiraz, Iran.

    Its most striking feature is the stained glass windows that catch the morning sun to bathe the interior in multi-coloured light.

    Also notable in the interior are the mesmerising panj kaseh-i (five concaves) domes that draw the eye upwards. 

    Penzberg, Germany - Penzberg Mosque [Franzec, CC BY-SA 4.0]

    Penzberg Mosque, Penzberg, Germany

    Located in a small town in southern Germany, the Penzberg mosque was completed in 2005.

    It glows in the night with its blue glass facade, allowing passers-by a view of congregants as they pray.

    The mosque is purposely modern in its aesthetic with subtle Islamic architectural features.

    Unlike other mosques, the minaret is not used to broadcast the azaan, rather, the glowing rectangular structure is decorative, encircled with intertwining Arabic calligraphy.

    Dhaka, Bangladesh - Bait ur Rouf Mosque [Sandro di Carlo Darsa/Aga Khan Trust for Culture]

    Bait ur Rouf Mosque, Dhaka, Bangladesh

    Situated in the midst of the bustling chaos of Dhaka is the Bait ur Rouf mosque, an oasis of light and tranquillity designed by Bangladeshi architect Marina Tabussam.

    The perforated brickwork allows light to spill through, marking the qiblah (direction of prayer) with a slit of light, punctuating the smooth floors with glowing light courts.

    The terracotta brickwork is inspired by the mosque architecture of Bengal during the Sultanate period.

    Xi'an, China - The Great Mosque complex [Ryan Pyle/Corbis via Getty Images]

    The Great Mosque of Xi'an, Xi'an, China

    Arab and Persian traders on the Silk Road brought Islam to the ancient Chinese capital of Xi'an in the 7th century during the Tang dynasty, less than 20 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad.

    The Great Mosque of Xi'an, the oldest mosque in China, was built soon after.

    Except for the Arabic calligraphy that crowns the archways and some of its walls, the mosque is visibly Chinese in its aesthetic with pagodas, spirit walls, blue-glazed tiles, and dragon heads.

    The Mosque of West Amsterdam

    Al Jazeera World

    The Mosque of West Amsterdam

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News



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