Outstanding mosques and Islamic sites around the world
Below are listed some of most important, impressive and beautiful Islamic monuments of the world, arranged by region and age:
- Hira – Saudi Arabia, Makkah. Cave where Muhammad received his first revelations from God.
- Quba Mosque – Saudi Arabia, Al Madinah. Oldest mosque, construction started by prophet Muhammad. Completely rebuilt in 1986.
- Al-Masjid al-Nabawi – Saudi Arabia, Al Madinah. Second most important Islamic site, contains tomb of Muhammad (Green Dome). Here is built the second largest mosque in world, developed since 622 AD. Rebuilt numerous times, latest significant rebuildings from the 19th and also 20th centuries.
- Masjid al-Haram – Saudi Arabia, Makkah. Largest mosque in world. Established in 638 AD and surrounding Kaaba – holiest site of Islam.
- Al-Aqsa Mosque – Palestine, West Bank, Jerusalem. One of holiest sites in Islam – Muhammad was transported here during the Night Journey from Mecca. The second oldest mosque, originally built in the first half of the 7th century, current building from 1035. Located on Temple Mount – holiest site in Judaism.
- Dome of the Rock – Palestine, West Bank, Jerusalem. Oldest existing Islamic building in world, completed in 691 AD. Rock at the heart of Dome – holiest site in Judaism and one of the holiest in Islam.
- Umayyad Mosque – Syria, Damascus. One of largest and oldest mosques in world, of great importance to Christians as well – it reportedly contains head of John the Baptist. Built in 706-715, before this served as Christian church.
- Great Mosque of Aleppo – Syria, Aleppo. Ancient mosque, present one built in the 13th century, minaret from 1090 or older. According to legend here is buried father of John the Baptist.
- Imam Husayn Shrine – Iraq, Karbala. Mosque built over the grave of second grandson of Muhammad. First mosque here in 684 AD, rebuilt numerous times. Current mosque plastered with gold and adorned with jewels.
- Great Mosque of Samarra – Iraq, Saladin. Enormous mosque, completed in 851 AD. Unusual 52 metres high minaret resembling a spiralling cone. Mosque partly destroyed by terrorists in 2005.
- Al-Askari Mosque – Iraq, Saladin. One of most important Shī’ah mosques, built in 944 AD. Once beautiful mosque has been badly damaged by terrorists – golden dome destroyed by bombing in 2006, golden minarets – in 2007.
- Imam Ali Mosque – Iraq, Najaf. Mosque established in 977, here is buried cousin of Muhammad – ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib, as well as, according to Shi’a belief – Adam and Noah. Current gold covered building built shortly after 1500. One of most important Islam sites.
- Jamé Mosque of Isfahan – Iran, Isfahan. One of oldest mosques in Iran, construction started in 771 and since then has been almost continuous. Evolved into harmonious, beautiful complex of buildings.
- Imam Reza shrine – Iran, Meshed. Important religious and theological complex, includes tomb of Imām Ridhā – eighth Imām, the beautiful Goharshad Mosque, theological education institutions and library. Visited by 15 – 20 million pilgrims a year. Developing since 818 AD.
- Jamkaran Mosque – Iran, Qom. Important pilgrimage site since recent times – locals believe that twelwth Imām – a messiah who wil lead the world to an era of universal peace – has appeared here and offered prayers in the end of the 20th century. Sacred place since 984.
- Fatima al-Masumeh Shrine – Iran, Qom. Important mosque, most of it built in the early 17th century. Enormous gold covered dome, very ornate interior.
- Shah Mosque – Iran, Isfahan. One of masterpieces of Persian architecture, construction started in 1611.
- Mosque of Uqba – Tunisia, Kairouan. Oldest mosque in Western Islamic world, built in 670 AD. Impressive building, resembling a fortress.
- Hassan II Mosque – Morocco, Casablanca. Third largest mosque in world, with highest minaret in world – 210 metres high. Built in 1993. Half of mosque is built over Atlantic Ocean.
- Tomb of Salim Chishti – India, Uttar Pradesh. Tomb of Sufi saint, beautiful mausoleum constructed in 1580 – 1581.
- Charminar – India, Telangana, Hyderabad. Impressive, ornate building, built in 1591.
- Jama Mosque – India, Delhi. Largest and best known mosque in India, built in 1656.
- Badshahi Mosque – Pakistan, Lahore. Largest mosque in world from its construction in 1673 to 1986, enormous courtyard.
- Huaisheng Mosque – China, Guangzhou. One of oldest mosques in world, built in 650, rebuilt in 1350 and 1695.
- Great Mosque of Córdoba (Cathedral of Cordoba) – Spain, Andalusia. Mosque, converted into church, renowned as the best example of Umayyad architecture. Begun sometimes around 600 AD as Christian church, rebuilt into mosque in 784 AD and in 1236 recaptured by Christians and converted to church. Inner hall contains 856 columns holding (for most part) double arches – architectural innovation.
- Al-Azhar Mosque – Egypt, Cairo. Impressive mosque from 970 AD, here developed the most significant Islamic university in world. Nowadays one of influential centres in Islamic world.
- Great Mosque of Djenné – Mali, Djenné. The largest adobe building in world, has unique design. First mosque here since the 13th century, current built in 1907 or 1909.
- Djinguereber Mosque – Mali, Timbuktu. Mosque and famous learning centre, built in 1327 from earth.
- Bibi-Khanym Mosque – Uzbekistan, Samarkand. Beautiful mosque, built by Timur in 1399 – 1404.
- Larabanga Mosque – Ghana, Northern Region. Adobe mosque built in 1421.
- Selimiye Mosque – Turkey, Edirne. One of most beautiful Ottoman mosques, built in 1568 – 1574.
- Sheikh Zayed Mosque – United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi. One of most beautiful religious structures of modern times, built in 2007. Mosque unites diverse styles of Islamic architecture and modern technologies and contains outstanding works of art and craftmanship.
- Shrine of Ali in Mazar-i-Sharif – Afghanistan, Balkh. Gorgeous mosque with turquoise colored domes, one of the most venerated shrines in Afghanistan. First mosque was destroyed by Genghis Khan around 1220 and the current building was built in the 15th century.
- Shrine of Sahaba – Eritrea, North Red Sea region. Small shrine in Massawa Old City, reportedly built by the followers of prophet, who landed here in 615 AD.
- Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) – Turkey, Istanbul. One of largest mosques in world, completed in 1616, in many respects modeled after Christian Hagia Sophia nearby. Imperial mosque of Ottoman Empire.
- Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque – Brunei, Bandar Seri Begavan. One of largest mosques, built in 1958, this Islamic site is renowned due to its impressive and elegant design.
Described mosques and Islamic sites
History of Islam starts in the early 7th century with the deeds of historical personality – prophet Muhammad (ca 570/571 – 632). Main activities of Muhammad took place in Mecca and Medina (Saudi Arabia) and their vicinities, where today are located most important Islamic sites.
Soon after the death of Muhammad there started divisions regarding the understanding of Islam teachings and succession of Muhammad. This led to development of Sunni Islam and Shia Islam, as well as some other interpretations of Islam teaching. Sunni Islam by far is more widespread denomination and thus it has most religious monuments. Meanwhile Shia Islam has got magnificent and very interesting monuments due to worship of Imams – regarded to be successors of Muhammad, spiritual and political rulers of their commune.
Depiction of humans and animals is not allowed in Islam, especially in religious buildings. Islamic architects and artists have compensated this with rich and sophisticated ornaments (arabesques) and especially – calligraphy.
Place for worship in Islam is called mosque. Mosques serve also for education, news exchange, dispute settling. There are widespread small, privately owned mosques but here more attention is turned towards larger, public mosques.
Initially, in the 7th century mosques were unpretentious, large halls for gatherings. Over the time, as Islam was spreading, there developed diverse, locally adapted architectural forms of mosques.
Early type of mosques were hypostile mosques – basically large rectangular halls with flat roof supported by multiple columns. It might be surprising to many – but one of the best examples of this style is in Europe, Spain – Great Mosque of Córdoba (Cathedral of Cordoba) – built over long time in the 7th – 8th centuries.
Christian Byzantine architecture (like Hagia Sophia in Istanbul) influences a rise of distinct regional style in Anatolia – central dome mosques with large dome over prayer hall (Selimiye Mosque, Turkey).
Magnificent and often beautiful mosques are iwan mosques – characteristic for Sassanid architecture mainly in Iran – but also in Uzbekistan, Pakistan, India and other countries. Iwan is vaulted room with walls from three sides and fourth side – entirely open. Iwans typically open towards a central courtyard. Characteristic iwan mosques are Jamé Mosque of Isfahan (Isfahan, Iran), Shah Mosque (Isfahan, Iran).
Unique monuments are ancient adobe mosques of Sahel and Sudan. Most magnificent is Great Mosque of Djenné (Mopti, Mali), interesting monument is Larabanga Mosque (Larabanga, Ghana).
Minarets are towers next to mosques or at their corners. These towers primarily serve as a convenient place for calling the believers to prayer – but also as watchtowers (in ancient times, in some regions), as air condition mechanisms for ventilating the large prayer halls.
Initially mosques were built without minarets, but the first minarets appeared in the 7th – 9th centuries in Egypt, Syria, Iraq. Number of minarets differs in different regions – from one (Morocco) up to six (some mosques in Turkey). Architecture also is diverse – in China minarets are shaped in local style, many times similar to Buddhist pagodas, while in Turkey minarets are slender, formed like enormous pencils.
Wondermondo has defined several other categories of religious structures:
- Religious architecture – list of more than 60 most interesting and impressive religious structures and sites around the world.
- Buddhist shrines
- Christian monasteries
- Hindu shrines
- Jain shrines
- Judaism monuments, sinagogues
- Other contemporary shrines
- Ancient pyramids
- Ancient and prehistoric shrines
An author and artist who has continually stripped away the mystique of architectural structures that have long fascinated modern people, David Macaulay here reveals the methods and materials used to design and construct a mosque in late-sixteenth- century Turkey.
Presents an architectural overview of the mosque that traces its origins and development as an Islamic symbol, explains the design elements featured on structures around the world, and discusses how they have been adapted to suit modern times.