A mosque Arabic: مَـسْـجِـد (masjid) is a religious place for the Muslims where they perform their prayers. It is a common architectural practice in Muslims communities to have several Mosques built in an area, not only to accommodate the entire population of the premises but also for easy access. Mosques are not just limited to prayers but in fact, serve several purposes including gatherings for religious reasons – like Islamic Lectures, Meetings, holding marriage ceremonies, collection of donations, distribution drives for the poor and needy and last but not the least providing shelter to the homeless. These are just some of the few activities that the masjids hold other than the usual call for prayer five times a day.
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Common Features Of A Mosque
There are certain common features that you would find in every mosque around the world. The architecture, design, and decor may differ depending on the country, it’s culture so on and so forth.
A minaret is a type of a tower that is built into the mosques or adjacent to them used by the muezzin to call out the adhan in older times but now there are speakers installed within the towers that do the job well. Since Minaret serves multiples purposes, it’s architecture, role and function varies according to the region; from pencil like to spiral-shaped standing as a powerful reminder of the existence of the religion.
Minbar pronounced as mimbar is a flight of stairs leading to a platform where sits a chair that is used by the Imam of the mosque to deliver Friday sermons [khutba] and services. Minbar is usually made of wood that mostly has elaborate carvings and is decorated.
Mihrab is the niche in the wall; an essential element in the architecture of a mosque that serves the purpose of showing the direction of Makkah towards which all Muslims pray to. The direction of the mosque is called a qibla and the wall that contains the niche is known as the qibla wall. According to the location of the mosque, wherever it is, it’s Mihrab will always direct the Muslims to Mecca- The Kabaa to be precise.
In simpler words, Imam is the person that leads the prayers in a mosque. The meaning and role of an Imam may differ according to the different school of thoughts. however, commonly it is the person that not only leads the prayers in a mosque but also gives religious sermons including the Friday khutbah and holds great knowledge of Islam.
Muezzin is the title given to the person that calls for prayers from the minaret; in current times loudspeakers have taken the place of Muezzin in minarets but the call to prayer is still made by them. The first muezzin was Hazrat Bilal(R.A) that was asked by the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) to call the Muslims of Mecca for prayer. His full name was Bilal ibn Rabah and was a close companion of the Prophet.
Sahn is a courtyard which is an absolute necessity in a congregational mosque that provides the necessary space needed for Salat al-jama’ah attended by a large number of male Muslims (of the entire town or area). These mosques have large prayer halls that open to a Sahn. The open courtyard normally has a place for ablution, done before the prayers. Congregational mosques also have separate rooms for women as well, although it is not necessary for them to perform their Friday prayers in a mosque.
Oldest Mosque In The History Of Islam
The oldest mosque was built after the migration of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) to Medina. There along with the help of his companions, he laid down the foundations of Masjid al-Quba that to-date is the oldest, after the Kaaba and has been renovated by several Caliphs that followed after the Prophet. Usman (R.A) was the first Caliph (Khalifa) that renovated Quba, later Omar (R.A) ordered for the construction of its first minaret. During the Ottoman empire, several other changes were made to the mosque.
The renovations and constructions didn’t stop there and now the expansion caused the masjid to have four minarets, 56 domes including inner courtyards and several entrances reserved for the females only.
Largest Mosques Around The World
These are in no particular order.
Location: Lahore, Pakistan
The mosque has beautiful architecture, an epitome of the Mughal culture with a capacity of 20,000 people and lush green gardens stretching far and wide. It opened in 1673 and the construction started of Badshahi mosque started in 1671 under the direction of Muzaffar Hussain, Aurengzaib’s brother in law and governor of Lahore.
Location: Islamabad, Pakistan
Another beautiful, one of the largest mosques of Pakistan situated in the most beautiful capital of the country Islamabad designed by Turkish architecture. The stunning mosque has even more stunning views of nature surrounding it including the famous Margalla hills. A national symbol of Pakistan and a tourist destination for the foreigners.
Location: Medina, Saudi Arabia
The second holiest mosque in Islam that was first built by the last Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) holds the capacity of 60,000 which goes to 1 million during Hajj. The mosque is always under construction for more expansion.
Location: Makkah (Mecca), Saudi Arabia
The first and most significant mosque for Muslims Masjid al-Haram with the holiest of place the Kaaba has the capacity of 900,000 and like Masjid al-Nabawi is under constant construction to accommodate the Muslims Ummah the best the authorities can.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE
S Zayed Mosque was opened in 2007 and is one of the largest mosques in the world and consists of 82 white domes. A popular tourist attraction.
The Hassan II Mosque
Location: Casablanca, Morocco
Opened in 1993, this mosque contains a prominent architectural piece, that is its tall minaret that has a height of 689 ft. It can accommodate 105,000 people, approximately.
Id Kah Mosque
Location: Xinjiang, China
Located in the part of China that consists of the majority of their Muslims. It is one of the largest mosque that has the capacity of 20,000 people. Surrounded by trees and nature, giving a calm and serene atmosphere.
Location: Dhaka, Bangladesh
This mosque made it into the largest masjids around the globe list with a capacity of 40,000 people. It was open for public in the year 1968 surrounded by well-kept gardens and a pond. The mosque is under the government hold and is run by them.
These beautiful mosques are not only tourist attractions but are major landmarks for the Muslims where they gather for their five daily prayers and for any other religious activities.