Sunday, April 20, 2014

Designing a Mosque

By Sufiyanu Momoh

The mosque serves as a great part of Muslim architecture. Mosques serve as landmarks in many Muslim societies as you see the minarets standing high in the skyline, and also the call for prayers five times a day can also serve as a point of direction and location. The architecture of mosques all around the world vary immensely even though they all have some similar element like the mihrab facing Mecca, courtyards and minarets but these are just minor differences in the various styles of mosques. In the early days mosques borrowed architecture elements from its surrounding before they established their architecture
     Every major mosques had certain elements before the modern movements in the twentieth century, elements such as the hypostyle hall which usually has a flat roof above it and possibly a small dome, large openings in the center of the building covered by a massive dome or pyramidal pitched roofs vaulted halls on both sides of a bi axially divided rectangular court yard. Triple domed mosque with large court yards or pavilions enclosed by landscape spaces.
   In the earlier days monotheistic religions were opposed to the use of buildings as a house for their faith as they would have preferred staying out in the open or the natural caves. they were strong on these believes until their leaders thought that any faith without followers would die out quick and a means of keeping these followers is by having a symbol such as a building. Even though there are no surviving buildings from the first two years of the Islamic religion. There are various literature that described what these types of buildings might have looked like. At the beginning during the Umayyad period the architecture of the mosque was based on the prophets Muhammad’s house in medina. Because we do not have any surviving structures from the earlier time of Islam no particular type of structure can standard to represent the mosque. Even little components that have strong meaning such as the cross in the case of Christianity and seems to exist in almost every church is absent in the mosque. Components such as the minarets and mihrabs serve functional purposes in the mosques and are not necessarily a symbol for them. As a matter of fact, the religion Islam does not really have a main symbol except for the ka’aba in Mecca
   There are various components that serve as part of a mosque that can be seen in various parts of the world and these may vary in looks in different places. Most mosques have a demarcated space for prayers which could be completely closed or partly open or completely open. In every mosque there most be a wall facing Mecca. At the center of the wall  is the mihrab which is the most decorated part of the mosque. It is like a recessed or niche but not a sacred place like in the case of Christianity. The mihrab is usually semicircular in plan just like the roman niche. The wall facing Mecca is also known as the qibla. Because everyone has to face Mecca during prayers, they all line up perpendicular to the mihrab while they pray

    Another part of the mosque is the minbar or the pulpit; it is always placed at the right of the mihrab, consisting of a staircase that leads to a small platform which is open crowned by a cupola shaped roof. It is usually used to deliver messages to the followers in the mosques. The mosque also contains other elements such as the dikka which is positioned in line with the mihrab. It serves as a reference of what the imam would be like at the front of the mosque. Another major component of the mosque used in the earlier centuries was the maqsura used to protect the imams of the mosque. Most mosques if not all have what is called the pool. This is basically a place for Muslims to perform their ablution for prayers. The minaret of course is a major part of the most mosques as these may be built in different designs. These towers like structures usually stands as a landmark for the mosque but the main purpose of the minaret is to ensure the voice of the person calling the prayer travels its furthest distance.

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