The 172-page book was published in both Arabic and English in a
large format by Alwarraqun in Bahrian in a series whose chief editor is Abdullah
Alhassan and is edited by Hassan Alshakhouri, with photographs by Muhammad Abd
Ali Buhassan and Maysaa Muhammad Jaber Alansary and penmanship work by Sayyid
In Muslim communities, the mosque plays such roles that vary in
importance from age to age. But, whatever its architecture, size or geography
may be, its permanent role has always been that of a place of worship, prayer,
devotional retirement, recital of the Noble Quran and consideration of religious
Besides being a place of prayer, early Muslim communities
designated the mosque as a command centre during the age of conquests, a beacon
of learning and a consultation house. That s why in planning Islamic cities the
mosque was placed near caliphs offices and leaders houses. Early Islamic cities
were open camps for Arab armies. Large areas were designated for grand mosques
to be the nucleus of new cities when these camps turn into cities and capitals,
as Basra, Kufa and Fustat did. In these particular cities mosques were built
after the pattern of the Prophet s Mosque. Basra s, Kufa s and Fustat s mosques
were built in AH4, AH17 and AH21 respectively. The latter was 5,030 cubits in
area, and, like the Prophet s Mosque, did not have mihrabs or minarets.
As the caliphate moved to Damascus, the founder of the Umayyed
dynasty, Muauwiya bin Abi Suffyan decided to build mosques not less magnificent
than the places of worship of other religions. That marked a shift in the
building of mosques from functional to aesthetic.
The mosque assumed new functions according to the development of
Muslim communities. School and hospital extensions were added later ,but the
main components remained the same: The mihrab, the Qibla wall, to begin with.
The word mihrab in the past meant an elevated or separate room, or the best
place in a place or house, and its current meaning settled after the spread of
Islam when there was a need for determining the Qibla. When Amr In Al-As built
his Alfath mosque at Fustat (Old Cairo) he consulted eighty companions to
determine the Qibla.
We know that the companion Bilal bin Rabah was the first muezzin,
and we also know that the Prophet s Mosque had no minarat, that s why he had to
climb a tall pillar opposite the Prophet s Mosque to call to prayer. But twelve
centuries after Hijra, the minaret became an integral part of the mosque,
varying in shape, design, height and size. Cairo and Istanbul were known as the
cities of one thousand and 444 minarets respectively, with a variety
architectural designs over the ages.
In addition to the mihrab and minaret there is the minbar, which
developed from having just three steps of tamarisk, with two cubits and three
digits in height in the year AH7 until it took its present shape in terms of
height and decorations not only on the minbar but everywhere, on the walls,
doors, columns and platforms.
Next, the dome, which is the main component that enhances the
mosque s external appearance. The first dome was the Dome of the Rock in
Jerusalem built by the Umayyad Caliph Abdul Malik bin Marwan in AH72.The Ottoman
architect Sanan designed distinctive smaller domes in the Ottoman Empire cities.
Another part of the mosque is the court, which in many mosques has
sources of running water for ablution. Then comes the portico, which was used as
a place for teaching. Columns, which were engraved wood in the past, are today
stone and marble decorated to take the shape of palm trees, lotus flowers or
payri. Lintels, which supported ceilings, have become semicircular, pointed,
pentagonal and straight arches to support heavy weights. Spaces between walls
and ceilings at intersection points are decorated with chevrons (V-shaped
mouldings), which look like beehives and were a construction factor ranging from
the round to the circular surface and have now become a decorative element in
Between mosque doors and balconies there are spaces of tranquillity
to which modern uses have added a library. Similarly, there are wall-like
partitions separating men s and women s sections. In all this, the mosque
remains a piece of architecture where the call to prayer is made, as well as a
permanent mark and record of Islamic presence.
(Translated by Dr Shaaban Afifi)