A mosque is a place of Muslim worship. The word "mosque" comes from the Arabic word "masjid", ' (pl. "masājid", '). Arabic uses different words for different kinds of mosques, for the smaller, privately owned mosque and the larger, "collective" mosque (, "masjid jāmi‘"), which has more services to its community. Larger mosques often also offer social services.
Questions and discussions about Islam are also done in mosques. Muslims worship, talk, and do many other things in a mosque; for many people a mosque is more than a place of worship. In the United Kingdom, many mosques are used as Community centres and to teach about Islam. Religious festivals and gatherings, such as weddings are also held in mosques. Mosques have rules of conduct. It is considered rude to disturb another person who is worshipping in a mosque.
Many mosques are known for their Islamic architecture. They have developed significantly from the open-air spaces that were the Quba Mosque and Masjid al-Nabawi in the seventh century. Today, many mosques have domes, minarets, and prayer halls. Mosques originated on the Arabian Peninsula. Nowadays, they can be found on all continents, except for Antarctica.
A mosque is not a church'it is not considered a holy place. Muslims do not consider it to hold any holy power.
Architectural styles.
The style of mosques was not invented by the Muslims who built them. They used old architectural styles, and combined them in new ways. Most influence comes from the architecture used for the palaces built during the Parthian and Sassanian dynasties of Persia. The Sarvestan palace from the Sassanian era is a good example of this. It has an arched entrance and a central dome. These architectural features already existed in Persian architecture before Islam came to Persia.
After the Arab invasion of Persia, the architecture was combined with elements of Sassanian culture and used for the new Islamic world. Many forms of mosques have evolved in different regions of the Islamic world. Notable mosque types include the early Abbasid mosques, T-type mosques, and the central-dome mosques of Anatolia. The oil-wealth of the twentieth century drove a great deal of mosque construction using designs from leading non-Muslim modern architects. It also promoted the careers of important contemporary Muslim ones.
Arab plan.
"Arab-plan" or hypostyle mosques are the earliest type of mosques. They were first built under the Umayyad Dynasty. These mosques have square or rectangular plans with an enclosed courtyard and covered prayer hall. Historically, in the warm Mediterranean and Middle Eastern climates, the courtyard served to accommodate the large number of worshippers during Friday prayers. Most early hypostyle mosques had flat roofs on prayer halls. This required the use of many columns and supports. One of the most notable hypostyle mosques is the Mezquita de Córdoba in Spain. This building is supported by over 850 columns. Frequently, hypostyle mosques have outer arcades so that visitors can enjoy the shade. Arab-plan mosques were constructed mostly under the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. The Arab plan was very simple. This limited the opportunities for development. For this reason, the mosques consequently lost popularity.
Central dome.
The Ottomans introduced "central dome mosques" in the fifteenth century. These mosques have a large dome centered over the prayer hall. There are smaller domes, too. These exist off-center over the prayer hall or throughout the rest of the mosque, where prayer is not performed. This style was heavily influenced by the Byzantine religious architecture with its use of large central domes.
"Iwan mosques" are most notable for their domed chambers and "iwans". Iwans are vaulted spaces opening at one end. In "iwan" mosques, one or more iwans face a central courtyard that serves as the prayer hall. The style borrows from pre-Islamic Iranian architecture. Most mosques with this style are in Iran.
Most mosques have minarets. Minarets are tall towers. Usually they are at one of the corners of the mosque. The top of the minaret is often the highest point in those mosques that have one. Very often, it is also the highest point in the area around the mosque. The tallest minaret in the world is located at the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco.
The first mosques had no minarets. The most conservative Islamic movements, like Wahhabis, still avoid building minarets. They see them as ostentatious and unnecessary. The first minaret was constructed in 665 in Basra during the reign of the Umayyad caliph Muawiyah I. Muawiyah encouraged the construction of minarets, as they were supposed to bring mosques on par with Christian churches with their bell towers. Consequently, mosque architects borrowed the shape of the bell tower for their minarets, which were used for essentially the same purpose ' calling the faithful to prayer.
Before the five required daily prayers, a muezzin calls the worshippers to prayer from the minaret. In many countries like Singapore where Muslims are not the majority, mosques are prohibited from loudly broadcasting the call to prayer ("adhan"), although it is supposed to be said loudly to the surrounding community. The adhan is required before every prayer. However, nearly every mosque assigns a muezzin for each prayer to say the adhan as it is a recommended practice or sunnah of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. At mosques that do not have minarets, the adhan is called instead from inside the mosque or somewhere else on the ground. The iqama, which is similar to the adhan and said immediately before the start of prayer, is usually not said from the minaret even if a mosque has one.
The domes were often placed directly above the main prayer hall. They signify the vaults of heaven and the sky. At first, these domes were small. They only occupied a small part of the roof near the mihrab. Later, they took the whole roof above the prayer hall.
Domes normally have the shape of a hemisphere. The Mughals in India popularized onion-shaped domes in South Asia and Persia. Some mosques have several domes, in addition to the main large dome that is at the center. The other domes are often smaller.
Domes in traditional mosques would be used to help the imam project his voice as the sound waves would bounce in and then out of the dome making the voice louder.
Prayer hall.
All mosques have a prayer hall, which is also called musalla. Normally, there is no furniture in it. This makes it possible to allow as many people as possible to pray. Some mosques have Arabic calligraphy and Qur'anic verses on the walls to help worshippers in focusing on the beauty of Islam and its holiest book, the Qur'an, as well as for decoration.
The "qiblah wall" is usually at the other side of the entrance to the prayer hall. This wall is specially decorated. In a properly oriented mosque, it will be set perpendicular to a line leading to Mecca, the location of the Kaaba. People pray in rows parallel to the "qiblah" wall. They arrange themselves so they face Mecca. In the "qiblah" wall, usually at its center, is the mihrab, a niche or depression showing the direction of Mecca. Usually the "mihrab" is not occupied by furniture either. Sometimes, especially during Friday prayers, a raised minbar or pulpit is located to the side of the "mihrab" for a khatib or some other speaker to offer a sermon (khutbah). The mihrab serves as the location where the imam leads the five daily prayers on a regular basis.
All people must wash themselves before they pray. There is a ritual washing. For this reason, mosques often have fountains or other facilities for washing in their entryways or courtyards.
At very small mosques, worshippers often have to use restrooms for their ritual washing. In bigger, traditional mosques, there is often a building of its own dedicated to washing. Most of the time, this is in the center of the courtyard. In the prayer halls, people must not wear shoes for much the same reason. Special rooms are provided where shoes can be left. Foyers with shelves to put shoes and racks to hold coats are commonplace among mosques.
This is also known as Wudhu/Wudu.
Modern features.
Modern mosques should appeal to the community they serve. For this reason, other facilities may also be available at the mosque, like health clinics, libraries and gymnasiums.
The inside of mosques.
Some mosques look very beautiful when seen from the outside, but can be simple and plain on the inside. There may be drawn plaster or coloured mosaics on the walls. Usually there are no seats. This is because Muslims pray kneeling down on mats.
Islam says that all adult Muslims should do "Salat" prayers five times a day. The only exceptions to this rule are those who are ill. Most mosques will organise formal prayers for each of these times.
Mosques also organise a special prayer service, called "jumuah". This is done once a week, as a form of Sabbath and replaces the Friday prayers at the mosque. Daily prayers can be done anywhere, but Muslims are expected to do their Friday prayer at the mosque.
The mosque is the centre of the Islamic community, illustrating the idea of brotherhood and iman.
A funeral prayer, or salat ul-janazah, is normally held for a deceased Muslim outdoors in a courtyard or square close to the mosque, with all congregants present, including the imam, participating. During eclipses, mosques will host special prayers called eclipse prayers.
There are two large holidays ("Eids") in the Islamic calendar, Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha during which there are special prayers at mosques in the morning. These Eid prayers are supposed to be offered in large groups, and so larger mosques will normally host them for their congregants as well as the congregants of smaller local mosques. Some mosques will even rent convention centers or other large public buildings to hold the large number of Muslims who attend. Mosques, especially those in countries where Muslims are the majority, will also host Eid prayers outside in courtyards or town squares.
Ramadan events.
There are many events in Ramadan, Islam's holiest month. During Ramadan, Mulims must fast during the day. Mosques will therefore organise "iftar" dinners after sunset. These are done after the fourth required prayer of the day, maghrib. At least part of the food is provided by members of the community. This creates nighlty potluck dinners. The community contribution to iftar dinners is required. For this reason, mosques with smaller congregaions may not be able to host the "iftar" dinners daily. Some mosques will also hold "suhoor" meals. These are done in the morning before dawn, before the first prayer of the day, called fajr. Like with iftar, people from the community sometimes provide food, but mosques may provide food instead. Mosques will often invite poorer members of the community to these meals. Islam sees giving charity during Ramadan as especially honorable.
Larger mosques sometimes offer special, optional prayers, done after the last obligatory prayer of the day, isha.
During each night of prayers, which can last for up to two hours, one member of the community who has memorized the entire Qur’an will recite a segment of the book. Sometimes, several such people (not necessarily of the local community) take turns to do this. During the last ten days of Ramadan, larger mosques will host all-night programs to observe Laylat al-Qadr, the night Muslims believe the Islamic prophet Muhammad first received Qur'anic revelations. On that night, between sunset and sunrise, mosques employ speakers to educate congregants in attendance about Islam. Mosques or the community usually provide meals periodically throughout the night.
During the last ten days of Ramadan, larger mosques within the Muslim community will host i'tikaf. This is a practice where at least one man from the local community is expected to take part. Muslims performing i'tikaf are required to stay inside the mosque for ten consecutive days, often in worship or learning about Islam. As a result, the rest of the Muslim community is responsible for providing them with food, drinks, and whatever else they need during their stay.
The third of the Five Pillars of Islam states that Muslims are required to give approximately one-fortieth of their wealth to charity as "zakat". Since mosques form the center of Muslim communities, they are where Muslims go to both give zakat and, if necessary, collect it. Prior to the holiday of Eid ul-Fitr, mosques also collect a special zakat that is supposed to assist in helping poor Muslims attend the prayers and celebrations associated with the holiday.
Political functions.
During the late twentieth century, more and more mosques have been used for political purposes. Modern-day mosques in the Western world want to educate good citizens. Mosques are used to preach political messages, like peaceful co-existence with non-believers, even when there are problems.
Countries with a minority Muslim population are more likely than Muslim-majority countries of the Greater Middle East to use mosques as a way to promote civic participation. American mosques host voter registration and civic participation drives. In the United States, Muslims are often immigranŧs, or the children of immigrants. Mosques want to interest these people for politics, and to keep them informed about issues that concern the Muslim community of the country. People who attend the services at the mosque regularly are more likely to take part in protests, to sign petitions, and to involve themselves in political matters.
A link between political views and mosque attendance can still be seen in other parts of the world. After the al-Askari Mosque bombing in February 2006, imams and other Islamic leaders used mosques and Friday prayers to call for calm and peace in the midst of widespread violence.
Beginning in the late twentieth century and continuing into the early twenty-first century, a small number of mosques have also become the platforms of some extremist imams to advocate terrorism and extreme Islamic ideals. Finsbury Park Mosque in London is exemplary of a mosque that has been used in this manner.
Social conflict.
The Muslim community considers mosques important. Like other places of worship, mosques can therefore be at the center of social conflicts.
Babri Mosque was the subject of such a conflict up until the early 1990s when it was demolished. Before a mutual solution could be devised, the mosque was destroyed by approximately 200,000 Hindus on December 6, 1992. The mosque was built by Babur allegedly on the site of a previous Hindu temple to mark the birthplace of Ram. The controversy surrounded the mosque was directly linked to rioting in Bombay (present-day Mumbai) as well as bombings in 1993 that killed 257 people.
In February 2006, a bombing seriously damaged Iraq's al-Askari Mosque. This was bad for the tensions that had already existed beforehand. The conflict between two Muslim groups in Iraq had already led to other bombings. But mosque bombings are not limited to Iraq. In June 2005, a suicide bomber killed at least 19 people at an Afghan mosque. In April 2006, two explosions occurred at India's Jama Masjid.
After the September 11 attacks, several American mosques were targets of attacks. These ranged from simple vandalism to arson.
The Jewish Defense League was suspected of plotting to bomb the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, California. Similar attacks occurred throughout the United Kingdom following the 7 July 2005 London bombings. Outside the Western world, in June 2001, the Hassan Bek Mosque was the target of attacks involving hundreds of Israelis angry at Arabs for a previous attack.
Saudi influence.
Saudi involvement in building mosques around the world can be traced back to the 1960s. The government of Saudi Arabia became a large influence in building foreign mosques only in the last part of the 20th century.
In the 1980s, the Saudi Arabian government began to finance the construction of mosques in countries around the world. An estimated US$45 billion has been spent by the Saudi Arabian government financing mosques and Islamic schools in foreign countries. "Ain al-Yaqeen", a Saudi newspaper, reported in 2002 that Saudi funds may have helped to build as many as 1,500 mosques and 2,000 other Islamic centers Saudi citizens have also contributed significantly to mosques in the Islamic world, especially in countries where they see Muslims as poor and oppressed. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1992, mosques in impoverished Afghanistan saw many contributions from Saudi citizens. The King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, California and the Islamic Cultural Center of Italy in Rome represent two of Saudi Arabia's largest investments in foreign mosques as former Saudi king Fahd bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud contributed US$8 million and US$50 million to the two mosques, respectively.
Rules and behaviour in mosques.
In order to help people keeping focused on worshipping Allah, there are a number of rules that regulate how to behave in a mosque. Some rules are valid all over the world, like the one that says that no shoes should be worn in the prayer hall. There are many rules that are different from mosque to mosque.
Prayer leader.
It is generally seen as good to have someone who leads the prayers. This is not obligatory, though. The person who usually leads the prayers is called imam. He must be a free and honest man. He should also be an authority when it comes to answering questions on religion. In mosques that were built or that are maintained by the government, the imam is selected by the ruler. In private mosques, the community selects the imam, through majority voting. According to the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence, the man who built the mosque has a stronger claim to the title of imam, but this view is not shared by the other schools.
There are three categories of leading prayers, different by the type of prayer: five daily prayers, Friday prayer, or optional prayers. The Hanafi and Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence say that Friday prayers must be led, otherwise they are invalid. Shafi'i and Hanbali schools say that the Friday prayer is valid, as long as it is done in a congregation. Friday prayer can be led by a slave. Scholars disagree on whether a minor can lead Friday prayers. The person appointed to lead the five daily services can lead the Friday prayer as well.
Only men may lead prayers in congregations for men. Women are allowed to lead prayers for congregations where there are only women.
All mosques have rules regarding cleanliness. Being clean is an important part of the worshipper's experience. Muslims are required to wash themselves before praying. There is a washing ritual, known as "wudu". There are other rules that also apply to those who enter the mosque, even though they do not want to pray there. It is forbidden to wear shoes in the carpeted area of the prayer hall. Some mosques also forbid wearing shoes in other parts, even though these may not be devoted to praying. Those praying and those visiting are expected to be clean. Coming to a mosque after eating something smelly, like garlic, is also undesirable.
Islam requires that its adherents wear clothes that show modesty. As a result, both men and women must follow this rule when they attend a mosque, even though many mosques do not enforce these rules. Men are supposed to come to the mosque wearing loose and clean clothes that do not reveal the shape of the body. Similarly, women who come to the mosque are expected to wear loose clothing, shirts, pants that cover to the wrists and ankles and cover their heads such as with a hijab. Many Muslims, regardless of their ethnic background, wear Middle eastern clothing associated with Arabic Islam to special occasions and prayers at mosques.
Mosques are places of worship. For this reason, those inside the mosque should be respectful to those who are praying. Loud talking within the mosque, as well as discussion of topics deemed disrespectful, is forbidden in areas where people are praying. It is also disrespectful to walk in front of Muslims in prayer or otherwise disturb them. The walls within the mosque have few items, except for possibly Arabic calligraphy, so Muslims in prayer are not distracted. Muslims are also discouraged from wearing clothing with distracting images and symbols to not divert the attention of those standing behind them during prayer. In many mosques, even the carpeted prayer area has no designs, its plainness helps worshippers focus.
Men and women pray in different parts.
Islamic law requires men and women to be separated in the prayer hall. Ideally, women should pray behind men. Muhammad said, women should pray at home, rather than at the mosque. Muhammad thought women sohuld not be forbidden in mosques. The second caliph Umar at one time prohibited women from attending mosques especially at night because he feared they may be teased by males, so he required them to pray at home. Sometimes a special part of the mosque was railed off for women; for example, the governor of Mecca in 870 had ropes tied between the columns to make a separate place for women.
Many mosques today will put the women behind a barrier or partition or in another room. Mosques in South and Southeast Asia put men and women in separate rooms, as the divisions were built into them centuries ago. In nearly two-thirds of American mosques, women pray behind partitions or in separate areas, not in the main prayer hall; some mosques do not admit women at all. Although there are sections exclusively for women and children, the Grand Mosque in Mecca is desegregated.
Non-Muslims in mosques.
Under most interpretations of Islamic law, non-Muslims may be allowed into mosques, as long as they do not sleep or eat there; the dissenting opinion is presented by followers of the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, who argue that non-Muslims may not be allowed into mosques under any circumstances.
Different countries have different opinions on the question. With few exceptions, mosques in the Arabian peninsula as well as Morocco do not non-Muslims. For example, the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is one of only two mosques in Morocco currently open to non-Muslims. However, there are also many other places in the west as well as the Islamic world where non-Muslims are welcome to enter mosques. Most mosques in the United States, for example, report receiving non-Muslim visitors every month. Many Mosques throughout the United States welcome non-Muslims as a sign of openness to the rest of the community and to encourage conversions to Islam.
In modern-day Saudi Arabia, the Grand Mosque and all of Mecca are open only to Muslims. Likewise, the Masjid al-Nabawi and the city of Medina that surrounds it are also off-limits to those who do not practice Islam. For mosques in other areas, it has most commonly been taken that non-Muslims may only enter mosques if granted permission to do so by Muslims and if they have a legitimate reason. All entrants regardless of religious affiliation are expected to respect the rules and decorum for mosques.
In modern Turkey non-Muslim tourists are allowed to enter any mosque, but there are strict rules. Visiting a mosque is allowed only between prayers; visitors are required to wear long trousers and not to wear shoes, women must cover their heads; visitors are not allowed to interrupt praying Muslims, especially by taking photos of them; no loud talk is allowed; and no references to other religions are allowed (no crosses on necklaces, no cross gestures etc.)
At different times and places, non-Muslims living under Muslim rule were required to demonstrate deference to mosques. In most cities of Morocco, Jews were required to remove their shoes when passing by a mosque Danish traveler Carsten Niebuhr wrote that in 18th century Egypt Jews and Christians had to dismount before several mosques in veneration of their sanctity.
Dogs are usually banned from entering mosques, but on September 24, 2008, the Muslim Law Council UK granted a blind Muslim permission to take his guide dog into the mosque via a Fatwa.
Mosques as hostel.
It is common for a smaller mosque to serve as a hostel for Muslims on "haj" (pilgrimage to Mecca). Sometimes mosques are used for refugees, or as temporary homes for homeless people. Obligations to neighbours in Islam are very strict, and specific. The Qur'an says that "she who is friend to three neighbours will enter Paradise; she who is not, won't," along with other commands, such as helping the poor and being nice to people. An important part of being Muslim, or just being part of the mosque, is taking care of people who need help. A mosque is a social group, as well as a religious group.
A madrassa is a little different from a mosque. A madrassa focuses on teaching Islam, usually to children and teens.
Mosques in Spain.
When Spain was under Muslim control, some of the most beautiful buildings were mosques. After 1492, Spain was under Christian control. However, the Christians did not tear down the mosques. They simply put a crucifix in them to make them into churches. These mosques influenced the Renaissance architecture (way of building) in Europe.

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