“Masjid” means “the place of prostration” in Arabic and is the Islamic gathering place for prayer—also called mosques. Muslims are required to pray five times a day, and the mosque serves as a timekeeper for many Islamic communities. One can hear the calls to prayer echoed from its minaret. Men are required by Islamic law to gather at a mosque on Fridays for the noon prayer, and this occurs in the main mosque in a city or town. Mosques are found in just about every country in the world, and many are considered tourist attractions for their intricate details and stunning designs.
Mosque architecture is indicative of tenants of Islam. The style, layout, and the types of decorations used in mosque construction indicate a lot about where and when a mosque was created. Each of these stunning mosques from around the world is a time and placeholder for the annals of history, both in the style of architecture and the types of materials used.
However, some standard features unite all mosques. All mosques, no matter where they are built, feature a “sahn,” or courtyard. The sahn is the place for congregational prayer (for men) and includes a prayer hall. Often the sahn has a fountain, both to offer a cooling element and so men entering the mosque can complete the ritual cleansing required before prayer.
All mosques also have a “mihrab,” or niche, that indicates the direction of Mecca. Muslims are required to face the direction of Mecca when they pray, so having a mihrab prevents the need for a compass. The direction of Mecca can also be called the “qibla,” so the wall in which the mihrab is set is often called the qibla wall.
Perhaps the most notable feature of a mosque is the minaret. It is from this tower that the call to prayer can be heard. It is attached or adjacent to the mosque itself. There is no one specific form for the minaret; some are straight and tall, while others are spiral. Like a church steeple, the minaret is a visual representation of the Muslim faith as well.
Puchong Perdana Mosque, Malaysia
Less than 20 years old, the Puchong Perdana Mosque in Puchong, Selangor, Malaysia is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. Located near the Puchong Lake, this mosque offers stunning views and breathtaking serenity as Muslim people are called to prayer.
The Great Mosque of Xi’an, China
One of the oldest, largest, and best-preserved mosques in the People’s Republic of China, the Great Mosque of Xi’an is considered an excellent interpretation of Chinese art and the Muslim faith. It was built in 742 CE after the introduction of the Muslim faith to the Chinese people from Arab merchants and travelers coming from Iran and Afghanistan.
Qolsarif Mosque, Kazan, Russia
Whitewashed arches and minarets colored bright teal blue make this stunning mosque stand out in Kazan, Russia. It is an exact replica of a mosque destroyed by Ivan the Terrible. Completed in 1995 and funded in part by the UAE, some theologians have suggested that the original mosque was the inspiration for the famed St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.
Nusrat Djahan Mosque, Copenhagen
Built in the mid-1960s, the Nusrat Djahan was Denmark’s very first mosque. It is located on the outskirts of Copenhagen and is used primarily by members of the Ahmadiyaa faith, a branch of Islam. Most Muslims in Denmark consider themselves Sunni, though the numbers of Shia are rising as well.
Visitors and those who follow the Muslim faith are sure to agree that these five mosques are beautiful and spectacular. When visiting any mosque, make sure to ask for a guided tour or a refresher on mosque rules.