The Most Beautiful Mosques in the World

Photo by David J. Lull

Most people are familiar with soaring lines of Gothic architecture that went into the construction of the great medieval cathedrals of Europe. But Islam also produced brilliant and spectacular faith-inspired designs for the construction of its places of worship — the mosques.

Today, such buildings can be seen the world over although perhaps the most arresting are still to be found in Southern Asia.

It would be impossible to state definitely that any one mosque is more beautiful than another but here we list five of the ‘masjid’ to be seen in the world today that are, perhaps, worthy of special attention.

Taj-ul-Masajid Mosque, Bhopal, India

Although the building of this spectacular mosque was started way back in the 19th century it was not completed until the 1970s.

However, in architectural terms, at least, the wait was worthwhile. The mosque has a blushing pink façade and two striking, 18-storey minarets. Each of these is topped by a marble dome.

 

Photo by Abhishek727/Abhishek Mishra

The Taj-ul-Masajid may well put an observer in mind of the famous Taj Majal, at Agra, and that’s not surprising as elements of the famed ‘Mughal’ design and architecture run through both these spectacular buildings — including the Taj-ul-Masajid’s three domes.

Huge pillars in the hall support ceilings many of which are decorated with a highly ornate petal design.

Zahir Mosque, Kedah, Malaysia

Constructed with five large domes to symbolise and represent the Five Pillars — or principles – of Islam, the Zahir Mosque was built in 1912 at Alor Setar, the state capital of Kedah, Malaysia.

Indeed, the mosque is one of the oldest and the grandest in the whole country and draws visitors from both inside the Malaysia and from abroad.

 

Photo by Steve Calcott

Its striking Islamic and Indo-Saracenic style covers an area of more than 124,000 square feet with a central prayer hall measuring 62 by 62 feet.

The five domes are a striking black above the yellow, gold, cream and white of the main building and its outstanding minarets.

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The Zahir Mosque has status as a national monument, too, as it was built on the cemetery of the Kedah warriors who died while resisting the Siamese invasion of 1821.

Al Nabawi Mosque, Medina, Saudi Arabia

This mosque represents the second most holy site in Islam (Mecca being the most holy) because it features the final resting place of the Prophet Muhammad. For this reason, Al Nabawi is frequently called the Prophet’s Mosque or Al Masjidal-Nabawi.

Architecturally, the Prophet’s Mosque is quite astounding. It has a flat-paved roof topped by 27 domes. Holes pierced in the base of each dome allow the interior to be illuminated.

 

Photo by shadow runner

The main prayer hall occupies the entire first floor but the mosque’s total enclosure can accommodate more than half-a-million worshippers.

The building is decorated with stone — particularly marble — of many colours. The spectacular columns are of white marble which support arches in black and white above brass capitals.

One of the most striking features of the mosque is the Green Dome; it is under this dome that the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad is located. Scholars have not been able to pinpoint an exact date for the building of the Green Dome although it is described in manuscripts which have been dated to the earliest parts of the 12th Century.

Sultan Mosque, Singapore

This beautifully proportioned building was built over three years and finally completed in 1928. The design was in the arabesque style with balustrades, minarets and domes.

The new building actually replaced a former mosque which had stood on the site for the previous 100 years. Unfortunately, it had fallen into disrepair; that, coupled with the fact that Singapore, in the early 20th Century, was rapidly becoming a regional centre for Islamic art, commerce and culture, meant a new and bigger place of worship was required.

 

Photo by Rudy Herman

The mosque was declared a national monument of Singapore in 1975 and its brilliant golden dome dominates the area — but that dome also holds a rather charming secret because, extraordinarily, its sits on a ring-shaped base made entirely of glass bottles.

The story goes that while the wealthy residents of the town were able to contribute money for the building of the mosque, the poorer people raised their contributions by collecting and selling glass bottles.

Perhaps it would be true to say the bottles were inserted into the construction deliberately as a reminder that the mosque is open to everyone and that the humble contributions of the poorest in society are as valid and essential as the golden gifts of the rich.

Faisal Mosque, Islamabad, Pakistan

Seen from distance, this huge white building with its four soaring minarets — but no conventional dome — is a striking site, indeed.

And that’s not surprising as the Faisal Mosque, in Islamabad, is the national mosque of Pakistan and the largest mosque in Southern Asia.

The building was the vision of award-winning Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay and was designed to blend contemporary lines with those of the traditional Arab Bedouin tent.

 

Photo by Michael Foley Photography

The large, triangular-shaped prayer hall — which, with the main areas, can accommodate nearly 75,000 people — contains a huge chandelier and walls decorated with mosaics and calligraphy.

Noticeably, and unlike many traditional mosques, there is no dome at the Masjid Faisal while the minarets are very tall, very slender and very much in the Turkish tradition.

Although the Faisal Mosque — in its design — is radically different from conventional Islamic, Saracenic and South Asian Design, it is regarded as one of the outstanding examples of Islamic architecture to be seen in the world today.

 

About the author
Written by Elizabeth James who writes for the flight comparison company, Traveljungle.co.uk.





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