Islamic architecture encompasses a wide range of both secular and
religious styles from the foundation of
Islam to the present day. What
today is known as
Islamic architecture was influenced by Roman,
Byzantine, Persian and all other lands which the Muslims conquered in
the 7th and 8th centuries. Further east, it was also influenced
by Chinese and
Indian architecture as
Islam spread to Southeast Asia.
It developed distinct characteristics in the form of buildings, and
the decoration of surfaces with
Islamic calligraphy and geometric and
interlace patterned ornament. The principal
types for large or public buildings are: the Mosque, the Tomb, the
Palace and the Fort. From these four types, the vocabulary of Islamic
architecture is derived and used for other buildings such as public
baths, fountains and domestic architecture.
Many of the buildings which are mentioned in this article are listed
as World Heritage Sites. Some of them, like the Citadel of Aleppo,
have suffered significant damage in the ongoing
Syrian Civil War.
3.1 Assimilation of earlier traditions
3.5.1 Umayyad diaphragm arches and barrel vaults
3.8 Architectural forms
3.9 Specific architectural elements
4 Towns and cities
4.1 Urban and nomadic life according to Ibn Khaldun
4.2 Experiments with the hellenistic Ideal city
4.3 Transformation of conquered towns
4.4 Urban morphology of the Medina
4.5 Frontier fortresses and towns
4.5.1 Misr, Ribat
5 Early history
6 Regional styles
6.3 Turkistan (Timurid)
6.4 Moroccan architecture
6.5 Yemenite architecture
7 Contemporary Muslim architects
8 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
According to one set of views,
Islam started during the lifetime of
Muhammad in the
7th century CE, and so did architectural components
such as the mosque. In this case, the Quba
Medina would be
the first mosque that was built in the history of Islam.
According to another set of views, which uses passages of the
Islam as a religion preceded Muhammad,
representing even previous Prophets such as Abraham.
Islam is credited with having built the Ka‘bah (Arabic:
كَـعْـبَـة, 'Cube') in Mecca, and consequently its
sanctuary, which is seen as the first mosque that ever
Dome of the Rock
Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhrah) in
Jerusalem (691) is one of
the most important buildings in all of
Islamic architecture. It is
patterned after the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre and
Christian artists were employed to create its elaborate
mosaics against a golden background. The great epigraphic vine
frieze was adapted from the pre-
Syrian style. The
the Rock featured interior vaulted spaces, a circular dome, and the
use of stylized repeating decorative arabesque patterns. Desert
Syria (for example, Mshatta, Qasr Amra, and
Khirbat al-Mafjar) served the caliphs as living quarters, reception
halls, and baths, and were decorated to promote an image of royal
The horseshoe arch became a popular feature in
Some suggest the Muslims acquired this from the Visigoths in
they may have obtained it from
Persia where the horseshoe
arch had been in use by the Byzantines. In Moorish architecture, the
curvature of the horseshoe arch is much more accentuated. Furthermore,
alternating colours were added to accentuate the effect of its shape.
This can be seen at a large scale in their major work, the Great
Mosque of Córdoba.
Damascus (completed in 715 by caliph Al-Walid
I), built on the site of the basilica of
John the Baptist
John the Baptist after
Islamic invasion of Damascus, still bore great resemblance to 6th
Christian basilicas. Certain modifications were
implemented, including expanding the structure along the transversal
axis which better fit with the
Islamic style of prayer.
Abbasid dynasty (750 AD- 1258) witnessed the movement of the
Damascus to Baghdad, and then from
Baghdad to Samarra.
The shift to
Baghdad influenced politics, culture, and art. The Great
Mosque of Samarra, once the largest in the world, was built for the
new capital. Other major mosques built in the
Abbasid Dynasty include
Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo, Abu Dalaf in Iraq, the great mosque
Abbasid architecture in
Iraq as exemplified in the Fortress
of Al-Ukhaidir (c.775-6) demonstrated the "despotic and the
pleasure-loving character of the dynasty" in its grand size but
cramped living quarters.
Great Mosque of Kairouan
Great Mosque of Kairouan (in Tunisia) is considered the ancestor
of all the mosques in the western
Islamic world. Its original marble
columns and sculptures were of Roman workmanship brought in from
Carthage and other elements resemble Roman form. It is one of
the best preserved and most significant examples of early great
mosques, founded in 670 AD and dating in its present form largely from
the Aghlabid period (9th century). The
Great Mosque of Kairouan
Great Mosque of Kairouan is
constituted of a massive square minaret, a large courtyard surrounded
by porticos and a huge hypostyle prayer hall covered on its axis by
two cupolas. The Great
Samarra in Iraq, completed in 847 AD,
combined the hypostyle architecture of rows of columns supporting a
flat base above which a huge spiraling minaret was constructed.
Hagia Sophia in
Istanbul also influenced
When the Ottomans captured the city from the Byzantines, they
converted the basilica to a mosque (now a museum) and incorporated
Byzantine architectural elements into their own work (e.g. domes). The
Hagia Sophia also served as a model for many Ottoman mosques such as
the Shehzade Mosque, the Suleiman Mosque, and the Rüstem Pasha
Domes are a major structural feature of
The dome first appeared in
Islamic architecture in 691 with the
construction of the
Dome of the Rock, a near replica of the existing
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other
Christian domed basilicas
Domes remain in use, being a significant feature of
many mosques and of the
Taj Mahal in the 17th century. The distinctive
pointed domes of
Islamic architecture, also originating with the
Byzantines and Persians, have remained a distinguishing
feature of mosques into the 21st century.
Distinguishing motifs of
Islamic architecture have always been the
mathematical themes of ordered repetition, radiating structures, and
rhythmic, metric patterns. In this respect, fractal geometry has been
a key utility, especially for mosques and palaces. Other significant
features employed as motifs include columns, piers and arches,
organized and interwoven with alternating sequences of niches and
Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
Inside the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi, Medina, Saudi Arabia
Inside the Jame
Mosque of Yazd, Iran
Dome of the mihrab (9th century) in the Great
Mosque of Kairouan,
Shah Mosque, Isfahan
Mosque of Rome, Italy
East London Mosque, England
Assimilation of earlier traditions
Compared to Western European Francia, period
Islamic architecture has
preserved to a greater extent the architectural traditions of its
preceding cultures. From the eighth to the eleventh century, Islamic
architectural styles were influenced by two different ancient
Greco-Roman tradition: In particular, the regions of the newly
Byzantine Empire (Southwestern Anatolia, Syria, Egypt and
the Maghreb) supplied architects, masons, mosaicists and other
craftsmen to the new
Islamic rulers. These artisans were trained in
Byzantine architecture and decorative arts, and continued building and
Byzantine style, which had developed out of Hellenistic
and ancient Roman architecture.
Mesopotamia and Persia, despite adopting elements
of Hellenistic and Roman representative style, retained their
independent architectural traditions, which derived from Sasanian
architecture and its predecessors.
The transition process between late Antiquity, or post-classical, and
Islamic architecture is exemplified by archaeologic findings in North
Syria and Palestine, the
Bilad al-Sham of the Umayyad and Abbasid
dynasties. In this region, late antique, or Christian, architectural
traditions merged with the pre-
Islamic Arabian heritage of the
conquerors. Recent research on the history of
Islamic art and
architecture has revised a number of colonialistic ideas.
Specifically, the following questions are currently subject to renewed
discussions in the light of recent findings and new concepts of
The existence of a linear development within the
the existence of an inter- and intracultural hierarchy of styles;
questions of cultural authenticity and its delineation.
Compared to earlier research, the assimilation and transformation of
pre-existing architectural traditions is investigated under the aspect
of mutual intra- and intercultural exchange of ideas, technologies and
styles as well as artists, architects, and materials. In the area of
art and architecture, the
Rise of Islam
Rise of Islam is seen as a continuous
transformation process leading from late Antiquity to the Islamic
period. Early research into the area regarded the early Islamic
architecture merely as a break with the past, from which apparently
rose a distorted and less expressive form of art, or a degenerate
imitation of the post-classical architectural forms. Modern
concepts tend to regard the transition between the cultures rather as
a selective process of informed appropriation and transformation. The
Umayyads played a crucial role in this process of transforming and
thereby enriching the existing architectural traditions, or, in a more
general sense, of the visual culture of the nascent Islamic
Afif-Abad Garden, Shiraz
Gardens and water have for many centuries played an essential role in
Islamic culture, and are often compared to the garden of Paradise. The
comparison originates from the Achaemenid Empire. In his dialogue
Socrates relate the story of the Spartan
general Lysander's visit to the Persian prince Cyrus the Younger, who
shows the Greek his "
Paradise at Sardis". The classical form of
Paradise garden, or the Charbagh, comprises a rectangular
irrigated space with elevated pathways, which divide the garden into
four sections of equal size:
One of the hallmarks of
Persian gardens is the four-part garden laid
out with axial paths that intersect at the garden's centre. This
highly structured geometrical scheme, called the chahar bagh, became a
powerful metaphor for the organization and domestication of the
landscape, itself a symbol of political territory.
A charbagh from Achaemenid time has been identified in the
archaeological excavations at Pasargadae. The gardens of Chehel Sotoun
Fin Garden (Kashan),
Eram Garden (Shiraz), Shazdeh Garden
(Mahan), Dowlatabad Garden (Yazd), Abbasabad Garden (Abbasabad),
Akbarieh Garden (South Khorasan Province), Pahlevanpour Garden, all in
Iran, form part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Large Paradise
gardens are also found at the
Taj Mahal (Agra), and at Humayun's Tomb
(New Delhi), in India; the Shalimar Gardens (Lahore, Pakistan) or at
Generalife in Granada, Spain.
Mosque of Kairouan, with a large courtyard (sehan)
surrounded by arcades, Kairouan, Tunisia.
Islamic courtyard, a sehan (Arabic: صحن), is
found in secular and religious structures.
When within a residence or other secular building is a private
courtyard and walled garden. It is used for: the aesthetics of plants,
water, architectural elements, and natural light; for cooler space
with fountains and shade, and source of breezes into the structure,
during summer heat; and a protected and proscribed place where the
women of the house need not be covered in the hijab clothing
traditionally necessary in public.
A sehan—courtyard is in within almost every mosque in Islamic
architecture. The courtyards are open to the sky and surrounded on all
sides by structures with halls and rooms, and often a shaded semi-open
arcade. Sehans usually feature a centrally positioned ritual cleansing
pool under an open domed pavilion called a howz. A mosque courtyard is
used for performing ablutions, and a 'patio' for rest or gathering.
A Hypostyle, i.e., an open hall supported by columns combined with a
reception hall set at right angle to the main hall, is considered to
be derived from architectural traditions of Achaemenid period Persian
assembly halls ("apadana"). This type of building originated from the
Roman-style basilica with an adjacent courtyard surrounded by
Trajan's Forum in Rome. The Roman type of building
has developed out of the Greek agora. In
Islamic architecture, the
hypostyle hall is the main feature of the hypostyle mosque. One of the
earliest hypostyle mosques is the Tarikhaneh
Mosque in Iran, dating
back to the 8th century.
Islamic buildings, vaulting follows two distinct architectural
Umayyad architecture continues
Syrian traditions of the
6th and 7th century, Eastern
Islamic architecture was mainly
Sasanian styles and forms.
Umayyad diaphragm arches and barrel vaults
In their vaulting structures, Umayyad period buildings show a mixture
of ancient Roman and Persian architectural traditions. Diaphragm
arches with lintelled ceilings made of wood or stone beams, or,
alternatively, with barrel vaults, were known in the
Levant since the
classical and Nabatean period. They were mainly used to cover houses
and cisterns. The architectural form of covering diaphragm arches with
barrel vaults, however, was likely newly introduced from Iranian
architecture, as similar vaulting was not known in Bilad al-Sham
before the arrival of the Umayyads. However, this form was well known
Iran from early Parthian times, as exemplified in the Parthian
buildings of Aššur. The earliest known example for barrel vaults
resting on diaphragm arches from
Umayyad architecture is known from
Qasr Harane in Syria. During the early period, the diaphragm arches
are built from coarsely cut limestone slabs, without using supporting
falsework, which were connected by gypsum mortar. Later-period vaults
were erected using pre-formed lateral ribs modelled from gypsum, which
served as a temporal formwork to guide and center the vault. These
ribs, which were left in the structure afterwards, do not carry any
load. The ribs were cast in advance on strips of cloth, the impression
of which can still be seen in the ribs today. Similar structures are
Sasanian architecture, for example from the palace of
Firuzabad. Umayyad-period vaults of this type were found in Amman
Citadel and in Qasr Amra.
The double-arched system of arcades of the Mosque–Cathedral of
Córdoba is generally considered to be derived from Roman aqueducts
like the nearby aqueduct of Los Milagros. Columns are connected by
horseshoe arches, and support pillars of brickwork, which are in turn
interconnected by semicircular arches supporting the flat timberwork
Arcades of the Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba
Arcades of the
Aljafería of Zaragoza
In later-period additions to the
Mosque of Córdoba, the basic
architectural design was changed: Horseshoe arches were now used for
the upper row of arcades, which is now supported by five-pass arches.
In sections which now supported domes, additional supporting
structures were needed to bear the thrust of the cupolas. The
architects solved this problem by the construction of intersecting
three- or five-pass arches. The three domes spanning the vaults above
the mihrab wall are constructed as ribbed vaults. Rather than meeting
in the center of the dome, the ribs intersect one another off-center,
forming an eight-pointed star in the center which is superseded by a
The ribbed vaults of the mosque-cathedral of Córdoba served as models
for later mosque buildings in the
Islamic West of al-Andaluz and the
Maghreb. At around 1000 AD, the
Mezquita de Bab al Mardum (today:
Mosque of Cristo de la Luz) in Toledo was constructed with a similar,
eight-ribbed dome. Similar domes are also seen in the mosque building
Aljafería of Zaragoza. The architectural form of the ribbed
dome was further developed in the Maghreb: The central dome of the
Mosque of Tlemcen, a masterpiece of the
Almoravids built in
1082, has twelve slender ribs, the shell between the ribs is filled
with filigree stucco work.
Because of its long history of building and re-building, spanning the
time from the
Abbasids to the Qajar dynasty, and its excellent state
of conservation, the Jameh
Isfahan provides an overview over
Islamic architects conducted with complicated vaulting
The system of squinches, which is a construction filling in the upper
angles of a square room so as to form a base to receive an octagonal
or spherical dome, was already known in
Sasanian architecture. The
spherical triangles of the squinches were split up into further
subdivisions or systems of niches, resulting in a complex interplay of
supporting structures forming an ornamental spatial pattern which
hides the weight of the structure.
The "non-radial rib vault", an architectural form of ribbed vaults
with a superimposed spherical dome, is the characteristic
architectural vault form of the
Islamic East. From its beginnings in
Mosque of Isfahan, this form of vault was used in a sequence
of important buildings up to the period of Safavid architecture. Its
main characteristics are:
Four intersecting ribs, at times redoubled and intersected to form an
the omission of a transition zone between the vault and the supporting
a central dome or roof lantern on top of the ribbed vault.
While intersecting pairs of ribs from the main decorative feature of
Seljuk architecture, the ribs were hidden behind additional
architectural elements in later periods, as exemplified in the dome of
Tomb of Ahmed Sanjar in Merv, until they finally disappeared
completely behind the double shell of a stucco dome, as seen in the
Ālī Qāpū in Isfahan.
Dome of the Fire temple of Harpak in Abyaneh
Non-radial rib vault in the Jameh
Mosque of Isfahan
Dome of the tomb of Ahmed Sanjar in Merv
Upper dome of Ālī Qāpū, Isfahan
Adina Mosque, West Bengal, India
Based on the model of pre-existing
Byzantine domes, the Ottoman
Architecture developed a specific form of monumental, representative
building: Wide central domes with huge diameters were erected on top
of a centre-plan building. Despite their enormous weight, the domes
appear virtually weightless. Some of the most elaborate domed
buildings have been constructed by the Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan.
When the Ottomans had conquered Constantinople, they found a variety
Christian churches, the largest and most prominent
amongst them was the Hagia Sophia. The brickwork-and-mortar ribs and
the spherical shell of the central dome of the
Hagia Sophia were built
simultaneously, as a self-supporting structure without any wooden
centring. In the early
Byzantine church of Hagia Irene, the ribs
of the dome vault are fully integrated into the shell, similar to
Western Roman domes, and thus are not visible from within the
building. In the dome of the Hagia Sophia, the ribs and shell of
the dome unite in a central medallion at the apex of the dome, the
upper ends of the ribs being integrated into the shell: Shell and ribs
form one single structural entity. In later
Byzantine buildings, like
the Kalenderhane Mosque, the Eski Imaret
Mosque (formerly the
Monastery of Christ Pantepoptes) or the Pantokrator Monastery (today:
Zeyrek Mosque), the central medallion of the apex and the ribs of the
dome became separate structural elements: The ribs are more pronounced
and connect to the central medallion, which also stands out more
pronouncedly, so that the entire construction gives the impression as
if ribs and medallion are separate from, and underpin, the proper
shell of the dome.
Mimar Sinan solved the structural issues of the
Hagia Sophia dome by
constructing a system of centrally symmetric pillars with flanking
semi-domes, as exemplified by the design of the Süleymaniye Mosque
(four pillars with two flanking shield walls and two semi-domes,
1550–1557), the Rüstem Pasha
Mosque (eight pillars with four
diagonal semi-domes, 1561–1563), and the Selimiye
Mosque in Edirne
(eight pillars with four diagonal semi-domes, 1567/8–1574/5). In the
history of architecture, the structure of the Selimiye
Mosque has no
precedent. All elements of the building subordinate to its great
Schematic drawing of a pendentive dome
Central domes of the Hagia Sophia
Dome of the Kalenderhane Mosque
Main article: Muqarnas
The architectural element of muqarnas developed in northeastern Iran
Maghreb around the middle of the 10th century. The ornament is
created by the geometric subdivision of a vaulting structure into
miniature, superimposed pointed-arch substructures, also known as
"honeycomb", or "stalactite" vaults. Made from different materials
like stone, brick, wood or stucco, its use in architecture spread over
Islamic world. In the
Islamic West, muqarnas are also used
to adorn the outside of a dome, cupola, or similar structure, whilst
in the East is more limited to the interior face of a vault.
Design of a muqarnas quarter vault from the Topkapı Scroll
Muqarnas in the necropolis of Shah-i-Zinda, Samarqand
Muqarnas in the Alhambra
The muqarna of a mosque in Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Islamic interlace patterns,
Islamic geometric patterns,
As a common feature,
Islamic architecture makes use of specific
ornamental forms, including mathematically complicated, elaborate
geometric and interlace patterns, floral motifs like the arabesque,
and elaborate calligraphic inscriptions, which serve to decorate a
building, specify the intention of the building by the selection of
the textual program of the inscriptions. For example, the calligraphic
inscriptions adorning the
Dome of the Rock
Dome of the Rock include quotations from the
Quran 19:33–35) which reference the miracle of Jesus
and his human nature.
The geometric or floral, interlaced forms, taken together, constitute
an infinitely repeated pattern that extends beyond the visible
material world. To many in the
Islamic world, they symbolize the
concept of infinite proves of existence of one eternal God. The
repetitiveness, simplicity contrasted with complexity and percision
suggests that our complex universe is only one of the many
manifestations of the infinitely obvious and present Allah, the one
God. Furthermore, the
Islamic artist conveys a definite spirituality
without the iconography of
Christian art. Non-figural ornaments are
used in mosques and buildings around the Muslim world, and it is a way
of decorating using beautiful, embellishing and repetitive
instead of using pictures of humans and animals (which some Muslims
believe is forbidden (Haram) in Islam).
Instead of recalling something related to the reality of the spoken
word, calligraphy for the Muslim is a visible expression of spiritual
concepts. Calligraphy has arguably become the most venerated form of
Islamic art because it provides a link between the languages of the
Muslims with the religion of Islam. The holy book of Islam,
al-Qur'ān, has played a vital role in the development of the Arabic
language, and by extension, calligraphy in the Arabic alphabet.
Proverbs and complete passages from the
Qur'an are still active
Islamic calligraphy. Contemporary artists in the Islamic
world draw on the heritage of calligraphy to use calligraphic
inscriptions or abstractions in their work.
Geometrical tile ornament (Zellij), Ben Youssef Madrasa, Maroc
Arabesques and floral decoration in the
Aljafería of Zaragoza
Calligraphic inscription on the dome of the Mevlana mausoleum
Dome of the Shah
Isfahan with calligraphic inscription
Islamic terracotta on a 17th-century mosque in Tangail,
Many forms of
Islamic architecture have evolved in different regions
Islamic world. Notable
Islamic architectural types include the
Abbasid buildings, T-Type mosques, and the central-dome mosques
of Anatolia. The oil-wealth of the 20th century drove a great deal of
mosque construction using designs from leading modern architects.
Arab-plan or hypostyle mosques are the earliest type of mosques,
pioneered under the Umayyad Dynasty. These mosques are square or
rectangular in plan with an enclosed courtyard and a covered prayer
hall. Historically, because of the warm
Mediterranean and Middle
Eastern climates, the courtyard served to accommodate the large number
of worshippers during Friday prayers. Most early hypostyle mosques
have flat roofs on top of prayer halls, necessitating the use of
numerous columns and supports. One of the most notable hypostyle
mosques is the
Mezquita in Córdoba, Spain, as the building is
supported by over 850 columns. Frequently, hypostyle mosques have
outer arcades so that visitors can enjoy some shade. Arab-plan mosques
were constructed mostly under the Umayyad and
subsequently, however, the simplicity of the
Arab plan limited the
opportunities for further development, and as a result, these mosques
gradually fell out of popularity.
The Ottomans introduced central dome mosques in the 15th century and
have a large dome centered over the prayer hall. In addition to having
one large dome at the center, there are often smaller domes that exist
off-center over the prayer hall or throughout the rest of the mosque,
where prayer is not performed. This style was heavily influenced
Byzantine religious architecture with its use of large central
The interior of the
Mezquita in Córdoba, Spain.
A sample of modern
Islamic architecture - The mosque of international
conferences center - Isfahan
Specific architectural elements
Plan view of Bab al-Barqiyya along
Ayyubid Wall. Located close to one
of Cairo's main modern traffic arteries, al-Azhar Street, the
Fatimid-era Bab al-Barqiyya fortified gate was constructed with
interlocking volumes that surrounded the entrant in such a way as to
provide greater security and control than typical city wall gates.
Laser scan data from an Aga Khan Foundation/
Islamic architecture may be identified with the following design
elements, which were inherited from the first mosque buildings
(originally a feature of the Masjid al-Nabawi).
Minarets or towers (these were originally used as torch-lit
watchtowers, as seen in the Great
Mosque of Damascus; hence the
derivation of the word from the Arabic nur, meaning "light"). The
minaret of the
Great Mosque of Kairouan
Great Mosque of Kairouan in
Tunisia is considered as
the oldest surviving minaret in the world. It has the shape of a
square massive tower of three superimposed sections.
A four-iwan plan, with three subordinate halls and one principal one
that faces toward Mecca
Mihrab or prayer niche on an inside wall indicating the direction to
Domes and Cupolas. In South East Asia (
Indonesia and Malaysia), these
are very recent additions.
Pishtaq is the formal gateway to the iwan, usually the main prayer
hall of a mosque, a vaulted hall or space, walled on three sides, with
one end entirely open; a Persian term for a portal projecting from the
facade of a building, usually decorated with calligraphy bands, glazed
tilework, and geometric designs.
Iwans to intermediate between different pavilions.
Towns and cities
Urban and nomadic life according to Ibn Khaldun
During its history, the society of the pre-modern
Islamic world was
dominated by two important social contexts, nomadic life and Urbanism.
The historian and politician
Ibn Khaldun thoroughly discusses both
concepts in his book Muqaddimah. According to him, the way of life and
culture of the rural bedouin nomads and the townspeople are opposed in
a central social conflict.
Ibn Khaldun explains the rise and fall of
civilizations by his concept of
Asabiyyah ("bond of cohesion", or
"family loyalty"), as exemplified by the rule of the caliphs.
Bedouins, being the nomadic inhabitants of the steppe and the desert,
are interconnected by strong bonds of asabiyyah and firm religious
beliefs. These bonds tend to slacken in urban communities over some
generations. In parallel, by losing their asabiyyah, the townspeople
also lose the power to defend themselves, and fall victims to more
aggressive tribes which may destroy the city and set up a new ruling
dynasty, which over time is subject to the same weakening of power
Experiments with the hellenistic Ideal city
The antique concept of the architecture of a Greek polis or Roman
civitas is based on a structure of main and smaller roads running
through the entire city, and dividing it into quarters. The streets
are oriented towards public buildings like a palace, temple, or a
public square. Two main roads, (cardo and decumanus) cross each other
at right angles in the center of the city. A few cities were founded
during the early
Islamic Umayyad Caliphate, the outlines of which were
based on the Ancient Roman concept of the Ideal city. An example of a
city planned according to Hellenistic concepts was excavated at Anjar
Transformation of conquered towns
More often than founding new cities, the new
Islamic rulers took over
existing towns, and transformed them according to the needs of the new
Islamic society. This process of transformation proved to be decisive
for the development of the traditional
Islamic city, or Medina.
The principle of arranging buildings is known as "horizontal spread".
Residencies and public buildings as well as private housing tend to be
laid out separately, and are not directly related to each other
architectonically. Archaeological excavations at the city of Jerash,
the Gerasa of Antiquity, have revealed how the
transformed the city plan.
Urban morphology of the Medina
The architecture of the "oriental"-
Islamic town is based on cultural
and sociological concepts which differ from those of European cities.
In both cultures, a distinction is made between the areas used by the
rulers and their government and administration, public places of
everyday common life, and the areas of private life. Whilst the
structures and concepts of European towns originated from a
sociological struggle to gain basic rights of freedom – or town
privileges – from political or religious authorities during the
Middle Ages, an
Islamic town or city is fundamentally influenced by
the preservation of the unity of secular and religious life throughout
The fundamental principle of the
Islamic society is the ummah, or
ummat al-Islamiyah (Arabic: الأمة الإسلامية), the
community of Muslims of whom each individual is equally submitted to
Allah under the common law of sharia, which also subjected the
respective ruler, at least nominally. In
Abbasid times, some cities
like the Round city of
Baghdad were constructed from scratch, set up
to a plan which focused on the caliph's residence, located in the very
centre of the city, with main roads leading radially from the city
gates to the central palace, dividing individual tribal sections with
no interconnection, and separated from each other by radial walls.
However, these efforts were of short duration only, and the original
plan soon disappeared and gave way to succeeding buildings and
In a medina, palaces and residences as well as public places like
mosque-madrasa-hospital complexes and private living spaces rather
coexist alongside each other. The buildings tend to be more inwardly
oriented, and are separated from the surrounding "outside" either by
walls or by the hierarchical ordering of the streets, or both. Streets
tend to lead from public main roads to cul-de-sac byroads and onwards
into more private plots, and then end there. There are no, or very
few, internal connections between different quarters of the city. In
order to move from one quarter to the next, one has to go back to the
main road again.
Within a city quarter, byroads lead towards individual building
complexes or clusters of houses. The individual house is frequently
also oriented towards an inner atrium, and enclosed by walls, which
mostly are unadorned, unlike European outward-oriented, representative
facades. Thus, the spatial structure of a medina essentially reflects
the ancient nomadic tradition of living in a family group or tribe,
held together by asabiyya, strictly separated from the "outside". In
general, the morphology of an
Islamic medina is granting – or
denying – access according to the basic concept of hierarchical
degrees of privacy. The inhabitants move from public space to the
living quarters of their tribe, and onwards to their family home.
Within a family house, there are again to be found common and separate
spaces, the latter, and most private, usually reserved for women and
children. In the end, only the family heads have free and unlimited
access to all rooms and areas of ther private home, as opposed to the
more European concept of interconnecting different spaces for free and
easy access. The hierarchy of privacy thus guides and structurizes the
entire social life in a medina, from the caliph down to his most
humble subject, from the town to the house.
Medina quarter of Fez, Morocco
Figure-ground diagram of Algiers
Figure-ground diagram of a European town (1819)
Frontier fortresses and towns
Mosque in Qasr al-Hallabat
Entrance courtyard of Qasr al-Hallabat
In the frontier area of the Arabic expansion, military forts (Misr,
Pl. Arabic: أمصار, amṣār), or
Ribat (Arabic: رباط
ribāṭ, fortress) were founded. The structure and function of a misr
is similar to an ancient Roman Colonia. Like a frontier colony,
the fortress served as a base for further conquests. Arabian military
forts of this type were frequently built in the vicinity of an older
town from Antiquity or from
Byzantine times. They frequently were of
Rather than maintaining their original purpose to serve as a military
base, many amṣār developed into urbane and administrative centers.
In particular, this happened in the case of the Iraqi cities of Kufa
and Basra, which became known as "al-miṣrān" ("the [two] forts"),
but also with
Kairouan in North Africa.
Qaṣr (Arabic: قصر, qaṣr; Pl. Arabic: قصور, quṣūr)
means palace, castle or (frontier) fort. Fortresses from Late
Antiquity often continued to be in use, whilst their function changed
during time. Some quṣūr were already used as
Castra during Roman
times, and were part of the fortifications of the North African Limes.
Already during the Ancient Roman times, castra did not only serve as
fortifications, but also as markets and meeting points for the tribes
living beyond the border.
Smaller quṣūr are found in modern Jordan, and include Qasr
Al-Hallabat (located 50 km east of Amman), Qasr Bushir
(15 km north of Lajjun), the castle of Daganiya (45 km north
of Ma'an) and Odruh (22 km east of Wadi Musa). After the Limes
Arabicus was abandoned by the Roman Empire, many of the castra
continued to be in use. This continuity was subject to
archaeological investigations in the fort of Qasr al-Hallabat, which
at different times served as a Roman castrum,
monastery, and finally as an Umayyad Qasr.
Qasr Al-Kharanah is one
of the earliest known Desert castles, its architectural form clearly
demonstrates the influence of
According to a hypothesis developed by Jean Sauvaget, the umayyad
quṣūr played a role in the systematic agricultural colonisation of
the uninhabited frontier areas, and, as such, continue the
colonisation strategy of earlier
Christian monks and the
Ghassanids. The Umayyads, however, increasingly oriented their
political strategy towards a model of Client politics, of mutual
interdependence and support. After the Umayyad conquest, the
quṣūr lost their original function and were either abandoned or
continued to serve as local market places and meeting points until the
tenth century. Another type of
Islamic fortress is Qalat.
Moorish ceiling in Alhambra.
Section of the Umayyad-era Mshatta Facade, now in the Pergamon Museum
in Berlin, from a palace near Amman.
Bab al-Futuh gate built by the
Fatimid vazir Badr al-Jamali.
There are few buildings dating from the era of Prophet Muhammad, but
one example is the Jawatha
Mosque in Saudi Arabia. The Rashidun
Caliphate (632–661) was the first state to use
Umayyad Caliphate (661–750) combined elements of Byzantine
architecture and Sassanid architecture, but Umayyad architecture
introduced new combinations of these western and eastern styles.
The horseshoe arch appears for the first time in Umayyad architecture,
later to evolve to its most advanced form in al-Andalus. Umayyad
architecture is distinguished by the extent and variety of decoration,
including mosaics, wall painting, sculpture and carved reliefs with
Islamic motifs. The
Umayyads introduced a transept that divided
the prayer room along its shorter axis. They also added the mihrab
to mosque design. The mosque in
Medina built by al-Walid I had the
first mihrab, a niche on the qibla wall, which seems to have
represented the place where the Prophet stood when leading prayer.
This almost immediately became a standard feature of all mosques.
Abbasid architecture of the
Abbasid Caliphate (750–1513) was
strongly influenced by Sassanid architecture, and later by Central
Asian styles. The
Abbasid mosques all followed the courtyard plan. The
earliest was the mosque that al-Mansur built in Baghdad. since
destroyed. The Great
Samarra built by al-Mutawakkil was 256
by 139 metres (840 by 456 ft). A flat wooden roof was supported
by columns. The mosque was decorated with marble panels and glass
mosaics. The prayer hall of the Abu Dulaf mosque at
arcades on rectangular brick piers running at right angles to the
qibla wall. Both of the
Samarra mosques have spiral minarets, the only
examples in Iraq. A mosque at
Balkh in what is now
about 20 by 20 metres (66 by 66 ft) square, with three rows of
three square bays, supporting nine vaulted domes.
Construction of the Great
Mosque at Córdoba (now a cathedral known as
the Mezquita) beginning in 785 CE marks the beginning of Moorish
architecture in the
Iberian peninsula and North Africa (see Moors).
The mosque is noted for its striking interior arches. Moorish
architecture reached its peak with the construction of the Alhambra,
the magnificent palace/fortress of Granada, with its open and breezy
interior spaces adorned in red, blue, and gold. The walls are
decorated with stylized foliage motifs, Arabic inscriptions, and
arabesque design work, with walls covered in glazed tile. Their other,
smaller, survivals such as the Bab Mardum in Toledo, or the caliphal
Moorish architecture has its roots deeply
established in the
Arab tradition of architecture and design
established during the era of the first Caliphate of the
Levant circa 660AD with its capital
Damascus having very well
preserved examples of fine
Islamic design and geometrics,
including the carmen, which is the typical Damascene house, opening on
the inside with a fountain as the house's centre piece.
Fatimid architecture in Egypt followed
Tulunid techniques and used
similar materials, but also developed those of their own. In Cairo,
their first congregational mosque was al-Azhar mosque ("the splendid")
founded along with the city (969–973), which, together with its
adjacent institution of higher learning (al-Azhar University), became
the spiritual center for
Ismaili Shia. The
Mosque of al-Hakim (r.
996–1013), an important example of
Fatimid architecture and
architectural decoration, played a critical role in
and procession, which emphasized the religious and political role of
Fatimid caliph. Besides elaborate funerary monuments, other
Fatimid structures include the Aqmar
Mosque (1125) and
the Al-Hakim Mosque, as well as the monumental gates for Cairo's city
walls commissioned by the powerful
Fatimid emir and vizier Badr
al-Jamali (r. 1073–1094).
The reign of the Mamluks (1250–1517 AD) in Egypt marked a
breathtaking flowering of
Islamic art which is most visible in old
Cairo. Religious zeal made them generous patrons of architecture and
art. Trade and agriculture flourished under
Mamluk rule, and Cairo,
their capital, became one of the wealthiest cities in the Near East
and the center of artistic and intellectual activity. This made Cairo,
in the words of Ibn Khaldun, "the center of the universe and the
garden of the world", with majestic domes, courtyards, and soaring
minarets spread across the city.
See also: Persian architecture
Tarikhaneh Temple, a pre-
Islamic monument built in Sassanid Persia
which was later turned into a mosque, showing elements of pre-Islamic
Iranian architecture in
Islamic conquest of
Persia in the
7th century availed the Muslims
with the vast wealth of architectural innovation developed over the
centuries, from the great roads, aqueducts and arches of the Roman
Empire, to the
Byzantine basilicas and Persian horseshoe and pointed
arches, and the Sassanian and
Byzantine mosaics. The Islamic
architects first utilized these native architects to build mosques,
and eventually developed their own adaptations.
thus is directly related to Persian and
Persia and Central Asia, the Tahirids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, and
Ghurids struggled for power in the 10th century, and art was a vital
element of this competition. Great cities were built, such as Nishapur
Ghazni (Afghanistan), and the construction of the Great
Isfahan (which would continue, in fits and starts, over several
centuries) was initiated. Funerary architecture was also cultivated.
Under the Seljuqs the "Iranian plan" of mosque construction appears
for the first time. Lodging places called khans, or caravanserai, for
travellers and their animals, or caravansarais, generally displayed
utilitarian rather than ornamental architecture, with rubble masonry,
strong fortifications, and minimal comfort. Seljuq architecture
synthesized various styles, both Iranian and Syrian, sometimes
rendering precise attributions difficult. Another important
architectural trend to arise in the Seljuk era is the development of
mausolea including the tomb tower such as the Gunbad-i-qabus (circa
1006-7) (showcasing a Zoroastrian motif) and the domed square, an
example of which is the tomb of the Samanids in the city of Bukhara
The Il-Khanate period provided several innovations to dome-building
that eventually enabled the Persians to construct much taller
structures. These changes later paved the way for Safavid
architecture. The pinnacle of Il-Khanate architecture was reached with
the construction of the
Dome (1302–1312) in Zanjan, Iran,
which measures 50 m in height and 25 m in diameter, making
it the 3rd largest and the tallest masonry dome ever erected. The
thin, double-shelled dome was reinforced by arches between the
layers. The tomb of
Soltaniyeh is one of the greatest
and most impressive monuments in Iran, despite many later
Iranian architecture and city planning also reached an apogee under
the Timurids, in particular with the monuments of Samarkand, marked by
extensive use of exterior ceramic tiles and muqarnas vaulting within.
Mosque in Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Isfahan, Iran
The renaissance in Persian mosque and dome building came during the
Safavid dynasty, when Shah Abbas, in 1598 initiated the reconstruction
of Isfahan, with the
Naqsh-e Jahan Square
Naqsh-e Jahan Square as the centerpiece of his
new capital. The distinct feature of Persian domes, which
separates them from those domes created in the
Christian world or the
Ottoman and Mughal empires, was the colorful tiles, with which they
covered the exterior of their domes, as they would on the interior.
These domes soon numbered dozens in Isfahan, and the distinct, blue-
colored shape would dominate the skyline of the city. Reflecting the
light of the sun, these domes appeared like glittering turquoise gem
and could be seen from miles away by travelers following the Silk road
through Persia. This very distinct style of architecture was inherited
to them from the Seljuq dynasty, who for centuries had used it in
their mosque building, but it was perfected during the Safavids when
they invented the haft- rangi, or seven- colour style of tile burning,
a process that enabled them to apply more colours to each tile,
creating richer patterns, sweeter to the eye. The colours that the
Persians favoured were golden, white and turquoise patterns on a dark-
blue background. The extensive inscription bands of calligraphy
and arabesque on most of the major buildings where carefully planned
and executed by Ali Reza Abbasi, who was appointed head of the royal
library and Master calligrapher at the Shah's court in 1598, while
Shaykh Bahai oversaw the construction projects. Reaching 53 meters in
height, the dome of Masjed-e Shah (Shah Mosque) would become the
tallest in the city when it was finished in 1629. It was built as a
double- shelled dome, with 14 m spanning between the two layers,
and resting on an octagonal dome chamber.
Persian-style mosques are also characterized by their tapered brick
pillars, large arcades and arches each supported by several pillars.
In South Asia, such art was also used as was a technique throughout
Mosque in Baku, Azerbaijan
Islamic conquest of
Persia in the
7th century also helped Islamic
architecture to flourish in Azerbaijan. The country became
home of Nakchivan and Shirvan-Absheron architecture schools. An
example of the first direction in the Azerbaijani
is the mausoleum of Yusuf, built in 1162.
The Shirvan-Absheron school unlike Nakchivan style used stones instead
of the bricks in the construction. At the same characteristics of this
trend were the asymmetry and stone carving, which includes famous
Palace of the Shirvanshahs
Main article: Ottoman architecture
Sultan Ahmed Mosque, built in 1616. (Istanbul, Turkey)
The standard plan of
Ottoman architecture was inspired in part by the
Hagia Sophia in Constantinople/Istanbul,
Tomb and earlier Seljuk and Anatolian Beylik monumental
buildings and their own original innovations. The most famous of
Ottoman architects was (and remains) Mimar Sinan, who lived for
approximately one hundred years and designed several hundreds of
buildings, of which two of the most important are Süleymaniye Mosque
Istanbul and Selimiye
Mosque in Edirne. Apprentices of Sinan later
built the famous Blue
Istanbul and the
Taj Mahal in
The most numerous and largest of mosques exist in Turkey, which
obtained influence from Byzantine, Persian and Syrian-
Turkish architects implemented their own style of cupola domes.
For almost 500 years
Byzantine architecture such as the church of
Hagia Sophia served as models for many of the Ottoman mosques such as
the Shehzade Mosque, the Suleiman Mosque, and the Rüstem Pasha
The Ottomans mastered the technique of building vast inner spaces
confined by seemingly weightless yet massive domes, and achieving
perfect harmony between inner and outer spaces, as well as light and
Islamic religious architecture which until then consisted of
simple buildings with extensive decorations, was transformed by the
Ottomans through a dynamic architectural vocabulary of vaults, domes,
semidomes and columns. The mosque was transformed from being a cramped
and dark chamber with arabesque-covered walls into a sanctuary of
esthetic and technical balance, refined elegance and a hint of
Registan is the ensemble of three madrasas, in Samarkand, modern day
Timurid architecture is the pinnacle of
Islamic art in Central Asia.
Spectacular and stately edifices erected by
Timur and his successors
Herat helped to disseminate the influence of the
Ilkhanid school of art in India, thus giving rise to the celebrated
Mughal school of architecture. Timurid architecture started with the
sanctuary of Ahmed Yasawi in present-day
Kazakhstan and culminated in
Gur-e Amir in Samarkand. The style is largely
derived from Persian architecture.
Axial symmetry is a characteristic
of all major Timurid structures, notably the
Shah-i-Zinda in Samarkand
and the mosque of
Gowhar Shad in Mashhad. Double domes of various
shapes abound, and the outsides are perfused with brilliant colors.
Main article: Moroccan architecture
El Hedim Square in Meknes,
Morocco with the "Bab Mansour Gate" in the
Old city of Meknes.
Moroccan architecture dates from 110 BCE with the Berber's massive
pisé (mud brick) buildings. The architecture has been influenced by
Islamization during the Idrisid dynasty, Moorish exiles from Spain,
and also by France who occupied
Morocco in 1912.
Morocco is in Northern-Africa bordering the
Mediterranean and the
Atlantic. The country's diverse geography and the land’s long
history marked by successive waves of settlers and military
encroachments are all reflected in Morocco's architecture.
Bab al-Yaman (Gate of the Yemen) and the Old city of Sana'a, Yemen.
Yemenite architecture Is the architecture that characterizes houses
built on several floors, some of the floors used as a line A storage
room with removable stairs. The houses are made of mud bricks mixed
Main article: Tatar mosque
Kazan Family Center in Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia.
Islamic architecture is a feature of the architecture of the
Tatars, formed under the influence of a sedentary and nomadic way of
life in ancient times, developing in the epochs of the Golden Horde,
the Tatar khanates and under the rule of the Russian Empire. The
architecture was formed in the modern form for many centuries and
depended on the culture, aesthetics and religion of the population,
therefore combines a unique combination of Eastern, Russian,
Bulgarian, Golden Horde architecture, European styles dominating in
Russia at one time or another, especially this Is clearly reflected in
the Tatar mosques.
Main articles: Indo-
Islamic architecture, Mughal architecture, and
Bengali Muslim architecture
See also: Indian architecture, Pakistani architecture, and Bangladeshi
Taj Mahal in Agra, India.
The most famous Indo-
Islamic style is Mughal architecture. Its most
prominent examples are the series of imperial mausolea, which started
with the pivotal
Tomb of Humayun, but is best known for the Taj Mahal,
completed in 1648 by emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz
Mahal who died while giving birth to their 14th child. The Taj Mahal
is completely symmetrical except for Shah Jahan's sarcophagus, which
is placed off center in the crypt room below the main floor. This
symmetry extended to the building of an entire mirror mosque in black
marble to complement the Mecca-facing mosque place to the west of the
main structure. A famous example of the charbagh style of Mughal
garden is the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, where the domeless
Jahangir is also located.
Bibi Ka Maqbara
Bibi Ka Maqbara in Aurangabad which was
commissioned by sixth
Aurangzeb in memory of his wife.
Fort are huge castle-like fortified
palaces, and the abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri, 26 miles
(42 km) west of Agra, was built for
Akbar in the late 16th
7th century village mosque, Bangladesh
Within the subcontinent, the
Bengal region developed a distinct
regional style under the independent
Bengal Sultanate. It incorporated
influences from Persia, Byzantium and North India, which were with
blended indigenous Bengali elements, such as curved roofs, corner
towers and complex terracotta ornamentation. One feature in the
sultanate was the relative absence of minarets. Many small and
medium-sized medieval mosques, with multiple domes and artistic niche
mihrabs, were constructed throughout the region. The grand mosque
Bengal was the 14th century Adina Mosque, the largest mosque in the
Indian subcontinent. Built of stone demolished from temples, it
featured a monumental ribbed barrel vault over the central nave, the
first such giant vault used anywhere in the subcontinent. The mosque
was modeled on the imperial
Sasanian style of Persia. The
Sultanate style flourished between the 14th and 16th centuries. A
provincial style influenced by North
India evolved in Mughal Bengal
during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Mughals also copied the
Bengali do-chala roof tradition for mausoleums in North India.
Main article: Chinese mosques
Hui people who have also migrated to the south such as this Darunaman
Mosque, locating in Chiang Rai province,
Thailand shows a great
mixture between Chinese and
Mosque of Xi'an, China
The first Chinese mosque was established in the
7th century during the
Tang Dynasty in Xi'an. The Great
Mosque of Xi'an, whose current
buildings date from the Ming Dynasty, does not replicate many of the
features often associated with traditional mosques. Instead, it
follows traditional Chinese architecture. Some
Chinese mosques in
parts of western
China were more likely to incorporate minarets and
domes while eastern
Chinese mosques were more likely to look like
An important lathan feature in
Chinese architecture is its emphasis on
symmetry, which connotes a sense of grandeur; this applies to
everything from palaces to mosques. One notable exception is in the
design of gardens, which tends to be as asymmetrical as possible. Like
Chinese scroll paintings, the principle underlying the garden's
composition is to create enduring flow; to let the patron wander and
enjoy the garden without prescription, as in nature herself.
Chinese buildings may be built with either red or grey bricks, but
wooden structures are the most common; these are more capable of
withstanding earthquakes, but are vulnerable to fire. The roof of a
typical Chinese building is curved; there are strict classifications
of gable types, comparable with the classical orders of European
Most mosques have certain aspects in common with each other however as
with other regions Chinese
Islamic architecture reflects the local
architecture in its style.
China is renowned for its beautiful
mosques, which resemble temples. However, in western
China the mosques
resemble those of the
Arab World, with tall, slender minarets, curvy
arches and dome shaped roofs. In northwest
China where the Chinese Hui
have built their mosques, there is a combination of eastern and
western styles. The mosques have flared Buddhist style roofs set in
walled courtyards entered through archways with miniature domes and
Main article: Indonesian
Minaret is not an original architecture of Indonesian mosque, instead
this mosque employs a temple-like structure for a drum used to call
Mosque of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, features
multi-layered roof typical of Indonesian mosque architecture.
Southeast Asia was slow to adopt Middle Eastern architectural styles.
Indonesia in the 15th-century via
Java island, during
which period the dominant religion in
Southeast Asia included a
variety of pagan groups. Introduction of
Islam was peaceful. Existing
architectural features in
Indonesia such as the candi bentar gate,
paduraksa (normally marks entrance to the most sacred precincts), and
the sacred pyramidal roof was used for
Islamic architecture. For
centuries, Indonesian mosques lacked domes or minarets, both
considered a Middle Eastern origin. Indonesian original mosques
feature multi-layered pyramidal roofs and no minaret. Prayer are
called by striking a prayer's drum known as beduk. The minaret of the
Mosque is a great example of Indonesian architecture.
Indonesian mosque architecture also features strong influence from the
Middle Eastern architecture styles.
The architecture of Javanese Indonesian mosques had a strong influence
on the design of other mosques in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and the
Today, with increasing Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca,
Indonesian-Malaysian mosques are developing a more standard,
international style, with a dome and minaret.
Main article: Sudano-Sahelian
In West Africa,
Islamic merchants played a vital role in the Western
Sahel region since the Kingdom of Ghana. At Kumbi Saleh, locals lived
in domed-shaped dwellings in the king's section of the city,
surrounded by a great enclosure. Traders lived in stone houses in a
section which possessed 12 beautiful mosques (as described by
al-bakri), one centered on Friday prayer. The king is said to have
owned several mansions, one of which was sixty-six feet long,
forty-two feet wide, contained seven rooms, was two stories high, and
had a staircase; with the walls and chambers filled with sculpture and
painting. Sahelian architecture initially grew from the two cities
Djenné and Timbuktu. The
Mosque in Timbuktu, constructed
from mud on timber, was similar in style to the Great
Main article: Somali architecture
Almnara Tower Somalia.
The 13th century
Mosque in Mogadishu.
The peaceful introduction of
Islam in the early medieval era of
Somalia's history brought
Islamic architectural influences from Arabia
and Persia, which stimulated a shift from drystone and other related
materials in construction to coral stone, sundried bricks, and the
widespread use of limestone in Somali architecture. Many of the new
architectural designs such as mosques were built on the ruins of older
structures, a practice that would continue over and over again
throughout the following centuries. Concordant with the ancient
Islam in the
Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa region, mosques in
some of the oldest on the entire continent. One architectural feature
that made Somali mosques distinct from other mosques in Africa were
For centuries, Arba Rukun (1269), the Friday mosque of
Fakr ad-Din (1269) were, in fact, the only mosques in East Africa
to have minarets. Fakr ad-Din, which dates back to the Mogadishan
Golden Age, was built with marble and coral stone and included a
compact rectangular plan with a domed mihrab axis. Glazed tiles were
also used in the decoration of the mihrab, one of which bears a dated
inscription. The 13th century Al Gami University consisted of a
rectangular base with a large cylindrical tower architecturally unique
Shrines to honor Somali patriarchs and matriarchs evolved from ancient
Somali burial customs. In Southern
Somalia the preferred medieval
shrine architecture was the
Pillar tomb style while the North
predominantly built structures consisting of domes and square plans.
Sebilj is a pseudo-Ottoman style wooden fountain in the centre of
Baščaršija square in Sarajevo, Bosnia.
Common interpretations of
Islamic architecture include the following:
The concept of God or Allah's infinite power is evoked by designs with
repeating themes which suggest infinity. Human and animal forms are
rarely depicted in decorative art as God's work is considered to be
Foliage is a frequent motif but typically stylized or
simplified for the same reason.
Arabic Calligraphy is used to enhance
the interior of a building by providing quotations from the Qur'an.
Islamic architecture has been called the "architecture of the veil"
because the beauty lies in the inner spaces (courtyards and rooms)
which are not visible from the outside (street view). Furthermore, the
use of grandiose forms such as large domes, towering minarets, and
large courtyards are intended to convey power.
Contemporary Muslim architects
Kamran Afshar Naderi
T.Abdul Hussain Thariani
Nayyar Ali Dada
Habib Fida Ali
Archnet, database of
Bibi Ka Maqbara
Bibi Ka Maqbara also known as mini-Tajmahal
City of Gates
City of Gates The City of Aurangabad with various gates showing
Sebil (drinking water facility)
Palace in Hyderabad
Charminar at Old City in Hyderabad
Petronas Twin Towers
Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Baiturrahman Grand Mosque, Indonesia, with Mughal and Dutch Colonial
Masjid Agung Palembang, Indonesia, with Chinese influence.
Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan
Intricate pattern on the Window of
Syedna Hatim Rauza
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^ Fletcher, Banister A History of Architecture on the Comparative
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ARCHITECTURE OF ISLAM by Takeo Kamiya (Half in English and half in
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