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The Study Of Delhi Mosque Architecture History Essay


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"Philosophically, the whole Earth is a mosque and by this principle namaz (prayer) will be complete wherever performed". Initially there was no specific building to spread the message of Islam. The Muslim Arabs, being nomads, had a minimum approach and preclude the use of permanent buildings and everything they possessed had to be demountable and portable. Thus there was no specific edifice as such. Only a square area marked out by a line drawn in the sand was sufficient for communal prayer. The only basic necessity was that one side of the square had to face Mecca to indicate the direction of the prayer.

Knowing the importance of the mosque to the religion of Islam today it is quite surprising to hear the ironic story behind its evolution. From the start, monotheistic religions like Islam were opposed to the idea of building specially designed to house the faithful for prayer.

The mosques (literally meaning place of prostration), are the Centre of religious life throughout the Muslim World and develops as one of the major forms of religious architecture. In one of its most evolved forms, it has one or more minarets, arches, domes and is often decorated with elaborate tracery and Arabic calligraphy from the Koran. The evolved mosque forms are known to be some of the finest structures in Islamic architecture. The mosque is the only building type, which has spread throughout the entire Muslim world, from the beginning of the religion in 610 A.D.

A mosque is a building, where Muslims congregate to pray. Mosques can be small, at a neighborhood scale or large, at the town/ city level. Such as a neighborhood mosque or they can be large and used by Muslims of a large town, or city. The large mosque is called a Jami Mosque. Jami means Juma or Friday. All Muslims are required to pray together every Friday at midday and the large mosques were constructed for this purpose. Mosque is used for worship usually for which there is a hall and open court, but could also have other functions like that of a Madarsa, a school for education and a community center. It consists of many architectural elements like, minaret, arch, dome, color, calligraphy and other decorative forms ornamenting the surfaces.

Like all other liturgical edifice, the mosque has a standardized assembly of components, which vary in accordance with the size of the prayer (i.e. whether it's for prayer for an individual or congregation-small/ large). There is a demarcated space, partly roofed and partly open to sky, varying in size and form, from region to region depending on the harshness of the climate. The roofed part is the prayer hall, rectangular or square in plan, supported by a trabeated structure or arcuated structure.

The Prayer hall must have one wall facing Mecca (Qibla wall) with a niche or series of niches (Mihrab), which is the central and most decorated part of every mosque. The pulpit (Minbar) consisting of steps of varying height is stationed to the right of the mihrab and the imam during Friday prayer delivers the oration (Khutba) from it. The minbar is however absent in smaller mosques. A wooden platform (dikha) of single storey height is positioned in line with the Mihrab. From there the respondents (qadi) of the mosque repeat the ritual postures of the imam and give their response. Next to the Dikha, the lectern (kursi) is placed on which the Quran rests.

Another most necessary feature of many mosques is the water pool or fountain intended for the prescribed ritual of ablutions (wazu) before the prayer. The five times daily call for prayer (azan) is heard from the minaret, a tower like structure, originally serving as more of a local landmark. A portal is created as a general characteristic of the architecture of the Islamic world as the concealment of the interiors of a building from outside view. Thus, most mosques are surrounded by high walls.

With reference to architectural elaboration, the art of writing is taken to higher level of visual expression in mosque architecture. Certain calligraphic scripts are used in the Qibla wall and direct focus, helping substantiate the religious importance of the mosque. The writing often quotes from the Quran or is information about the builder of the mosque.

Another mode is geometric patterns and vegetal forms used in screens (jali) and as surface ornamentation. Geometric patterns result from taking a simple form and replicating/ extending it in various directions to arrive at the final. The patterns in their dizzying and unending configurations connote unity in God.

In the present time, modern mosques designs have been modified as per newer technologies and ease of building construction. The size of mosque has been decreasing due to lack of space in cities. The main components of the mosque have been reduced and elements have lost their original meaning and serve as symbols. The geometric patterns rich with meaning are devalued to mere decoration.

The architecture of mosque has been changing to modern, to contemporary but to what end?

1.2 Research Question:

How did local/ regional/ vernacular architecture affect mosque architecture in the past and how/ why does the contemporary mosque differ from the traditional mosque?


In modern society the mosque served as the single most important visible representation of identity and value. More mosques are being built today than any other liturgical edifice of any other religion. However for a structure representing one religion and a specific body of people, it is odd that it should be so varied in style and divergent in beauty. The reason for this lies in the mosque located in different parts of the world representing different perspectives of different clients. Each mosque is differing in traditions, climate, building materials, local condition of nature and diverse aesthetic and social requirements.

As a student of architecture and representing a Muslim region from India, I share a keen interest in Islamic Architecture. And since the mosque lies at the very heart of Islamic architecture, there is a feeling of even a greater need to study this specific structure. Due to time and space constraints, there are certain limitations; hence, I will focus on contemporary Mosques Delhi regions as primary case studies.

The architecture of the modern mosque is much at variant when compared with the mosque of the past due to globalization, advanced technology, tendency to go towards the sky due to lack of ground space, the use of architectural elements as symbols and reduction of patterns as surface decorations.


To trace the development and follow along the different established types of mosques, starting from Early Islamic period in the 7th century times.

To identify the basic principles behind the specific vocabulary of the mosque.

To study symbolic and functional attributes of the mosque and its evolution.

To study various differences in space configuration, built expression, material, elements /components and technology between modern and traditional mosque.


This dissertation is not intended as a historical survey of Islamic mosque architecture and therefore does not include all the fine monuments, which exist. The origin and development of the mosque would be understood only to get the bearings right to analyze contemporary examples. The general history of the advent of Islam in Arab, India and the mosque forms that evolve henceforth would be discussed briefly to build a context.

From vernacular mosque form, the shift is to, what is built now- what is the vernacular of today? And hence what happens to the mosque and is the use of symbols necessary to be able to identify the building as a mosque?


It is not possible to study all the mosque architecture of all Islamic regions under the given time frame. Therefore, the study is limited to mosques in India focusing on the Northern region with a brief study of the contemporary mosque outside India.

As result of time and space constraints, mosques of the entire Indian sub-continent will not be discussed in detail but only to form the overall context, with brief analysis of mosques of the South, East, West, and North. Detail account of the history of the one region is beyond the scope of this dissertation, thus only relevant pieces of their history will be mentioned.

The focus will be on selected mosques, which reflect the most prototypical form of particular periods of the respective region. Thus, only a few mosques will be discussed which act as indicators of that particular architectural form.


The first step is to analyze the topic and define what direction this dissertation takes, and what the author wants to come up with at the end of it, the end result may be documentation, a detailed analysis, or a set of solutions. The regions selected for the study are not easily accessible and this dissertation will rely mainly on literature survey from secondary sources rather that from primary data for major sections of the work.

Primary data would be collected through site visits limited to mosques in Delhi and discussion with experts. Secondary sources include literature survey.

Literature Survey:

This involves data collection, reading and understanding literature from various sources like SPA (New Delhi) libraries, Jamia Milla Islamia Architecture library and the internet. Analysis of nature of open spaces, the role of open spaces in the mosque and role of closed spaces is understood. After the collation process, the next stage would be, systematic representation of data.

Interaction With Experts

This involves opinion of various architects, discussion about what is happening in India and exposure to other related issues, along with discussion on primary case studies. Identifying issues, discussion on various issues and analyzing their opinion would be the major tasks.

Primary Data collection

Methodology for the study of Delhi mosque architecture:

A brief account of the mosque architecture in Delhi is essential to contextualize the primary studies, as these were the immediate references for what is happening now. The first mosque developed in 11th century in Delhi by the Slave dynasty. Each changing phase will be studied by taking the significant mosque of that period. Though a personal visit would be made to these sites, information will be obtained through literature survey also. The mosques of contemporary times would be the primary study, with a complete analysis of the determinants of form. The process for case studies:

Selection of case studies of new mosque buildings.

Collection of information- basic plan and maps showing site surrounding areas, site boundaries, built mass and visual readings of mosque as landmark, materiality and building elements.

Analysis of the chosen case studies.

IV. Survey methodology for case studies

Few case studies of contemporary mosques of Delhi are considered- one is under construction and the other mosques have been in use for considerable amount of time. This dissertation includes survey through discussion with the people who are users of the mosque.

The drawing and other important data would be collected from the architect's office. All photographs are taken at the site.

After doing all case studies conclusion are drawn and recommendations are made for design strategies of the future mosque architecture.

With the help of three examples of mosques, which are built in different time periods, I want to illustrate that architecture of mosques is in a process of complete transformation because global culture and technology is constantly affecting it, along with highlighting what helps maintain its identity.

V. Analysis of case studies

The case study is analyzed as per following:

Built /open spatial - spatial configuration (arising from basic needs of religion itself)

Purpose and use of space.

Visual expression of mosque- includes massing, elements, surface elaboration and materiality.

Chapter - 2 EARLY ISLAM


Islam began in Arabia, where the revelation was first received by the Prophet, but spread rapidly among the Persians and Black Africans, and soon thereafter among Turks, Chinese, Indians, and many other ethnic groups.

Muhammad was born in the city of Mecca in 570 CE. At the time, people were busy with their business, markets were crowded with nomads and residents alike, buying and selling goods. His parents died when he was 6 years old. He cared for by his grandfather, and uncle, Abu Talib and eventually became head of the Hashim clan.

Young Muhammad was a camel driver and roamed the peninsula with his uncle, to know about various cultures and religions including Christianity and Judaism. As idol worship had come to dominate Mecca, this contact turned out to be significant for later times. The Ka'bah itself housed many idols, including those representing the three main goddesses.

He continued travelling in Arabia, encountering different faiths and customs, but riches did not satisfy Muhammad and he developed enemies in Mecca. Therefore, he decided to leave Mecca. And he started a journey. This journey was known as the Hijri.

Muhammad arrived in Medina as the new leader, bearing tremendous responsibilities. While receiving communication from God and teaching his devotees, he had to protect Islam from opposition and find a peaceful solution to the local feuds. He was able to unite the feuding clans through his teachings - the Jewish and Muslims prayed together.

First time the prayer was read in the direction of Jerusalem, and after some years the prayer was read towards Mecca instead of Medina, as Muhammad instructed. For this reason some followers turned against Muhammad, and they created a separate group. Violence erupted, ending in the expulsion of some Jewish tribes from Medina.

He established a new community with his followers and began raiding caravans bound for Mecca. These kinds of raids were not uncommon at the time, and they provided sustenance for the Muslims. This angered the Meccans, and a series of battles followed. Despite a few setbacks, the Muslims gained power and recognition. After destroying or converting his tribal enemies, Muhammad controlled the entire Arabian Peninsula.

Finally, in 629 CE, Mecca submitted to the Muslims. Muhammad entered the city and headed directly to the Ka'bah. After circling it seven times, he smashed the stone idols. He spoke of the oneness of God, or Allah, and proclaimed himself a prophet.

The spread of Islam occurred in waves. In less than a century after the establishment of the first Islamic society in Medina by the Prophet, Arab armies conquered a land stretching from the Indus River to France and brought with them Islam, which, contrary to popular Western conceptions, was not, however, forced on the people by the sword.

Periods of Islamic history

Mosques were built outside the Arabian Peninsula as Muslims settled in other parts of the world. Egypt became occupied by Muslim Arabs as early as 640 AD. Islamic architectural history can be roughly divided in to three main periods, during which one or more traditions were dominant: the Early Islamic (650-1050), which may be called the age of Arab Dominance; the middle Islamic (1050-1450), the age of Iranian Dominance; and the later Islamic (1450-1850), the age of Turkish and Indian Dominance.

2.2 Origin and evolution of mosque


It is a strange face of history that the Muslim tradition of architecture, productive of some of the world's outstanding monuments, was first patronized by a people, the Arabs, who had none but the crudest notions of building. For them the finest architecture was a tent. In the starting of Islam, the Kaaba had only four walls in 608. In the age of the orthodox Caliphs (632-661), the eras brought nothing architectural to the conquered countries beyond what would serve their orthodoxy than by their taste. The building of their time ware utilitarian, without architectural pretense, and consisted of mosques (Basra, 638-639; kufa, 638-639; and fustat, 642) and government buildings.

The first mosque was built in Mecca. This area was surrounded by pre Islamic buildings. The Kaaba mosque is the holiest structure of Islam. The earliest mosque is Prophet Mohammad house in Medina which was built in 622CE. This qibla wall was facing toward the direction of Jerusalem. Mohammad house is situated left side of the qibla wall. There were three entrances into the courtyard. The courtyard area was roofed, and the prayer was performed here. After one or one and half years, the qibla wall direction was changed, and was made to face in the direction of Mecca, as it is today.

The Medina mosque had social, political and judicial functions, in addition to being the house of the Mohammad family. The religious functions were merged with other functions. Rules of the performing prayer were not decided that time. And in the Koran, the rules had not been given till now.

In addition to early mosques of Medina and Mecca, now the cities have contemporary mosques, which are more complex as per the demands and needs of the people and their religion.

After the death of Muhammad, mosques became important symbols of Islam. The Muslim conquerors established mosques everywhere. They built the mosque first and later built the military camp around the mosque. The Muslim conquered Medina or Mecca city and constructed mosque in the place. This became the center of the region of Muslim conquered people. Muhammad's house was divided into hall and courtyard, which was surrounded by the columned verandah. This was an ideal mosque where the faithful conjunct for prayer, but also one for social assembly and political deliberation. A building without architectural pretensions, it was a hypo style hall and was deep, apparently having three aisles, divided by three rows of nine columns each. The most significant aspect this house offers to Islamic architecture of later was that it provided the orientation (Qibla) of praying area towards the sacred city of Mecca.


The Masjid as a type of architecture intended for congregational prayer did not exist at Mecca before the hijra. In Medina, the stronghold of Islam, however, the two concepts of Musalla and Masjid came to receive distinct interpretations. The controversy among the traditionalists over the performance of prayer in either the Musalla or the Masjid was surrounded around the fact that they were structurally different.

Kaaba mosque was the first newly built mosque of Islam and Abraham assisted by his son Ismail, when he found the order of Allah, built the existing foundation. They performed prayers together with their followers at this site. The site of Kaaba was also believed to be place of angles of Adam, erected by Allah and used for worship.

The orthodox Caliph leaders were succeeded by the caliph dynasty of the Umayyads (661-750), who were held by many Muslims to be upstarts. After this the philistine people started the taunt type structure. The kaaba was rebuilt in 684 AD and was decorated with mosaic marble, which was collected from Yemen churches. Iranian architectural elements were also used in the building.

The location of the mosque was decided by Prophet Muhammad when he did the first time Friday prayer there. He lived beside the masjid in Medina, which was use as doubled purpose as both a religious and political center for the early Muslim community.

The Umayyad Mosque is an example of the form of mosque derived from the Prophet's house, and was built in (705-715) in Damascus. In the 10th century, different types of mosque started to develop because of influences of local traditional material and techniques of building. Distinctively different types of mosque developed in the different countries.

Mosques are usually ornamented with stone, marble, wood carving, patterned brick, mosaic, glass, murals. Contemporary mosques are built using new technologies of construction, and are adopted in most parts of the world, but it is remains traditional in layout.

When Islam spreads out of the deserts of Saudi Arabia and into the cities like Damascus and Cairo, the rapidly expanding Muslims population required house for worship to meet their spiritual and social requirements. The mosques that followed are innovative and magnificent examples of architecture, original in their own way with reminensces of their culture.

2.3 Concept of mosque

The Space: The mosque comprises of a demarcated space, partly roofed and partly open to sky. This proportion of covered and open space varies from region to region depending on the harshness of the climate. The open space is a court used for performing prayers for large gatherings on occasions.

Local community mosque

Chapter 3 Local culture and Variation in the Mosque

3.1 Vernacular variation across the World

The Islamic world extents its boundary from Spain and West Africa eastwards to as far as China, in south- East Asia. It is therefore not surprising to hear that Muslims comprise around one fifth of the world population and constitute a majority of more than forty nations of the Middle East Asia and Africa. Islam holds a strong position in the world. The religion must not only be powerful by faith and logic but also have charm and beauty to attract such an immense audience to brace the religion and look upon it with awe. There is no other more suitable edifice to depict this elegance and act as symbol of the religion as well as the mosque.

In the early day, Islam borrowed features from existing religious and cultural buildings. They gave them harmony with the existing and yet originality and proved beyond doubt that Islamic leaders not only possess the power of assimilation, but that of organization and adaptability as well. These borrowed styles were recognizable at first but the new styles that evolved started forming their own architectural identity and style.

In the various new lands, the mosques were built by exploring local traditions and materials available. Each region had with its own craftsmen, their own building methods. Combined with extreme differences in climate, this gave rise to highly disparate styles and each region introduced to the world a diverse style of architecture of their own. Thus it is seen that despite an essential feeling of cultural unity which pervades the entire Islamic world, there exists an investable diversity in the styles of architecture of each region.

Generally, the Islamic world had divide in to the eastern and the western regions where one gets influenced by the other. The eastern part of the Muslim world looks to the Persian Language and culture for inspiration. Iran was one of regions which is covered vast area including Central Asia and Afghanistan and spread into the Indian. Initially Iran had accepted Western architectural forms and stemming from Arab style. However with the emergence of local dynasties awareness was created.

These divergent styles may be categorized in to five basic types of mosque. These are

1.the hypostyle hall with a flat roof and possibly one or more small domes (as seen in Arabian and African Examples)

2. Building with a very large central space often covered by massive domes provided with lateral support by the weight of hall domes (such as those in the Ottoman style) or having pyramidal pitched roof (as in Indonesia)

3. The layout with an Iwan (vaulted hall) placed each side of a bi-axially divided central rectangular courtyard (as developed in Iran and Central Asia)

4. The triple - domed mosque with courtyard (typical of Mughal architecture in India).

5. And finally the walled Complex with a number of pavilions set in the enclosed landscaped spaces (as found in China).



Case study of vernacular mosque

1. Great mosque of Djenne in Mali, Africa. Economical Approach (Regional Resources) -1907

The Djenne mosque of Africa is the largest mud brick mosque of the world. This is the famous mosque of Africa and boasts of impressive mud structures.

Mud construction is a friendly environment material.

Mud is appropriate according to the climate and is less expensive to build with, as it is locally available.

Easy construction to create mud mortar and plaster. Palm wood use for the scaffolding and roofs. The walls are thick in size and tapered and provide protection from heat.

During the day, the wall absorbed the heat of the sun that is released throughout the night time; this helps to maintaining cool environment during the day time.

It also has roofs vents with ceramic cover, which is removed at night to ventilate the interior parts and spaces.

2. Traditional Kampung Hulu Mosque, Malaysia - (1728AD)

The traditional mosque design of south- East Asia has inspired the simple pyramidal layered roof, which becomes an important element of design. It relies on the roof over hangs with open serambi and the recessed walls to respond to local climate - high rain fall ƒ  excellent rain water discharge.

Wall openings are crucial in the mosque design. The wall openings are at the ground floor and segmented roof's wall level of four-and-a-half storey building. These openings induce natural cross ventilation and stack effect. The emphasis is on cross air ventilation.

Recessed wall help tackle the problem of direct exposure from tropical sunlight, luminosity, solar radiation and this concept only works well to block high angle sunlight but not low angle sunlight.


Islam arrived in India via the Malabar Coast in 600 AD. It was just about the same time that it was spreading into Arabia. This is not surprising, considering the proximity of the two coastline trade links from pre-Islamic times. Arab merchants traded Indian spice with other parts of the known world. A number of them set up households in the Malabar as well, and it is through them that Islam was introduced into the Indian subcontinent.

According to the legend, Malik-ibn Dinar- Mohammad's message reached king Crangannur in AD 642-643 on Hijri 22, and the Chera king, Cheraman Perumal to accept Islam.

Malik-Ibn-Dinar built the first mosque there. This was followed by eleven more along the coast. These mosques are some of the oldest to be established, not only India but within the Islamic world.

South India

Kerala Mosques


Kerala is in the middle of a mosque-building boom. Proposals for new mosques and the redevelopment of older structures have consequences on the urban landscape of this west coast state. Pan- Indian and pan- global influences sweeping across Kerala fuelled by migration to the rest of India and abroad may be the reason for this activity.

Traditional mosque of Kerala (vernacular mosque)

The traditional mosques in Kerala are different from those in the imperial and provincial Indo- Islamic architecture. In Kerala built form of the mosque derived enough from local domestic building traditions. In traditional dwellings like Nalaketts, the concerns of torrential rain and the need for the ventilation found expression in remarkable roof and wall elements, executed in abundantly available timber. In Kerala, the temple, churches and the Mosque (palli) take from the local architecture evolved from local climate, materials. The mosque was constructed under the guidance of religious leaders whose requirements were functional and simple, using the model of existing places of worship.

A traditional mosque in the Malabar comprises of a rectangular prayer hall with a mihrab on the western wall (qibla) and enclosed verandah on the sides that serve as spill over space. A front verandah facing the street becomes a space that often leads to a front hall preceding the main prayer hall. An ablution tank is accommodated on one side. The entire structure is raised on a high plinth/ base, similar to the adhisthana of a temple. The tiled roof has elaborate covered gables. The structural system for the hall is of timber posts, beams, and brackets and often the columns are square or octagonal as in the temple mandapa pillar. Nakhudas or ship builders sculpted the mimbars in many Mosques, representing the very best skills in wood-carving.

Mishkaal mosque - Kuttichira

Most of the Malabar mosques built in the 6th centuries are in Kozhikoda(Kalikat), Mallapuram, Thalassery and cochin. This time the basic building construction material was bamboo. A brief case study of two mosques in Kuttichira, a Mappila neighborhood in Kozhikode is presented here.

In Kuttichira, centered on the sacred Kuttichira tankand all mosque of Kuttichira was construced with local timber material. Miskaal palli mosque is having a largest rectangular hall and tiled roofs at fourth levels- housing subsidiary space. The existing building is dated as 1578. It sits in close association with the tank. Not very far is the Jamaat Palli, the Friday mosque, on the other side of the tank. This is smaller in size and at am awkward angle to the narrow street, proclaiming an exact orientation to Mecca. Its front porch is marked by the heavily carved gable; matched by an exquisite timber ceiling, with floral, geometric and calligraphic motifs. It has two light wells, one over the ablution tank and another in side in the prayer hall. The forms of light wells remind us of the four sides. The oldest inscription in the mosque dates from 1480-81 covered on a wooden lintel on the ante chamber.


This is the first and oldest mosque of India. The first renovation of the mosque was completed in the 11th century. And later in 1974, the masjid president P.A. Mohammed Sayed added the extension, after demolishing the front portion of the old mosque during renovation. The oldest part of the mosque, including the sanction sanctorum, was left untouched. It was renovated again in 1996 and 2003, by adding extension to accommodate more capacity of 3000 people. While the oldest part will be restored, the desire for a grand size still remains.

surrounded by shops and homes. And a community institution is situated within the building.


The original structure did not look like the mosques of the west and rather resembles vernacular buildings. This was double stored with sloping tiled thatched roof. This mosque also does not not look like the mosques of north India, with no calligraphy used on the wall and no minarets found with the mosque. The entrance gate is very simple and inviting.

The main room is part of the original structure. This is a very small area for the mosque. Only 15 people can stand in a single row for prayer. The main room was built with old timber, with a big brass lamp hanging from the roof, which may have been a Hindu temple lamp.

West -



This is the vernacular mosque of Ahmedabad.it is made of yellow sand stone.This is the oldest mosque of Ahmedabad, built during in 1424 the reign of Ahmad Shah. This mosque is laying in the Mahatma Gandhi Road of teen Darwaza, in old part of the city. The mosque was probably largest mosque of Indian subcontinent. The major designed plan was desired by the emperor Sultan Ahmed Shah. The mosque is located south of the processional axis that runs from the Maidan -i-shah at the door with three arches.

The masjid is a blend of Jain, Hindu and Islamic architecture which is evident of from the carving of kalash and bells are usually seen in Hindu temples and lotus usually seen in the Jain temples.


hahi Jam-e-Masjid, Ahmedaba'- Royal Family of Ahmed Shah Badsha's performed prayer here. Ahmedshah Old jama Masjid, among the medieval mosques and tombs is remaining in Ahmadabad. Aḥmed Shah and his successors ordered the dismantling and adaptation of Hindu temples in order to build mosques. The all mosque was designed in mix type of architecture. This mosque was design for the prayer. And in the present time it is a good place for visitor. It easily accommodates 3000 worshipers in its courtyard

Open and built space

The mosque is divided two parts-(i) open courtyard and close prayer hall.

Open courtyard

Built over many years, the mosque complex is centered on a vast paved courtyard

he wide open courtyard, floored with white marble, which is about 75mt x 66mt wide. It is ringed by a colonnade painted with giant Arabic calligraphy.The mosque and arcades are built of beautiful yellow sandstone and carved with the intricate details. The courtyard is entered from three gateways, one at the center of each side. There is a long rectangular ablution tank in the center. It is wrapped by a colonnade on three sides, with the prayer hall occupying the western side

Prayer hall

The prayer room is also rectangular and covered by four domes. In its Indo-Saracenic architecture, the mosque also contains many syncretic elements not necessarily obvious to the viewer: some of the central domes are carved like lotus flowers, closely related to the typical domes of Jain temples; and some of the pillars are carved with the form of a bell hanging on a chain, in reference to the bells that often hang in Hindu temples.

It is a platform standing on pillars and enclosed up to the roof with beautiful stone work. The whole mosque is supported on two hundred and sixty columns. This space divided into fifteen bays, each with a dome and decorated mihrab along the qibla wall. Its courtyard façade has a stepped roof line, with a tall portal at its center. The north and south chambers are the lowest, which are open onto the courtyard through five pillared bays of unequal size. The taller central chamber is flanked by two shorter archways and is entered from the tall arched portal with a final bearing dome. Perforated stone screens are pierced into the pillars of the two framing bays. The portal is framed by two columns, which are the remains of two lofty minarets ("shaking minarets") whose shafts were destroyed by the earthquakes of 1819 and 1957.

Visual elements-

Some of visual element has found in this mosque. But we cannot say that this is the pure element of Islamic architecture. There are different type of elements have used in the mosque, which is from Hindu and Jain architecture.


The mosque is having 15 big and 56 small domes, which is supported on the stone pillars. The interiors of the domes are intricately in beautiful design.


The stone cut work is shown in the windows, the radiance of the sunlight filters in and light up the prayer place.


It is having 2 principle minarets flanking the main arched entranceway. It was collapsed in the 1819 earthquake, the lower portion still stand.

Surface Elaboration- the whole building is made up of yellow sand stone. The structure is supported on stone column. The qibla is well adorned.it is finish with calligraphy and floral patterns.



Kapurthala is a district of Punjab. It had a Sikh ruler with a heterogeneous population that comprised predominately Muslims and Hindu with Sikhs in a minority. Maharaja Jagatjit Singh commissioned the mosque in 1917 AD. The Kapurthala mosque was based on an imported Maghribi model of the Mediterranean region of North Africa notably Algeria and Morocco.

Maharaja Jagatjit wanted to build a large mosque which was the different from other Indian mosques and asked his team to survey the Qutubia Mosque of Marrakech. In the display of remarkable internationalism, Maharaja Jagatjit Singh did not merely reject conventionalism in the mosque's architectural conception, but also hired an architect of European origin to design a religious building of Islam in Kapurthala. During the course of his travel to Paris, and he was inspired by a French Jami mosque Marrakech's Qutubia Mosque which was designed by the Architect Messieurs Manteaux, who was hired to do the Kapurthala mosque.

The Kapurthala Jami Mosque was commissioned in 20th century with construction commencing in 1927 and supervised by an Indian engineer, Lata Lekh raj. The construction cost was four lakh rupees. The total site was 8 acres and included besides the mosque proper, a garden and orchards of citrus fruits and peached that contributed some revenue for the sites upkeep. The Jami mosque was consecrated in a grand ceremony held on March 14, 1930 in the presence of large congregation with the maharaja in attendance and the ruler of Bhawalpur state.

This mosque is a brilliant master piece of Moorish style architecture. The mosque has a large marble paved compound with a landscaped garden. Beyond the garden stood the mosque, its flat roof line much like its archetype, broken by the tall square minarets to the north. The entire structure was raised on a plinth and accessed by a wide flight of steps placed centrally in the eastern face. The whole mosque was textured with calligraphy inscription and stucco. The entrance has two symmetrically arranged small courtyards, each with a pool and the Sahn. The sahn is projecting east and west side of the end of it, recalling the entrance, each also serving as ancillary entrance with an ached cloister and flights of steps with a central panel articulated with an arched niche and ablution through. Both projecting bays were provided with a marble basin and flanking pools sunk into the floor for ritualistic ablutions. These submitted for the `ablution pool that usually formed the Sahn's centrepiece in the Subcontinent mosque. After the confining the ablutions to the sided, the entire Sahn could be utilized for prayer. Water for the pools came from a nearby well.

Shallow pitched roofs with glazed clay tile was use in the entire structure, similar to the Mediterranean character, with a cloister finished with a blue green surface. The mosque walls are finished with decorative, corbelled and stucco. The sanctuary has fenestrations in the Qibla wall flanking the Mehrab symmetrically with ornamentation confined to the latter. Two doorways at the both ends of the shorter sanctuary wall opened into a small courtyard provide with eight pointed star pool and fountain. The patterns were designed by the students of Mayo College of Architecture. The Mihrab bay is crowned with an octagonal pyramidal roof. Internal finishing was done with timber and resting on a drum pierced with openings three to a side, to let a light. Externally the pyramidal roofs and the minarets roofs were topped by finials designed as three spheres of diminishing size that recalled the finial crowning of the Qutubiya Mosque. This mosque has a singular minaret rising from a square plan recalling the bulkiness of the original and pierced with small openings framed by ornamental bands. Post -independence the mosque lost its worshippers, as large numbers of Muslims have migrated to Pakistan.

This mosque represents a significant endeavour of seeking inspiration for religious architecture beyond the subcontinents.

40. Moorish mosque garden side view

Aali Masjid Srinagar

This is the second largest mosque of Sri Nagar. This mosque is done in the vernacular building methods of Srinagar. This mosque was constructed by the Sultan Hassan Shah in 1471 AD. The building was substantially renovated by the Mughal emperor of Kashmir Ali Mardan Khan and expanded during the region of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. There after the structure got burnt in 1801. The traditional birchbark roof of the mosque was changed to three tier CGI roof under the super vision of sir John Marshal of the Imperial British ASI.

This mosque is now under INTACH and is a heritage mosque of Srinagar. The mosque is one of the best examples of vernacular timber architecture of Kashmir and it has a rich historical background. The history of mosque corresponds to four political periods of Sultanate, Mughals, Afghans and the Dogra period.

The structure is the largest existing historic mosque constructed within the premises of a Eidgah in any part of the Islamic world. This double storeyed building shows a synthesis between central Asian and local traditions of wooden architecture. The area of mosque is 1844 sq.m. The ceiling over the hall and dalan is supported on 151 deodar column. This mosque does not have a minaret. A small domical structure is used in the main entrance of the mosque for the azan. There are chattries on all corners of the mosque and arch shaped wooden windows for the ventilation.

Full height window


Adina mosque of west Bengal

This is one of the vernacular mosques of the west Bengal region and is the largest and most important Muslim building within the state. According to the inscription the mosque back wall was built in 1373 AD by Sikanda Shah Son of Ilyas Shah. When the new Muslim capital was established in Pandua, the ruler Sikandar Shah (1358-89) the second of the Ilyas shahi dynasty adopted the traditional procedure of building a congregational mosque as its focal point, which he began in 1364.

The Adina mosque confirms to the time honoured rectangular plan, demonstrated by great mosque of Damascus (8th century). The mosque cover rectangle of 507ftx285ft (155m.x 87m.) and contain with in it a huge courtyard measuring 400ft. x 154ft. (122m. x 47m.)2. The longer side of the court face the west. The three and face aisled enclosures around the courtyard are supported over some 260 pillars of basalt and when complete was roofed over with no less than 378 brick domes. The 12 mt. wide cloister on the north, south and east of the courtyard are three aisles deep. The prayer chamber is having 5 chambers and it is 24 m in breadth and is approximately 18 m in height, and is now fallen.

The prayer chamber opens onto a courtyard surrounded on the north, east and south sides by a covered verandah. It is divided into two symmetrical wings by a central chamber, originally covered with a pointed barrel vault.

Barrel vaulting over the central bay allowed for an unimpeded view of the magnificent central mihrab area. This qibla wall is faced with dressed black basalt to three quarters of its height, the remaining portion is brick. In the centre of the wall, there is a large mihrab and a minbar. The Mihrabs on the prayer chamber's side wings are made of recessed niches. The predominant motifs of the ornamentation in the central mihrab wall are interlocking designs; decorative frieze, lotus medallions, triangular tympana and Arabic inscription. At the south west corner three of the archways are open to the outside and constitute the main entrance. There are three other entrances in the western wall towards its north ends. The exterior western wall is the best preserved, the bottom half is stone- faced and the top is brick embellished with brick relief work in niches. The domes was supported on pendentives and is also fallen. This mosque is divided in the nave and aisles. The nave is higher than the cloisters and is covered with a barrel vault roof. The upper story is of stone platform. A beautiful ornamental piece of architecture within the nave to its northwest corner and on the right side of the principle mihrab, a stone pulpit covered by a hooded part speaks of the delicacy of the artisans work.

The mosque is now in ruins. The only parts of it that withstood the test of the time are the segments of the west wall, including the back of the vaulted portal. The subject matters of other non- calligraphic surface ornamentation are vegetable motifs of local variety, rosettes, and abstract arabesque designs, geometrical patterning and designs of indescribable complexities.

It may be presumed that the Adina Mosque was a unique architectural experiment of its kind. Never to be repeated in the Bengal Muslim architecture.

Chapter 4 Elements of mosque


The common practice of building minarets was initiated mainly to make it visible in a settlement so that the people can know where the mosque is situated. And symbolically the present mosques have minarets may be to represent the faith of local populace. The minarets were used for call of azan. Early mosque did not have minarets; the azan was called from any high point of the mosque. Minarets are always attached or separate to the mosque. They vary in height, style and decoration. Minarets may be round, circle, octagonal and are usually covered with a domical structure. Every mosque is having one or more minarets. In modern times, microphones and speaker often used for the azan. Minarets remain common elements in mosque architecture throughout the world and design of minarets depend on the local climate, material, heritage, and the Muslim community.

4.2 Dome

It is generally recognized that dome may be found in any Islamic building in single or multiple and is a significant feature in Islamic architecture. The dome evolved into many different shapes and size in different places. Mosques were roofed with a dome from very early time. The dome is always placed on the top of the prayer hall. Dome allows for a very large space without using any columns in the prayer hall. Although domes normally took on the shapes of a hemisphere, the Mughal people had used the South Asian onion shape dome. Some of mosques have multiple domes in the large central space. This architectural element has no spiritual or symbolic significance in Islam, and is used for purely functional aspect, as it covers large roof span and also provide sense of grandeur to the mosque. The interior of a dome is usually highly decorated with geometrical, floral and other patterns.

4.3 Arch

It was a common practice of making arches in the mosque from a very early period. An Arch is capable of bearing more load than a horizontal beam in the same size and same material. It was used purely for functional purposes in mosque to provide large arcaded openings for proper light and ventilation. It is a basic element that appear in various forms ranging from pointed to four centered arch in the mosques worldwide.

4.4 Development of Elements

There are various factors, which are responsible for the development of these elements in mosque architecture.





Technology & materials

4.4a) Function

This is an important aspect for the development of minarets, domes and arches in the mosque. The minarets were used to give call for prayer (azan) in the absence of microphones and loudspeaker, whereas the domes were developed to provide larger clear spans for the roof without any column in between. Domes help in lowering down the temperature of the insides space in mosque. It also helps to stop the reverberation and echoes in the prayer hall. Arches were used to provide openings in the colonnaded verandahs and support the heavy load of the walls and roof above it. They also provide proper light and ventilation to the prayer hall.

4.4. B) Icon

Earlier the mosques were treated as iconic structures and were mostly constructed by the royal people. There were very few mosques in a city or town and were developed by the kings and their personality is depicted in these structure, that is the reason most of the mosque were monumental in scale with huge minarets and domes. There are series of arcades in the verandahs on east, north and south side. While the western side is having the prayer hall with a huge arcaded verandah in front of a central 'iwan' in most of the early mosques.

4.4. C) Aesthetic

Since the royals developed the buildings, huge amounts of resources was involved in the construction of mosques. The focus was on the grandeur, aesthetics and beauty of these structures. The size of the minarets and domes was such that they can be seen from a longer distance. Many forms of arches were used in the mosques worldwide depending upon the regional development. Mughals have used four centered and multi foil arches in most of their mosques in northern India. The arches have delicate carving in them while the minarets and domes were having beautiful flutes with gold or brass finial at the top.

D) Space

As mentioned earlier the mosque were developed but the royal people, therefore the availability of land space was never an issue. They built in large spaces with huge central courts having tank in the centre for ablution (wazu). The domes, minarets and arches were in the monumental scale to match the scale of the site.

4.4. E) Technology & materials

The early mosques were constructed with arcaded style of construction with arches supporting the load of walls and roof. The jack arch or vaulted roof was used in the construction of mosques and the central portion of the mosques was covered with domical roofs, with squinches supporting the dome. In some mosques domes of smaller size were also used on the either side of the central bigger dome. The spiral staircases were constructed in the minarets to climb up. Lime mortar was used in both brick and some masonry and lime plaster was done above it.

4.5. Cause of elimination of elements from mosque

Functional Modification

Budgetary constrains

Land crisis

Modern technology & materials

Lack of traditional knowledge system

4.5a) Functional modification

With the advancement in technology, the use of microphones and loudspeakers has eliminated the minarets from mosques and the mizzen (person who call for prayer) simply calls (Azan) with the help of mike and loudspeaker. Big minarets have converted into small and sleek minarets "purely symbolic" which are slowly getting eliminated from the mosque. The dome and arches have gone away from the mosque long ago due the change of the construction technology and materials.

4.5b) Budgetary constrains: - Money is a very important parameter in the elimination if the above elements from mosque. The earlier mosques were mostly built by rulers or royal people and they were very few in numbers and money was not a constrained for them, therefore minute detailing was done in the mosques of early period. But in the current scenario most of the mosques are built by collective funds from people living in a 'mohalla' or community and huge amount of money is required for the construction of arches and domes in any structures. Therefore the focus is more on the functional aspect of mosque i.e. prayer hall for namaz, rather than on the aesthetic of the structure.

4.5c) Land Crisis

Land allocation for the development of mosque was not an issue in the development of earlier mosque, since they were developed by land lords, but in the present time due to the rapid increase in population and faster rate of development in the urban areas there is a land crisis in cities. The land cost is very high and it is difficult for local people to purchase a bigger land in cities to develop mosque for themselves. Therefore small spaces are developed vertically to fulfill the need of mosque in any area. Basic amenities and facilities are focused upon while developing multi-storeyed mosque. Since they are fully covered, they don't have open verandahs or arcades in them. The function of dome got itself eliminated with the multi- storied structure.

In some mosques short minarets or burji's are provided at the roof corners to give it a symbolic character of mosque.

4.5d) Modern Technology & material

The earlier arcaded style of construction with arches, vaulted and domical roof has been replaced by the trabeated (Beams and columns) style of construction with the introduction of cement as a binding material. RCC flat roof have replaced vaults and domes roofing as it can cover much longer spans without support. The electrical, electronic and acoustic equipment's have solved the problems of listening the prayers inside the halls and they have expanded vertically instead of horizontal expansion.

4.5e) Lack of traditional knowledge system

Due to the modernization of building technology we are losing our traditional knowledge system of building construction. Another reason of elimination of arches, domes and minarets from mosque is the lack of skill of construction. The masons and skilled labour that can construct brick arches or domes in mosque are very less in number and is decreasing day by day. The earlier technology is getting obsolete because of the skilled labour in the said field and since they are not getting the appropriate wages for their work, we are losing this age old technique of construction.

4.6 Inferences

The arches minarets and domes in the Mosque architecture were developed as a cause of function and were the need of technology and material of that time. But with time they play an important role and become the part and parcel of this religious structure. Arches, minarets and domes have become the theme of any building that can be easily identified as mosque. With the help of these elements it was identified very easily and was prominent in any type of settlement, so that people can recognize where the mosque is situated. But due to the above said reasons the mosque has been undergoing an "identity crisis".

Although the advancement of technology and material has eliminated the functional use of these elements but their prolong usage has made them an integral part of mosque. They are not only the symbols but they became the character of the mosque.


Contemporary mosque across the world

The mosque is Islam's most emblematic building, as well as an expression of collective identity. By exploring the built form of mosques around the world and prevalent architectural trends in mosque building, this dissertation considers what makes mosques identifiable to Muslims and non-Muslims, as well as the ways architecture represents the identity of a community and also shifts in accordance with changing social and cultural contexts.

Now my focus here is on the architectural identity of mosque- the question of identity, and its pluralistic expressions. How identity is expressed in mosques in the different areas of the world depends not only on cultural factors but also on regional building mores and tradition of designs, architecture, and construction. As noted, mosques are a reflection of who we are and how we represent ourselves, not only to ourselves but to society at large.

Architect Gulzar Haider speaks "a contemporary Islamic architecture without obvious and explicit traditional elements."

Case study- 1

Assyafaah Mosque, Singapore

This mosque is designed by the architect Tan Kok Hiang, a forum architects. Aasaf ali mosque is built by the Majlis Ugama of Islam. Construction started in 2000 and completed in 2004. This is a big mosque of Singapore and the area 2500 sq.m.

The mosque shows broadly a modern face of Islamic architecture and is a worldly recognizable symbol of Islamic Art and Architecture of contemporary times. It is a first universal contemporary mosque of the world and is an original, creating a modern identity of the mosque.

Spatial Configuration

The orientation of the mosque with respect to the site is obviously as per direction of Mecca. The main hall is a large column free space created with ribbed and arched concrete structures. This project demonstrates a creative use of contemporary interpretation of arabesque in the interior space. The architect states that, "the use of the arabesque patterns to symbolize the Quran's attributes which provides a link to the past." The patterns are not laid in a traditional fashion and use a play of geometry, designed such as to offer a multi layered experience in the main prayer hall.

The Prayer hall-

The prayer hall is surrounded by the arabesque screens to allow the fleeting shadows to move across the hall and at the same time allow natural air ventilation. The prayer is designed to be completely naturally ventilated. The strategy here is to use the slit voids to generate air movement. The slit voids also had giant glass louvers to keep out the rain while allowing light. Wherever possible, the ground level enclosure of the prayer hall is kept open and always- ventilated.

Built Expression

The rich patterns of the arabesque screens envelop the building from the outside as well. The general arrangement of spaces takes benefit of the site, which is askew from the orientation to Mecca, and to create more proportionate architectural masses and elements as well as emphasize the segregation of different functions.

The three - dimensional arches, used within the mosque, which serves the purpose of transferring load of the upper three storeys, provide a column free span in the lower prayer space. At the same time, they serve to bring in natural light and ventilation. These arches also bring back the memory of the traditional mosque, which would have arcades all along the court. Now the court is replaced by a built volume- the prayer hall, which has a series of these 3D arches delineating it opening up into the quadruple volume towards the Mihrab wall.


Contemporary materials such as concrete and aluminum and other materials are used to dramatic effect. The minaret is coated with an anti-rusting material so that the natural color is maintained. And the arches within are intended to present a raw feel of contrast with generally complete and well- finished interiors.

The three dimensional arches were constructed using 20 mm ply wood forms bent to shape and held together by steel tie rods. The arches perform the role of transferring upper floor loads just eight points on the first storey, allowing for a generous span in the prayer hall.

The ground floor is raised on a high platform and above existing ground floor. So that the better wind flow inter to the prayer hall which is three sides open.

Even the basement is designed with 25% natural ventilation. And the all mechanical systems, like sprinkler system is installed in the basement.This results in capital savings as well as reduction in energy usage over the long run.

Case study 2


he Shah Faisal Mosque is situated in Margalla Hills, Islamabad Pakistan and is the largest mosque of Pakistan. It is presenting the eight faced desert, 'tent", which is supported on four minarets.

The whole structure is composition of sloping roofs faced with opulent marble and 4 towers. The complex also contains Islamic research center, Library, lecture hall, museum, cafeteria and the offices of the faculty.


67Faisal mosque was built by the late king Faisal bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia and is hence, named after him. The building construction of the Masjid had started in 1976. It covers an area of 53,821 square feet, estimated cost SR 130 million, and can provide 10,000 worshippers space and a further 40 thousand in the adjacent squares. Although the main covered hall is smaller than that of the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca (the third biggest mosque of the world), this Mosque has the third largest capacity of accommodating for worshippers in adjoining grounds after al-Haram masjid (Grand Mosque) of Mecca. The mosque is having 4 minarets, which is 80m high, and circumference area10 x 10 m.

Faisal mosque is built by the late king Faisal bin The Islamic library is situated in the ground floor and the first floor under the courtyard. And east side facilities of conference hall, printing press, library and cafeteria. It is providing education for 700 students from within and outside country. This is also an Islamic university.

Built Expression

The mosque is designed by fusing contemporary elements and lines with traditional feelings/ memories of the mosque. It has a large triangular volume for the central hall and minarets at the corners. No dome is provided in the central space of the mosque, but four Turkish minarets are used in the four corners.

The shape of the Faisal Mosque central hall is an eight-sided concrete shell which inspired by a desert Beduoin's ten and the cubic Kaba in Mecca, flanked by four unusual minarets inspired by Turkish architecture style.

Spatial Configuration

The entrance is provided from the east side into the prayer hall which has a courtyard with porticoes adjacent to it. The interior of the main tent shaped hall in covered white marble and it is decorated with mosaic calligraphy by famous Pakistani artist Sadequain, and a Specular Turkis chandelier. The west side mosaic pattern written by Early Kufic script, which is repeated in mirror pattern.

This mosque is built in two level ground level and first floor level.

The lowest level of the mosque is the entrance courtyard on the south, up a flight of three stairs about one foot, six inches front ground level. The worshippers can enter from the two side corners of the entrance courtyard. Shoe racks are placed at both east and west sides and are covered. The entrance courtyard area has two small rooms. The eastern room houses a model of the mosque, and the western room is used as a gift shop. The main feature of entrance courtyard is a large circular pool with a circular fountain. The pool is not exactly in the center of the area but is pushed to the south leaving more space on the north side. The round pool, built of locally made blue ceramic tiles, is forty four feet in diameter and one foot eight inches deep. Its rim is of white cement one foot eight inches wide. Within the pool there is a circular fountain, one foot high and twenty-four feet in diameter. This rod shower is eighteen feet from the rim of the pool. Around the pool, square pebbles are imbedded in the pavement in several rays.

The mosque architecture is departure from the traditional South Asian Islamic architecture and is one of the most outstanding, contemporary and modern Islamic architecture examples in the .

72 Pool and Fountain in Ablution area


In the present time, the Indian mosques are also going through a process of change. The Indian architects and designers are also thinking, how to change mosque forms to make them more contemporary. Functionally, they want to provide maximum sitting space inside the mosque and other provisions like library, Madrassa, a community space, apart from a well ventilated congregation hall. Architects are also using elements like arches, domes, minarets and decorative patterns, but these have no trueness- they are not structural any more and the patterns too have become superfluous. The mosque is converted into multi- level structure and the open central courtyard is not present in the mosque anymore. The construction of mosque in India often attracts fierce opposition by locals and the minaret is seen, as the most worrying of Islamic Symbols- since it stands high, is easily visible and completely towers the space around it.

The blinking Minaret concept is certainly a modern look. But some new mosques are truly revolutionary, up ending the idea of what a mosque should look like and incorporating both local architecture and Islamic symbols. A mosque in Islam does have basic features, but these are not written in stone,

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