When it comes to the architectural design of mosques, nothing is arbitrary.
Mosques function not just as a tangible place of worship, but also as a space in which architectural language itself glorifies God with its resplendent colonnades, sloping domes, kaleidoscopic frescos, and dizzying geometric designs.
The mosque is not merely beautiful, although beauty in all its nuances is a quality highly revered in Islam.
It is a physical manifestation of love and reverence for an omnipotent God who is unseen.
It is what assistant professor of Religious Studies at the College of William and Mary, Oludamini Ogunnaike, calls the “silent theology of Islamic art”.
From Cuba to Japan, as Muslim communities around the world grow, and diasporic Muslim communities flourish, mosques are still being built today.
The arts and influences of the time are infused in their every detail, leaving an indelible footprint in the cultural landscape of wherever they are built.
Last month in the UK it was announced that several mosques had been given protected heritage status for their historical, architectural and cultural significance to Britain.
The Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking was the first purpose-built mosque in Britain to be given Grade I listed status.
Shahed Saleem, an academic, architect and author of The British Mosque, a book that maps the evolution of mosque buildings in the UK, spoke to Al Jazeera about how the aesthetic of the mosque is metamorphosing.
“The design of a mosque is actually of very little importance to its purpose as a place of prayer and worship. This only requires that the prayer is in congregation towards Mecca, so a mosque is a very minimal thing. It can be a simple room, a wall, or even just a line,” he said.
“The architecture and design of the mosques that we see, therefore, have evolved over time, and while not essential for the performance of prayer, they are important in terms of social and cultural meaning of the mosque, how it is understood and what it communicates in the society in which it is placed.”
Here are some mosques from around the world that are resplendent examples of Islamic architecture.
|Artist’s impression of the Cambridge Mosque [Cambridge Mosque Project]|
Cambridge Mosque, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Set to be Europe’s first eco-mosque, the simple design of the yet to be completed Cambridge mosque gives it the appearance of an oasis.
The design will incorporate a golden dome, but the traditional minarets are noticeably absent.
Central to the mosque’s design is its reliance on green energy and solar panels, similar to the Ambar all-women’s mosque in Lucknow, India.
With its Tolkienesque wooden columns reaching out inside like treetops and wells of light pouring into the prayer area through skylights, it is a f