Islamic architecture encompasses a wide range of both secular and religious styles from the early history 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 Islamic architectural 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.
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, either the Mosque of the Companions in the Eritrean city of Massawa, or Quba Mosque in 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 Quran, Islam as a religion preceded Muhammad, representing even previous Prophets such as Abraham. Abraham in 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 existed.
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 Islamic Architecture.
The 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.
The 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 Mosque of 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 Samarra had 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 Afghanistan was 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 city of Medina Azahara. 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 Umayyads in the Levant circa 660AD with its capital Damascus having very well preserved examples of fine Arab 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 Fatimid ceremonial and procession, which emphasized the religious and political role of the Fatimid caliph. Besides elaborate funerary monuments, other surviving 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.
The 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 Byzantine Christian artists were employed to create its elaborate mosaics against a golden background. The great epigraphic vine frieze was adapted from the pre-Islamic Syrian style. The Dome of the Rock featured interior vaulted spaces, a circular dome, and the use of stylized repeating decorative arabesque patterns. Desert palaces in Jordan and 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 luxury.
The horseshoe arch became a popular feature in Islamic structures. Some suggest the Muslims acquired this from the Visigoths in Spain but they may have obtained it from Syria and 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.
The Great Mosque of Damascus (completed in 715 by caliph Al-Walid I), built on the site of the basilica of John the Baptist after the Islamic invasion of Damascus, still bore great resemblance to 6th and 7th century Christian basilicas. Certain modifications were implemented, including expanding the structure along the transversal axis which better fit with the Islamic style of prayer.
The Abbasid dynasty (750 AD- 1258) witnessed the movement of the capital from 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 the Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo, Abu Dalaf in Iraq, the great mosque in Tunis. 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.
The 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 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 Mosque of 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.
The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul also influenced Islamic architecture. 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 Mosque. Domes are a major structural feature of Islamic architecture. 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 and other Christian domed basilicas situated nearby. 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 colonnettes.
The 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. Islamic architecture thus is directly related to Persian and Byzantine architecture.
In 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 and Ghazni (Afghanistan), and the construction of the Great Mosque of 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 (circa 943).
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 Soltaniyeh 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 Öljeitü in Soltaniyeh is one of the greatest and most impressive monuments in Iran, despite many later depredations.
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.
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 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 the region..
The 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 Islamic architecture 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 landmarks like Palace of the Shirvanshahs
The standard plan of Ottoman architecture was inspired in part by the example of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople/Istanbul, Ilkhanid works like Oljeitu 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 in Istanbul and Selimiye Mosque in Edirne. Apprentices of Sinan later built the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul and the Taj Mahal in India.
The most numerous and largest of mosques exist in Turkey, which obtained influence from Byzantine, Persian and Syrian-Arab designs. 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 Mosque.
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 shadow. 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 heavenly transcendence.
Timurid architecture is the pinnacle of Islamic art in Central Asia. Spectacular and stately edifices erected by Timur and his successors in Samarkand and 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 Timur’s mausoleum 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.
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.
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 with Gypsum.
Russian -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.
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 Tomb of Jahangir is also located. Bibi Ka Maqbara in Aurangabad which was commissioned by sixth Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in memory of his wife. The Red Fort in Delhi and Agra 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 century.
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 of 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.
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 pagodas.
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 columns.
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 minarets.
Southeast Asia was slow to adopt Middle Eastern architectural styles. Islam entered 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 Menara Kudus 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 Philippines.
Today, with increasing Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Indonesian-Malaysian mosques are developing a more standard, international style, with a dome and minaret.
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 of Djenné and Timbuktu. The Sankore Mosque in Timbuktu, constructed from mud on timber, was similar in style to the Great Mosque of Djenné.
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 presence of Islam in the Horn of Africa region, mosques in Somalia are some of the oldest on the entire continent. One architectural feature that made Somali mosques distinct from other mosques in Africa were minarets.
For centuries, Arba Rukun (1269), the Friday mosque of Merca (1609) and 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 in the Islamic world.
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.
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 matchless. 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.
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