The Diversity of Mosque Architectures

The mosque, an emblematic building in Islam, while theoretically requiring nothing more than marking the direction of prayer, has developed a number of distinctive architectural forms. Local building traditions and differing social and cultural contexts have influenced the diversity of mosque architectures and methods in which mosques have been built.

University MosqueTengku Tengah Zaharah MosqueSherefuddin’s White Mosque, Bosnia and Herzegovina
University Mosque
Depok, Jawa Barat, Indonesia
Tengku Tengah Zaharah
Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Sherefuddin’s White Mosque
Visoko, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mud Mosque, AustraliaGreat Mosque of Cordoba, Spain
Qubbah Mosque
Medina, Saudi Arabia
Mud Mosque
Maree, Australia
Great Mosque of Cordoba
Cordoba, Spain
Al-Abbas Mosque, Yemen The Central Mosque, BeninDar al-Islam Mosque, United States
Al-Abbas Mosque
Asnaf, Yemen
The Central Mosque
Porto Novo, Benin
Dar al-Islam Mosque
New Mexico, United States
Grand National Assembly Mosque, Turkey Mosque of the Shah, Iran Huajuexiang Mosque, China
Grand National Assembly
Mosque, Ankara, Turkey
Mosque of the Shah
Isfahan, Iran
Huajuexiang Mosque
Xian, China
Mosque of Hasan, Morocco Mosque of al-Hakim, Egypt Djingareyber Mosque, Mali
Mosque of Hasan
Rabat, Morocco
Mosque of al-Hakim
Cairo, Egypt
Djingareyber Mosque
Timbuktu, Mali
Pictures courtesy ArchNet (MIT School of Architecture and Planning), to whom we are grateful.

The mosque has developed a number of architectural forms, including the “hypostyle”, the “four-iwan”, the “domed central space”, the “pavilion” and the “three-domed”. These forms have developed over the centuries and continue to be used and re-used to the present day. In the contemporary world, the practice of reverting to well-known mosque forms and the ease of use of the familiar over recent decades can be understood by Muslims everywhere to re-present themselves as Muslim. What has emerged is a pan-Islamic model, i.e. the use of domes and a minaret, a standard mosque architectural vocabulary that has no exact local reference point, but is increasingly read everywhere by Muslims and non-Muslims alike as “Muslim” places of worship. This is particularly the case in contexts where Muslims are a minority, such as Europe and North America.

The increasing standardisation of architectural vocabulary used in mosque construction presents challenges for maintaining the long-standing tradition Muslims have had in constructing architecturally diverse spaces of worship.