Islamic architecture encompasses a wide range of both secular and religious styles from the foundation of Islam to the present day. What today is known as Islamic architecture owes its origin to similar structures already existing in Roman, Byzantine and Persian 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 South-East Asia. The principal Islamic architectural types 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.
As Muslims all over the world prepare for the Eid-el-Kabir celebrations, we bring you a run-down of the five marvels of architecture in a religion that has stood the test of time.
1. The Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali
This hybrid mosque and cathedral is located in Cordoba, Andalusia and dates back to 600 AD. The site began as a pagan temple before being temporarily converted into a Christian church, then a mosque and finally into a Roman Catholic church. Despite its hand-changing history, the building is one of the most accomplished works of Islamic architecture.
The Islamic elements are noticeable in the building’s layout and interiors, which are heavily modeled after popular mosques of the past. The most striking features are the arcaded hall adorned with 856 columns – made of jasper, onyx, marble and granite – and also the red and white double arches that extend to the ceiling. There are also inscriptions on the walls as well as wooden screens, mosaics and colored glass windows.
4. The Hagia Sophia, Turkey
Frequently considered one of the greatest buildings in the world, that doesn’t spare the Hagia Sophia from a history filled with even greater chaos. First built as a Byzantine Church by Constantine the Great in the 4th century, the building was soon destroyed, but only to be rebuilt, savaged and desecrated by the Crusaders in 1204.
Following this spate of violent attaches, Hagia Sophia was converted into an imperial mosque, modeled on the 1453 Ottoman mosque structure by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. As a result of the conflicting history, the Hagia Sophia is a combination of Byzantine and Islamic architecture. The Islamic characteristics are evident in the minaret, calligraphic roundels (with Islamic text) and a mihrab. Today the building is used as a museum.
5. The Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
Located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock is a stunning shrine that has been standing since 691 CE. Of particular significance is the sacred stone upon which the shrine stands. It is believed that the stone was the spot where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. The actual dome itself is no less marvelous.
A splendor of mathematical proportions (all the main dimensions are the same length as the diameter of the center circle), the golden dome sit upon a moon and the building is replete with colorful tiling, a marble exterior, inscribed Arabic verses and arched wall and mosaic-filled interiors.