Islamic Architecture


Mecca and Medina is the cities of Muhammed and his followers. Kaaba is the place of rituals and the most important place in Islam. Mecca had long been a major cult site for the nomadic tribes of Arabia and attracting religious pilgrim to the Kaaba which has certain significant properties for Islam religion such as a cubical granite house with many idols including a mysterious black meteorite. Also surrounding court of Kaaba was rebuilt over the centuries and represents the unity of faithful. Prophet Muhammed forced to leave Mecca in 622, spent ten years in exile in Medina where refined his new religion. Muhammed directly influenced the transformation of his own house in Medina into the new’s religion first congregational mosque, ‘’place of prostration’’. Muhammed encouraged ascetic attitudes in architecture with using vernacular methods for mud-brick walls and a palm-trunk roofs. Initial prayer hall faced Jerusalem which means direction of prayers or qıbla. However, after conquest of Mecca, he redirected the qıbla to the Kaaba. Like the early Christians, the first Muslims rejected the form of Pegan temples and they preferred to base their cult buildings on secular structures. So that earliest mosques took the place of the forum-basilica core of Roman cities in way that the sermon which had political content, ending invariably with decoration of allegiance by the community.

Kufah, Syria

Kufah city plan

 The first mosques provided simple architectural settings without apses, chapels, ambulatories etc. They needed to a large halls which were usually arranged laterally. The most common plan were the basilica with longitudinal aisles directed to the qıbla which transformed lateral qıbla wall and hypostyle hall. As a example of this latter type, first appeared in the new city of Kufah, Iraq in the mid-seventh century. They built the city victory against the Persians. The architect was Abu al-Haiyaj. He structured the new city on a grid with two board cross streets. The intersection of two main streets where the governor’s palace and the Friday mosque back to back. With the using grid, each of the four quadrants of Kufah contained an open plaza or maydan which were surrounded by orthogonally arranged streets  9 m wide. This attitude of planning was almost same methodically geometric as Ancient Rome.

The Dome of the Rock 

The original promoters of Islam assumed that religious and political authority descended from Muhammed and this followers chose Abu Bakr as successor. After Abu Bakr, next successors Umar and Uthman. Uthman assassinated by Muhammed’s cousin and son in law Ali (reign 656-661) who moved to the political capital of Islam from Mecca to Kufah. The Umayyads and Ali’s followers were two different clan. The Umayyads settled in the Greco-Roman city of Damascus, Syria. They sponsored a brilliant urban culture with the production of fine architecture. They attempted to create a charismatic setting to smooth over the succession disputes. Also they borrowed forms and techniques from Persians, Roman and Byzantine precedents. The first great Umayyad monument was the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem which was designed by a Byzantine architect and mosaic artists from Constantinople. Also central plan structure resembled a Christian martyrium. Two characteristic features became common in Islamic architecture after the Dome of Rock, pointed arches and ablaq( is an architectural style involving alternating or fluctuating rows of light and dark stone). The Dome of the Rock differed from most central plan of Christian churches in the way that concentric ambulatories. The major structural elements of the interior piers and arcades followed the intersection of two superimposed nine square grids, one rotated with 45 degree

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Great Mosque of Damascus

al-Walid built three impressive mosques in his reign. The first one was the Mosque of Prophet in Medina which added mosaics and the first mihrap and, decorated niches that indicate the qıbla direction. The second was the al-Aqsa mosque with a congregational hypostyle hall and this mosque destroyed and rebuilt several times, the original one had central nave and seven aisles. Third project was the greatest one, The Great Mosque of Damascus which was similar to the Dome of the Rock and reutilized the principal Greco-Roman Temenos of ancient city. History of that mosque was a bit complicated. Starting with the Byzantines destroyed the temple and built a five aisled basilica church, St. John the Baptist after that during the 7th century Christians and Muslims shared the precinct. After demolition of church, the Umayyads built a mosque. Lateral courtyard of mosque was greater in area than the prayer hall which articulated with arcades on two levels. There was important symbol in the The Great Mosque of Damasvus which was ‘’treasury’’. An arcade octagonal pavilion used for symbol for showing wealth of empire. On the corners of southern wall of Temenos city, the guard towers served as platforms for the muezzins’s call to prayer which was the first minarets. The minarets developed into the most monumental element of mosques. Also Maksura served to protect the caliph and his court like screened areas in palatine churches in Byzantine. Additionally Minbar which elevated sitting platform, served as a podium or pulpit for Friday prayer meetings which was very similar with basilica churches.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The second Abbasid caliph, al-Mansur created a round city on the Tigris River ‘’city of peace’’, Baghdad. Initial plan of Baghdad was a prefect circle 2.6 km in diameter. The designers rotated its four symmetrically places gates with 45degree from cardinal points so that southwest gate pointed to Mecca. Each entry had a deep vault arch, ‘’iwan’’, and over it a hall with a golden dome for diplomatic ceremonies. Like Kufah, Baghdad had two major cross-axial streets. However those main streets were not line with arcades, they were covered by vaults and creating cool climate for nearby environment. The fourth secondary streets led radically from the center. The outer ring of round Baghdad’s blocks contained houses for the caliph’s family members. İnner ring hosted military barracks and administrative buildings. The only structure allowed in the inner circle served as police.

The plan of Baghdad

The Great Mosque of Samarra

First residence, the Caliph’s palace was built in 836 by Jausaq al- Khagani. The palace occupied nearly same area as al-Mansur’s Baghdad. The Caliph’s palace surpassed the scale of the imperial complex in Constantinople.  Samarra, under the control of al-Mutawakki, built two more palaces for his sons almost as large as Caliph’ Palace. So a colossal scale imposed a solemn distance between the people and the rulers. Also he built the largest mosque in the world, The Great Mosque of Samarra. Outer set of walls created a perimeter court for service functions. The inner sahn(courtyard-ish) of the mosque had arcades four cloumns deep. A spiral minaret evoking the ancient ziggurats of the region, 52m height, served as icon rather than acoustic function.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s