A mosque is a place of worship for those of the Islamic faith. Mosques first came into existence following the death of the Prophet Muhammad, as Islam began to spread across the Middle East. Mosques were built all over the Islamic Empire, and nowadays can be found in nearly every country of the world.
Mosques aren’t just a place of worship, however. Their principal use is as a house of prayer, but mosques also offer religious education to visitors, and serve as a meeting place and central hub for all Muslims in a community.
Prayer at a mosque is directed by an Islamic leader called an “imam”. The imam is responsible for the religious guidance of those who attend the mosque, which extends to all education offered within as well.
Some mosques are extremely beautiful, and many are lavishly decorated with arabesque tiles and carpets. “Arabesque” is a word used to describe a style of patterning which uses interconnected leaves and flowers as its main form of imagery.
Calligraphy is also a common decoration within mosques, a special form of writing that is most often used to display select phrases from the Quran.
Any images shown within the mosque are not allowed to portray people or animals. This is because, in the religion of Islam, the worshipping of “idols” is forbidden. This means that Muslims are not allowed to worship images of Allah or any of his creations while they pray.
This is why geometric patterns were so popular in the world of Islamic art – they were one of the few styles which were permitted for display within mosques.
Mosques usually have a room set aside specifically for prayer, which is distinct from the central area in that it has a specially decorated wall which faces Mecca.
Muslim worshippers must always face towards Mecca when they pray, so they always pray while looking at this wall inside the mosque.
Prayer rooms are unfurnished aside from this statement wall, and there are no tables, chairs, or benches of any kind. Instead, Muslims use prayer mats.
Some mosques are decorated further with towers called “minarets.” A minaret is a tower built on the outside of a mosque which is used to call Muslims to prayer.
Minarets are usually tall, narrow towers, with just enough room for one person to stand on top of. Five times a day, a man called a “muezzin” calls the Muslims of the community to pray.
The main difference between a mosque and other places of worship is the lack of any artwork relating to the faith. In Christian churches, statues, stained-glass windows, and paintings depicting biblical images are very common, as the worship of idols is not expressly forbidden.
This is why many Christian churches are heavily furnished and decorated internally, with ornate seating, altars, and treasures which have been put on display for worshippers to admire.
Mosques are very different to this; they’re kept bare so as not to distract worshippers, and usually have very little decoration at all.
Most of the world’s famous mosques are located in regions which were once controlled by the Islamic Empire – for this reason, there aren’t as many famous mosques in Western Europe or East Asia as there are in Eastern Europe and Africa.
– As a place of worship.
– Religious education. Mosques also provide a central hub to Muslims in the community.
– An imam.
– Arabesque artwork is a name given to art which uses an arabesque pattern; this means that interconnected leaves and flowers are used as the main form of imagery.
– There is usually a specially decorated wall which faces Mecca.