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Islam Architecture



·         The Moslem faith flourished principally in the countries of Southern Asia and Northern Africa
·         In modern times the following countries were governed by Islamic rulers and largely populated by Islamic people during the following periods indicated

Ø  Africa North of Sahara ( 7th century onwards )
o   Morocco
o   Algeria
o   Tunisia
o   Libya
o   Egypt
Ø  Sahara and Eastern Africa ( 9th century onwards )
o   Spanish Sahara
o   Mauretania
o   Mali
o   Northern Nigeria
o   Niger
o   Chad
o   Sudan
o   Somalia
Ø  Asia and Asia Minor  ( 7th century onwards )
o   Saudi Arabia and the States of Arabian Peninsula
o   Syria
o   Israel
o   Jordan
o   Lebanon
o   Iraq
o   Iran
Ø  Asiatic Turkey – 10th  century onwards
Ø  Afghanistan – 9th century onwards
Ø  South Russia – 7th to 9th century onwards
Ø  Mongolia ( part of ) 11th century onwards
Ø  Philippines and Indonesia – 14th century onwards

·         The the spread of Islam has been frequently associated with military conquest, racial movements and in some cases displacement of established populations.


·         The countries to which Islam first expanded were already rich in building tradition
·         Important techniques of exploitation of natural resources for building work and trade-in building materials had long been established
·         Brick making and pise’ walling was almost universal in the alluvial plains
·         In stone bearing areas, the arts of selecting and working stones were strong
·         Building stones occur in variety throughout the Islamic world
·         Knowledge of the more sophisticated techniques applicable to the building was based on locally produced materials     
·         There was a long tradition of ceramic production, use of gypsum plaster, glass manufacture, and various forms of metalwork needed for building
·         The prevalence of earthquake in near and middle eastern countries resulted in the employment o some long-established structural technique


·         Much of the territory historically dominated by Islam tends to be fertile by virtue of irrigation rather than direct rainfall
·         Although some of the most important areas fall within the Mediterranean climatic region, the greater part o the Moslem world lies with I the grip of some form of Continental climate, with extremes of temperature and modest rainfall
·         Excessive sunshine  has produced a tendency towards wide eaves and sheltering arcades
·         Window openings are minimized and rainwater disposal neglected
·         Cooling effect of structures with very heavy walls and high rooms had been widely exploited
·         Unprotected circulation areas are common


·         The Arab groups were essentially tribal
·         Behavioural patterns and cultural tribes of emergent Islamic societies were based on the traditions of the desert
·         Public life was reserved for men
·         Women played  a secondary role, assuming a a major share of the domestic and sometimes of the agricultural burden
·         The women’s place was the private part of the household – the Harem
·         In public life she was protected by the anonymity of the veil
·         Men performed the significant  public duties and controlled public affairs
·         Islamic states made provision for the existence within them self contained communities/groups of different religion
·         Government was normally direct, by a despotic ruler or his deputy, and the law was based on the teachings of the Prophet, interpreted by a theologically trained judiciary


·         Islam is the last o the three great religions of the Middle East
·         Its essence is contained in a simple sentence, which is both the profession of faith and the credo of its adherents “ There is only one God and Mohammed is his prophet “
·         Moslem thought is codified in three works

1. Koran is regarded as revelation through the medium of the prophet Mohammed
2. Hadith is a collection of his saying or injunction
3. Law which is extracted from the Prophet’s instruction, from tradition and example

·         The prophet’s successor were the “ Caliphs “
·         Islamic world is divided in Sunni and Shia persuasions
Sunni – in Turkey and Africa
Shia – in Persia and Iraq


·         Islamic architecture is not the product of anyone place or people
·         It is the product of a major historic event – the rapid conquest of diverse territories by people with no architectural tradition
·         It is a combination of the religious philosophy of Mohammed and the legacy of Hellenistic and Sassanian arts of buildings
·         Majority o Islamic buildings are fundamentally related to a principal axis:

a. Principal axis “Kibla “ – the general concept was derived from the line of balance and symmetry implicit in the concept of “perfect creation”
b. Secondary axis – frequently extended into a formal landscape which is an integral part o the design

·         It employs a relatively limited repertoire of elements: arcades, dome spaces, courts and very large portals, perhaps incorporating a great niche, the “ Iwan
·         Islamic architecture is fundamentally centred upon God
·         Mosque, tombs, and dwellings are the chief buildings
·         The dominant/chief building is the mosque
-          It is always conceived around an axis directed towards Mecca and with the exception of the first instances, this axis is terminated on the inner face of the mosque by the mihrab – a niche where the leader of the congregation makes his prayer
-          Were of far greater architectural importance internally than externally
-          An the inward-looking building whose prime purpose is contemplation and prayer
-          Interior of earliest mosques  are characterized by forest o columns which support arches under low flat roofs , while richly decorated walls and domes are features of the later periods 
-          It is not however designed to be spiritually uplifting or to produce a sense of exaltation, no positive object of attention or adoration is added
-          Prayer space is almost unfurnished
-          It is essentially democratic and may be served many functions other than prayer
-          Remains the focus of Moslem life – something between a forum and a prayer house
-          The first example was the courtyard of the Prophet”s house in Medina
Mosque – a Muslim house of worship
Minaret – a tall tower in, or continue to a mosque arched stairs leading up to one or more balconies from which the faithful are called upon to pray

·         The first minarets were the first extant towers of the “temenos” of Hellenistic the temple which became the Great Mosque of Damascus
-          Position of the minarets varied widely, several clear tendencies are apparent: a single minaret associated with the main entrance ( Mesopotamia and North Africa ); a coupled minarets associated with the entrance gate (Seljuk and post-Seljuk Persia ); a single minaret off – centre between courtyard and prayer chamber, usually on the south side ( Turkey ) 
-          Mosque with more than one such minaret were by almost universal tradition built by the members of the ruling house
-          Four is the normal maximum
-          A mosque with six is exceptional
-          Ka’aba at Mecca is unique with seven

·         The courtyard which is so fundamental feature of the mosque is also in its several variations, the principal element o other building types, the college ( Medrese or Madrassah ), the hostel ( Han or Caranvaserai ) , the palace and the house
·         The most important form of opening was the “pointed arch “
-          Originally in Assyria was both used internally and externally
-          Principally two or four centered
-          Generally constructed as true arch
-          Corbelled examples were common in India

·         Window openings were frequently small and traditionally closed with wooden shutters, iron bars, marble grilles or plaster lights set in glass
·         Roof may either be flat, pitched or domical construction
-          Pitched roofs in the Mediterranean countries were generally covered with Roman tiles, while domes were sheathed with marble in India, ceramic tiles in Persia and Iraq and lead in Asia Minor and Europe
-          Flat roofs were rendered, paved, sealed with bitumen or compacted clay
·         Barrel vaulting, or cross vaulting was extensively used for minor spans, particularly caranvaserais, bazaars, military works and cisterns
·         Domes were widely used throughout the Islamic world
-          Persian, Mughal and Egyptian domes tended to be pointed in contrast to the hemispherical  Turkish version
·         Ancient Greek and Roman columns were often re-used by Moslem and thus became models for new work particularly Turkey
-          Fluted columns were not employed
-          Tapering circular shafts, with entasis were common, except in parts of Persia where Sassanian influenced continued, and in India, where a square form occurs derived from Jain model
·         A wide variety of mouldings and friezes is found; Ottoman architecture in particular is distinguished by a rich vocabulary of mouldings often used in isolation from other forms of ornament
·         Moslem architecture is also characterized by friezes and crestings, often associated with the mouldings 
·         Abstract and geometric motifs were basic constituents of Islamic ornament
·         Decorations of Moslem buildings were extensive and they made used of the following techniques:
a. carving in bas relief                                     g. ceramic facing
b. stone inlay                                       h. ceramic mosaic
c. stone mosaic                                                i. glass mosaic
d. structural assembly of contrasting stones  j. painting
e. patterned brickwork                                    k. timber inlay
f. carved stucco                                               l. pietra dura
·         Motifs were derived from calligraphy, floral abstraction, geometric interlacement
·         The most recurrent and characteristic precise architectural features of Islamic architecture are as follows:
a. arcading ( arcade ) in both timber and masonry
b. pointed arch
c. true dome
d. columns, similar in proportion to Greco-Roman models and their derivatives
e. squinches
f. stalactite corbelling
g. pendentives
·         The most significant structural and decorative techniques used by the Moslems are:
a. banded or striated masonry
b. decorative bonding for brickwork
c. interlocked and inlaid stone masonry
d. metal or timber ties to arches
e. bas relief carving in stone, timber or plaster
g. ceramic cladding and facing
h. interlocking paneled geometric timber construction
i. screens or pierce grilles in marble, metal or timber for window openings
j. internal window lights in stained glass set in plaster
k. colonettes, particularly at quoins
l. stalactite decorations
·         An important structural or ornamental device, the “stalactite” is peculiar to countries dominated by Islam
·         The pointed arch, sometimes stilted, was used from earliest stages in Moslem development, producing a series of forms: two centered, four centered, horseshoe, cusped, foliated and ogee



·         Is probably the most fundamentally important Islamic structure
·         Sometimes described as a mosque but is should be properly thought of as a shrine
·         Occupies a spot on the temple platform sacred to Jews, Christians and Moslems; for there stood successively the Altar of David, the Temple of Solomon, Temple erected by the Jews after their exile, Temple of Herod ( destroyed A.D. 70 ), and Hadrian’s Temple of Jupiter
·         It consist of a great central dome covering the summit of Mt. Moriah, whence the prophet is believed to have made his night ride to heaven
·         Its double timber dome is carried on great masonry arcade, which is surrounded by arcaded aisles on octagonal plan
·         The interior is richly finished in quartered marbles and glass mosaic
·         The exterior wall surface, now sheathed in sixth century Turkish tiles, was originally faced with glass mosaic
·         The dome , although subsequently reconstructed, has always consisted of an approximately concentric cross braced inner and outer timber framework
·         In concept, the building is similar to the Byzantine Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem which it was design to emulate
·         In structural technique, it closely follows Syrian precedent, and in it is a continuation of the tradition of Hellenized Syria
·         Built by the Ummayad Caliph Abd Al Malik, although in its feature the building seems entirely Syrio – Byzantine

·         The most ancient mosque in Jerusalem
·         Built to commemorate the supposed miraculous transport of the prophet Mohammed in Mecca in a single night to the great Temple platform in Jerusalem sacred alike to Jews, Christians and Moslems
·         Stands adjacent to the Dome of the Rock and align upon it.
·         Here probably stood a basilican church of Justinian, with nave and aisles to which double aisles were afterwards added, and this was probably converted into a mosque, enlarged and beautified by Caliph Abd-Al- Malik
·         Subsequent reconstruction in 780 and 1035 have produced a multi aisled prayer space, in which the central aisle is flanked by Corinthian colonnades of Roman proportions, carrying an arcaded wall complete with triforium and clearstory, and terminated by a dome over what, in so church like a structure, it is tempting to call a sanctuary


·         Stands on the site of the Roman temple converted into a church by Theodosius, and rebuilt in AD 75 into a mosque by Moslems
·         Is the earliest mosque to survive intact
·         The original temple of Damascus stood in a walled temenos ( sacred enclosure )
·         At each corner of its rectangular plan there stood a square tower
·         In the Christian era a church was built within the enclosure, occupying a small part at the center
·         After the Arab conquest another part of the enclosure was simultaneously used as a mosque
·         In 705 the Caliph Al Walid, needing a mosque adequate for the large congregation of his capital, took over the entire temenos
·         A dome on a high drum was built over the middle of the central aisle
·         This is the first o many examples of the use of superimposed arcades to give a greater height to mosque interior
·         Despite the clearly Romano-Byzantine techniques of construction and decoration, the building is obviously designed for Moslem purpose and has a strong Islamic quality


·         The house of Mohammed was enlarged and rebuilt as a full congregational mosque in 707-709 by Greeks and Egyptian craftsmen augmenting local labor
·         The introduction of one of the first two mihrabs has given rise to the suggestion that mihrab may have a Coptic origin
·         It contains the simple tomb of the prophet


·         Now disaffected, was the largest mosque ever built
·         It was the work of Caliph Al-Mutawakkil who also built the nearby mosque of Abu Dulaf
·         It consist of an immense walled courtyard on a ratio of three to two, 155m x 238 m overall surrounded by four aisles, except on the south where their number was increased to nine
·         The internal structure of mud brick piers and pole joisted roof has long been disappeared but the massive brick outer walls remain, buttressed at intervals of 15.2 m by half round towers
·         The dramatic and evocative feature of this building is the enormous helicoidal minaret at the northern end, isolated from the mosque , but on the main axis
·         The notion of winding ramp encircling a diminishing tower derives originally from the ziggurats of Mesopotamia


·         Was constructed over the grave of the Caliph Al-Muntasir
·         This is the first known mausoleum  of Islamic history
·         Was constructed on the orders of the Caliph’s Greek mother on a low hill on the west bank of the Euphrates and aligned upon the Great Mosque
·         The grave was set beneath the plastered block structure, whose style set an important precedent for the octagonal tomb structures first popular in Central Asia and spreading thence to India and Turkey


·         Constructed in 762 onwards a few miles up the Tigris from the decaying Sassanian capital Ctesiphon by the triumphant Caliph Al-Mansur as the capital of the Islamic world
·         Circular in plan, moated and walled, with four great entrances on principal axes
·         Its diameter was nearly 2,743 m and a surrounding great wall was almost 18.3 m high
·         The palace at the center was built on intersecting cross axes radiating from the four gates at the cardinal points
·         The whole of the center of the city was given over to the palace, which accommodated the administrative buildings and was crowned by a  high green dome to symbolize the capital
·         The residential quarters formed a ring immediately inside the great wall
·         Nothing now survives of the round city, and its character must be deduced from fragmentary descriptions and comparative work at Samarra



·         Is the earliest surviving Fatimid structure
·         Converted into a university in AD 988,has an enormous mosque court enclosed by arcades, beyond which is the nine aisled sanctuary with a hundred antique columns, forming one of the most interesting buildings in Cairo
·         A direct sequel to the mosque of Ibn Tulun


·         Was the first mosque built by a Mamluk Sultan
·         It was of interesting type, with great iwans fronting its courtyard
·         Has only one minaret


·         Is the earliest surviving example and typical collegiate mosque-the madrassah
·         Has an indirect entrance to central courtyard on to which face four iwans


·         The most ancient mosque in Egypt
·         Is said to contain some of the earliest pointed arches in that country
·         The open court about 250 ft square with central fountain or ablutions has a single arcade on the entrance front and triple arcades on either side



·         Founded in 7th century
·         Important for its minaret, the earliest complete surviving example of a structure built for its purpose
·         The architectural origin of its minarets can be traced to the square shafted tapering stone church towers o Syria and the preceding Roman towers of the region
·         The mosque itself has a near rectangular courtyard, flanked by multi-columned arcades carrying flat roof
·         Its incorrect southward orientation reveals its Syrian origin


·         A  fortified palace with a complex of buildings set in gardens
·         Probably the most famous of all Saracenic structure
·         Gorgeous pleasure palace, in the new Caliphate of the West, of the Caliph Abd al Walid, who built mosques at Jerusalem and Damascus
·         Intended to impress the imagination of the conquered country as well as to minister to his enjoyment  of the passing hour
·         The principal part of the palace consist of two large rectangular courts , one reserved for the use of the sovereign (b) and his entourage and the other for public ceremonial (a)
a. Court of the Lions
        -      Is 35.00 m x 20.00 m
-          Is surrounded by arcades, in which very slender columns with high dosseret blocks carry a perforated arcade structure of stucco, incredibly pierced and interlaced to give it a filigree like delicacy
-          At the eastern end of the court is the Hall of Justice, while the other halls terminate the cross axes
-          The domed structure covering each of these chambers is elaborated with a remarkable complexity of o stalactite detail, executed with perfect discipline
        b. Court of the Myrtles
            -       is 42.00 m x 23.00 m
            -       has on its northern termination to its axis the massive tower of Komares, containing the Hall of 
                      Ambassadors , an almost symmetrical cubic chamber crowned by a polygonal dome
·         Perhaps the most extraordinary achievement of Islamic architecture is possessed of an almost ethereal quality which spring from its decorative complexity


·         Was begun in 785 by Apd ar – Rahman I
·         The first stage of the mosque displays a positive and vigorous quality that sets the pattern for three major additions  done by Apd ar Rahman II in 848, Al – Hakam in 961and 968, and by Al – Mansur in 987
·         Designed to be inferior in size only to the Malwiya and Abu Dulaf Mosques in Samarra
·         The minaret added by Apd ar – Rahman II was of the square towered Syrian type
·         The arcades set parallel to the main axis, are carried on a great variety of classical columns
·         Their height being inadequate for the mosque interior , its Syrian builders adopted the device previously used in Great Mosque at Damascus of setting double arcade on columns
·         Under Al – Hakam, mosaic workers were even brought from Constantinople by arrangement with the Byzantine emperor
·         Though now a cathedral, it remains relatively  unaltered, and stands as one of the supreme achievements of Islamic architecture



·         Is the oldest surviving Moslem building in Persia
·         Its plan is essentially “Arabian” and comprises a colonnaded courtyard with a multi columned prayer hall at one end and a detached minaret
·         The chief feature of this building are the massive circular piers 1.80 m in diameter and 3.60 m in height from
       which spring equally ponderous parabolic arches carrying shallow domes.  


·         A  relatively small domed mausoleum constructed in highly decorative brickwork
·         The building is an almost perfect cube, on which superimposed a hemispherical masonry dome
·         The main body of the structure is built in brick, the entire external surface carrying a series o complex patterns of basket weave type, formed by elaborate brick bonding
·         The interior is as elaborate as the exterior, the entire finished surface being in brickwork
·         The building exemplified a highly developed architectural form and is the precursor in character and structural content of a series of important Moslem tombs


·         Is perhaps the most sumptuous and monumental of Persian Seljuk buildings
·         It is an accretion of several periods , but the eleventh (11th) century Seljuk work is clearly distinguished and reaches its peak of achievement in the dome of Malik Shah, a great chamber which fronts the mihrab
·         Its structure is essentially brick and comprises a high pointed dome on an octagonal drum, incorporating squinches set on cubic chamber
·         The plan of the mosque itself reflects Sassanian tradition and is an important departure from the previously universal Arabian type
·         It is built almost entirely of bricks, and provides a brilliant demonstration of Seljuk mastery of the building of two and four centered arches, squinches, domes, ribbed and groined vaults and structural stalactites ( muqarnas )


·         Is Tamerlaine’s family mausoleum
·         Apart from its size and brilliant ceramic cladding, is remarkable or an elongated circular drum, which carries a stilted bulbous ribbed dome, a structure whose extraordinary proportions may reflect the ruler’s personal idiosyncrasies
·         The plan form of this mosque, with minaret at each corner of its rectangular courtyard, was an important precedent for subsequent Mughal building in India

·         Is the greatest of the eighteenth century mosque of Persia
·         It is built around two courtyards and continued the traditional plan with a principal iwan leading into a domed prayer chamber
·         It is distinguished by its extreme regularity in planning, while reflecting in character and detail work of a full century earlier



·         The original “ Conqueror’s Mosque” , was begun within ten years of the conquest of Constantinople and was replaced by a building of different design in the eighteenth century
·         It consisted of an entrance courtyard and a rectangular prayer space covered by a major dome buttressed by a half dome over the mihrab
·         Was contained within a compound surrounded by a series of colleges, forming the largest early civic group in Ottoman architecture


·         Unusual and lovely building on a plan much influenced by Persian architecture
·         A cruciform central space is surmounted by a dome and surrounded by other domed chambers and verandahs
·         The entrance face is formed by a long arcaded verandah of great elegance, almost unique in Persian character


·         Is the earliest complete work that fully illustrates the pure Ottoman style
·         A building which is remarkable  for its completeness and purity
·         Behind the rectangular colonnaded ablution courts stands a simple cubic prayer chamber surmounted by a hemispherical dome 


·         Is the earliest surviving Imperial mosque in the Ottoman capital
·         The prayer hall contains four great piers which carry the major dome buttressed by two opposed domes on the long axis
·         It was the first substantial Ottoman building to reproduce the structural form of Hagia Sophia
·         The side aisles are covered by secondary domes rather than by vaulted galleries, and are closely integrated with the main prayer space
·         It possesses the earliest surviving fully developed Ottoman minarets, multi-faceted stalactite-balconied, pencil slim and topped with tall leaded steeples


·         Built for Sultan Suleyman by the architect Koca Sinan
·         Exhibits perfectly the classical relationship between the component parts of the Ottoman mosque
·         Is particularly remarkable for the symmetry of the prayer chamber, in which half domes buttress the central dome on all four sides and four subsidiary domes complete the covered area
·         Is also notable for a high degree of ornamentation for its period, expressed in stalactite headed doorways of incredible precision and complexity, multi colored stone inlay in the elaborate crestings and unique bas relief carvings on the minaret


·         Or the Mosque of Suleyman I “ The Magnificent”
·         Was designed by Architect Koca Sinan
·         The main structure resembles Hagia Sophia, but is of smaller in dimension, the dome having a diameter of 26.00 m and a height of 51.80 m
·         It is the center of a civic complex – around the compound containing the mosque itself are grouped baths, schools, several colleges, a hospital, group of shops, public restaurants, various living quarters and houses for officials and holders of civic and religious offices
·         In structural form it echoes the nearby Bayazit Mosque and Hagia Sophia
·         Ceramic tiles made in Iznik (Nicea) , reached a second phase of extensive use in Ottoman architecture by middle of the sixteenth century
o   Used modestly but with careful precision in the mosque itself, they are included abundantly and brilliantly in the octagonal tomb of the Sultan and his wife Roxelana, in the cemetery immediately behind the prayer chamber 

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