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Historical Mosques around the World
Dec. 2, 2018

First, let’s start with a couple of facts about Mosques.

The Arabic term is ‘Masjid’, and the plural term is 'Masaajid'. Indonesia is currently in the lead with the most number of mosques in the world with 800,000 reported by Al Arabiya. Masjids are places of prayer and worship in Islam, but they also function as much more. Often, they serve as community centres with classes or as social places hosting events and holidays, like Ramadan.

Mosques are beautiful, sacred places and with Islam as the fastest growing religion, they can be found in practically every nook and cranny on the planet. Here are a list of the most amazing, historical mosques holding the most significant stories in its walls.

Zahir Mosque (Kedah, Malaysia)

Located in the heart of Alor Star, the state capital of Kedah, the Zahir Mosque is one of the grandest and oldest mosques in Malaysia. 

Built in 1912, it is one of the oldest mosques in the country. The design was inspired by the vision of the late Sultan Muhammad Jiwa Zainal Abidin II. Its five large, black domes symbolise the Five Pillars of Islam. 
It is the official mosque for the state as well as the main mosque for local Muslims and the venue for the annual Koran reading competition. It is also the burial site of Kedah warriors who died while defending the state from the Siamese in 1821.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque /The Blue Mosque (Istanbul, Turkey)

Located in Istanbul, the architecture is a blend of Ottoman and Byzantine styles. Sultan Ahmed Mosque is commonly known as the Blue Mosque by many tourists because of its bluish interior decoration.

It’s a popular tourist site constructed by the Ottoman sultan Ahmed I between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. There are 3 entrances to the mosque, once you enter inside, you’re guaranteed to be shocked by the floral and geometrical interior decoration and beauty of over 21 thousand tiles, about 260 windows with stained glass, and calligraphy art of Quranic verses.

Interesting fact:  Mosques traditionally have one, two or four minarets. That’s what makes the Blue Mosque unique as it boasts six minarets. It’s rumoured that this was a misunderstanding as the Sultan had instructed his architect to make gold minarets which his architect understood as six minarets.The Harem Mosque in Mecca which is the holiest in the world also has six minarets which caused controversy to the extent that Sultan Ahmet I had to send his architect to Mecca to add a seventh minaret to the Haram Mosque.


Great Mosque of Mecca (Mecca, Saudi Arabia)

The first mosque ever built on this Earth. Great Mosque of Mecca, Arabic al-Masjid al-Ḥarām, also called Holy Mosque or Haram Mosque, built to enclose the Kaʿbah, the holiest shrine in Islam.

As one of the destinations of the hajj and ʿumrah pilgrimages, it receives millions of worshippers each year. The oldest parts of the modern structure date to the 16th century.

It was reported in Saheeh Muslim that Abu Dharr said: “I asked the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) about the first mosque to be built for people on earth. He said, ‘Al-Masjid al-Haraam.’ I asked, ‘Then which?’ He said, ‘Al-Masjid al-Aqsaa [The Furthest Mosque, in Jerusalem].’ I asked, ‘How long between them?’ He said, ‘Forty years.’”

The first Muslim structure on the site was a wall around the Kaʿbah, built by the second caliph, ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, in 638. Succeeding caliphs added partial ceilings, columns, and decorative embellishments. 


Masjid Al-Aqsa, (Jerusalem, Palestine)

Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, Masjid al-Aqsa has a rich history. It is intimately linked with Prophetic history, not of one but numerous prophets.

It was first built by the Prophet Ibrahim (as) years after he built the Ka‘aba with his first son Ismail (as). Muslims have always been its true custodians despite illegal Zionist encroachments.

Masjid al-Aqsa holds immense significance in Islamic religious tradition as well as history. It is known as the first qibla of Muslims—the direction toward which Muslims face to offer their salat—as well as the third holiest site in Islam. It’s the only mosque, besides the Holy Kaaba, that is mentioned in the Qur’an:

‘Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing’. (Qur’an, 17:1)

The site was once used as a dumping ground, when the Romans exiled the Jews from the city, the mainly Roman inhabitants used the area of Masjid Al-Aqsa as a garbage dump. When Umar (ra) opened city to Islam, he cleared the rubbish with his bare hands. He also ended the centuries-old exile of the Jews, giving refugee families the right to reside in Jerusalem once again.


Umayyad Mosque, (Damascus, Syria)

The Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus, stands in the centre of the old city of Damascus– the capital of Syria. Itis one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world. 

 It is the first monumental work of architecture in Islamic history. One of the features of the Umayyad Mosque is the tomb of Saladin, which stands in a garden that is adjacent to the wall of the mosque. This is the final resting place of Kurdish Ayyubid Sultan Saladin. 

 Construction of the mosque was based on the mosque of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) in Madinah, which had many functions: it was a place for personal and collective prayer, religious education, political meetings, administration of justice, and relief of the ill and homeless. The caliph asked and obtained from the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire for 200 skilled workers to decorate the mosque, as evidenced by the partly Byzantine style of the building. The new mosque was the most impressive in the Islamic world at the time, and the interior walls were covered with fine mosaics. The building became one of the marvels of the world, because it was one of the largest of its time. 

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