The Mosque is a type of building which was like a church to worship
the God. It is more of aplace of meeting, and is closely related to the markets and
general life of the town. Early on, most mosques had wooden columns, as well as a roof
supported by five rows of tall marble columns that were taken from deserted buildings.
If the mosque is a type of sanctuary, then the floor is covered with a reed mat or carpets. During prayers, the worshippers can kneel and touch the ground with their foreheads. The worshippers stand and kneel side by side in straight lines facing the mihrab. Before they are allowed to enter the mosque, however, they have to first take off their shoes as a respect to the God and the mosque.
Five times a day, someone would call from atop a tall minaret. When it happens, every Muslim must halt from their daily routine to pray. Minaret is usually a tower of some sort which is the highest roof of a building in the neighborhood of the mosque. Most minarets that stand today are tall, square or slender, and round. They are beautifully decorated with carvings, glazed tiles, or gilding.
As the Islamic religion spread, so did the mosque. Since they were being built in different countries, they had to adjust to different climates as well as use only locally available building materials. The Turkish people built their Mosques with flat roofs and wooden columns. In northern Anatolia, they have dry summers but frigid winters, so they are built in the readily available stone. They got rid of the courtyard all together and placed fountains all around the building. These are just a few examples of how different regions adapted these buildings, and how they added or took some stuff away to give it their personal touch.
Inside of the mosque, only the essential items are place inside of the prayer hall. There are high, raised pulpits with a flight of steps, called the minbar, and from there the Friday sermons are held. Although the Muslims pray five times a day, they are required to attend the Friday sermons inside the mosque. The minbars are heavily decorated and become a symbol of authority. Rulers receive allegiance of their followers while they are seated upon the minbar. It is believed that their almighty ruler, Muhammad, used to sit upon a three-stepped chair so that everyone was able to view him. This is how the minbar became important.
Another aspect of the mosque is their free-standing platforms made of wood or marble, which are known as dikkas. It is supported on columns and reached by a ladder. Thus, as prayer is underway, various movements have to be made simultaneously by the worshippers, and some of them got up onto the dikka from there they can see the leader, called an imam, and follow his actions.
Direction is extremely important to the Muslims. They always pray facing towards Mecca, their religious capitol. To show the Muslims the direction of Mecca, the mihrab was built. The first mihrab incorporated into a mosque was during the eighth century. These mihrabs can be plain but usually are decorated with colored marble and intricate stucco designs.
Madrasas were usually found on the mosque grounds but in large separate buildings. Madrasas are like colleges to study religion, law, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, literature, and history. The schools, where information about the Koran was taught to be recited and written to boys starting at age seven, also are usually located at or near mosques.
1. Leacroft, Helen and Richard, The Buildings of Early Islam, London, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1976