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Islamic architecture

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Islamic architecture

The interior side view of the main dome of Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, Turkey.
The large Hypostyle prayer hall in the Great Mosque of Kairouan, dating in its present form from the 9th century, in Kairouan, Tunisia.

Islamic architecture encompasses a wide range of both secular and religious styles from the foundation of Islam to the present day. What today is known as Islamic architecture owes its origin to similar structures already existing in Roman, Byzantine and Persian lands which the Muslims conquered in the 7th and 8th centuries.[1][2] Further east, it was also influenced by Chinese and Indian architecture as Islam spread to Southeast Asia. The principal Islamic architectural types are: the Mosque, the Tomb, the Palace and the Fort. From these four types, the vocabulary of Islamic architecture is derived and used for other buildings such as public baths, fountains and domestic architecture.[3][4]


  • Influences 1
  • Early history 2
  • Styles 3
    • Persian architecture 3.1
    • Ottoman architecture 3.2
    • Turkistan (Timurid) architecture 3.3
    • Indo-Islamic architecture 3.4
    • Sino-Islamic architecture 3.5
    • Indonesian-Malaysian architecture 3.6
    • Sahelian-Islamic architecture 3.7
    • Somali-Islamic architecture 3.8
    • Interpretation 3.9
  • Architecture Forms and Styles of mosques and buildings in Muslim countries 4
    • Forms 4.1
    • Sehan 4.2
    • Gardens 4.3
    • Arabesque 4.4
    • Calligraphy 4.5
  • Elements of Islamic style 5
  • Contemporary Muslim architects 6
  • See also 7
  • Gallery 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


Specifically recognizable Islamic architectural style emerged soon after Muhammad's time, inspired by the former Sassanid and Byzantine models. The Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhrah) in Jerusalem (691) is one of the most important buildings in all of Islamic architecture. It is patterned after the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre[5] and Byzantine Christian artists were employed to create its elaborate mosaics against a gold background.[1][6] The great epigraphic vine frieze was adapted from the pre-Islamic Syrian style.[7] The Dome of the Rock featured interior vaulted spaces, a circular dome, and the use of stylized repeating decorative arabesque patterns. Desert palaces in Jordan and Syria (for example, Mshatta, Qasr Amra, and Khirbat al-Mafjar) served the caliphs as living quarters, reception halls, and baths, and were decorated to promote an image of royal luxury.

The horseshoe arch became a popular feature in Islamic structures. Some suggest the Muslims acquired this from the Visigoths in Spain[8] but they may have obtained it from Syria and Persia where the horseshoe arch had been in use by the Byzantines as early as the 5th century.[9] After the Moorish invasion of Spain in 711 AD the form was taken by the Umayyads who accentuated the curvature of the horseshoe.[10]

Dome of the mihrab (9th century) in the Great Mosque of Kairouan also known as the Mosque of Uqba, in Kairouan, Tunisia
Inside the Jame Mosque of Yazd in Yazd, Iran.

The Great Mosque of Damascus (completed in 715 by caliph Al-Walid I),[11] built on the site of the basilica of John the Baptist after the Islamic invasion of Damascus, still bore great resemblance to 6th and 7th century Christian basilicas. Certain modifications were implemented, including expanding the structure along the transversal axis which better fit with the Islamic style of prayer.

The Abbasid dynasty (750 AD- 1258[12]) witnessed the movement of the capital from Damascus to Baghdad, and then from Baghdad to Samarra. The shift to Baghdad influenced politics, culture, and art. The Great Mosque of Samarra, once the largest in the world, was built for the new capital. Other major mosques built in the Abbasid Dynasty include the Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo, Abu Dalaf in Iraq, the great mosque in Tunis. Abbasid architecture in Iraq as exemplified in the Fortress of Al-Ukhaidir (c.775-6) demonstrated the "despotic and the pleasure-loving character of the dynasty" in its grand size but cramped living quarters.[13]

The Great Mosque of Kairouan (in Tunisia) is considered the ancestor of all the mosques in the western Islamic world. Its original marble columns and sculptures were of Roman workmanship brought in from Carthage and other elements resemble Roman form.[14][15] It is one of the best preserved and most significant examples of early great mosques, founded in 670 AD and dating in its present form largely from the Aghlabid period (9th century).[16] The Great Mosque of Kairouan is constituted of a massive square minaret, a large courtyard surrounded by porticos and a huge hypostyle prayer hall covered on its axis by two cupolas. The Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq, completed in 847 AD, combined the hypostyle architecture of rows of columns supporting a flat base above which a huge spiraling minaret was constructed.

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul also influenced Islamic architecture. When the Ottomans captured the city from the Byzantines, they converted the basilica to a mosque (now a museum) and incorporated Byzantine architectural elements into their own work (e.g. domes). The Hagia Sophia also served as a model for many Ottoman mosques such as the Shehzade Mosque, the Suleiman Mosque, and the Rüstem Pasha Mosque. Domes are a major structural feature of Islamic architecture. The dome first appeared in Islamic architecture in 691 with the construction of the Dome of the Rock, a near replica of the existing Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other Christian domed basilicas situated nearby. Domes remain in use, being a significant feature of many mosques and of the Taj Mahal in the 17th century. The distinctive pointed domes of Islamic architecture, also originating with the Byzantines and Persians,[17][18] have remained a distinguishing feature of mosques into the 21st century.[19][20]


  • Architecture of IRAN during Islamic times
  • ARCHITECTURE OF ISLAM by Takeo Kamiya (Half in English and half in Japanese)
  • ARCHNET Open access, online resource on architecture and art of Muslim societies, globally and throughout history to our times
  • Fatimid-era Ayyubid Wall of Cairo Digital Media Archive (creative commons-licensed photos, laser scans, panoramas), data from an Aga Khan Foundation/CyArk research partnership
  • Islamic Arts and Architecture website
  • Tehranimages. Contemporary photos taken in some of the oldest districts of Tehran.

External links

  • Fletcher, Banister; Cruickshank, Dan, Sir Banister Fletcher's a History of Architecture, Architectural Press, 20th edition, 1996 (first published 1896). ISBN 0-7506-2267-9. Cf. Part Three.
  • Yahya Abdullahi, Mohamed Rashid Bin Embi (2013). Evolution of Islamic geometric patterns. Frontiers of Architectural Research: Elsevier. 
  • Abdullahi Y., Embi M. R. B (2015). Evolution Of Abstract Vegetal Ornaments On Islamic Architecture. International Journal of Architectural Research: Archnet-IJAR. 

Further reading

  • Ali, Wijdan (1999). the arab contribution to islamic art: from the seventh to the fifteenth centuries. American Univ in Cairo Press.  
  • Bloom, Jonathan M.; Blair, Sheila (2009). The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art & Architecture. Oxford University Press.  
  • Ettinghausen, Richard; Grabar, Oleg; Jenkins, Marilyn (2001). Islamic Art and Architecture: 650-1250. Yale University Press.  
  • Petersen, Andrew (2002-03-11). Dictionary of Islamic Architecture. Routledge.  


  1. ^ a b Krautheimer, Richard. Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture Yale University Press Pelican History of Art, Penguin Books Ltd., 1965, p. 285.
  2. ^ Fletcher, Banister A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method 4th Edition, London, p. 476.
  3. ^ Copplestone, p.149
  4. ^ A Tour of Architecture in Islamic Cities
  5. ^ Avner, Rina “The Dome of the Rock in Light of the development of Concentric Martyria in Jerusalem” article in “Muqarnas: An annual on the visual cultures of the Islamic World” Vol 27, Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2010, p. 43-44
  6. ^ The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Martin Biddle. p.68
  7. ^ Flood, Finbarr Barry The Great Mosque of Damascus: Studies on the Makings of an Umayyad Visual Culture Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2000, p. 67-68. “The vine frieze finds various counterparts in the decoration of pre-Islamic Syrian temples and churches...”
  8. ^ The horseshoe arch is observed in early Spanish churches such as [Church_of_San_Juan_Bautista,_Baños_de_Cerrato|San Juan] and [San_Pedro_de_la_Nave|San Pedro]
  9. ^ See attesting photos of early forms of the horseshoe arch: 1) Church of St. James at Nisibis, Turkey 2) Alahan Monastery near Mut, Turkey . 3) Clivo di Scauro towards Villa Mattei , Rome.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Hillenbrand, Robert. Islamic Art and Architecture, Thames & Hudson World of Art series; 1999, London. ISBN 9780500203057
  12. ^ Gruber, World of Art
  13. ^ Hillenbrand (1999).
  14. ^ Petrie, Graham Tunis, Kairouan & Carthage: described and illustrated with forty-eight paintings William Heinemann, London, 1908, p. 199.
  15. ^ S. Kleiner, Fred and Helen Gardner Gardner's Art through the Ages: Backpack Edition, Volume C, 14th ed., Book 3 Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, Boston, MA, 2005, p. 89.
  16. ^ Great Mosque of Kairouan (Qantara mediterranean heritage)
  17. ^ Stewart, Charles Anthony Flying Buttress and Pointed Arch in Byzantine Cyprus Accessed August 2013.
  18. ^ See Karamagara Bridge and Byzantine architecture and Taq-i-Kisra.
  19. ^ Grabar, O. (2006) p.87
  20. ^ Ettinghausen (2003), p.87
  21. ^ Tonna (1990), pp.182–197
  22. ^ Petersen 2002, p. 295.
  23. ^ Ali 1999, p. 35.
  24. ^ Petersen 2002, p. 296.
  25. ^ a b c Ettinghausen, Grabar & Jenkins 2001, p. 24.
  26. ^ a b Bloom & Blair 2009, p. 80.
  27. ^ Bloom & Blair 2009, p. 82.
  28. ^ , BRILL, p. 72Islamic Architecture in Cairo: An IntroductionDoris Behrens-Abouseif (1992),
  29. ^ . Osprey Publishing, p. 12Saracen Strongholds 1100-1500: The Central and Eastern Islamic LandsDavid Nicolle (2009),
  30. ^ Hillenbrand, p.109
  31. ^ Hillenbrand, p.100.
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ Savory, Roger; Iran under the Safavids, p. 155
  35. ^ Blake, Stephen P.; Half the World, The Social Architecture of Safavid Isfahan, 1590- 1722, p. 143- 144
  36. ^ Canby, Sheila R.; Shah Abbas, The Remaking of Iran, p. 30.
  37. ^ Canby, Sheila R.; Shah Abbas, The Remaking of Iran, p. 36.
  38. ^ Hattstein M., Delius P.; Islam, Art and Architecture; p. 513- 514
  39. ^ a b "Islam", The New Encyclopædia Britannica (2005)
  40. ^ Journal Islam Today N° 14-1417H/1996
  41. ^ Virtual Azerbaijan: Azerbaijan's History
  42. ^ John F. Richards (1996), The Mughal Empire, Cambridge University Press, p. 29
  43. ^ Cowen, Jill S. (July–August 1985). "Muslims in China: The Mosque". Saudi Aramco World. pp. 30–35. Retrieved 2006-04-08. 
  44. ^ Saudi Aramco World, July/August 1985, page 3035
  45. ^ Historical Society of Ghana. Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, The Society, 1957, pp81
  46. ^ Davidson, Basil. The Lost Cities of Africa. Boston: Little Brown, 1959, pp86
  47. ^ Culture and customs of Somalia – Mohammed Abdullahi Diriye pg 102
  48. ^ Studies in Islamic history and civilization By David Ayalon pg 370
  49. ^ a b c Hillenbrand, R. "Masdjid. I. In the central Islamic lands". In P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis,  
  50. ^ "Religious Architecture and Islamic Cultures". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 2006-04-09. 
  51. ^ "Vocabulary of Islamic Architecture". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Archived from the original on 2005-11-24. Retrieved 2006-04-09. 
  52. ^ , page 26. Harvard University Press, 2005.Islamic art in detailSheila R. Canby,
  53. ^ a b . World Wisdom. 2009. p.128Art of Islam, Language and Meaning: Commemorative EditionTitus Burckhardt,
  54. ^ Dictionary of Islamic architecture: Pishtaq
  55. ^ Pishtaq




See also

Contemporary Muslim architects

  • Minarets or towers (these were originally used as torch-lit watchtowers, as seen in the Great Mosque of Damascus; hence the derivation of the word from the Arabic nur, meaning "light"). The minaret of the Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia is considered as the oldest surviving minaret in the world.[53] It has the shape of a square massive tower of three superimposed sections.[53]
  • A four-iwan plan, with three subordinate halls and one principal one that faces toward Mecca
  • Mihrab or prayer niche on an inside wall indicating the direction to Mecca.
  • Domes and Cupolas. In South East Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia), these are very recent additions.
  • Pishtaq is the formal gateway to the iwan, usually the main prayer hall of a mosque, a vaulted hall or space, walled on three sides, with one end entirely open; a Persian term for a portal projecting from the facade of a building, usually decorated with calligraphy bands, glazed tilework, and geometric designs.[54][55]
  • Iwans to intermediate between different pavilions.
  • The use of Islamic geometric patterns and foliage based arabesques.
  • The use of mocárabe and muqarnas, a unique Arabic/Islamic space-enclosing system, for the decoration of domes, minarets and portals, as used at the Alhambra.
  • The use of decorative Islamic calligraphy instead of pictures which were haram (forbidden) in mosque architecture. Note that in secular architecture, human and animal representation was indeed present.
  • Central fountains used for ablutions (once used as a wudu area for Muslims).
  • The use of bright color, if the style is Persian or Indian (Mughal); paler sandstone and grey stones are preferred among Arab buildings. Compare the Registan complex of Uzbekistan to the Al-Azhar University of Cairo. In Indonesia and Malaysia, modern mosques are often painted in bright green (symbolic colour of Islam) and yellow (royal colour of South East Asia).

Islamic architecture may be identified with the following design elements, which were inherited from the first mosque built byr hall (originally a feature of the Masjid al-Nabawi).

Plan view of Bab al-Barqiyya along Ayyubid Wall. Located close to one of Cairo's main modern traffic arteries, al-Azhar Street, the Fatimid-era Bab al-Barqiyya fortified gate was constructed with interlocking volumes that surrounded the entrant in such a way as to provide greater security and control than typical city wall gates. Laser scan data from an Aga Khan Foundation/CyArk research partnership.

Elements of Islamic style

Instead of recalling something related to the reality of the spoken word, calligraphy for the Muslim is a visible expression of spiritual concepts. Calligraphy has arguably become the most venerated form of Islamic art because it provides a link between the languages of the Muslims with the religion of Islam. The holy book of Islam, al-Qur'ān, has played a vital role in the development of the Arabic language, and by extension, calligraphy in the Arabic alphabet. Proverbs and complete passages from the Qur'an are still active sources for Islamic calligraphy.

Arabic calligraphy is associated with geometric Islamic art (the Arabesque) on the walls and ceilings of mosques as well as on the page. Contemporary artists in the Islamic world draw on the heritage of calligraphy to use calligraphic inscriptions or abstractions in their work.

Islamic calligraphy on large pishtaq of the Taj Mahal


An element of Islamic art usually found decorating the walls and window screens of mosques and Muslim homes and buildings, the arabesque is an elaborate application of repeating geometric forms that often echo the forms of plants, shapes and sometimes animals (specifically birds). The choice of which geometric forms are to be used and how they are to be formatted is based upon the Islamic view of the world. To Muslims, these forms, taken together, constitute an infinite pattern that extends beyond the visible material world.[52] To many in the Islamic world, they in fact symbolize the infinite, and therefore uncentralized, nature of the creation of the one God ("Allah" in Arabic). Furthermore, the Islamic Arabesque artist conveys a definite spirituality without the iconography of Christian art. Arabesque is used in mosques and building around the Muslim world, and it is a way of decorating using beautiful, embellishing and repetitive Islamic art instead of using pictures of humans and animals (which is forbidden Haram in Islam).

Complex Mosaic patterns also known as Girih are popular forms of architectural art in many Muslim cultures.


The Qur'an uses the garden as an analogy for paradise and Islam came to have a significant influence on garden design. The concept of paradise garden was commonly used the Persian gardens, Ottoman gardens as well as Charbagh garden of Mughal architecture.

The tomb of Hafez is a primary example of a Persian garden, with the typical, enclosed space, water channels and large trees that provide cooling shades.


  1. When within a residence or other secular building is a private courtyard and walled garden. It is used for: the aesthetics of plants, water, architectural elements, and natural light; for cooler space with fountains and shade, and source of breezes into the structure, during summer heat; and a protected and proscribed place where the women of the house need not be covered in the hijab clothing traditionally necessary in public.
  2. A sehan—courtyard is in within almost every mosque in Islamic architecture. The courtyards are open to the sky and surrounded on all sides by structures with halls and rooms, and often a shaded semi-open arcade. Sehans usually feature a centrally positioned ritual cleansing pool under an open domed pavilion called a howz . A mosque courtyard is used for performing ablutions, and a 'patio' for rest or gathering.

The traditional Islamic courtyard, a sehan in Arabic (ar: صحن), is found in secular and religious structures.

The Great Mosque of Kairouan, with a large courtyardsehan surrounded by arcades, located in Kairouan, Tunisia.


The Ottomans introduced central dome mosques in the 15th century and have a large dome centered over the prayer hall. In addition to having one large dome at the center, there are often smaller domes that exist off-center over the prayer hall or throughout the rest of the mosque, where prayer is not performed.[51] This style was heavily influenced by the Byzantine religious architecture with its use of large central domes.[49]

Arab-plan or hypostyle mosques are the earliest type of mosques, pioneered under the Umayyad Dynasty. These mosques are square or rectangular in plan with an enclosed courtyard and a covered prayer hall. Historically, because of the warm Mediterranean and Middle Eastern climates, the courtyard served to accommodate the large number of worshippers during Friday prayers. Most early hypostyle mosques have flat roofs on top of prayer halls, necessitating the use of numerous columns and supports.[49] One of the most notable hypostyle mosques is the Mezquita in Córdoba, Spain, as the building is supported by over 850 columns.[50] Frequently, hypostyle mosques have outer arcades so that visitors can enjoy some shade. Arab-plan mosques were constructed mostly under the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties; subsequently, however, the simplicity of the Arab plan limited the opportunities for further development, and as a result, these mosques gradually fell out of popularity.[49]

Many forms of Islamic architecture have evolved in different regions of the Islamic world. Notable Islamic architectural types include the early Abbasid buildings, T-Type mosques, and the central-dome mosques of Anatolia. The oil-wealth of the 20th century drove a great deal of mosque construction using designs from leading modern architects.

The interior of the Mezquita in Córdoba, Spain.


Architecture Forms and Styles of mosques and buildings in Muslim countries

Common interpretations of Islamic architecture include the following: The concept of God or Allah's infinite power is evoked by designs with repeating themes which suggest infinity. Human and animal forms are rarely depicted in decorative art as God's work is considered to be matchless. Foliage is a frequent motif but typically stylized or simplified for the same reason. Arabic Calligraphy is used to enhance the interior of a building by providing quotations from the Qur'an. Islamic architecture has been called the "architecture of the veil" because the beauty lies in the inner spaces (courtyards and rooms) which are not visible from the outside (street view). Furthermore, the use of grandiose forms such as large domes, towering minarets, and large courtyards are intended to convey power.

The Sebilj is a pseudo-Ottoman style wooden fountain in the centre of Baščaršija square in Sarajevo, Bosnia.


Shrines to honor Somali patriarchs and matriarchs evolved from ancient Somali burial customs. In Southern Somalia the preferred medieval shrine architecture was the Pillar tomb style while the North predominantly built structures consisting of domes and square plans.

For centuries, Arba Rukun (1269), the Friday mosque of Merca (1609) and Fakr ad-Din (1269) were, in fact, the only mosques in East Africa to have minarets.[48] Fakr ad-Din, which dates back to the Mogadishan Golden Age, was built with marble and coral stone and included a compact rectangular plan with a domed mihrab axis. Glazed tiles were also used in the decoration of the mihrab, one of which bears a dated inscription. The 13th century Al Gami University consisted of a rectangular base with a large cylindrical tower architecturally unique in the Islamic world.

The peaceful introduction of Islam in the early medieval era of Somalia's history brought Islamic architectural influences from Arabia and Persia, which stimulated a shift from drystone and other related materials in construction to coral stone, sundried bricks, and the widespread use of limestone in Somali architecture. Many of the new architectural designs such as mosques were built on the ruins of older structures, a practice that would continue over and over again throughout the following centuries.[47] Concordant with the ancient presence of Islam in the Horn of Africa region, mosques in Somalia are some of the oldest on the entire continent. One architectural feature that made Somali mosques distinct from other mosques in Africa were minarets.

The 13th century Fakr ad-Din Mosque in Mogadishu.
Almnara Tower Somalia.

Somali-Islamic architecture

In West Africa, Islamic merchants played a vital role in the Western Sahel region since the Kingdom of Ghana. At Kumbi Saleh, locals lived in domed-shaped dwellings in the king's section of the city, surrounded by a great enclosure. Traders lived in stone houses in a section which possessed 12 beautiful mosques (as described by al-bakri), one centered on Friday prayer.[45] The king is said to have owned several mansions, one of which was sixty-six feet long, forty-two feet wide, contained seven rooms, was two stories high, and had a staircase; with the walls and chambers filled with sculpture and painting.[46] Sahelian architecture initially grew from the two cities of Djenné and Timbuktu. The Sankore Mosque in Timbuktu, constructed from mud on timber, was similar in style to the Great Mosque of Djenné.

Sahelian-Islamic architecture

Today, with increasing Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Indonesian-Malaysian mosques are developing a more standard, international style, with a dome and minaret.

South East Asia was slow to adopt Middle Eastern architectural styles. For centuries, most Indonesian mosques lacked a dome or even a minaret. Instead, they had large pagoda-like roofs (of local Indonesian, Chinese and Indian influence), inspired by the shape of volcanoes. The architecture of Javanese Indonesian mosques had a strong influence on the design of other mosques in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines. The minaret of the Menara Kudus Mosque, in Central Java, demonstrates further pre-Islamic influence on local Islamic architecture.

The Grand Mosque of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, dominated by the giant layered roof typical of Indonesian mosques.

Indonesian-Malaysian architecture

Most mosques have certain aspects in common with each other however as with other regions Chinese Islamic architecture reflects the local architecture in its style. China is renowned for its beautiful mosques, which resemble temples. However, in western China the mosques resemble those of the Arab World, with tall, slender minarets, curvy arches and dome shaped roofs. In northwest China where the Chinese Hui have built their mosques, there is a combination of eastern and western styles. The mosques have flared Buddhist style roofs set in walled courtyards entered through archways with miniature domes and minarets.[44]

Chinese buildings may be built with either red or grey bricks, but wooden structures are the most common; these are more capable of withstanding earthquakes, but are vulnerable to fire. The roof of a typical Chinese building is curved; there are strict classifications of gable types, comparable with the classical orders of European columns.

An important lathan feature in Chinese architecture is its emphasis on symmetry, which connotes a sense of grandeur; this applies to everything from palaces to mosques. One notable exception is in the design of gardens, which tends to be as asymmetrical as possible. Like Chinese scroll paintings, the principle underlying the garden's composition is to create enduring flow; to let the patron wander and enjoy the garden without prescription, as in nature herself.

The first Chinese mosque was established in the 7th century during the Tang Dynasty in Xi'an. The Great Mosque of Xi'an, whose current buildings date from the Ming Dynasty, does not replicate many of the features often associated with traditional mosques. Instead, it follows traditional Chinese architecture. Some Chinese mosques in parts of western China were more likely to incorporate minarets and domes while eastern Chinese mosques were more likely to look like pagodas.[43]

The Great Mosque of Xi'an, China
Hui people who have also migrated to the south such as this Darunaman Mosque, locating in Chiang Rai province, Thailand shows a great mixture between Chinese and Islamic architecture.

Sino-Islamic architecture

Another distinctive sub-style is Indo-Islamic architecture in South Asia, a fusion of Arab, Central Asian and Persian elements with the local Hindu architecture. The most famous examples of Mughal architecture are the series of imperial mausolea, which started with the pivotal Tomb of Humayun, but is best known for the Taj Mahal, completed in 1648 by emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died while giving birth to their 14th child. The Taj Mahal is completely symmetrical except for Shah Jahan's sarcophagus, which is placed off center in the crypt room below the main floor. This symmetry extended to the building of an entire mirror mosque in black marble to complement the Mecca-facing mosque place to the west of the main structure. A famous example of the charbagh style of Mughal garden is the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, where the domeless Tomb of Jahangir is also located. Bibi Ka Maqbara in Aurangabad which was commissioned by sixth Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in memory of his wife. The Red Fort in Delhi and Agra Fort are huge castle-like fortified palaces, and the abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri, 26 miles (42 km) west of Agra, was built for Akbar in the late 16th century.[42]

Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

Indo-Islamic architecture

Timurid architecture is the pinnacle of Islamic art in Central Asia. Spectacular and stately edifices erected by Timur and his successors in Samarkand and Herat helped to disseminate the influence of the Ilkhanid school of art in India, thus giving rise to the celebrated Mughal school of architecture. Timurid architecture started with the sanctuary of Ahmed Yasawi in present-day Kazakhstan and culminated in Timur's mausoleum Gur-e Amir in Samarkand. The style is largely derived from Persian architecture. Axial symmetry is a characteristic of all major Timurid structures, notably the Shah-e Zendah in Samarkand and the mosque of Gowhar Shad in Mashhad. Double domes of various shapes abound, and the outsides are perfused with brilliant colors.

Registan is the ensemble of three madrasas, in Samarkand, modern day Uzbekistan.

Turkistan (Timurid) architecture

The Ottomans mastered the technique of building vast inner spaces confined by seemingly weightless yet massive domes, and achieving perfect harmony between inner and outer spaces, as well as light and shadow. Islamic religious architecture which until then consisted of simple buildings with extensive decorations, was transformed by the Ottomans through a dynamic architectural vocabulary of vaults, domes, semidomes and columns. The mosque was transformed from being a cramped and dark chamber with arabesque-covered walls into a sanctuary of esthetic and technical balance, refined elegance and a hint of heavenly transcendence.

The most numerous and largest of mosques exist in Turkey, which obtained influence from Byzantine, Persian and Syrian-Arab designs. Turkish architects implemented their own style of cupola domes.[39] For almost 500 years Byzantine architecture such as the church of Hagia Sophia served as models for many of the Ottoman mosques such as the Shehzade Mosque, the Suleiman Mosque, and the Rüstem Pasha Mosque.

The standard plan of Ottoman architecture was inspired in part by the example of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople/Istanbul, Ilkhanid works like Oljeitu Tomb and earlier Seljuk and Anatolian Beylik monumental buildings and their own original innovations. The most famous of Ottoman architects was (and remains) Mimar Sinan, who lived for approximately one hundred years and designed several hundreds of buildings, of which two of the most important are Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul and Selimiye Mosque in Edirne. Apprentices of Sinan later built the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul and the Taj Mahal in India.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, built in 1616. (Istanbul, Turkey)

Ottoman architecture

The Shirvan-Absheron school unlike Nakchivan style used stones instead of the bricks in the construction. At the same characteristics of this trend were the asymmetry and stone carving, which includes famous landmarks like Palace of the Shirvanshahs.

The Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century also helped Islamic architecture to flourish in Azerbaijan.[40][41] The country became home of Nakchivan and Shirvan-Absheron architecture schools. An example of the first direction in the Azerbaijani Islamic architecture is the mausoleum of Yusuf, built in 1162.

Persian-style mosques are also characterized by their tapered brick pillars, large arcades and arches each supported by several pillars. In South Asia, elements of Hindu architecture were employed, but were later superseded by Persian designs.[39]

The renaissance in Persian mosque and dome building came during the Safavid dynasty, when Shah Abbas, in 1598 initiated the reconstruction of Isfahan, with the Naqsh-e Jahan Square as the centerpiece of his new capital.[34] The distinct feature of Persian domes, which separates them from those domes created in the Christian world or the Ottoman and Mughal empires, was the colorful tiles, with which they covered the exterior of their domes, as they would on the interior. These domes soon numbered dozens in Isfahan, and the distinct, blue- colored shape would dominate the skyline of the city. Reflecting the light of the sun, these domes appeared like glittering turquoise gem and could be seen from miles away by travelers following the Silk road through Persia. This very distinct style of architecture was inherited to them from the Seljuq dynasty, who for centuries had used it in their mosque building, but it was perfected during the Safavids when they invented the haft- rangi, or seven- colour style of tile burning, a process that enabled them to apply more colours to each tile, creating richer patterns, sweeter to the eye.[35] The colours that the Persians favoured were golden, white and turquoise patterns on a dark- blue background.[36] The extensive inscription bands of calligraphy and arabesque on most of the major buildings where carefully planned and executed by Ali Reza Abbasi, who was appointed head of the royal library and Master calligrapher at the Shah's court in 1598,[37] while Shaykh Bahai oversaw the construction projects. Reaching 53 meters in height, the dome of Masjed-e Shah (Shah Mosque) would become the tallest in the city when it was finished in 1629. It was built as a double- shelled dome, with 14 m spanning between the two layers, and resting on an octagonal dome chamber.[38]

Iranian architecture and city planning also reached an apogee under the Timurids, in particular with the monuments of Samarkand, marked by extensive use of exterior ceramic tiles and muqarnas vaulting within.

The Il-Khanate period provided several innovations to dome-building that eventually enabled the Persians to construct much taller structures. These changes later paved the way for Safavid architecture. The pinnacle of Il-Khanate architecture was reached with the construction of the Soltaniyeh Dome (1302–1312) in Zanjan, Iran, which measures 50 m in height and 25 m in diameter, making it the 3rd largest and the tallest masonry dome ever erected.[32] The thin, double-shelled dome was reinforced by arches between the layers.[33] The tomb of Öljeitü in Soltaniyeh is one of the greatest and most impressive monuments in Iran, despite many later depredations.

Under the Seljuqs the "Iranian plan" of mosque construction appears for the first time. Lodging places called khans, or caravanserai, for travellers and their animals, or caravansarais, generally displayed utilitarian rather than ornamental architecture, with rubble masonry, strong fortifications, and minimal comfort.[30] Seljuq architecture synthesized various styles, both Iranian and Syrian, sometimes rendering precise attributions difficult. Another important architectural trend to arise in the Seljuk era is the development of mausolea including the tomb tower such as the Gunbad-i-qabus (circa 1006-7) (showcasing a Zoroastrian motif) and the domed square, an example of which is the tomb of the Samanids in the city of Bukhara (circa 943).[31]

In Persia and Central Asia, the Tahirids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, and Ghurids struggled for power in the 10th century, and art was a vital element of this competition. Great cities were built, such as Nishapur and Ghazni (Afghanistan), and the construction of the Great Mosque of Isfahan (which would continue, in fits and starts, over several centuries) was initiated. Funerary architecture was also cultivated.

The Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century availed the Muslims with the vast wealth of architectural innovation developed over the centuries, from the great roads, aqueducts and arches of the Roman Empire, to the Byzantine basilicas and Persian horseshoe and pointed arches, and the Sassanian and Byzantine mosaics. The Islamic architects first utilized these native architects to build mosques, and eventually developed their own adaptations. Islamic architecture thus is directly related to Persian and Byzantine architecture.

Persian architecture


The reign of the Mamluks (1250–1517 AD) in Egypt marked a breathtaking flowering of Islamic art which is most visible in old Cairo. Religious zeal made them generous patrons of architecture and art. Trade and agriculture flourished under Mamluk rule, and Cairo, their capital, became one of the wealthiest cities in the Near East and the center of artistic and intellectual activity. This made Cairo, in the words of Ibn Khaldun, "the center of the universe and the garden of the world", with majestic domes, courtyards, and soaring minarets spread across the city.

Fatimid architecture in Egypt followed Tulunid techniques and used similar materials, but also developed those of their own. In Cairo, their first congregational mosque was al-Azhar mosque ("the splendid") founded along with the city (969–973), which, together with its adjacent institution of higher learning (al-Azhar University), became the spiritual center for Ismaili Shia. The Mosque of al-Hakim (r. 996–1013), an important example of Fatimid architecture and architectural decoration, played a critical role in Fatimid ceremonial and procession, which emphasized the religious and political role of the Fatimid caliph. Besides elaborate funerary monuments, other surviving Fatimid structures include the Aqmar Mosque (1125)[28] and the Al-Hakim Mosque, as well as the monumental gates for Cairo's city walls commissioned by the powerful Fatimid emir and vizier Badr al-Jamali (r. 1073–1094).[29]

Construction of the Great Mosque at Córdoba (now a cathedral known as the Mezquita) beginning in 785 CE marks the beginning of Moorish architecture in the Iberian peninsula and North Africa (see Moors). The mosque is noted for its striking interior arches. Moorish architecture reached its peak with the construction of the Alhambra, the magnificent palace/fortress of Granada, with its open and breezy interior spaces adorned in red, blue, and gold. The walls are decorated with stylized foliage motifs, Arabic inscriptions, and arabesque design work, with walls covered in glazed tile. Their other, smaller, survivals such as the Bab Mardum in Toledo, or the caliphal city of Medina Azahara. Moorish architecture has its roots deeply established in the Arab tradition of architecture and design established during the era of the first Caliphate of the Umayyads in the Levant circa 660AD with its capital Damascus having very well preserved examples of fine Arab Islamic design and geometrics, including the carmen, which is the typical Damascene house, opening on the inside with a fountain as the house's centre piece.

The Abbasid architecture of the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1513) was strongly influenced by Sassanid architecture, and later by Central Asian styles. The Abbasid mosques all followed the courtyard plan. The earliest was the mosque that al-Mansur built in Baghdad. since destroyed. The Great Mosque of Samarra built by al-Mutawakkil was 256 by 139 metres (840 by 456 ft). A flat wooden roof was supported by columns. The mosque was decorated with marble panels and glass mosaics.[26] The prayer hall of the Abu Dulaf mosque at Samarra had arcades on rectangular brick piers running at right angles to the qibla wall. Both of the Samarra mosques have spiral minarets, the only examples in Iraq.[26] A mosque at Balkh in what is now Afghanistan was about 20 by 20 metres (66 by 66 ft) square, with three rows of three square bays, supporting nine vaulted domes.[27]

The Umayyad Caliphate (661–750) combined elements of Byzantine architecture and Sassanid architecture, but Umayyad architecture introduced new combinations of these western and eastern styles.[22] The horseshoe arch appears for the first time in Umayyad architecture, later to evolve to its most advanced form in al-Andalus.[23] Umayyad architecture is distinguished by the extent and variety of decoration, including mosaics, wall painting, sculpture and carved reliefs with Islamic motifs.[24] The Umayyads introduced a transept that divided the prayer room along its shorter axis.[25] They also added the mihrab to mosque design.[25] The mosque in Medina built by al-Walid I had the first mihrab, a niche on the qibla wall, which seems to have represented the place where the Prophet stood when leading prayer. This almost immediately became a standard feature of all mosques.[25]

There are few buildings dating from the era of Prophet Muhammad, but one example is the Juatha mosque in Saudi Arabia. The Rashidun Caliphate (632–661) was the first state to use Islamic Architecture.

Bab al-Futuh gate built by the Fatimid vazir Badr al-Jamali.
Section of the Umayyad-era Mshatta Facade, now in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, from a palace near Amman.
Moorish ceiling in Alhambra.

Early history


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