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What Is a Mosque?

All mosques feature a mihrab, a niche in the wall that faces Mecca.
Turkey's Blue Mosque is a world-famous mosque.
The Kaaba is inside Al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca.
The first mosque, according to Islam, was in Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 July 2014
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A mosque is a Muslim place of worship, where the faithful gather to pray, participate in community events, and to exchange information with each other. They can be found in a wide range of architectural styles in nations all over the world, including the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, one of the most sacred mosques in Islam, and the stunning Blue Mosque in Turkey, which was built by Sultan Ahmed I in Istanbul.

A few architectural features are common to all mosques, regardless as to whether they are built in the form of Chinese pagodas or modernist edifices. It always includes a mihrab, a niche in the wall that faces Mecca. The mihrab is used to orient the congregation as prayers are said, and it is often ornately decorated. Many also have a minibar, a pulpit, along with minarets, tall slender towers which are used to issue the call to prayer.

Most mosques also have a large common area which is designed to accommodate the congregation when they gather for prayers, and they have separate areas for men and women so that they can pray in peace. Commonly, it also has community facilities, allowing people to use the space for festivals, community meetings, dinners, and other social events. Much like religious buildings in other traditions, the mosque is the hub of community life.

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Many mosques are attached to the hamam, or public baths, and they may have generously landscaped grounds as well. It is also common to attach a school for the education of the community's youth. When a mosque is especially large and designed to be used for community functions, it is known as a jama'a, or “Great Mosque,” while a smaller one that is used just for prayer is known as a masjid.

According to Islam, the first mosque was the Kaaba, in Mecca. Some other well known examples include the Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, the Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina, the Great Mosque of Paris, the Umayyad Mosque in Syria, the Jami Ul Alfar in Sri Lanka, and the Babri Mosque in India. Non-Muslims are welcomed in many mosques, as long as they are respectful. If a person wants to visit one, he or she should wear modest, simple clothing; women should cover their hair; and visitors should be prepared to remove their shoes at the door. During prayers, silence is expected so that people can concentrate.

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Discuss this Article

anon309213
Post 10

I live in Turkey and I visited Sultan Ahmed (Blue Mosque). It is a historical and wonderful place. Istanbul has many historical places. Everyone should see this city.

anon162486
Post 5

I think that the Muslims' place of worship is cool and big and the fact that they respect it.

yournamehere
Post 3

My favorite is the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in Islamabad. Even though it has some terrible history associated with it, I still find it to be beautiful and peaceful.

TunaLine
Post 2

I was fortunate enough to travel in Iraq before the war, and got to see the Imam Ali mosque. It is truly a gorgeous piece of architecture, and the towers are out of this world.

You really do get a sense of the dignity and holiness associated with Islam when you visit this mosque -- whether you're Muslim or not, it's still elegant and impressive.

FirstViolin
Post 1

Although I am not Muslim, I still thank that mosques are so beautiful. I live near to the central mosque in TST, and I have to say, it is truly beautiful.

Whether or not you believe they are holy, mosques are certainly gorgeous.

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