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The Sultan Ahmed Mosque with its six minarets in Istanbul
Mosque in singapore
Aksa Mosque in The Hague , a synagogue until 1975

A mosque ( Arabic مسجد Masjid , DMG masǧid  'place of prostration', Turkish cami ) is a ritual place for communal Islamic prayer and, moreover, for imparting political, legal and practical values ​​in the sense of Islam as well as a social meeting point.

Although the daily prayers can in principle be performed anywhere, it is considered particularly meritorious if they are performed in the mosque, because in this way belonging to the Muslim community is expressed. Various hadiths say that a prayer in community is worth 25 times as much as a prayer at home. Only the Friday prayer is definitely tied to the mosque. Without execution in the mosque this loses its validity.

A distinction is made between simple mosques that were donated by private individuals and Friday mosques that are maintained by the state and where Friday prayers are regularly held.

Origins of the mosque

The word "mosque" is derived from the Arabic masjid via its North African pronunciation masgid , the Spanish mesquita and Italian moschea . The underlying Arabic term masjid means "place of prostration (for prayer), place of worship". This term occurs almost 30 times in the Koran, and exclusively in the late Meccan and Medinean times. In most places masjid is provided with the attribute haraam ("holy, forbidden") (cf. eg Sura 2: 144 and 17: 1) and then denotes the sanctuary in Mecca in the combination of al-Masjid al-Haram .

After emigrating from Mecca to Medina in 622, the Muslims lost access to the shrine in Mecca. They usually gathered for prayer in the courtyard of Muhammad's home in Medina. This courtyard is considered to be the first Muslim mosque because it was the first time that Muslims had their own masjid. On the basis of the enormous economic gain that the Muslim community experienced after the campaign to Chaibar , the first enlargement of this Prophet's Mosque could be tackled in 628 .

Following the model of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, mosques were built in all newly founded Arab camps after the conquest of the Near East .

Personnel, administration, social aspects

In principle, prayer can be directed by any Muslim who is of legal age, has mastered the forms of prayer and can say the prayers in Arabic, but many mosques have a permanent prayer leader ( imam ). A permanent imam must be a righteous man who is well versed in religious matters. In Friday mosques built by state authorities, the imam is appointed by the government; In privately donated mosques, however, it is determined by the members of the mosque community . The imam is free to recite from the Koran or the hadith before the communal prayer and instruct the community in the faith.

Friday mosques also usually have their own chatīb , who gives the Friday sermon , and a muezzin , who proclaims the calls to prayer, the adhān and the iqāma .

The legal basis of the mosque in Islamic countries is usually a waqf . In non-Islamic countries, mosques are usually run by mosque associations. When new mosques are built, they acquire the property and act as property developers .

Mosques have often served as a means of maintaining religious and social identity in Islamic history. In the early days of Islam, mosques were mostly maintained by certain tribes and used by them as general meeting places. Later, followers of different schools of law and certain denominational communities such as the Shiites built separate mosques for their own group. Even today mosques very often have a certain ethno-national orientation. In some West African countries , in the 20th century, there were violent disputes between different ethnic groups who claimed sovereignty over certain mosques.

Components of the mosque

Prayer room

Hypostyle Hall of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus

The central element of a mosque is the space for prayer. In the early days of Islam, this usually only consisted of an enclosed courtyard, the so-called Sahn . The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus , which was built in the early 8th century on the site of a Christian church, had a portico for the first time; other mosques such as the Mezquita of Cordoba followed. Covered prayer rooms later became standard, but a walled courtyard area has remained an essential part of a mosque up to the present day. Women usually perform their prayer at home or in a separate room or on a raised and thus protected gallery .

In addition to the covered mosques, there are also open prayer areas ( musallās ) on the outskirts or outskirts. They are visited almost exclusively during the festive prayer for the festival of sacrifice and the festival of the breaking of the fast and offer space for a large crowd (see Eidgah ).

Prayer niche

The prayer niche ( mihrab ) of the Friday mosque of Yazd (Iran)

Muslims pray towards the Kaaba (central shrine in Mecca). In rooms that regularly serve as a prayer room, the direction of prayer (Arabic qibla ) is mandatory. A recognizable highlighting of the so-called Qibla wall is sufficient. This can be a line or an arrow, an inscription or a plaque with the word ' qibla ', other inscriptions and creative means or the prayer niche called mihrāb . The marking of the qibla is therefore the most important element of a mosque.

The mihrāb has several functions. On the one hand it marks the qibla and on the other hand the place of the imam during prayer in front of the group. In addition, it has an acoustic effect. Due to the semicircular or polygonal niche shape of the mihrab, the loud recitations of the imam echo back into the prayer room so that all believers can understand the imam's words and follow the prayer.


Pulpit ( minbar ) in the An Nasir Muhammad Mosque in Cairo

The Friday sermon is read from a pulpit known as the minbar . That makes the minbar an indispensable element in a Friday mosque . The minbar is attached to the qibla wall, always to the right of the mihrab, and can be reached from the front via a staircase. The Chutba is held by the Imam standing on the stairs. The original, early Islamic minbar had three steps. It is important to note that the Prophet Mohammed always preached from the third stage. The highest level of minbar has always been reserved for the prophet, and the imam preaches from the second level. The minbar is also used for better acoustics and clarity. The number of levels of the minbar depends on the original form, so it should have at least three levels, but always a multiple of the number three. The larger the mosque, the higher the minbar should be.


Mosque in Port Fuad with two minarets

The first call to prayer ( adhān ) is usually made from a minaret. In earlier times the prayer caller ( muezzin ) or the prayer leader (imam) climbed onto the minaret for this purpose and called the believers from there to prayer. Nowadays, however, the adhān is usually broadcast over loudspeakers from the minarets, while the muezzin himself is in the mosque.

Minarets have been erected since around 700 AD. This tradition probably started in Syria, where early Christian church towers or lighthouses were misused. In the early days of Islam, the muezzin usually called the adhan from the roof of the mosque. The minaret also has different designs depending on the region. There are also mosques without minarets (e.g. Shah Jahan Mosque in Thatta , Pakistan or the “nine-domed mosque” near Bagerhat , (Bangladesh)). The majority of mosques in Europe, mostly so-called backyard mosques , do not have a minaret.

Dikka and Kursī

In a mosque there is often a fenced gallery ( dikka , in Turkey Mahfil ). The dikka has the following functions: On the one hand, the muezzins , imams and rulers find their place in this area , and on the other hand, the Iqāma (“invitation to prayer”) is called from there in the mosque or the Koran is recited. The dikka serves the acoustics so that all believers can hear the call to prayer. In modern mosques with loudspeakers, the dikka is only symbolic. Nevertheless, it continues to serve as a traditional building element and as a separate area for imams and scholars. Depending on the size of the mosque, the dikka is placed at the back or in the middle. Depending on the size of the mosque, the dikka is either only a few 30 to 40 cm above the ground or even three meters higher.

In some mosques there are also one or more lecterns that are used to recite the Koran . They are called Kursī.

Washing devices

The Şadirvan of the Ayasofya from 1740

A ritual ablution ( wudoo ' ) must almost always be performed before prayer . A courtyard or garden with a fountain or pond is often attached to the mosque for this purpose. The Şadirvan fountain tradition developed in Ottoman architecture . These were elaborately designed.

Attached premises

Connected rooms and outbuildings can also be a place for classes and discussions or for shops, travel agencies, etc. as well as a venue for celebrating social events. A madrasa can also be attached to the mosque . Further buildings can be connected to the main building, creating a complex that determines the social, cultural, religious and political life of an Islamic community.

Some mosques were built in connection with a grave mausoleum. In this case one speaks of a funerary mosque .

Rules for the mosque


Before entering the mosque, the shoes are removed. The shoes are kept in the vestibules or at the entrance to the mosque - but you can also take them with you into the mosque (with the soles facing each other). A Muslim enters the mosque with the right foot and leaves it with the left.


Because mosques are places of prayer and contemplative reflection, the rules of propriety are similar to those of a church visit. Loud discussions and shouts are forbidden, as is bringing animals. However, on September 24, 2008 , the Muslim Law Council UK gave a blind Muslim fatwa permission to take his guide dog into the mosque.
It is forbidden to walk directly in front of a person praying so as not to disturb them in their prayers.

Dress code

Islam prescribes modest clothing for Muslims. Above all, clothing must be clean and adequately cover the body. Women have to cover their hair ( hijab ) for prayer . Headgear ( takke ) is optional for men .

Gender segregation

A separate prayer room for women in the Chadidscha mosque in Berlin-Heinersdorf

Since women should not be observed by men during worship, the women pray behind the men, separated in their own rooms or on a gallery. Although there are rooms specially reserved for women and children, gender segregation does not apply to the Al-Haram mosque in Mecca.

Access for non-Muslims

Most Islamic schools allow non-Muslims to enter mosques; Non-Muslims may be denied entry during prayer times. The cities of Mecca and Medina are closed to non-Muslims.

Many mosques in the Islamic diaspora welcome visitors as a sign of openness towards the majority society but also as an encouragement to convert to Islam. Since 1997, the day of the open mosque has been celebrated in Germany on October 3rd, the day of German unity .



Minaret of the mosque in Xi'an , one of the oldest mosques in China (7th / 8th centuries)
Islamic Center of Campinas , Brazil

The spread of Islam led to contact with other cultures, whose structural forms were integrated into the sacred architecture. As part of the discussion about Christianity , existing churches were often converted into mosques (best-known example: Hagia Sophia after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople ).

Although they were chronologically consecutive, regional and temporal independent differences arose which, unlike in western art history , do not show any linear development. The designs were created independently from contact with the incorporated cultures. In the Islamized cultural areas, the following traditional floor plans and forms of construction have emerged:

  • Hypostyle hall with open courtyard (Arabian Peninsula, Spain, North Africa)
  • Column hall made of adobe or rammed earth (West Africa and Sahel)
  • Cross-axis four-iwan courtyard (Iran, Central Asia)
  • Triple dome with a wide inner courtyard (Indian subcontinent, see Indo-Islamic architecture )
  • Central building with central dome (Turkey, Balkans)
  • Free-standing pavilions in an enclosed garden (China)
  • Centrally symmetrical step roof (Southeast Asia)

Style elements

Dome of the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne

Depending on the type of construction, corresponding styles were created in the facade design, interior architecture and in furniture design. The design language complemented the entire structure in terms of both style and material. You can often find the same decors in different areas. Depending on regional availability or traditional craftsmanship, the respective furnishings consisted of natural stone, stucco, clay, wood or metal. Due to the ban on images in Islam , very factual, unadorned rooms were created at the beginning. Nevertheless, one felt obliged to distinguish the mosques from the secular architecture. This concentrated on calligraphy , geometry, ornamentation , arabesques and various handicrafts such as B. stucco, carpet, blacksmith, sculptor, carpentry, glass painting and tile crafts.

Due to the warm climate in the Islamic countries, the play of water, light and shadow was of particular importance. The water - as a fountain or water basin in the prayer room or in the courtyard - was used for cleaning and cooling. There were shady shutters with elaborate decorations made of wood, natural stone, stucco or metal. Oil lamps (→ mosque traffic lights ) or candle holders, which were just as elaborately designed, were used to illuminate the mosque in the dark . The courtyards were shaded with arcades or colonnades.

The various vaults were used early on in sacred buildings - in some cases only isolated over the mihrab . Under the Ottomans and in their area of ​​distribution - inspired by the Christian Hagia Sophia in Istanbul - central buildings with many domes and one (up to four) pointed minarets were often to be found. The Ottoman architect Sinan completed this design (see: Ottoman architecture ).

Mosques with a large open inner courtyard are typical of Iran with its four-iwan courtyards and Indo-Islamic architecture . Mud buildings can be found in the Sahel , pagoda-like mosques in Indonesia. Minarets can have very different designs: round and square towers, e.g. T. in shell construction with platforms for the call to prayer.

In Uzbek architecture, special open summer mosques with ivans have developed, which were used in the warm season. Such facilities usually also had closed rooms, winter mosques .


  • Sacred buildings - of praying people and magnificent mosques. 89-minute television documentary by Bruno Ulmer (Arte, France 2018).


  • Bärbel Beinhauer-Koehler, Claus Leggewie : Mosques in Germany. Religious home and social challenge . Becksche series, CH Beck, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-406-58423-7 .
  • Titus Burckhardt : On the essence of sacred art in the world religions . Origo, Zurich 1955. Strongly expanded new edition as: Sacred Art in the World Religions . Chalice, Xanten 2018, ISBN 978-3-942914-29-1 . Pp. 127-162.
  • Wilfried Dechau (photos and text) a. a .: Mosques in Germany - Mosques in Germany . Wasmuth Verlag, Tübingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-8030-0702-5 .
  • Martin Frishman, Hasan-Uddin Khan: The mosques of the world. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-593-35255-9 .
  • George Michell (eds.), Oleg Grabar , EJ Grube, J. Dickie et al: Architecture of the Islamic World. (1978) Thames & Hudson, London 1995, ISBN 0-500-27847-4 .
  • Lorenz Korn : The mosque. Architecture and religious life . CH Beck, Munich 2012.
  • J. Pedersen: Mas dj id I. In the Central Islamic Lands A.-G. In: The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition , Vol. 6, pp. 644b-677b.
  • Ulya Vogt-Göknil : The mosque. Basic forms of sacred architecture . Artemis, Zurich 1978
  • W. Montgomery Watt, Alford T. Welch: Islam I. Mohammed and the early days, Islamic law, religious life . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1980, pp. 289-299.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: mosque  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Mosque  - Quotes
Commons : Mosques  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Islamitische Stichting Nederland Mescidi Aksa
  2. Riem Spielhaus, Alexa Färber (Ed.): Islamic Community Life in Berlin ( Memento of the original from September 29, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. The Berlin Senate Commissioner for Integration and Migration, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-938352-14-0 (PDF; 2.4 MB) - To the mosque brochure of the Berlin Senate Commissioner Piening. Contribution by Dorothea Jung for Deutschlandradio Kultur , "Ortszeit" early, December 15, 2006. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Pedersen: "Mas dj id"; P. 655b.
  4. Pedersen: "Mas dj id"; P. 655b.
  5. See Watts / Welch:. Islam I . 1980, p. 290.
  6. See Behrens, Marcel: "A Garden of Paradise". The Medina Prophet's Mosque. Ergon, Würzburg 2007.
  7. See Watts / Welch:. Islam I . 1980, pp. 294-296.
  8. Pedersen: "Mas dj id"; Pp. 648b-649b.
  9. Cf. Najam Iftikhar Haider: The origins of the Shīʿa: identity, ritual, and sacred space in eighth-century Kūfa. Cambridge 2011, pp. 231-248.
  10. Cf. Marie Miran: Islam, histoire et modernité en Côte d'Ivoire . Karthala, Paris, 2006. pp. 110-115.
  11. J. Jomier: Art. "Dikka". In: The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition Vol. 2, p. 276a.
  12. Ruling allows guide dog in mosque . British Broadcasting Corporation , September 24, 2008.
  13. ^ Rosemary Goring: Dictionary of Beliefs and Religions. Wordsworth Editions, 1997, ISBN 1-85326-354-0 .
  14. Liyakatali Takim: From Conversion to Conversation: Interfaith Dialogue in post 9-11 America (PDF). In: The Muslim World. Volume 94 July 2004, pp. 343-355, doi: 10.1111 / j.1478-1913.2004.00058.x
  15. ^ Laptop link-up: A day at the mosque. BBC, December 5, 2005. Accessed June 16, 2006.