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Sacred Spaces: A Photo Essay on Mosques

A Photo Essay of Mosques around the world

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The Masjid, or Mosque as it is conventionally known in English, is a place of worship for adherents of Islam. The word masjid in Arabic literally means place of prostration (the act of placing ones head upon the ground in humility and subservience to God). The mosque is a sacred place where Muslims gather to pray, reflect, remember God, socialize with other Muslims, eat, sleep, discuss, and enjoy. The mosque is meant to be a spiritual center for Muslim life.

Considering the world population of Muslims number well over two billion people, there are thousands upon thousands of mosques around the world. There are essential aspects of all mosques (like prayer halls, ablution areas, copies of the Holy Quran, calligraphy, etc), however, each mosque exhibits a style of its own, reflecting the historical heritage and culture of its own locality. Thus, a survey of mosques worldwide reveals an incredible diversity of Islam’s sacred spaces. Below you’ll find a brief sampling of some of the mosques around the world, all taken from the Salamfolios of Salam Stock Contributors. Don’t forget to check out Salam Stock’s Collection for more imagery relating to mosques and masjids, or enjoy our previous photo essay on Palestine lifestyles – “Friends in Holy Places“!

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Reading in the Name of the Lord – A Tajik man recites from the Holy Qur’an in Dushanbe’s Central Mosque in Tajikistan. Though reading, recitiation, and comprehension of the sacred text is recommended anywhere and anytime, Islamic sources reveal it is even more blessed of an activity inside a Masjid (Mosque).


Alawi Mosque in Muscat – This Mosque features a beautifully ornate golden colored dome and a modernized minaret featuring a 4 sided clock. A useful feature for keeping up with prayer times.


Beauty creates Serenity – Muslim men pray in a colorful mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. It is often the case that mosque ornamentation and architecture exhibit an exquisite beauty. This is an attempt by the designers and architects to manifest the Prophet Tradition (hadith) which says “Allahu Jamâlun yuhibu ‘l-jamal” – “God is Beautiful and loves beauty.” Beauty, however, should not be conflated with ornamentation, as simplicity is often more valued than flashiness. At the top of the mosque are two round murals that depict the words “Allah” and “Muhammad” in Arabic – common mosque decor that pays homage to the Divine Principle and the Last Messenger of God.


Sheikh Zayed Mosque Halls – This mosque in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, has one of its hallways adorned with pillars, carefully attuned to symmetry and detail. It gives the worshipper and visitor a subtle sense of the Infinity as one looks towards so many pillars lined in a row. Islamic architecture has generally had its ultimate aim as relating the “corporeal world (that we experience with our senses) to its spiritual principle of God, through symbols that unite the various orders of reality.”


Shade Umbrellas – Beauty is even more beautiful when it is practical, as is the case with the shade umbrellas that line the outside foyer of Masjid Nabawi, the great mosque that surrounds the grave of the Prophet Muhammad. The umbrellas themselves are a relatively modern design, whose practical import is to shade visitors of the mosque from the afternoon sun.
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Copies of the Quran – Every mosque has copies of the Holy Quran on its book-shelves and book-stands, as is the case of this American Mosque. It may surprise viewers that this mosque is situated in the West. Its beautiful carpet is inviting and soothing for neighborhood visitors.
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Colors of the Divine – The Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Jamek Mosque is the first mosque in the old town of Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia. Within the esoteric teachings of Islam is an understanding that color is an emanation of the Divine. The Quran says, “Among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colours. There are indeed signs in that for those who know. ” (Quran 30:22)


Spiritual Carpets – An Iranian man walks toward the camera in Masjed-e-Jomeh (the Friday Mosque) in Isfahan, Iran. The mosque has a vast, open foyer area, along with beautiful red prayer carpets.


The Ottoman Blues – Interior ceiling shot of Istanbul’s “Blue Mosque”, more precisely named the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. This masjid was built in the historic capital of the Ottoman Empire in 1609, which also contains a tomb of its founder – Sultan Ahmed I.


Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman – This Mosque was the result of a competition for best design. The final design was chosen in 1993, took nearly 7 years to build, and comprises of 30,000 tonnes of Indian Sandstone. It has a total capacity to hold 20,000 worshipers.


Minaret in America – The Minar, or Minaret as it is often called in english, is a distinctive feature of most mosques. They are towering shafts connected to the mosque that normally peak with a pointed top and small quarters where a person can stand. Often a person stands at the top of the minar in order to give the adhaan, or the Muslim call to prayer. This minaret is built in an American neighborhood, made with conventional American red-bricks.
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Solitude – In solitude with God, a man quietly reads the Quran in Sultan Selim Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. Though the mosque serves as space for large communities to socialize, learn, and care for those in need, all functions of the mosque are meant to connect the Believer to God and spiritual development. “Remember Me, and I shall remember you.” (Quran, 2:152)


Russian Celebration – A community in Russia celebrates the Eid, or an Islamic Day of Celebration. On the Day of Eid Muslims often gather together for prayer, supplication, gift-giving and socializing. Muslims in Russia make up approximately 7% of Russia’s population, constituting over 25 million people.


Traditional Masjid Domes – A Masjid and its domes in front of a beautiful sunset. Much of Islamic architecture features the well-known “Dome” that often sits atop Islamically inspired structures, especially mosques.


Dome Closeup – A close up of the dome of Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. Towards the bottom of the dome’s circumference is written Quranic verses.


Praying upon the Water – The Putra Mosque, or Masjid Putra in Malay language, is the principal mosque of Putrajaya, Malaysia. It is located next to Perdana Putra which houses the Malaysian Prime Minister’s office and man-made Putrajaya Lake. Islamic architects often had strong sensibilities towards the beauty of nature (such as water) and often tried to integrate aspects of nature into their designs to enliven the experience of visitors. Water is an important element to life according to the Quran: “We have made every living thing out of water.” (Quran 21:30).


Umayyad Mosque at sunset – The Ummayad Mosque is located in the old city of Damascus, Syria. It is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world.


Decor for Prayer Leaders – Above the main mihrab (a niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the direction of prayer and place of the Imam, or prayer leader) of the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus, Syria.


The Mosque of the Forgiver – The architectural design of the Al-Ghaffar Mosque has design elements of Sumatran, Chinese, Indian, and Melacca Malay. The word “Ghaffar” is one of the names of Allah in Arabic, meaning “The Most Forgiving.”


How to get to the Mosque – A bicycle stands in the courtyard of Masjed-e-Jomeh Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. In the background a man is walking across the courtyard, and a father and daughter are sitting together at the edge. The mosque is one of the primary places of socialization for Muslim communities.


A building with Pagan, Christian, and Muslim Influence – The Cathedral within the Mezquita-Catedral in Cordoba, Andalusia, Spain. This building has quite a bit of history, as it has been under the control of many different religious groups throughout the centuries. It currently serves as a place of worship connected to the Roman Catholic Church.


Learning to Listen to God – Youth read the Holy Quran together in a mosque. Mosques are often involved in educational activities, like learning how to read and write the holy texts of Islam. Depending upon the community needs, mosques can also partake in learning activities relating to math, science, and other subjects, as Muslim scholars were pioneers in many of these fields.


Cleanliness is Godliness – Every mosque requires an area for worshipers to perform wudhu, or ritual ablution with water, which must be performed before salat (ritual prayer). It is a simple ritual that connects spirituality to cleanliness. The Prophet Muhammad has said in a tradition, “Cleanliness is a part of faith (imaan).” This is the wudhu area of the Fatih mosque, characteristic of classic Turkish architectural design.


Prayer in the Prophet’s MosqueSalaat, or conanical prayer that is performed 5 times a day, overflows into the extended hallways inside the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina (Masjid al-Nabawi). The mosque has been expanded many times to accommodate the growing number of worshipers that visit this mosque. The mosque is conventionally considered the second holiest site in Islam (second to Masjid al-Haraam in Mecca), though traditions (ahadith) from Islamic sources indicate that the Prophet’s burial site which is within Masjid al-Nabawi’s walls is the holiest place on earth.


What holds up the Mosque – Pillars are common architectural elements of mosques, though are not as distinctive as other elements such as grand domes, minarets, and calligraphy.


Supplication amongst stone pillars – A young man prays in the mosque after performing the salaat. The mosque is located at State of Perak, Malaysia at University Teknologi Petronas. Beautiful stone pillars adorn the prayer area.


Dome of the Rock – The Dome of the Rock is located on the Haram-al-Sharif in Jerusalem, Palestine, often considered the third most holy site in Islam. Inside is the Foundation Stone.


Islam in the Bible Belt – A mosque at Sunset in the southern part of the United States. Despite a being a small minority in this region of America, Muslims have managed to create viable Muslim communities and institutions to meet their own needs.


No sleeping in the Mosque! – Muslim men in a mosque in Little India, Singapore, sleep soundly beneath a sign that says “Strictly no sleeping in the mosque – by order of the Mosque Management Board.” Mosques can be a spiritual place of refuge and rest – if the management is okay with that, that is.


Tradition and Modernity – Mosques often stand out in stark contrast to their surroundings, especially in modernized Muslim cities – like Istanbul, Turkey. Some say this is characteristic of the tension that exists between Islam and contemporary, modern ways of life and governance. Others say this is a sign of Islam’s adaptability and relevance to the times.


Grande Mosquée de Paris – Beautiful mosaic tile adorns the inner foyer of the Grand Mosque of Paris, France.
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Twilight – A beautiful mosque sits on the sea amongst twilight. A minaret stands tall to the right of its dome. The evening prayer must be going on at this time.


Lake front [Mosque] Property – A lake-front mosque and its pier.
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The Perfect Mosque Storm – A mosque in Chefchaouen, Morocco is light almost ablaze by lightening overhead.


Remnants of Islam – The old mihrab (prayer niche) in the Grand Mosque of Cordoba, now called Mezquita-Catedral in Cordoba, Andalusia, Spain.


Islamic Night Life – One of the most beautiful mosques in Malaysia, Masjid Zahir looms in the background of cars driving home at night.


The Floating Mosque of Tanjung Bungah – Masjid Terapung or the Floating Mosque was built in 2004 in a bid to replace an older mosque which was damaged in the year’s major tsunami disaster. Its reflection is seen in the water.


Boys will be boys, even at the Masjid – Three boys play in a drum used for construction outside Gharm’s main mosque in Tajikistan.


Masjid as-Syakirin – This masjid provides a prayer space for worshipers in the city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


The Mosque of Sultan Omar – Built in 1958, this mosque features a golden dome and an interior of Italian marble walls, carpeting and an elevator. It also has tunnels, which are used by the sultan on journeys through the town.


The Shrine of Rukaiya – The Ceiling at the shrine of Syeda Rukaiya (also known as Sakina) in Damascus, Syria. Rukaiya was the daughter of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. This location was once a prison where the young Rukaiya was held after the tragic martyrdom of Imam Hussain and the capture of his family members. The site is visited by mourners to this day.
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Vibrant – Wall and ceiling detail of the Sheikh Lutfullah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. This mosque is one of the masterpieces of Safavid Iranian architecture, built by Sheikh Bahai.


Walking to the Prophet – Visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque (Masjid al-Nabawi) walk towards the entrance. Beautiful tile is beneath their feet, and shade umbrellas overhead.
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Crowded – Inside the Prophet’s mosque, worshipers crowd together to find a close space near the front of the mosque where the Prophet is buried.
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Those who came before us – This shot is taken within the inner foyer areas of Masjid al-Nabawi, the Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad. On the walls is written the names of the Prophet’s family and companions, who are highly revered as role-models by the Muslim community.
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Sunset in Medina – The sun begins its descent into the horizon behind Masjid al-Nabawi.


Masjid al-Nabwai Courtyard – Visitors walk to and fro outside Masjid al-Nabawi in the courtyard area. The mosque has a capacity of over 1 million people.


A stroll outside the King Hussain Mosque – A man on his way to prayer in the King Hussain mosque in Amman, Jordan.


Divine Reminders on the Wall – Calligraphy beautifully inscribed on the mosque walls. Quranic verses are often part and parcel of mosque decor, and serve as more than just beautiful inscriptions. They serve as reminders of Quranic principles such as spiritual growth, good character, and social responsibility.


Young Woman Outside the Mosque – A young Iranian woman walks outside the Lutfullah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. This mosque stands on the eastern side of Naghsh-i Jahan Square. Its ornamented inside and out with beautiful blue accented tiles. Women and men alike are regular attendees of mosques.


A Female Presence – This Pakistani woman visits a mosque in Lahore, Pakistan. Though women have always been attendees and participants of mosques, there are certain cultural influences that have made equal participation difficult for women in some mosques. There have been many scholars and leaders committed to Islam who have historically worked to improve the mosque environment for their “sisters in Islam,” along with women themselves who worked to empower themselves through education and raising awareness about the rights of women.


Generations – An elderly lady is about to give something to a young girl in Masjid al-Jumah in Isfahan, Iran.


A Place of Sanctuary and Rest – Men take rest in between prayer in the Friday Mosque of Isfahan, Iran.


Constructing the Dome – A shot of a dome in construction.


A Mirror unto the Divine – The Putra Mosque as seen at night. The mosque of Putrajaya, Malaysia is beautifully reflected in its surrounding lake. Mystical traditions of the Prophet describe the world as a mirror of the Divine, full of signs (ayaat) that reflect the truth and splendor of God. “Soon We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and in their own souls until it becomes clear to them that He (God) is the Real. Is it not sufficient that your Lord is witness to all things?” (Quran 41:53)


The Grand Mosque of Oman Interior – The main prayer hall of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman. The prayer carpet which covers the floor of the prayer hall is one of the world’s largest hand-woven carpets.


Evening prayer in Lahore – Muslims get ready for maghrib (evening) prayer in a mosque in Lahore, Pakistan.


Mosque of Kazakhstan – A mosque in Atyrau, Kazakhstan, a harbor city on the Caspian sea.


The Original Holy Site – The Ka’bah is Islam’s most iconic and well-known building, residing in Masjid al-Haraam (The Grand Mosque) in Mecca, Arabia. In the Islamic tradition, it is believed that Adam himself established the sanctuary by God’s command, though Abraham was the first to build the Ka’bah as it is known today. The Quran speaks of it as a place of gathering, sanctuary, and rest. “And when We made the [Ka’bah] a pilgrimage for humanity and a place of security… And when Abraham said, ‘My Lord, make this a secure town, and provide its people with fruits — such of them as have faith in Allah and the Last Day…'” (Quran 2:124:125)
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Windows of Jendela – Light pours through this window in a small mosque in Indonesia. Though Indonesia is not considered an Islamic state, its country holds a large Muslim Majority.
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Contrasting Night-time Views – A tourist cruise ship floats on the harbor as modern buildings and a grand mosque looms behind on a clear night in Istanbul, Turkey.


Iron Mosque – The Iron Mosque in Putrajaya, Malaysia, is the second principal mosque of the city. The mosque looks even more remarkable at night than it does during the day.


Interior of Sultan Selim Mosque – The Selimiye Mosque of Edirne, Turkey was built during the reign of the Ottoman Empire designed by Mimar Sinan, considered one of his masterpieces.


The Flag of Hussain – The Mosque that enshrines the grave of Hussain, Grandson of the Prophet, is adorned with a flag atop its dome. It says “Ya Hussain” in Arabic. The mosque is located in Karbala, Iraq.
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Here’s lookin at you, Kid – The Hassan II Mosque is a mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. It is the largest mosque in the country and the 7th largest mosque in the world. Its minaret is one of the world’s tallest at 210 m (689 ft).


Life outside the Mosque – People walk and fish off the Galata Bridge overlooking a mosque in the distance, in Istanbul, Turkey.


Leaving the Mosque – A man walks through the courtyard of Dushanbe’s Central Mosque in Tajikistan.


Door to the Mosque – This photo shows the door entrance to the Sultan Selim Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. It is a remarkable testament to the attention to detail that so often characterizes mosque architecture.


Ornamented Chandelier – A classy, ornamented chandelier lights up the inner area of a masjid.


Spiritual Playground – Boys enjoy playing outside the mosque in Chefchaouen, Morocco. Mosques are considered sacred spaces, but there is nothing sacrilegious about young children having a good time, and mosque environments are often full of children and their friends.


Staircase – The Badshahi Mosque is located in Lahore, Pakistan. Inscribed in a marble tablet on the entrance are the following words in Persian: “The Mosque of Abul Muzaffar Muhy-ud-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir, Victorious King, constructed and completed under the superintendence of the Humblest Servant of the Royal Household, Fidai Khan Koka, in 1084 A.H.”


Museum Mosque – Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya in Turkish) is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later become a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, it served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931, when it was secularized. It was opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.


Alone with the Alone – The prescriptions for spiritual growth emphasize congregational prayer – praying shoulder to shoulder with fellow believers as one community. It creates brotherhood, sisterhood, love, and a sense of equality of all before the Lord. It is important, however, to spend some time alone with one’s Lord; conversing about one’s hardships, thanking the Almighty for His spiritual and worldly gifts, and humbly requesting for mercy.


God’s House – the Ka’bah is one of Islam’s most memorable and profound symbols. Though it is not worshiped by Muslims, Islamic traditions make clear that it is a blessed building and blessed are those who can gaze upon it and touch its walls. The Sacred Mosque (Masjid al-Haraam) walls that surround the Ka’bah have expanded in size over the centuries to accommodate the growing Muslim Ummah (Community).

Don’t forget to check out Salam Stock’s Collection for more imagery relating to mosques and masjids, or enjoy our previous photo essay on Palestine lifestyles – “Friends in Holy Places“!

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