Interesting article, but I'd definitely add a few like the Blue Mosque, Masjid al-Aqsa/Dome of the Rock, Jamia Ummiwiye Damascus, Islamic Center of NYC...
Considering that Cairo, Egypt alone contains over 1,000 mosques (Masjids), it wasn’t easy to pick the top twenty-five mosques in the world. But, when we added the words “amazing” and “largest” to the equation, we found some mosques that are worth a plane ticket to visit the sites. We also tried to provide a wide geographic area so that you can visit at least one of these architectural wonders during your lifetime. Mosques are places of worship, but they also lean toward education; therefore, you’ll find many mosques that also contain a madrasa (madrasah, madarasaa, medresa, madrassa), the Arabic word for any type of school, secular or religious. But, don’t expect to always find domes or minarets, features which have become symbolic of the Islam faith. You may discover that local culture often colored the architectural styles on many mosques.
The mosques listed below are listed in no particular order, and the numbering does not indicate that we favor one mosque over another or that they are listed in order of quality or even of size.
1. Faisal Masjid, Islamabad, Pakistan: If you’re into visiting large buildings, the enormous Shah Faisal Masjid is your ticket to “big.” It’s the largest mosque in the world in terms of area. The building, which sits on approximately 1,89,705-sq. meters, has an area of 5,000 square meters. The building and its courtyard can hold about 300,000 worshippers. Situated at the foot of the Margalla Hills, the 88-meter-high minarets appear to be rockets on a huge launch pad, which provides a modern look. Yet, the main building area resembles a traditional Arab Bedouin’s tent, with its large triangular prayer hall. The designer, Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay (1927-1991), was chosen from an international competition, where architects from 17 countries submitted 43 proposals. King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia approved of the design and location, and Saudi Arabia paid for the construction as a gift to the Pakistanis. The honor was returned when the mosque was named in honor of King Faisal. The masjid’s architecture is a departure from the long history of south Asian muslim architecture, however in some ways it makes a bridge between Arabic, Turkish and Pakistani Muslim architectural traditions. The complex houses the Islamic Research Centre, a library, museum, lecture hall, cafeteria, and the offices of the Islamic University faculty. If you plan to visit, dress conservatively with clothes that cover the body except for the hands and the head for men. Women need to wear a scarf to cover the hair.
2. Great Mosque of Djenné, West Africa: Built entirely of ferey, or sun-baked mud bricks and covered with mud plaster, this mosque originally was built in the 13th century and was demolished in the year 1834. The only original portion of the building is an enclosure containing the graves of local leaders. The mosque you’ll see today was built at the beginning of the 20th century and completed about 1909. At that time, Djenné was part of the French West Africa colony, so the French may have offered political and economic support for the construction. The walls are between 41 cm and 61 cm thick, and bundles of palm branches are included in the structure to reduce cracking caused by frequent drastic changes in humidity and temperature. Although built in the Bani River basin, the Great Mosque was constructed on a raised platform with a surface area of 5625 m², which has protected the mosque from floods. The local residents have installed indoor plumbing and electrical wiring, but otherwise have resisted modernization in favor of historical integrity. Every year, Djenné’s mosque is repaired during a festival that is “at once awesome, messy, meticulous, and fun.” You can visit this mosque, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, but don’t expect to enter the building unless you’re Muslim. The Great Mosque was closed to non-Muslims in 1996, after the French Vogue magazine offended local officials with a fashion photography shoot inside the building.
3. The Grande Mosquée de Paris (”Great Mosque of Paris”): Unlike the previous mosque, this building is open to visitors, students, tourists, and Turkish bathers. You can enjoy a short tour of the building, its central courtyard, and its Moorish garden while listening to a brief history of the Islamic faith. The locals like to use the marble Turkish baths during the winter, and the Muslim Restaurant de la Mosquée de Paris, a cafe and restaurant that adjoins the mosque’s courtyard, serves North African cuisine such as couscous, tajine and sweet mint tea. This restaurant is popular with Parisians and tourists alike. Despite all this activity, the mosque remains an active place of worship for North Africans living in Paris, especially on Friday, the Muslim holy day, and during the holy month of Ramadan. This mosque is located in the Ve arrondissement, and it was built in 1922 as a symbol of gratitude from the French to North African Muslim tirailleurs who had fought against Germany during World War I. The pink marble mosque was built as a hybrid of Islamic styles (although it leans toward the mudéjar style), and the imposing structure features a large, sunken garden, fountains and a 33-meter high minaret. The internal courtyards, lined with Andalusian mosaics, are offset by dark eucalyptus and cedar trim. The Paris Grand Mosque oversees the affairs of around 400 of the 1,800 facilities described as mosques throughout France, which can include simple one-room structures. The head of the mosque, Dr. Dalil Boubakeur, described by the Le Monde newspaper as “the ideal Muslim,” is the most prominent Muslim in France and a friend of President Jacques Chirac. The mosque’s theological institute runs courses that it hopes will train a new generation of French-born imams, which is a hot topic in France. The courses are open to both Muslim and non-Muslim individuals.
4. Centro Cultural Islámico Rey Fahd (King Fahd Islamic Cultural Center): Located in Buenos Aires, this mosque is the largest in South America. President Carlos Menem granted 34,000 m² of land for this mosque after a visit to Saudi Arabia in 1992. Construction began in 1998, and the center opened in 2000. The project cost about US$30 million, and it includes the mosque, library, two schools, and a park. Interestingly, Menem is Catholic, but he is of Syrian Muslim descent.Sporting traditional Arab mosque architecture with minarets and prayer hall, this building has been translated into a modern format. The Cultural Center is open to visitors for free tours twice a week in English and in Spanish. During this short tour, you’ll visit the gardens, the interior courtyard, the library and other spaces. The center offers classes in Koran and Arabic language and its library is open to the public daily. The mosque is striking at night, as both minarets are lit. The Cultural Center, which was named in honor of King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, is located near the polo fields in Palermo Gardens, where you can find the imposing statue of Sarmiento created in 1900 by the sculptor Auguste Rodin, the famous Rose Garden with its lake, and the Galileo Galilee Planetarium among other tourist delights.
5. The Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque,Cyprus: If you think you’re seeing Gothic architecture in the image shown at right, then you would be correct. This building was originally known as the Saint Nicolas Cathedral and later as the Ayasofya (Saint Sophia) Mosque of Magusa, and it’s the largest medieval building in Famagusta, Cyprus. Built approximately between 1300CE and c.1400CE, the building initially was consecrated as a Christian cathedral and the western facade is remarkably similar to the Rheims Cathedral in France. The cathedral was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman Empire captured Famagusta in 1571, and it remains a mosque to this day. The upper parts of the mosque’s two towers suffered from earthquakes and were badly damaged during the Ottoman bombardments of 1571; they have never been repaired, but a minaret was added to one tower. The mosque was named after the Turkish leader who laid siege to the city in 1571.Other changes may have included the removal or covering of any depictions of saints or frescoes, as Islamic tradition excludes depictions of animals and humans from their religious architecture. Stained glass windows and the altar were also removed; although, since the area is prone to earthquakes, the removal of stained glass was probably more out of practicality than any other reason. A few tombs remain in the north aisle from the fourteenth century, and a guide will show you those tombs should you choose to visit. To the left of the facade is a small Ottoman tomb dating from 1700CE, and a small shrine. The old tree in front of the main door is said to have been planted in 1250, and is an East African fig tree. It is said to be the oldest living tree in Cyprus.
6. Islamic Center of America, Dearborn, Michigan: The Islamic Center of America is a mosque in Dearborn, Michigan, opened in 2005, that claims to be the largest in North America. It caters to mainly the Shi’a Muslim congregation; however, all Muslims may attend the mosque. The Islamic Center of America traces its origin to the 1940s, when Muslim immigrants from Lebanon and Syria began to settle in Detroit and brought young author and scholar, Imam Mohammed Jawad Chirri, from Lebanon as a religious leader in 1949. Chirri became the leader of the then-new Islamic Center Foundation Society in 1954, and this group decided they needed a new religious center. Chirri raised fund for the center in Egypt in 1959, and the Society purchased land from the Ford Motor Company. By 1963, the Islamic Center of America opened its doors for the first time. By 1967, the Center had already outgrown this space. Additional classrooms, an enlarged social hall, and a minaret were added to serve the growing membership. The 92,000-square-foot, $14 million building was completed on 12 May 2005. From the road, the face shows golden domes, Moorish arches, a stone exterior of desert tones, deep-green decorative tiles and two 110-foot-tall minarets topped with crescent moons.Chirri died in 1994, and his successor is the current Imam Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini. Al-Qazwini founded the Young Muslim Association (YMA) in 1998, and affiliated this youth organization with the Islamic Center in Dearborn. This organization,one of the largest Muslim youth organizations in North America, is aimed at creating an environment in which Muslim youth can actively promote Islam and effectively channel their efforts. Al-Qazwini has also authored the book, “American Crescent,” where he pleads with Muslim Americans to integrate into American life while simultaneously deepening their identification as Muslims.
7. Jumeirah Mosque, Dubai: Dubai is one of seven sheikhdoms that form the United Arab Emirates, and this city can trace its history back 5000 years. The Jumeirah Mosque, one of the largest sacred structures in Dubai, is built in the medieval Fatimid tradition from stone. This building is one of the most photographed sites in Dubai. Although non-Muslims are not allowed to enter Dubai mosques, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding organizes visits to the Jumeirah Mosque for non-Muslims. This effort is aimed at promoting cultural understanding and first-hand experience with an insight to the Islamic religion. As with visiting most mosques, the tradition is to cover hair for women, and to dress conservatively and cover all parts of the body but for the hands, and for the heads of the men. The two minarets and the lacy domes on this building look spectacular at night (see photos), and they’re just as impressive in daylight.
8. The Great Mosque of Xi’an, China: Like the Gothic mosque in Cyprus shown above, this first Chinese mosque reflects the Tang Dynasty architecture that was prevalent when this mosque was built during the 742CE (reign of Emperor Xuanzong, 685-762). Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty later renovated the mosque, but never added domes or minarets. The important feature in this type of architecture is its emphasis on symmetry, a contrast to the building’s surrounding gardens, which are a fine example of extreme asymmetry. This mosque is a fine example of Sino-Islamic architecture.This particular mosque is located near the Drum Tower (Gu Lou) on Huajue Lane of Xi’an (Sian), Shaanxi province, China, and it is one of the oldest and most renowned mosques in the country. The mosque was the religious center for Arab and Persian merchants who operated in China. The threads of commerce were established during the Tang Dynasty and the Silk Road was established. This trade route connected Xi’an to the Middle East and Europe, and opened China to the Western world. The 754 A.D. census showed that five thousand foreigners lived in the city; Turks, Iranians, Indians and others from along the Road, as well as Japanese, Koreans and Malays from the east. Many were missionaries, merchants or pilgrims, but every other occupation was also represented. Today’s Muslim community, which supports several mosques in this area, runs its own primary school, foods shops and restaurants, and continues to remain an integral part of Xi’an’s daily life.If you cannot visit this mosque, then visit this Web site about Islamic architecture. This site contains many pictures and detailed descriptions of the Great Mosque of Xi’an, as well as some history about the area. If you do visit, you might want to avoid the hours around noon, when - according to one tourist - animals are slaughtered and skinned in the courtyard.
9.Assyafaah Mosque, Singapore (The Modern Mosque): Designed by the Singapore-based Forum Architects for the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), this mosque breaks with tradition with its lack of a dome. Located on the north side of the island in a neighborhood filled with high-rise residential buildings, the architecture blends with its companion buildings in a statement that was intended by principal architect Tan Kok Hiang. He was concerned with the population’s ability to relate to each other “in a harmonious, or at the very least, tolerant manner,” so he planned the building with that leaning toward a building with no physical or visual ethnic or religious boundaries. Yet, it had to signal to the Muslim community that this building was, indeed, a mosque. So, a ten-story minaret built from rusted steel plates coated with colorless polyurethane marks the territory.Masjid Assyafaah opened in 2004, and it is the fifth mosque to be built under Phase III of the Mosque Building Fund program to serve the needs of the Muslim community in northern Singapore. It also acts as a replacement for the closure of two old mosques in the Sembawang area - Jumah Sembawang Mosque and Naval Base Mosque. This mosque can accommodate about 4,000 people at one time.
10. The Shah Mosque, Isfahan, Iran: A visit to the south side of Naghsh-i Jahan Square in Isfahan, Iran, will bring you face-to-face with The Shah Mosque - renamed to Imam Mosque after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. But, the mosque is also known as Masjid-e Shah, Masjid-e Imam, Royal Mosque, Mehedi Mosque, Masjid-i Shah. To simplify the matter, we’ll remain with The Shah Mosque, which is located roughly 210 miles (340 km) south of the capital city of Tehran on the north bank of the Zayandeh River.This mosque was built as the space for public worship in Shah Abbas’ new urban plan for Isfahan, but was not completed until the reign of his successor, Safi I. The reason it took so long to complete is that Abbas I built a whole new city. According to one description, it contained “162 mosques, 48 madrasahs, 1,802 commercial buildings, and 283 baths.” This mosque survives as one of the finest monuments to Islamic architecture. The portal is formal, and it addresses the square with a recessed domed vestibule that enters the apse of the north iwan at a 45-degree angle. This transition accommodates the angle between the median axis with which the portal is aligned, and the mosque’s orientation toward Mecca. Minarets are paired at both the entry portal and the south iwan (a mosque in which the prayer hall is an iwan or up to four iwans that surround a courtyard - it was the most popular style in the medieval period, and remained dominant in Iran). The southern dome, a bulbous form supported on a tall drum shape, is the largest and the only one decorated. When you visit this mosque, you’ll enjoy the wall painting and the vivid blue tiles. Once you’ve taken in the mosque, you can take tea in one of the teahouses located under the nearby bridges.