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Islamic architecture is something that has a lot of architects and history-buffs in a heated debate. This has been going on for hundreds of years and there still isn’t agreement on certain topics.

Islamic architecture may sound like something that’s easy to define, but there’s a lot of disagreement. What exactly is Islamic architecture? What should fall under Islamic architecture and what should not?

While we can’t answer these questions as they are still up for debate, what we can do is help you to grasp what’s going on with Islamic architecture as well as going over the history and common styles.

So, here goes nothing!

The history of Islamic Architecture

As with all forms of architecture, or even ideas in general, Islamic architecture stems from earlier works and building. Both the Sassanian and Byzantine empires seem to have parts of their styles merged into a style now referred to as Islamic architecture. Again, this is something that’s debating on a lot so we won’t get into it too much.

The history that comes with Islamic architecture is even greater than most due to some of the characteristics…

Characteristics

Even though Islamic architecture has a lot of the same trends, most of it seems to be added onto the previous styles and old remaining buildings. As they conquered other areas, the buildings were modified to portray Islamic architectural characteristics.

This is why even though there are clear patterns in Islamic architecture, the buildings in different regions look fairly different.

This is one of the reasons why Islamic architecture is debated about so heavily. The structures and designs differ a lot from place to place, but they all have certain traits that were typical of that time and architecture.

Most important buildings

There are a few buildings that are extremely important in Islamic architecture. These are the Mosque and the Madrasah, and we’ll go into a little more detail about each here.

The mosque

The single most important building in Islamic architecture is the mosque. This is the place where Muslims go to worship their god and grow together as a community.

The great mosque of Damascus is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world. It’s a great example of Islamic architecture and boasts a wonderful courtyard, domes and minarets.

The Madrasah

The Madrasah is a place of (higher) education in Muslim countries. It’s an important building and is often a wonderful example of Islamic architecture.

The word Madrasah is an Arabic word used for any kind of educational building. These are often grand buildings with a lot of the features that we’ll discuss next…

Important features

There are also certain features that are important when it comes to Islamic architecture. Two of these are domes and minarets.

Domes

Domes are a big part of Islamic architecture and have been used all over the world since first introduced by the Arabs. Here’s a great Prezi about domes in Islamic architecture.

The domes built in mosques often have Islamic calligraphy on it. This is also something unique to Islamic architecture, both in the past as well as the present.

Minarettes

Minarets are the tall pillars often near mosques or built into them. These minarets are often used as both a focal point which you can see at distance and for the call to prayer. There are many different styles known and the exact dimensions vary a lot depending on the region.

There are many great examples of minarets and some reach extreme heights. The largest minaret in the world is in Morocco and is 210 meters (690ft) tall!

Islamic architecture in India

You may know that the Taj Mahal is in India and that it’s one of the most well-known places in the world. However, India is also home to the second oldest Mosque which is a staple of Islamic architecture.

Islamic architecture in India, also known as Indo-Islamic architecture, has left its mark in modern-day India.

India has a lot of well-known Islamic architecture and is definitely a recommended place to visit if you want to learn more about Islamic architecture.

In the past, a lot of Islamic traders passed through India and that carried their faith and architecture with them throughout most parts of the country.

The Cheraman Juma Mosque was rumored to have been built in 629 AD and is the oldest mosque in India. Even though it has been renovated regularly, the mosque is still just as beautiful as it ever was.

The minarets and beautiful dome demonstrate the wonder of Islamic architecture in India.

The Qutb Minar is another wondrous example, and it’s the largest brick minaret in the world. It sits in Dheli, India, and is a must see if you’re ever nearby.

A few other magnificent examples of Indo-Islamic architecture are the tomb of Shah Runk-e-Alam and the Buland Darwaza.

Islamic architecture in Egypt

Egypt is another region where Islamic architecture is abundant. For example, the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As in Fustat. This is the oldest Mosque in Egypt and is a true must-see if you’re ever in the area.

Islamic Cairo is actually a world heritage site and it’s one of the oldest Islamic cities to exist. If you want to see true Islamic architecture, then this is the place for you!

Cairo in itself is one of the area’s that’s most densely populated by Islamic architecture as well as Islamic art.

Egypt was conquered by Arab Muslims in 641 and it was after that time that some of the finest examples of Islamic architecture were built. Now, many parts of the country posses beautiful buildings inspired by the style that was introduced.

Islamic architecture in Spain

In Spain, as well as north-Africa, Islamic architecture protrudes in a variety of different buildings and building styles. This form of Islamic architecture is often called Moorish architecture.

This style was first introduced in these regions around 711 and is a style that’s still present to this day in many parts of Spain and Portugal.

La Mezquita in Cordoba and Alhambra palace in Granada are some of the most well-known and fascinating examples of Islamic architecture in Spain.

As well as domes, arches are a popular part of this form of Islamic architecture. The curved and straight combination makes for a unique style that really stands out when you know what to look for.

Islamic architecture facts

  • Bangladesh has a mosque with 77 domes in it which is called the “mosque with 60 domes.” Bangladesh is a country with a Muslim majority that sites just under India.
  • Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock and the great mosque are two of the most famous works of Islamic architecture. These two examples both have influences from the Christian architectural styles.
  • Iran is another country with a lot of beautiful Islamic architecture to explore if you’re ever in the area

Conclusion

As you can see, there’s a lot more to learn about Islamic architecture than you might first think. This article only scratches the surface compared to the vast amount of information there is to explore on this topic.

If there’s anything in this article about Islamic architecture that you feel is missing, or something you’d like to see added, please shoot us a message and we’d be happy to edit the page. We’re always looking to improve our resources!