Architecture is one of the most respected and well-known features of Islam. As with any religion, the importance of sacred spaces that evoke the remembrance and worship of God are essential in Islam as well. During the golden ages of the Muslim Empire, an immense amount of time, effort and wealth was spent on building beautiful mosques that have lasted for centuries and contributed to the rich history of our cultures. From towering minarets to expansive courtyards, there are characteristics of the architecture in the Islamic world that make it a timeless and classic inspiration for modern spectacles around the world.
One of the most beautiful mosques in the world is the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan. It was constructed between 1671 and 1673, and upon its completion, it elevated the economic and cultural status of Lahore as a major city in the Mughal Empire. Unfortunately, its sanctity as a place of worship was soon compromised as the Sikh and subsequently the British Empires took control of Lahore and used the spacious courtyards and open prayer areas of the mosque as a military garrison until it was restored as a Muslim mosque in the late 1800s. The Badshahi Mosque is probably best known for its simple but beautiful marble and sandstone structure. Its majestic domes create a magnificent and classic silhouette of a traditional mosque. With only two inscriptions, it has relatively little calligraphy compared to many other grand mosques and buildings in the Islamic world. However, its emphasis on bold structure, expansive courtyards, and spacious prayer areas create an awe-inspiring atmosphere that adds to the spiritual experience of being in a House of God.
In somewhat of a contrast with this, there are also many mosques with decorations that rely heavily on calligraphy, mosaic patterns, and intricate carvings. For example, the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran is absolutely covered with elaborate art on the inside as well as the outside. An abstract Arabesque design paints over the mosque’s very prominent dome. The insides of the mosque are adorned with intricate tile work too. The amount of intense work put into building and decorating this mosque is somewhat of a testament to the dedication those who worked on it had to God.
Both of these beautiful mosques, as well as many others, are registered UNESCO World Heritage Sites. While many of the mosques we are used to here in the U.S. range from decent buildings to rented out office spaces, we should aim to channel at least half as much of the time, money and energy into our places of worship as we did hundreds of years ago. The potential for beautiful architecture is all there, and spending time in beautiful places can provide exactly the kind of inspiration we need to restore our community to what it can and needs to be.