The evolution of the mosque

Dawn: Not one, not two but three of the mosques’ four minarets have gone missing, from all over the country engulfed by mysterious influences through a clandestine process. Only one stands and it stands tall trying to compensate for its missing companions. There is more to it than meets the eyes.

The architecture of mosques has gone through a sea-change over the past half century and it has cast in concrete the distortions that our practices of faith have gone through during the period. I have here attempted to utilise my limited knowledge of architecture to read between the ‘lanes’.

Mosques had a peculiar design that was determined by the functions it used to perform and the possibilities and the limitations of the available construction materials and architectural knowledge. A historical prototype would be a rectangular compound with four minarets, standing in each of the four corners and a hall covered by a combination of domes on the side facing Ka’aba. The ablution pond used to occupy the center of the open compound and the entrance to the mosque was well marked by protruding arches, often laden with exotic motives.

All of these architectural elements, and their silhouettes, served as symbols of our faith and the spaces they enclosed, within which we moved and prayed, formed an essential part of our religious experience – sitting on a mat, under a large dome has a peculiar spatial feel and meanings for the faithful. Not all mosques, however, could live up to the classical prototype mainly for want of resources but they all did try to get as close as possible to the ideal.

But then, they stopped making these efforts.

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Categories: ISLAM

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