Mosques are sanctuaries of worship for followers of the Islam faith. The word mosque is a derivative from the Arabic word “Masjid.” Small mosques offer only worship services while the big mosques include many community services. One of the characteristics of mosques is their beautiful Islamic architecture although the earliest 7th century mosques were more of open spaces just for worship. As mosques developed, many essential services were added: schools, political training, and religious education. Some services even included regular school courses and an extensive library that attracted thousands of students.
The Largest Mosques
The Parthian and Sassanid palaces of Persia were the architectural inspirations for the first mosques in the Arabian Peninsula. Architectural styles included minarets, domes, and prayer halls. Later architectural variations included: central-dome mosques, T-type mosques, and the early Abbasid mosques. As more mosques were needed, the oil-rich Middle-Eastern countries financed the construction of new mosques around the world. Today, mosques are constructed to accommodate more worshipers. At more than 2,000,000 square feet in area apiece, each of these mosques witnesses millions pass through their doors each year.
1. Imam Reza Shrine - Masdad, Iran
Imam Reza Shrine is located in Masdad, Iran. At 598,657 square meters and with a capacity for 500,000 worshipers, is the largest mosque in the world. It was built in 818 and named after the eighth Imam of Twelver Shiites. The complex includes a smaller mosque, museum, library, university, prayer halls, dining halls, and seven courtyards.
2. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque - Muscat, Oman
Second is Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman at 416,000 square meters. This mosque can accommodate 20,000 worshipers. Built in 2001, it has a main dome and five minarets. The mosque has the world’s second biggest hand-woven carpet and a 14-meter chandelier.
3. Shah Mosque - Isfahan, Iran
Third is the Shah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. At 400,499 square meters, it can accommodate 700,000 worshipers. It was built in 1611 and has four minarets and a dome. A masterpiece of Islamic architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
4. Al-Haram Mosque - Mecca, Saudi Arabia
The fourth is the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia at 400,000 square meters. It can accommodate 4,000,000 worshipers. It was built in 634 and has the Kaaba, the most sacred site in Islam. The mosque has eleven minarets and many indoor and outdoor praying areas.
5. The Prophet's Mosque - Medina, Saudi Arabia
Fifth is the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi, or the Prophet's Mosque, in Medina, Saudi Arabia. It covers 399,483 meters with a capacity of 1,000,000 worshipers. It contains the tomb of Mohammad. It was built pre-622 and has a green dome, community center, a school, and a court.
Musalla ( Jama’at Khana)
Musalla is a word derived from the Arabic, musalia, meaning “to pray.” A musalla is a temporary space or makeshift structure where a Muslim may pray in the absence of a mosque. Another term, Jama’at Khana is used by the Nizari community of the Shia Islam to mean their place of worship and also serves as a gathering place. For other Muslims however, it could mean a prayer rug. The musalla is not meant to be a permanent space for worship but only as an interim place. It may be situated in any living space. This place may also be in the form of prayer halls or rooms in any structure where Muslims can pray which are called Musholla or Surau.