Inside Mosques: The 100 Most Iconic Islamic Houses of Worship

Inside Mosques: The 100 Most Iconic Islamic Houses of Worship

Inside Mosques: The 100 Most Iconic Islamic Houses of Worship
Culture & Entertainment
Mosque of Ibn Tulun. Photo courtesy of Assouline.

Karim Mansour


Ibn Maajah narrated from Jaabir ibn ‘Abdullah that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Whoever builds a mosque for the sake of Allah, like a sparrow’s nest or even smaller, Allah will build for him a house in Paradise.”

Suffice to say, these Islamic houses of worship are integral to Muslim communities, with millions around the world attending to offer prayers in them. And they’re some of the most beautiful buildings around the world, incorporating Islamic art and design, such as geometric patterns, for instance.

Now, one individual has narrated a collection of structures in ‘Mosques: The 100 Most Iconic Islamic Houses of Worship’. Written by Bernard O’Kane, who is a professor of Islamic art and architecture at the American University in Cairo, the coffee table book has been released in partnership with luxury book publisher Assouline. It is out this month.

As it releases, we asked Bernard to tell us about his particularly favourite mosques from the book. Here’s what he had to say.

Mosque of Ibn Tulun

Located in Cairo, Egypt, the Mosque of Ibn Tulun is the oldest mosque in the city surviving in its original form.

“This is one of the earliest large mosques to have survived in a state close to its original form,” explains Bernard, with the mosque’s original inscription slab identifying its date of completion as AH 265 (878/879). “Its numerous arcades permit seemingly endless vistas in every direction.”

Great Mosque of Cordoba

Spain_Great Mosque of Cordoba

Great Mosque of Cordoba. Photo courtesy of Assouline.


Known locally as the Mezquita-Catedral, the Great Mosque of Cordoba – which is a two-hour journey from Madrid in Spain – is one of the oldest structures from the time Muslims ruled Al-Andalus in the late 8th century.

It functioned as a mosque between 784 to 1236, and then became exclusively a catholic church in 1236. Despite history indicating that the complex was divided and shared by Muslims and Christians, Muslims are not permitted to pray in the building today.

Muslims across Spain have campaigned to be able to pray in the house of worship, but efforts have so far been rejected by Spanish church authorities and the Vatican. It still appears in the book as a mosque, however.

“The flexibility of the hypostyle plan is exhibited by the profusion of arches and columns that blend with earlier periods in the mosque, conveying the sense of a forest of palm trees,” says Bernard.

Divrigi Great Mosque

Turkey_Divrigi Great Mosque

Divrigi Great Mosque. Photo courtesy of Assouline.


Built in 1228-1229 by the local dynasty of the Mengujekids in the Anatolian town of Divrigi (now Sivas Province in Turkey), the mosque has a hospital attached to it with the inscription ‘Dar Al-Shifa’, which translates into ‘house of healing’.

The writer adds: “The carved stone facade of the northern Portal is a marvel of inventiveness: its breaks all the usual rules of architectural composition but overcomes this through its virtuosity.”

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Iran Isfahan_Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque. Photo courtesy of Assouline.


This architectural masterpiece was completed in 1619 during the Safavid Empire. Today, it can be found in Isfahan, Iran.

“Arguably the world’s finest dome chamber, the dazzling tilework is a match for the inventiveness of the interior which cunningly disguises the transition from cube to dome,” Bernard explains.

Qalawun complex

Egypt Cairo_Qalawun Complex

Qalawun Complex. Photo courtesy of Assouline.


Located in Bayn al-Qasrayn in the heart of Cairo, the Qalawun complex was built in the 1280s.

“Even the mausoleum of this magnificent complex has a mihrab; the founder encouraged prayer on his behalf by the placing of the adjacent minaret and by permitting passers-by to enter it at times of prayer,” says Bernard.

(Writing by Karim Mansour; Editing by Seban Scaria

© 2019 All rights reserved