The New International Encyclopædia/Mosque

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

MOSQUE (Fr. mosquée, from Sp. mezquita, from Ar. masjid, temple, from sajada, to prostrate one's self, to pray). A Mohammedan house of prayer and worship. Examples of these buildings are found wherever the Mohammedan faith has prevailed, from Spain to India and Turkestan. There is no fixed form of structure for them; in poor comnuinities a bare room provided with a miḥrāb to mark the kiblah (q.v.) often serves the purpose. In general the earliest type of mosque was an open court, surrounded on all sides by an arcaded portico, like the atrium or cloister of a church or the peristyle court of an Egyptian temple, but sometimes differing from them in having not a single row, but two or more rows of columns or piers. The side of the court toward Mecca is usually deeper than the other three, with more rows of supports; it contains the miḥrāb and to the right of it the mimbar (pulpit), and, in front, generally a platform and reading desk. In the open court (ṣaḥn) is the fountain for ablutions, often of large size and covered with a dome.

The mosques of India and Central Asia are generally constructed after this plan. The Mohammedans, however, have always been influenced by the native forms of architecture in the different countries which they have entered. The Spanish mosques, for example, closely resembled churches, having many parallel aisles supported on a forest like the old Cordova mosque, or fewer aisles, like the mosque at Toledo, now San Cristo de la Luz. The dome was not used to any extent till the fourteenth century, when two new types made it their central form: the mausoleum mosque originating in Cairo, and the Turkish mosque derived from the Byzantine plan of Saint Sophia (q.v.) at Constantinople. The masterpiece of the first type is the Hasan mosque at Cairo (1356), followed by those of Barkuk, Khawand al-Baraka, and others. Of the second type, besides the several superb examples at Constantinople (Sulaiman, Ahmad, and others) there is the earlier one at Isnik, and the model spread even to Egypt, as in the Sinan mosque at Bulak. Still another way of employing the dome appeared in certain of the mosques of India, as the Doshamma mosque at Delhi. Among the most famous and sacred of the early mosques were the Masjid al-Ḥarām at Mecca (q.v.), the Masjid al-Nabī at Medina (q.v.), the Masjid al-Āḳsā, the Mosque of Omar at Jerusalem, and the great Mosque of Walid at Damascus. All of these have been rebuilt so that their early form is no longer recognizable. The old mosque at Kairwan (q.v.) is a well preserved early example (eighth century), as is also the Mosque of Tulun at Cairo; the Mosque of Amru at Cairo is of even earlier foundation, and still retains portions of old work. The Mosque of Omar represents the concentric mausoleum type. It is now two or three centuries since mosques of any architectural importance have been erected. The poorer mosques have bare whitewashed walls with no decoration of any kind. The larger and more pretentious are often elaborately and artistically decorated with carvings, arabesques, and passages from the Koran in the most involved style of ornamental calligraphy. Hundreds of oil lamps and sometimes ostrich eggs, elephant's tusks, and the like hang from the ceiling. The floor is usually covered with matting. A striking feature of mosque architecture is the minaret (q.v.).

The five prayers are said in the mosque daily. (See Mohammedanism.) The worshiper on entering removes his shoes, carries them in his left hand, sole to sole, and puts his right foot first over the threshold. He performs the necessary ablutions and takes his place in the congregation facing the miḥrāb. The attendance is more general on Friday, when some special prayers are said and a sermon (khuṭbah) is often added. A mosque which has this service is called masjid al-jāmi‛ (“mosque of the general assembling”) or simply jāmi‛. Women are not forbidden to enter the mosque, but their presence is not considered seemly during the time of prayer; sometimes a special place, secluded by a screen, is provided for them. There are few mosques to which unbelievers do not now have access. The utmost decorum and solemnity are observed during services, and the mosques are deeply reverenced by the faithful. At the same time they are intended for daily use, and when services are not going on are general gathering and lounging places; persons may be seen there sewing, spinning, or engaged in some similar handicraft; and they serve as resting places for travelers and wanderers. It has been the custom from the beginning for teachers and professors to give lectures and hold classes in the larger mosques, which thus serve as college buildings. The teacher takes his place at a pier or column at stated hours, his favorite pupil holds his books or notes, and the audience sits around on mats. Several such courses are carried on simultaneously in different parts of the covered arcades. Until medressehs were built in the eleventh century, the mosques were probably the only regular seat of advanced teaching. In recent times the advanced education in the mosques has been largely confined to the preparation of candidates for the position of imam, but there are still notable exceptions. The Azhar Mosque in Cairo has long been the main centre of advanced instruction in Mohammedan countries, the only survivor of many finer mediæval institions, and its courses are attended by between 5000 and 10,000 students. Minor buildings, such as school-rooms, academies, libraries, hospitals, dormitories, public kitchens, and almshouses, are often connected with the mosques.

The revenues of the mosques are derived not only from the contributions of the faithful, but also from investments in landed property (wuḳūf), often from gifts made centuries ago; this property is in the hands of trustees. The income serves to keep the building in repair and to pay necessary expenses. The mosque officials and attendants include the ’imām, who leads the prayers, the learned men who teach (mawlawī, ’ulamā), the khāṭib or preacher (in a jāmi‘), the muezzins (q.v.), who call to prayers, door-keepers, lamp-lighters, etc. Their number depends entirely upon the revenues; sometimes a single imam combines in his person the functions of all the others. The imam has a salary from the revenues, but the teachers are dependent entirely upon the gifts of their pupils. See Mohammedanism. Consult the Bibliography of Mohammedan Art.