Mosque, Arabic masjid or jāmiʿ, any house or open area of prayer in Islam. The Arabic word masjid means “a place of prostration” to God, and the same word is used in Persian, Urdu, and Turkish. Two main types of mosques can be distinguished: the masjid jāmiʿ, or “collective mosque,” a large state-controlled mosque that is the centre of community worship and the site of Friday prayer services; and smaller mosques operated privately by various groups within society.
The Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, containing the tomb of Muhammad. It is one of the three holiest places of Islam.
The first mosques were modeled on the place of worship of the Prophet Muhammad—the courtyard of his house at Medina—and were simply plots of ground marked out as sacred. Though the mosque as such has undergone many architectural changes, the
building remains essentially an open space, generally roofed over, containing a and a miḥrāb , with a minaret sometimes attached to it. The minbar miḥrāb, a semicircular niche reserved for the imām to lead the prayer, points to the —i.e., the direction of qiblah Mecca. The minbar, a seat at the top of steps placed at the right of the miḥrāb, is used by the preacher ( khaṭīb) as a pulpit. In the early days of Islam the rulers delivered their speeches from the minbar. Occasionally there is also a , a box or wooden screen near the maqsūrah miḥrāb, which was originally designed to shield a worshipping ruler from assassins. Mats or carpets cover the floor of the mosque, where the ritual prayer ( ) is performed by rows of men who bow and prostrate themselves under the ṣalāt imām’s guidance.
Outside the mosque stands the
minaret ( maʾdhanah), which was originally any elevated place but now usually a tower. It is used by the muezzin ( muʾadhdhin, “crier”) to proclaim the call to worship ( adhān) five times each day. A place for ablution, containing running water, is usually attached to the mosque but may be separated from it.