Seven wonders of Islamic Art & Architecture.
BISMILLAH HIR RAHMAN NIR RAHIM
When I talk about Islamic art & Architecture, I talk about the mystic creativity and spiritual journey one experiences by noticing Islamic monuments across the world. These monuments are visited by millions of art and architecture lovers who do not just ponder upon the immense glam and beauty they possess but take a journey into the past legacy connected to these masterpieces. Be it the great Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim A S) or the celebrated Ottoman Empire, from Arabs in the east to Mughals in India had a significant contribution in making mankind witness the strokes and skills Allah has gifted to develop icons of spirituality and love.
I cannot explain the exact experience and amount of joy one gets while visiting Islamic monuments and holy sites like ‘Kaaba Sharif’ built by Prophet Ibrahim where millions of Muslims visit every single year. It’s almost impossible to experience such a high level of spirituality anywhere else.
So let’s take a look at the seven wonders of Islamic art and architecture and what makes them top this list.
- Masjid Al Haram (Islamic art & Architecture)
“Verily, we have seen the turning of your (Muhammad’s) face towards heaven. Surely, we shall turn you to a Qiblah (prayer direction) that shall please you, so turn your face in the direction of Masjid al-Haram. And wheresoever you people are, turn your faces (in prayer) in that direction.” [2:144]
This verse of the Quran makes ‘Kaaba Sharif’ as the ‘Qiblah’, the direction for all Muslims to face upon during prayers. Masjid Al haram, a sacred place enriched with Islamic art and architecture is a 100 billion dollar construction of the present- day has deep roots in Islamic History and Islamic architecture as it’s the first house of Allah. Be it the ottomans or the Arabs, all have contributed to the development and beautification of this sacred Mosque. With More than 99 acres of total area, it stands as the most iconic structure of the 21-century Islamic civilization in Saudi Arabia.
Every year massive construction and innovation take place to make this spiritual site a pure essence of holiness. From the design of ‘Kiswa’, the cloth covering the Kaaba to the minimal style of Safa Al Marwa, the place is blessed with peace and aesthetics. The beauty of several gates which are difficult to remember as they all look similar to each other to the overwhelming design and ambiance of ‘Jannat ki kyari’ where Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) used to give ‘Khutba’, Islamic sermon during the Friday prayers. Masjid Al Haram is truly a sight of miracles. I remember standing near ‘Maqam Ibrahim’ which is adjacent to the Kaaba from where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Masjid Al haram and it felt like I am witnessing a spiritual transformation standing amidst millions of worshippers coming from every corner of the globe. Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab was the first caliph to develop the mosque but later Abbasid Caliph Al-Mahdi ordered the rebuilding of the mosque. The new mosque was built on a grid plan with marble columns from Egypt and Syria, decorated with gilt teak wooden inlay. Caliph Al-Mahdi built three more minarets crowned with crenellations and placed them above Bab Al- Salam, Bab Ali, and Bab Al-Wadi of the mosque. The presence of Masjid Al haram, a divine place embellished with Islamic art and architecture has made mecca the costliest place to buy land and it costs 100,000 dollars per square meter, I know
that’s an enormous amount, but why not as it’s a piece of paradise on earth.
- The Dome of Rock (Islamic art & Architecture)
‘Salahuddin Ayubi’, who was an undefeatable ruler, a fierce fighter, and a victorious soldier was asked once “why don’t you smile or why don’t you laugh?” and this greatest king of that time replied, “How could I smile? How could I laugh? When Masjid Al Aqsa is not free“.
It’s almost impossible for me to document and describe the elegance and luxury of the Dome of Rock without sharing the historic facts linked to it and inform you about the king who fought more than half of the world to restore the freedom of ‘Masjid Al Aqsa’. The Dome of rock often recognized as ‘Masjid Al Aqsa’ is just a part of the mosque from where Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven in the night of ‘Lailatul Qadr’, the night of decree on a horse called ‘Buraq’ which means it is faster than the speed of light. The Dome of rock built by Caliph Abd al-Malik is an octagon-shaped building built on a marble base with the remainder being made out of wood rather than stone. Raja ibn Haywah and Yazid ibn Salam, a non- Arab Muslim native of Jerusalem were the two designers of this Islamic art and
architectural influenced site. Some of the incredible features of the Dome of rock are, four of the eight sides have doors and there are seven windows on each side. The dome itself is 25 meters high and covered with gold. The interior is decorated with mosaic, marble, and verses from the Quran. The use of mathematical rhythm is unique as each of the outer walls is 67 feet long, which is exactly the same as
the dome’s diameter and which is also the height from the base to the drum. The glorious external tile work was commissioned by Sulayman II Qanuni (the Lawgiver), known throughout Europe as Sulayman the Magnificent. 40,000 tiles were fired and put into place and the inscription surrounding the top is Surah Yasin, regarded as the heart of the Quran. This was commissioned by Sultan Abdul Hamid II where 100,000 gold dinars were melted by Caliph Abd al-Malik which were turned into plates to cover the dome.
3 -Alhambra Palace (Islamic art & Architecture)
May I call it the ‘Red one’ or ‘A pearl set in emeralds’ as described by some Moorish poets, ‘Alhambra Palace’ is the Burj Khalifa of Spain as it is not the tallest one but one of the most delightful and romantic structures of Islamic architecture. Alhambra was rebuilt by Mohammed bin Al Ahmar and later took the shape of a royal court ruled by Yusuf 1, the sultan of Granada, the original fortress modified by many rulers and governments is now one of the best UNESCO heritage sites and a charming possession of Spain. Roses, oranges, and myrtles are grown in the park around Alhambra are gifted by a beautiful view overlooking the Albayzin Quarter of Granada’s Moorish old city. The serenity of Alhambra is adorned by the Darro River which flows towards the north. While reading this you may imagine how you could take an escape from reality by witnessing the thrill of sunrise and sunsets at Alhambra palace. The best part about writing is I can feel the place through my imaginations, which is a better feeling than reality. The Alhambra was an ‘Alcazaba’, a fortress, an ‘Alcazar’, a palace and a small ‘medina‘, a city as a whole. The most dramatic feature of this Alhambra is the use of lighting which covers the entire hill, by starlight it is silver, and by sunlight is transformed into gold. Kufic inscriptions also can be seen inside the palace, which reproduces the words of ‘Zawi ben Ziri’, only God is the victor. 4 Great Mosque of Córdoba (Islamic art & Architecture)
The great mosque of Cordoba is one of the largest mosques in the world gifted by the ambitious Abdulrehman 1. Cordoba mosque is an unfolding revelation to the
21st-century visitor of the great Islamic art and architecture, which moves you emotionally. The great king was not the one who just ordered the construction of the great mosque but testifies his sheer passion to create such a masterpiece. It was his humility that he supervised the work of the mosque by himself and worked as a servant of Allah to carve such a majestic Islamic monument enriched with a greater level of Islamic art.
The Great Mosque of cordoba boasts a massive Hypostyle Hall with 856 columns of Jasper, onyx, marble, granite, and Porphyry. The Mihrab is made from a complex inlay of mosaics and gold including geometric and flowing designs, exquisite carvings of verses from the Quran combined with floral ornamentation.
5-Suleiman mosque. (Islamic art & Architecture)
When I talk about Istanbul, I talk about the beauty, I talk about the gypsies moving around the streets and bazaars. When I think about Istanbul I think about the Diwans of the Ottomans and their lavish Hamams and when I dream about Istanbul my dream is all about the rise of a new Islamic era.
But when I talk about the Suleiman mosque, I start flowing in the grace of the Suleiman, the magnificent and there is no way it can fail to touch your soul as it possesses the expressions of Sinan. It took almost 8 years to build the mosque and is surrounded by a hospital, soup kitchen, schools, caravanserai, and a bathhouse. This complex provided a welfare system that fed over 1,000 of the poor – Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike – every day around the city. The Sulieman mosque can be entered through three different doors located in its three parts the entrance to the mosque contains a forecourt with a central fountain. The mosque also has a madrasa with 110,000 manuscripts.
The walls of the Sulieman mosque is full of wonderful ornaments, tiles, and scriptures along with amazing domes beautified with lamps containing ostrich eggs making it a wonderful site with much importance for Islamic art and architecture. The Sulieman mosque houses the tombs of Sulieman the
Magnificent, his wife Roxelana, his daughter Mihrimah, his mother Dilaşub Saliha his sister Asiye, Sultans Sulayman II, and Ahmed II. Even Sinan the great Architect is buried here. The tomb of Sulieman the magnificent is embedded with a small part of Hajre Aswat which is kissed by millions of haj pilgrims every year.
6 Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco (Islamic art & Architecture)
Rising above the Atlantic Ocean, ‘Hassan II mosque’ flaunts the tallest minaret in the world with a dream to build something Morocco will be proud of till the end of the world. ‘Hassan II mosque’ stands proudly flagging the achievement of more than 10,000 artisans who successfully carved a monument that resembles the words of Hassan II.
“I wish Casablanca to be endowed with a large fine building of which it can be proud until the end of time. I want to build this mosque on the water because God’s throne is on the water. Therefore, the faithful who go there to pray, to
praise the creator on firm soil, can contemplate God’s sky and ocean.” – Hassan II-
The mosque facilitates one of the most comprehensive libraries, madrasa, hammams, conference halls, and museums in Moroccan history. The 41 fountains and sounds of waves will amaze you and just imagine the amount of peace and delight you can experience while offering prayers in such an ambiance. Hassan II Mosque showcases the finest Moroccan artisanship with hand-carved stone and wood, intricate marble flooring and inlay, gilded cedar ceilings, and exquisite geometric mosaic tilework.
7. Taj Mahal: The symbol of love (Islamic art & Architecture)
Islam is all about love and religion and faiths more in peace than wars. When we talk about Islamic art and architecture, ‘The Taj mahal’ sets a perfect choice. I keep talking about Taj mahal for many reasons. Not just the beauty, but the emotions and the sea of love Shahjahan had for Mumtaz made the Taj mahal a realistic
expression of love. It’s difficult to define love as a feeling but when we see Taj mahal we understand the depth and beauty of love and what love can do to this world. Love can create wonders and give inspiration to millions of people around the world. Tajmahal is the glory of not just Shahjahan but the 20000 artisans who worked for 10 long years to create this UNESCO world heritage site and placed it among the 7 wonders of Islamic art and architecture.
Taj Mahal the brilliance of Ustad Ahmad Lahauri who led the board of architects to welcome you with a beautiful fountain. The reflection of taj mahal on the water of the fountain is picturesque.
A mix of Persian and Mughal architecture, Taj mahal has five principal elements — main gateway, garden, mosque, jawāb (a building mirroring the mosque), and mausoleum (including its four minarets).
Apart from these, there are many other Islamic Monuments like Sheikh Zayed Mosque (Abu Dhabi), Jameh mosque (Iran), Blue Mosque (Turkey), and many more.
Islamic art and architecture mirror the beauty of Islam and it’s very important for Muslims to preserve the ancient heritage and legacy. I hope you liked the above-mentioned list and make sure to let me know what you think about the seven wonders of Islamic art & Architecture. Do not forget to keep on practicing art because when there was nothing there was Allah and he is the greatest artist who has created the world in seven days with so much style, design, elegance, and every expression that defines beauty.