Q:

What are the main features of a mosque?

A:

There are various main features of mosques throughout the world: the sahn (courtyard), the mihrab (niche), the minaret (tower) and the qubba (dome). A mosque is a Muslim gathering place for prayer, where all men are required to gather for the Friday afternoon prayer. Mosques are also used by Muslims throughout the week for study, rest and reflection.

The sahn is usually attached to the prayer hall that provides room for the congregation and fountains for the ablutions, a ritual cleansing performed before prayer. The mihrab is a niche in the wall that indicates the direction of Mecca, where all Muslims face during prayer. The minaret is attached to the mosque. It serves as a reminder of the presence of Islam. It is also the place from where prayers are called. The qubba is the most recognizable feature of a mosque. It is a dome that symbolizes the vault of heaven. Mosques normally have one to three domes.

Most mosques have similar furnishings. There is usually large calligraphic frieze or inscribed cartouche above the mihrab with quotations from the Koran, the holy book of Islam. Most mosques also have hanging lamps. Mosques often have institutions such as soup kitchens, hospitals, schools and even mausoleums attached to them.

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