The center of Islamic life, mosques are buildings of worship for Muslims. Some mosques are large and elaborately decorated, while others may simply be a modest room in an office or apartment building. There are a few basic features most mosques have, and they serve a variety of purposes for worshipers.
The center of most mosques is a large hall where congregants gather to perform their five daily prayers, read holy texts and listen to a Friday sermon. Typically, a carpet will cover the prayer hall, which will have little to no furniture and may be decorated with geometric patterns and designs. However, there will be no pictures of people and animals, as the Quran restricts such imagery.
When praying, Muslims face the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, which is home to the Kaaba, a small building constructed by Abraham for worshiping God that is the holiest point in Islam. To ensure worshipers are positioned correctly, mosques contain a mihrab, a marker or niche on the wall of the building facing the holy city. Some mihrabs are simple, while others are elaborately decorated with designs and inscriptions, according to ArchNet.
Many mosques have a tower equipped with speakers for broadcasting the call to prayer, traditionally sung by a man known as a muezzin, five times a day. However, the minarets of many mosques in the West are only for decorative purposes, as some countries do not allow the call to be played in public areas. Some mosques however, like the Masjid Al Haram in Saudi Arabia, have multiple minarets to ensure the call is heard far and wide.
Before prayers, Muslims perform ritual ablutions, known as wudu, to cleanse themselves of impurities. To accommodate this rite, many mosques contain a special area where worshipers may wash themselves. Some ablution areas are large and elaborate, though others are basic, consisting of just a few taps. For instance, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi has an ablution fountain surrounded by marble seats where worshipers sit and rinse themselves with water.
Many traditionally designed mosques feature domes. In hot countries, a dome will help keep the mosque cool, according to Education Islam. Domes also help to amplify the voice of an imam giving a sermon, enabling all worshipers to listen.
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