The Faisal Mosque in Islamabad is the 6th largest mosques in the world. The mosque is popular in the Islamic world and famous for its size and architecture. By design, Faisal mosque is a blend of ultramodern and conventional architecture. The Faisal Mosque is sited at the foothills of the Margalla Hills at an elevated land and can be seen day and night from miles. Unusual in design, the mosque is one of the key tourist attractions in Islamabad and permissible to people of all faiths. Faisal mosque is considered a national mosque of Pakistan.
History of Faisal Mosque
When Shah Faisal of Saudi Arabia visited Pakistan in 1966, he supported the initiative to build a grand mosque, giant as largest in the world that time, in Islamabad. Four years later, in this regard, in 1969, an international competition held and 43 architects from 17 countries submitted design proposals. The unique design submitted by the Turkish architect Vedat Delokay was approved as the final design. Vedat Delokay was the recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for this project.
Construction of the mosque began in 1976 and it took 10 years to complete the whole building. Finally, in 1988, the project was completed at a total cost of 130 million Saudi Riyal (US$ 120 million) fully financed by King Shah Faisal. It has the honor of being the largest mosque of the world from 1988 to 1993 until the Hasan II mosque of Casablanca in Morocco was built. The name given to the mosque, as Shah Faisal Mosque, was named after the late King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.
Art & Architecture
The unconventional design without domes and arches was inspired by a desert Beduin tent. The main hall is surrounded by four equal height minarets adjoining its four corners as tall as 260 feet (79 m) and 10 x 10 m in circumference. The eight-sided shell shaped sloping roofs forming a triangular worship hall feature a contemporary design and reflect a stark contrast from the conventional Islamic architecture. At the time of construction the design was heavily criticized for its unconventional design but with its completion, the criticism also pacified.
The interior of the main building is richly decorated with mosaics and calligraphy by Sadequain, the famous Pakistani artist. The overhanging spectacular Turkish-style chandelier from the 40-meter high roof is an added beauty. West wall of the building is adorned with mosaic pattern and has Kalimah written on in early Kufi script.
The hall can accommodate 10,000 worshippers at a time. The front of the hall is a huge courtyard and can accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers. The whole structure of the mosque covers an area of 5,000m2 (54,000 sq. ft.). The surrounding porticoes, courtyard, and adjoining grounds have the capacity to hold more than 200,000 worshippers at a time.
Location and Attractions
The Faisal Mosque is situated at the foot of Margalla Hills, at the north end of Faisal Avenue – the name given to the road leading to the mosque after the assassination of King Faisal in 1975. The ground floor of the mosque housed the campus of International Islamic university now moved to a different location.
The mosque is surrounded by lush green grounds. The mausoleum of the late President, Zia ul-Haq who died in an air crash in 1988, is adjacent to the mosque. the surroundings are all decked with green carpeted grass, trees, flowers of various kinds, sitting areas and ample parking lot. The best view of the mosque is probably from Daman-e-Koh viewpoint.
The building can be entered from a small courtyard surrounding a small water pond. The staircases on both sides of the courtyard lead up to the main courtyard of the mosque. The main courtyard offers the best view of the main building and surroundings.
Visitors are always welcome and are free to explore all areas of the building and take photographs. The courtyard of the building presents a scenic view of the surrounding Margalla hills. This place is quite peaceful and cool during summers.
While entering the main building, visitors must leave shoes at the counter. Remember to dress conservatively, women especially must wear a headscarf. Avoid eating, dancing, singing or making loud voices.
The 17th century Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore is an outstanding feat of Mughal era architecture. It was commissioned during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The Mughal architecture in the subcontinent has been archetypal and has had no matching landmarks built to date. The Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore is such a sole and vivid illustration of Mughal architecture. It is also a testimony of their affinity to finesse, frescos and dexterity. It has been described as “a mole on the cheek of Lahore”.
The exquisite Wazir Khan Mosque is named after Wazir Khan, the title granted to Hakim Sheikh Ilm-ud-din Ansari. He was a native of Chiniot who hailed from humble origins in the town of Chiniot in Punjab. Hakim Ansari studied medicine and was hired by the Mughal court as the personal physician of Prince Khurram (the future Shah Jahan). Later he was promoted as governor of Lahore. The young prince, because of Ansari’s competence, bestowed him with the title Wazir Khan in 1620. Wazir is a title meaning “Minister” in Urdu.
Before the construction of the mosque, Wazir Khan built a tomb or Mazar of a Sufi saint called Syed Muhammed Ishaq, also known as Miran Badshah. The mosque was built between 1634 and 1941 to enclose the tomb of the Sufi saint. Currently, his tomb lies in the courtyard some 10 feet below the main ground of the mosque.
Located in the old walled city of Lahore in Punjab, Pakistan, the Wazir Khan mosque is situated on the road connecting the Lahore Fort to the Delhi Gate. The mosque covers an area of 279 feet (85 m) x 159 feet (48 m). The building is erected on an elevated plinth and can be accessed through an octagonal interior chamber on the eastern side of the complex. Moreover, a curious feature of it is the incorporation of 22 shops in its ground plan forming a bazaar located on the two sides of a brick paved passage leading to the mosque which exists even now.
The mosque has a single aisle and five bays. The prayer chamber resembles that of the Mosque of Mariyam Zamani Begum located in the same city. Its high arched galleries surround its central brick paved courtyard. Similarly, the arrangement of the 5-bay single-aisle prayer chamber 130 ft long, framed by simple cusped arches carried on deep piers.
The mosque has three domes. The central dome, rising higher than others, accents the elegantly detailed mihrab. The ingenious constructions of double domes help spread the voice of the imam to the extremity of the courtyard. It is also flanked on its four sides by 32 guestrooms (Hijars).
The mosque is constructed of cut and dressed bricks. Its walls are adorned with fresco paintings in charming colors (cobalt, cerulean blue, green, orange, yellow and purple). The walls are divided into compartments “for the reception of glazed pattern” and contain calligraphy in Arabic and Persian languages. Similarly, the grills of the mosque are made up of terracotta.
Likewise, the floors are decorated with colorful tiles with geometrical designs. Another distinguishing architectural feature is the use of 107 feet high minarets; each of its four corners decorated with mosaic tiles. These designs are employed for the first time reflecting the regional style totally uncommon in mosques of Mughal capitals. The domes of the mosque are built in the Lodi style.
The mosque till date is immensely attractive not only to the locals but also nationwide and internationally. Wazir Khan Mosque is a must visit tourist attraction in Lahore. The mosque is a great landmark to carry forward the Mughal style architecture.
The Badshahi Mosque, the crown jewel of Lahore, had been the largest mosque in the world for 313 years (1673 to 1986). Built during the reign of the sixth Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, the grand mosque represents an excellent example of the Mughal era architecture although it was built in the late Mughal era – a period of relative decline. The mosque characterizes the beauty, passion, and grandeur of the Mughal era in Lahore. After the fall of Mughal Empire, the mosque served more as a garrison for the armies of Ranjit Singh and the British troops than as a religious place. It is now the second largest in Pakistan and South Asia and 5th largest in the world with a capacity for almost 150,000 worshippers on its grounds.
The mosque is located along the outskirts of the Walled City of Lahore. It is located to the west of Lahore Fort where the entrance to the mosque faces the Alamgiri Gate of the Fort which was also built by Aurangzeb. Only the lower level Hazuri Bagh separates the two magnificent buildings. To the southern side of the Hazuri Bagh is Roshni Gate, one of the thirteen gates of the Walled city and also located closed to the entrance of Badshahi mosque. The Hazuri Bagh itself was used as a parade ground where Aurangzeb would review his troops and courtiers.
History of Badshahi Mosque
The iconic Badshahi Mosque was commissioned by the last Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (also named Alamgir, meaning conqueror of the world) and was constructed in only two years from 1671 to 1673. Its architecture influences the Jama Mosque in Dehli although it is comparatively much larger in size. It could easily be seen from a distance of 15 km (app 10 miles) on a clear day.
Unlike his ancestors, Aurangzeb did not have much taste for art and architecture and remained more into military conquests during his reign. The construction of the Badshahi mosque was part of a military campaign against the Indian warrior king of the Maratha clan, Shivaji Bhonsle. The construction of the mosque almost exhausted the Mughal treasure and weakened the state itself.
It was built on a six-meter elevated plinth to prevent inundation from the nearby Ravi River during the flooding season. The construction project was entrusted to Aurangzeb’s foster brother Muzaffar Hussain (Fidai Khan Koka) who was also appointed as governor to oversee the projects.
Art and Architecture
The plan of the Badshahi Mosque is a square with each side measuring 170 meters. Its north end was built along the edge of Ravi River and erecting a gate to the riverside was not possible. The southern gate was therefore not constructed to maintain the symmetry. The construction of the mosque features red stone and white marble inlay which deviates the typical architectural features of the mosques in Lahore. The design of the majestic mosque was the inspiration of Indo-Greek, Central Asian and Indian architectural influences.
The full name of Badshahi Mosque is “Masjid Abul Zafar Muhy-ud-Din Mohammad Alamgir Badshah Ghazi” written in inlaid marble above the vaulted entrance. The main entrance of the mosque is accessible by stairs of 22 steps flight from Hazuri Bagh.
The entrance through the massive gate measuring 66′-7″ x 62′-10″ x 65 high including dome lets, vault 21′-6″ x 32′-6″ high, opens up into an extensive courtyard measuring 528’-8″ x 528′-4″ (278,784 ft2 )that can accommodate up to 100,000 worshippers at a time. It is divided into two levels – the upper and the lower (where the funeral prayers can also be offered). The entire courtyard is enclosed by 80 single Isle arcades measuring 23′-9″ high and plinth 2′-7″. There is a central tank measuring 50′ x 50′ x 3′ deep (2,500 ft2)
The chamber right above the entrance gate of the mosque house relics attributed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), His daughter, and His son-in-law. The chamber features Muqarna (a form of ornamented vaulting in Islamic architecture), an architectural feature from the Middle East that was first introduced in the nearby Wazir Khan Mosque
The main prayer hall measuring 275′-8″ x 83′-7″ x 50′-6″ high, has a central arched niche and five small niches, each one-third of the main. The mosque is topped with three marble domes. Its central dome has a diameter 65′ at bottom (at bulging 70′-6″); height 49′; pinnacle 24 ft and neck 15 ft high while the two side domes measuring a diameter 51′-6″ (at bulging 54′-2″); height 32 ft; pinnacle 19 ft; neck 9′-6″ high.
The interior including the ceiling is decorated lavishly with elegant floral frescos, stucco tracery, and inlaid marble from inside, while the exterior is painstakingly decorated with stone carvings as well as marble inlay on sandstone. The mosque can accommodate up to 10,000 worshippers at a time. Each side chamber of the main chamber is spared for religious instructions.
There are four main three-storey octagonal shape minarets made of red stone and topped by marble canopy. Rising 196′ high from each of its four corners, the outer circumference measures 67’ and inner circumference 8’-6”, and are accessible by a staircase with 204 steps. Likewise, the main building of the mosque has four smaller minarets at each corner of the building.
Sikh Era Alterations
The entire beauty of the mosque was smashed when Ranjit Singh’s army took over Lahore in 1799 and used the mosque for military purposes. The main courtyard was used as a stable and the Hujras (cells) were occupied by his soldiers. The adjacent Hazuri Bagh was used as official Royal Court.
A moderate earthquake almost 20 years later collapsed the marble turrets at the top of each macerate and the open minarets were used as gun emplacements. During Sikh Civil war in 1841, led by Ranjit Singh’s son Sher Singh, the nearby fort which was besieged by supporters of the Sikh Maharani Chand Kaur was heavily inflicted by bombardment and most of the Dewan Aam (Hall of the Public Audience) was damaged too. Sikh forbade Muslims from entering the mosque to worship and only a small place outside the mosque was spared by the government for worship.
British Era Modifications
Later in 1846 the British controlled the region and continued using the mosque for military purpose but reconstructed the damaged parts which never regained their original look. Moreover, the 80 cells (Hujras) around three sides of the mosque, once used as study rooms during Mughal era and as military stores in Ranjit Singh’s rule, were totally demolished by the British for security reasons and rebuilt to form open arcades. The increasing agony against the irreverence of mosque led to a general resentment in Muslims which lead to indirectly summon the British to vacate and hand over the mosque to Muslims. In 1852 the British established the Badshahi Mosque Authority to oversee the restoration of the mosque in order to return it to Muslims as a place of worship.
Restoration of Badshahi Mosque
From 1852 onward gradual repair process started but the extensive repair was carried out since 1939 and by 1960 it was totally restored at a cost of 4.8 million rupees. The original floor laid with kiln-burnt bricks set in the Mussalah pattern was replaced with red sandstone flooring. Likewise, the original floor of the prayer chamber had been laid using cut and dressed bricks with marble and Sang-e-Abri lining forming Mussalah got replaced with marble Mussalah.
In 1993, the Badshahi Mosque was put in a tentative list as a UNESCO World Heritage Site