A Mosque (Masjid) contains symbolic or functional features, each one of which has its own history that is important to muslims; one is Mihrab, a niche that indicates the qibla (direction of prayer), the Minbar (elevated pulpit) used for sermons, proclamations and readings, the Qubah (dome) set on a high drum and a centralized or annular (ring-like) plan with two ambulatories or corridors, the Minarat where the faithful are called for prayer. Today the Minaret serves as a visual inspiration indicating a muslims community, or as seen in Mecca and Madina sanctuaries displaying as far as possible the location of holy a place.
What is the role of the mosque in Islam? ‘Masjid,’ or mosque, literally means ‘a place for self-prostration,’ that is, a place formally designated for the saying of prayers. According to a hadith, the Prophet of Islam observed: “The masjid is a house of God-fearing people.” This means, in effect, that it is a center for the inculcation of reverence, where individuals learn what is meant by piety and are thus prepared for a life of devotion to the Almighty.
The Masjid is built so that people may visit it to read the Book of God, to remember their Creator, silently and in prayer, and to hear His commandments on how they should lead their lives, that is, how to conduct themselves according to His will.
The most important of all these activities is the saying of prayers, a ritual to be carried out five times a day as prescribed by Islam. This act of worship, the greatest means of instilling a sense of awe in the devotee, may be carried out at any place, but ideally, is performed in an organized manner, in congregation, within the mosque. There the worshippers range themselves in orderly rows behind a single prayer leader, the Imam. (The acceptance by the group of just one individual to lead the congregation avoids any dissension which might arise from there being more than one.) The number of the worshippers may be ten or ten thousand: all have to stand in rows behind the Imam. This teaches the lesson of unity. Nevertheless, namaz, in essence, is an individual action. Everyone recites his own prayer and is rewarded on account of its innate rectitude and sincerity.
Besides the five daily obligatory prayers, there is a weekly Friday prayer which is necessarily offered in the mosque. In practice and content it is just like any other prayer, but since a larger number of people gather on this occasion, a sermon (khutba), giving religious guidance, is also preached by the Imam before the prayers begin. In this, he reminds worshippers of their accountability to God, of the commandments pertaining to Islamic character and of the proper way to deal with others in society. In this way, the Friday sermon refreshes the memory on religious commitments.
The mosque, initially intended as a place of worship, has come to be built to serve other related purposes, such as housing the Madrasa, library, lecture hall, guest house and dispensary. According to a hadith the Prophet advised the building of mosques in a simple style, so that there should be no dissipation or dilution of the true religious and spiritual atmosphere.
All mosques (with the exception of three) are of equal religious standing, whether large or small, plainly conceived or architecturally magnificent. The three mosques that have a greater degree of sanctity because of their historical and religious associations are the Masjid-el-Haram in Mecca, Prophet’s mosques in Medina and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.