Classic Islamic Architecture and Contemporary Mosques

With the number of Muslim people increasing worldwide, the demand for Islamic buildings, particularly, mosques has also increased. However, unlike other forms of art or architecture, the mosque’s design is challenging to develop due to its sacred and spiritual nature. Hence, contemporary mosques’ architects strive to create a mosque design that delivers symbolism and spirituality while not imitating the traditional forms. In the paper, I will be comparing the differences in the depiction of power and symbolism between conventional, classic Islamic architecture and contemporary mosques.

Before analyzing the similarities and differences between these two forms of art, it is crucial to define them. Classic, traditional Islamic mosques include Ottoman mosque design, Egyptian, Shami, Moroccan, and Iranian styles (Mirlohi, 2021). These forms of architecture vary based on the historical and social context of the region; however, they retain the essential elements of the first Islamic mosque – minaret, facade, and dome, among others (Mirlohi, 2021; Tantawy and Khamis, 2021). Meanwhile, the most common approaches to contemporary mosques include historicism, modern expression, and regionalism (Alkhaled, 2019). Although the classification of traditional and non-traditional is contested among scholars, it is generally accepted that the abovementioned definitions are appropriate.

Comparing these two forms of art in different periods reveals that mosques’ contemporary forms are significantly different from the old, traditional ones. The only and significant similarity between the conventional and modern mosques is that they both aspire to present the symbolic and spiritual aspect of the mosque, but in different ways and to varying extents. Although contemporary mosques still compromise symbolism, they pronounce less Islamic values and rules of strict Islamic architecture (Alkhaled, 2019). Contemporary mosques, particularly regionalism, modern expression, and postmodern approaches, depart traditional forms, decoration, and symbolism. Thus, the current states of mosques try to use technology and adapt it to the new demands of visitors in the face of globalization.

In the paper, I will extend this comparison by analyzing the differences and similarities in depicting power and symbolism between the art mentioned above forms. Like old, traditional monuments, contemporary mosques still retain some symbolism and meet basic functional and ritual requirements such as Minaret, Minbar. However, they significantly depart from traditionalism, extensive symbolism favoring more technology-oriented and abstract forms of architecture.


Alkhaled, Z. (2019). Contemporary mosques conventional and innovative approach in mosque design at Turkey. Journal of Design Studio, 1(1), 37-44.

Mirlohi, P. (2021). A study of the approach of architects in contemporary mosques design (A case stduy of the Jundishapur Mosque in Ahvaz, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the Marashi Mosque in Egypt, the Cologne Central Mosque, the Valiasr Mosque in Tehran). Journal of Art & Civilization of the Orient, 8 (30), 51-62.

Tantawy, D.-E. M. A., & Khamis, N. E. E. D. M. A. (2021). Spiritual values between theological symbolism and design globalization in the contemporary mosque architecture. Journal of Architecture, Arts and Humanities, 6(26), 79–100. Web.

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