View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

UAE Mosque Makes the Top 25 in the World

Top 25
It is interesting to see a web site listing the top twenty-five mosques in the world. What are the criteria? To get into the top 25 they must be ‘amazing’ and be among the ‘largest’. The list includes the largest mosque, the Faisal Masjid in Islamabad, funded like so many mosques, by Saudi Arabia.

It is good to see a range of architecture and the way the styles often reflect the local culture.

One mosque from the UAE is included in the listing (this will change when the new Sheikh Zayed mosque in Abu Dhabi is opened), the Jumeira Mosque in Dubai, which like the best mosques, are open to both genders and the visit of non-Muslims is encouraged.

Open to People Regardless of Gender & Religion
To open more mosques to the public and arrange tours with time for questions is one of the best ways to foster understanding, to break down prejudice and to challenge the many misconceptions that people have about religion and its impact upon society.

The Mosque that Gets My Vote
Of the top twenty-five, my vote goes to the Mezquita in Córdoba, Spain. I like it not only because I have visited it but because it made such a profound effect on me.

It was originally established as a Christian Cathedral in the sixth century, was developed as a Muslim mosque two centuries later and was converted back to a Christian cathedral five centuries later.

It has relics from the Roman times and as it was extended over the centuries it took on Moorish, Baroque and Gothic architecture.

In the changes of ownership and purpose the building realistically records the sad story of violence, forced occupation, intolerance and religious coercion. Today it stands as a place of pilgrimage for Christians and Muslims and perhaps it is a hopeful model for promoting respect, the understanding of different religions, tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

Maintaining Perspective
While the architecture and aesthetic beauty of a building may give a sense of awe and wonder and in doing so evoke worship, it must be remembered that mosques are not designed primarily to win a place on the Top 25 but to be spaces for local worship and places of pilgrimage.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Mezquita, Córdoba.