Visit to Faisal Mosque [National mosque of Pakistan]

The mosque is a contemporary and influential piece of Islamic architecture. Faisal Mosque is known as a National Mosque and is named after the late King Faisal bin Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia, who supported and financed the project. It is located at the start of Margalla hill sector E-7 Islamabad Pakistan.

It is the largest mosque in Pakistan, Which is located in the national capital city of Islamabad. It was the largest mosque from 1986 until 1993, when it was overtaken in size by the newly completed Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. 

Subsequent expansions of the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) of Mecca and the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (Prophet’s Mosque) in Medina, Saudi Arabia, during the 1990s relegated Faisal Mosque to fourth place in terms of size. The mosque was completed in 1986. Turkish Architect Vedat Dalokay designed it. It is shaped like a desert Bedouin’s tent, an iconic symbol of Islamabad throughout the world.

It lies at the north end of Faisal Avenue, putting it at the northernmost end of the city and the foot of Margalla Hills, the westernmost foothills of the Himalayas. The mosque is situated on an elevated area of land against a picturesque backdrop of the Margalla Hills. The terrific location shows the mosque’s great importance and allows it to be seen from miles around day and night.

Visit to Faisal Mosque [National mosque of Pakistan]

Design of the Mosque

An international competition was held in which architects from 17 countries submitted 43 proposals in 1969. Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay won the competition. In 1976 construction of the mosque began by the National Construction of Pakistan, led by Azim Khan; the government of Saudi Arabia funded it at the cost of over 130 million Saudi riyals (approximately 120 million USD today). 

King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz was instrumental in the funding. Both the mosque and the road leading to it were named after him after his assassination in 1975. and used to house the International Islamic University. At first, many conservative Muslims criticized the design because of the unconventional design and lack of a traditional dome structure. Still, the criticism ended when the completed mosque’s scale, form, and set against the Margalla Hills became evident.

Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay won the Agha Khan Award for Architecture for the project of mosque design. The mosque’s architecture is modern and unique, lacking both the traditional domes and arches of most other mosques worldwide.

The mosque has an unusual design that departs from the long history of South Asian Islamic architecture, which has fusing contemporary lines with the more traditional look of an Arab Bedouin’s tent and has a sizable triangular prayer hall and four minarets. However, unlike conventional masjid design, it lacks a dome. Instead, the design of minarets are borrowed from Turkish tradition and are thin and pencil-like.

Structure of the Mosque

The structure of the Faisal Mosque is an eight-sided concrete shell inspired by a desert Bedouin’s tent and the cubic Kaaba in Mecca, and four unusual minarets are inspired by Turkish architecture. 

The entrance of the mosque has a small courtyard that contains a small round water pond with fountains and has an introductory plaque inside it. On the left hand next to the courtyard, stairs lead to the mosque’s central courtyard while going straight leads to another but comparatively larger water pond with fountains. Ablution place is on the left side of the pond for worshipers. This second water pond looks very beautiful. Stairs go to the central courtyard from all four corners of this pond.

Designer’s Concept of Mosque

The architect explained his concept to design school students:

“I tried to capture the spirit, proportion, and geometry of Kaaba in a purely abstract manner”.

The apex of each of the four minarets is taken as a scaled explosion of the four highest corners of Kaaba. The minarets bound an unseen Kaaba form at the four corners in a proportion of height to base. Shah Faisal is considered akin to Kaaba.

The apex of each minaret to the base of the minaret diagonally opposite to it correspondingly, a four-sided pyramid shall be bound by these lines at the base side within that invisible cube. Thus, the lower level pyramid is taken as a solid body while four minarets with their apex complete the imaginary cube of Kaaba.

The entrance is from the east side; a courtyard fronts the prayer hall with porticoes. The International Islamic University was housed under the central courtyard, but now it is relocated to a new campus. However, the mosque still has a library, lecture hall, museum, and cafe. 

Interior of the Mosque

The interior of the main tent-shaped hall is covered in white marble, and the Famous Pakistani artist Sadequain decorated mosaics and calligraphy and a spectacular Turkish-style chandelier and calligraphy. The mosaic pattern is found in the west wall and has the kalima written in early Kufic script, repeated in mirror image pattern.

The main hall’s interior is tent-shaped, which is covered with white marble and is decorated with mosaics, calligraphy.

Area of the Mosque

For the project, forty-six acres of land were assigned. The mosque area is 351 square miles divided into eight functional zones; these zones are Administrative sector, Diplomatic Enclave, commercial zones, forest belt, national park area, residential sector, particular institutions, industrial zone.

The prayer hall can hold 10,000 worshipers at one time. There is an additional 24,000 in the porticoes and 40,00 in the courtyard.

Faisal Mosque can accommodate almost 1 lac people while the adjoining grounds can hold approximately 2 lac more.

Although Faisal Mosque is soon expected to lose its status as the biggest mosque in Pakistan, Bahria Town Jamia Masjid Complex, currently under construction in Karachi, is declared the most significant mosque.

Importance of Mosque

Islamic architecture has a unique importance in the world. Faisal mosque has a unique look and is inspired by a Bedouin’s tent. Bedouins were the nomadic tribes in Arabia; they set up tents to symbolize their hard but natural life. The unique design of the mosque is set against the backdrop of the green hills of Margalla.  The national mosque of Pakistan symbolizes national pride for the young nation. Faisal mosque is a popular site for foreigners as well as tourists from other parts of the country.

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