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Symbolism in Islamic Architecture

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Symbolism is one of the most important aspects of religious architecture, early in Islam human representation was banned to distinguish between the pagan practices and the new conceptual religion. Making Muslims resort to symbols to represent certain stories or characters.

The very first of symbols is the placing of the Jami’ itself, which typically is at the centre of the city preferably at a high point with a high minaret for travelers to be able to see it from afar, the idea was actually inspired by the roman lighthouse, which is in itself a symbol for acceptance of different cultures.

The second is the entrance gate itself, usually has a very high frame decorated with calligraphy and squinches, with recessed doors. Only in the Fatimid era the doors were projected, to symbolize the prophet Mohamed’s phrase “I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its door”. Another symbol for Ali is false doors. On the frames above entrances there is a circle it represents the sun and the muqarnas are its rays. a number of vases with 2 flowers can be found on facades can be found in buildings from the Fatimid era, they represent the prophet’s grandsons. Sometimes there are horizontal lines all around the exterior these reference to the rows of praying people

Upon entering, the Jami’ a fountain can probably be seen at the centre; this structure is actually used to articulate the verticality along with the minaret and dome and the pointed arch of the mihrab. the mihrab itself is usually at the centre of al qibla wall under a dome to articulate the qibla.

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There is only one entrance in a masjid however there are many false windows made of plaster. The windows represent the principles unity in diversity and simplicity. The widows themselves are never the same, for every window is made of a self-generating geometric or floral pattern stopped only by the boundaries of template of the frame.

The minaret itself begins with a square base and the goes to an octagon then finally to a circular finish This symbolizes the easy flow of the religion. another vertical element is the crenellations that each period is famed for, for example Abbasid period had zigzagging crenellations with the sky as its mirror, representing the hidden and the public. The Tulunid periods however was completely different, it represented the people holding hands in unity and praying together.

Numbers are often mentioned in Islamic architecture and each number is a reference. For example, 4 iwans are present in every madrasa for the 4 doctrines the 5-point star is used to describe the people of the robe. The 6-point star is a symbol for the public and the hidden it means God knows everything. In al-Aqmar Moscue there are 7 mihrabs, these symbolize the 7 imams. Octagons are used in every Islamic building whether it be in a dome or in a minaret the number 8 symbolizes the 8 angels carrying the throne of God.

To sum-up symbolism is the most important feature of Islamic architecture.

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Symbolism in Islamic Architecture. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from
“Symbolism in Islamic Architecture.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
Symbolism in Islamic Architecture. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Mar. 2024].
Symbolism in Islamic Architecture [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2024 Mar 2]. Available from:
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