(Spanish mesquida, French mosqude, Arabic masjed, "a house of prayer," from sajada, "to bend, bow, adore") is the name applied in English to any Mohammedan house of worship; the larger houses of worship are called by Moslem "jami" (places of assembling) or "culliyet" (cathedrals). The first mosque was founded by Mohammed at Medina, part of the work being done by his own hands. The site was a grave-yard shaded by date-trees, which was selected by the Prophet because his camel knelt opposite to it on his public entry into the city. The edifice was square and capacious, the walls of earth and brick, and the roof supported by the trunks of palm-trees and thatched with palm-leaves. It had three doors. A part of the building was assigned as a habitation to the poor among the faithful who had no other homes. In this mosque Mohammed was buried; and though the original edifice was long ago replaced by a larger structure, the temple still bears the name of Masjed el-Nebi, "the Mosque of the Prophet" (see Wellsted, City of the Caliphs, 1:257 sq., 303 sq.). The most sacred mosque is the great temple of El-Hamram at Mecca, enclosing the Kaaba (q.v.). For many centuries the mosques were fashioned after this one. It consists of a large court enclosed by colonnades, with a fountain in the centre, where ablutions are made before prayer. On the side towards Mecca the colonnade is deeper. In the centre of this side is a niche (mihrab), surmounted by a vaulted arch; by the side of the mihrab is the menber, or preacher's chair or pulpit; at one or more corners of the court rise minarets (q.v.), from which the faithful are called to prayers. The form of the oldest mosques, which next to those mentioned are supposed to be those located at Jerusalem (known as Omar's mosque) and Cairo, is evidently derived from that of the Christian Basilica, the narthex being the origin of the court with its arcade, and the eastern apse, representing the principal buildings of the mosque, facing Mecca. The original forms, however, became obliterated in the progress of Mohammedan architecture, and the mosques, with their arcaded courts, gateways, domes, and minarets, became the most characteristic edifices of Saracenic art. Wherever the Mohammedan faith prevailed, from Spain to India, beautiful examples of these buildings exist. The architectural notions of the different countries seem to have exerted an influence upon the Moslems, for these mosques differ in the various countries. Thus in India the mosques have many features in common with the temples of the Jainas, while in Turkey they resemble the Byzantine architecture of Constantinople.
Since the Turkish domination was established in Constantinople, the mosques have generally been built after the general type of Santa Sophia (q.v.), having a Greek cross as the basis of their plan, and being enclosed instead of hypaethral. Everywhere the dome is one of the leading and most beautiful features of the mosques, which commonly consist of porticos surrounding an open square, in the centre of which is the tank or fountain for ablution. In the south-east is a kind of pulpit (member) for the imarm; and in the direction in which Mecca lies, SEE KEBLAH, there is a niche (mihrab), towards which the faithful are required to pray. Opposite the pulpit there is generally a platform (dikkeb) surrounded by a parapet, with a desk bearing the Koran, from which portions are read to the congregation. In the imperial mosques at Constantinople there is a tribune (makswra), at the opposite side from the menber and the mihrab, reserved for the sole use of the sultan. In front of the mihrab is often another tribune (khftab), from which the Imam (q.v.) pronounces prayer, and an elevated square platform (mastabah) from which criers repeat the calls to prayer. The imperial mosque of Achmed in Constantinople is the only mosque that has six minarets, except the temple of ElHamram in Mecca, to which Achmed built a seventh minaret, to quiet the complaint that he was attempting to outvie that holy sanctuary.
Many of the mosques are adorned with all the charms of the Saracenic and Moorish architecture, having texts and passages from the Koran intertwined among the delicate ornamentation, to lead the minds of the faithful while waiting for the hour of public prayer. The Turkish mosques are generally quite plain in their interior ornamentation, though often very stately and grand in their exterior architectural effect. It is not customary for women to visit the mosques, and if they do they are separated from the male worshippers. The utmost solemnity and decorum are preserved during the service, although in the hours of the afternoon (when there is no worship) people are seen lounging, chatting, even engaged in their trade, in the interior of the sacred building. On entering the mosque, the Moslem takes off his shoes, carries them in his left hand, sole to sole, and puts his right foot first over the threshold; he then performs the necessary ablutions, and finishes by putting his shoes and any arms he may have with him upon the matting before him. The congregation generally arrange themselves in rows parallel to that side of the mosque in which is the niche, and facing that side. The chief officer of a mosque is the Nazir (q.v.), under whom are two imams. There are, further, many persons attached to a mosque in a lower capacity, as Mueddins (q.v.), Bowwabs (door-keepers), etc., all of whom are paid, not by contributions levied upon the people, but from the funds of the mosque itself. The revenues of mosques are derived from lands. With many of the larger mosques there are hospitals connected, and public kitchens, in which food is prepared for the poor.
To every mosque is also attached a school, in which reading of the Koran, at least, is taught; to every imperial mosque is attached a college, and to the mosque of El-Azhan, in Cairo, is attached the great Mohammedan university of the world, which is attended by several thousand students from all parts of the Mohammedan world. To the imperial mosques in Constantinople are attached not only colleges, but also libraries, hospitals, asylums for the poor, khans for travellers, baths, and a small cemetery, with the tomb of the founder. The spacious courts containing these extensive benevolent and charitable establishments are adorned with trees and shrubbery and fountains. The whole is supported by endowments left by the sultan whose name they bear. Travellers, orphans, widows, and minors also find here a refuge, where they can leave their treasures, the sacredness of the place alone being sufficient protection. The former rigor by which unbelievers were excluded from mosques under penalty of death has been of late years relaxed in some places.
The finest specimens extant of Moslem architecture are thought to be the mosque at Mecca, the mosque of Omar at Jerusalem (see Spencer's Egypt and the Holy Land, Letter X), and the mosque at Medina, which three are considered also as peculiarly holy. The Jami Masj d, or Great Mosque, at Delhi (see preceding page). built by Shah-Jehan in 1631-37, is generally considered the noblest building ever erected for Mohammedan worship. (G.F.C.)