Historically, the four dominant architectural structures in Islam are the mosque, tomb, palace and fort. Many of the Islamic buildings were influenced by ancient Iranian and Persian styles and traditional elements include domes, minarets, columns and piers, arches and use of tiles to add color. Islamic architecture tended to feature geometric and rhythmic design to add continuity to the structure, which would often flow into natural spaces, such as courtyards and exotic gardens.
Mosques are significant Islamic architectural structures and there are many examples of sacred mosques spanning the continents of the world. Just a few examples: the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, which features a geometric structure and beautiful gold-domed roof; the Great Mosque of Cordoba, famed for its hall of columns featuring jasper, onyx and marble; and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul, also known as the Blue Mosque, featuring a stunning blue-tiled interior and six soaring minarets.
The Islamic palaces of the rulers were dominant structures on ancient city skylines. An example of the historic Abbasid designs is the Abbasid Palace in Baghdad, which dates back to the 10th century. This brick structure features a range of arches and large courtyard and is located near the Tigris River. There are significant Islamic palace structures in Turkey dating back to the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. One of the most popular palaces to visit in Turkey is the Topkapi Palace, which was the political seat of the Ottoman Empire. This beautiful palace features countless minarets and a number of courtyards and is situated on a hilltop.
The Alhambra in Granada, Spain, is an example of Moorish architecture and dominates the surrounding mountainous area. This imposing, red-hued fortress features high ramparts with solid towers and encloses a number of significant Islamic palaces and residential structures. Another example of an important Islamic fort structure is the Red Fort of India. This massive fort and castle complex was designed by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and features a range of designs and architectural features, enclosed by the red sandstone walls that give the fort its name.
A dominant example of African Islamic architecture is the Tomb of Askia, which marked the beginning of sub-Saharan Islamic architecture in Mali. The tomb is built to a squared plan and features an inner sanctuary with a double-niched mihrab, which is a prominent feature of West African Islamic architecture. Of course, the Taj Mahal is probably an example of the most famous and beautiful Islamic tomb structure and was also built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The dome and minarets of the Taj Mahal are classical examples of Islamic architecture and the iconic, white structure attains a variety of hues whether it is viewed in the day, in the early morning or at night.
- PBS: Islam - Architecture
- Oklahoma State University: Islamic Architecture
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Geometric Patterns in Islamic Art
- Colorado State University: Baghdad Abbasid Palace
- Great Istanbul: Topkapi Palace
- Alhambra: The History of the Alhambra
- UNESCO: Red Fort Complex
- ArchNet Digital Library: Askia Tomb
- UNESCO: Taj Mahal
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images