Exploring the Magnificent Faisal Mosque: A Blend of Tradition and Modernity
History and Significance
The Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan, stands tall as the 6th largest mosque globally, making it a prominent landmark in the Islamic world. Renowned for its grandeur and architectural brilliance, the mosque boasts a unique blend of ultramodern and conventional designs. Situated at the foothills of the Margalla Hills on elevated terrain, its majestic presence is visible from miles around. This iconic structure is open to visitors of all faiths, making it a key tourist attraction in Islamabad. Undoubtedly, it holds significant national importance as Pakistan’s national mosque.
The Vision and Construction
The idea to build the Faisal Mosque was conceived during Shah Faisal’s visit to Pakistan in 1966. Inspired to create the world’s largest mosque at the time, an international competition was held in 1969. With 43 architects from 17 countries submitting design proposals, the Turkish architect Vedat Delokay’s unique and unconventional design was chosen as the final blueprint. The Faisal Mosque also earned the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
Construction commenced in 1976 and spanned a decade until its completion in 1988. The entire project cost 130 million Saudi Riyals (US$ 120 million). It was generously financed by the late King Shah Faisal of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The mosque held the title of the world’s largest until the year 1993 when the Hasan II mosque in Casablanca, Morocco, was built. It was fittingly named the Shah Faisal Mosque in honor of the late King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.
Artistic Marvel and Architecture
The Faisal Mosque’s design was inspired by the simplicity of a desert Beduin tent, breaking away from traditional domes and arches. Its main hall is flanked by four equally tall minarets. Each minaret measures 260 feet (79 m) in height and 10 x 10 m in circumference. LIkewise, the striking eight-sided shell-shaped sloping roofs that form the triangular worship hall defy conventional Islamic architecture. Though initially met with criticism for its unorthodox design, the mosque has grown to be admired and appreciated for its uniqueness.
The interior of the mosque is adorned with intricate mosaics and calligraphy, masterfully crafted by the renowned Pakistani artist, Sadequain. The focal point of the interior is a splendid Turkish-style chandelier hanging from the 40-meter-high roof. The west wall of the mosque is adorned with a mosaic pattern featuring Kalimah written in the early Kufi script.
Capacity and Location
With a capacity to hold 10,000 worshippers in the main hall and an additional 40,000 in the courtyard, the Faisal Mosque covers an expansive area of 5,000m2 (54,000 sq. ft.). In total, the surrounding porticoes, courtyard, and adjoining grounds can accommodate over 200,000 worshippers simultaneously.
The mosque is strategically located at the northern end of Faisal Avenue, named in memory of King Faisal after his assassination in 1975. Surrounding the mosque are lush green grounds. Adjacent to it lies the mausoleum of the late President, Zia ul-Haq, who died in an air crash in 1988. The serene setting is decked with carpeted green grass, trees, and flowers along with ample seating areas. Moreover, its spacious parking lot adds to the overall charm of the place.
Visitor’s Guide and Etiquette
The Faisal Mosque welcomes visitors from all walks of life, allowing them to explore the entire premises and take photographs. The courtyard offers a breathtaking view of the picturesque Margalla hills. It certainly provides a tranquil and refreshing experience to visitors, particularly during the summer.
When entering the main building, visitors are required to deposit their shoes at the counter as a sign of respect. Dressing conservatively is appreciated, and women are kindly requested to wear a headscarf as a mark of cultural sensitivity. To maintain the serene ambiance, visitors are urged to refrain from eating, dancing, singing, or raising loud voices.
The Faisal Mosque stands not only as a testament to architectural brilliance but also as a symbol of unity and inclusivity. Its unique design and rich history make it a must-visit destination for locals and tourists alike. Embracing tradition while embracing modernity, the Faisal Mosque continues to captivate hearts and minds, leaving a lasting impression on all who have the privilege of experiencing its splendor.