Syria Islamic History

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1. The Umayyad Mosque (Syria Islamic History)

The Umayyad Mosque (or Masjid), also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus, is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world. This is the first monumental work of architecture in the history of Islam.

The place where the mosque is now located was originally a temple dedicated to the idol Hadad in the era of Aramaic people about 3000 years ago. When the Romans ruled Damascus, a temple was built to worship Jupiter. It then became a Christian church dedicated to John the Baptist in the Byzantine era at the end of the fourth century.

Exterior of the Umayyad Mosque – Photo:
Exterior of the Umayyad Mosque – Photo:

After the battle of Yarmuk in 636, Damascus was conquered by Muslims under the leadership of Khalid-bin-Walid (may Allah be pleased with him). Muslims divided the church building with Christians for worship. Muslims prayed in the eastern part of the building, and Christians - in the western.

This collective use continued until the reign of the Umayyad caliph al-Walid I, when the place for prayer became inadequate in terms of both the possibilities and the need to create an architectural monument to represent the new religion. The Caliph negotiated with Christian leaders to take a seat, and in return, al-Walid promised that all other churches around the city would be safe, with the addition of a new church dedicated to the Virgin Mary provided to Christians as compensation. The church was bought from Christians before it was destroyed, and between 706 and 715 AD in its place was built the current mosque.

Prayer hall of the Umayyad Mosque – Photo: A. Shamandour
Prayer hall of the Umayyad Mosque – Photo: A. Shamandour

The construction of the mosque was based on the mosque of the Prophet Mohammed (ﷺ) in Medina, which had many functions: it was a place for personal and collective prayer, religious education, political gatherings, justice and helping the sick and left homeless. The Caliph asked and received from the emperor of Byzantium 200 skilled workers to decorate a mosque, as evidenced in part by the Byzantine style of the building. The new mosque was the most impressive in the Islamic world at that time, and the inner walls were covered with beautiful mosaics. The building was one of the wonders of the world, because it was one of the largest in its time. The outer walls were built on the walls of the Temple of Jupiter and measure 100 by 157.5 m.

The mimbar (pulpit) and mihrab (prayer niche) – Photo:
The mimbar (pulpit) and mihrab (prayer niche) – Photo:

The Umayyad Mosque is of particular importance to Shiite Muslims, as it is the destination of the descendants of the Prophet (ﷺ) who were forced to come here from Iraq after the Battle of Karbala.

The prayer hall consists of three passages supported by columns in the Corinthian order. It was one of the first mosques (the other is the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem), which had this form, and so visitors could easily see the mihrab, the alcove indicating the direction of Mecca, and each other.

In 2001, Pope John Paul II visited the mosque, primarily to visit the relics of John the Baptist. This was the first time a dad visited a mosque.

References: Wikipedia, SOURCE

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