The Friday Mosque

The Friday Mosque

The Friday mosque also known as Jammeh Mosque or congregational mosque is famous for Jumma prayer. It is the dominant architectural expression of Seljuk rule in Persia. It is at a distance of 340 km from the south of Tehran, in Isfahan.

History of Friday Mosque:

In 637 CE, Islam reached in Iran through Saad Ibn Abi Waqas (a companion of Holy Prophet P.B.U.H).  Saad Ibn Abi Waqa’s arrival instigated the mixture of Islamic ethics and Persian heritage. This amalgamation of Persian and Islamic heritage led to the golden historical era in the region. Local skills, achievement, and general knowledge made the foundations of Muslim civilization. Earlier, there were some thoughts that the mosque was the  Zoroastrians house of worship.

Prior to the 10th century, the Friday mosque existed on the site. It was in traditional hypostyle structure. Then, the dispute in Malik Shah’s reign between Shafi’ite and Hanafite sects affected the mosque. The fire damaged the mosque. They looked for some structural changes and rebuilding of some area. They replaced the hypostyle structure with a rectangular inner court. The inner court was surrounded by prayer hall having a wooden roof and round columns. The Friday Mosque.

In 1051, under Seljuk rule, Isfahan became the capital of Seljuks. They aimed to restore the heritage of the Abbasid Caliphate. Isfahan city status was increased through Tughril conquest. This led to the creation of the greatest architectural monument The Friday Mosque. Many other rich architectural monuments of Seljuk’s are also the representation of this golden period. Seljuk decided Friday mosque as the center and square of the city toward the north. Later, Shah Abbas changed the focal point towards the south in 1602.  In the 12th century, four iwans were added to the mosque. These iwans include two minarets, southern and northern domed chamber. In 1087, Nizam ul Mulk built the southern dome to place the largest mihrab. The geometric balance and structural clarity of northern dome was built by Taj ul Mulk. It was a masterpiece of Persian architecture. In 1447, the unification of the original one-story arcade and court led to a double story arcade abutting the court.

There is controversy in its history. Some believed it was built during the Umayyad dynasty. While there is a rumor that it was built by Calipha of Damascus. Now, it is considered as the best example of the Seljuk rule and Pre Abbas period. According to Nasir-i-Khusrau, the mosque was “great and magnificent” in 1052.

The cycle of its construction and reconstruction continued for centuries. Its architectural form blends of local and Arab styles. The form and material include diversity referring to Arab and local dynasties of Isfahan. The four iwans idea and cylindrical minaret are examples of this fusion. Not only Arab and Persian traditions mingled during its formation. But Muzzafarids, Safavids, Mongols, and Timurids too have a clear impact on it.

Its design and Structure:

Fig. 2 Structure Plan of ground floor

The oldest Islamic monument of Islam was built in four iwans’ architectural style. It is the organic stitching of the mosque into the urban fabric. The four iwans gates are parallel facing each gate. It is actually the integration of entrance and gates. This merging led to a fusion of mosque space and city space. The absence of outer wall and indefinite boundaries makes circumnavigation rather difficult.


The location of the present gate of the mosque is in the southeastern area. There is the confusion that either it was built by Ta’amir or by Muzaffarid Sultan Mahmud. Some argued that the southern gate or main gate was present in 1374 during Muzaffarid Sultan Mahmud. While others argued it was there in 1804.  According to Historians, this is the gate leading to the upper side of the eastern wall. They also justify the confusion between Muzaffarid Sultan Mahmud and Ta’amir. In the 14th century, the main gate was present according to them. It was replaced in the 18th century which is not present now. Another gate at the southwest part dates back to 1590 (the reign of Shah Abbas). It serves as the joining point between the northwest and southwest arcade. It also facilitates travel across the city. Northeastern dome and northeast wall are connected through another gate which is no longer in use. It was designed with Quranic inscriptions in 1366. Another entrance is at the northeast segment. It was restored in 1121 and is no longer in use. The former three gates were made by glazed and colorful tiles while the later was decorated with bricks.

The court:

The court consisted of four peaks which are actually flat screens. A double story arcade was decorated with a geometric pattern of white, dark and light blue and yellow hues. The glazed bricks and floral forming were also added to make it as the two-dimensional screen. The symmetric pattern of four iwans above the double story arcade placed it in the center of four walls. They all have the same height and treatment except the northwestern arcade and eastern Iwan. As it went under restoration in different periods so there is variation in its color, style, and material. The court also helped to access the various living areas of the city through intricate passages.

Maqsuras or Domes:

A 15-meter-wide and 30-meter-high wooden box was built in 1087. Nizam al-Mulk and architecture Abu al-Fath Malik Shah’s vizier designed it in the southwest. It is also agreed that the other doom was too constructed by Abu al- Fath. But Taj ul Mulk is a prominent figure for the construction of the northeast dome.

Fig. 3 The northern dome  

The northern dome was built in 1089 for Tarkan Khatun (wife of Malik Shah). Due to its free-standing position, it was interpreted that the dome act earlier as a library, a woman mosque and a private payer space. It is small in size and constructed with the help of sixteen arches and four squinches. The drum on arches reflects the inscription of religious and Quranic verses made by bricks. The drum is the center of ten double ribs that participate to form a pentagon. This structure explored it south and west areas. Many argued Taj designed it to compete with his rival Nizam Ol- Mulk. It is also called as Gunbad-e Khaki (the dome on earth).

The northern and southern dome have the same longitudinal axis positions. Both domes adjoined eight piers and a wall. These domes were decorated with fabric reflecting muqarnas traditional style. These also have inscriptions referring to the names of Nizam al-Mulk and Abu Malik Shah. The style of traditional Muqsura act as prototypical for later mosques of Qazvin, Zavareh, and Artesian. 

The structural and ornamental comparison between the two includes the following facts:

The northern is the example of harmony between horizontal and vertical divisions. It is a perfect example of geometry. The hierarchical fitting of its part made it a reflection of the gothic architecture of France. Its ornamentation includes bricks at different projected angles.

The southwest dome had stucco ornaments. It contained local elements for its decoration. The destructive fire-affected its structure. It has pre-fire elements as carved arches and infrastructure of double piers. Its post-fire structure has elements of the transitional zone and lighter designing.

The iwans:

As aforementioned, there are four distinctive iwans in the mosque. The decorative motifs and structural dimensions reflect these are of no equal importance. The domed and mihrab follow the most prominent iwan i-e southwest iwan. It is joined by two towers and functionally called suffa-i sahib (dignified space of master).  The construction of iwan was built before muqsura to reflect the place as holy space. Its wall consisted of Safavid statements. The iwans ceiling date back to the 15th century. In it, there are religious inscriptions reflecting the power of God. The traces of columns and bases of the earlier mosque were found in an iwan pavement system.

Southern and western domes are based on the Safavid architectural style. But the use of Safavid style varies in both. The northern iwan consists of small muqarnas units. These muqarnas have dark blue edges having a star at the end. The brick walls of three sides of iwan have yellow, white and dark blue colors. The southern iwan is based on Safavid architectural motifs. There are large Muqarnas units. Each muqarnas’s face is decorated with dark blue glazed tiles. It also has geometric arabesque forming an epigraph of light blue.

The Hypostyle Halls:

In the 12th century, areas between the four iwans were covered for prayers. These halls have a multitude of small domes. These have a variety of vaults different in form and structure. Hexagonal and octagonal brick pattern not only contribute to different shapes but also corresponds to different Sufi mysticism. Piers of both also differ in thickness and shape. The ribs vaults are of similar structure as used in the mosque of Cordoba.

Other Prayer areas:

The other three religious spaces which come under this mosque are large Safavid hall, Timurid prayer hall and Muzaffarid madrasa. These have vaulting structures of pointed barrel vaults.


In 1310, Khanid II ruler forced to install the mihrab of Uljaytu on his name. It is in the exterior of the northeast of northwest iwan. It is complex of geometric carvings, stucco art, and floral inscriptions. It has two arches based on the geometrical complex.

The Muzaffarid madrasa:

It is in the southeast of Mosque called Suffa I Umar. Its geometric designs and mosaic decoration in floral are marvelous.

According to some historians, it is an ideal and perfect display of brick architecture in Islamic art. It is an artistic display of floral panels of multi hues, epigraphic motifs, and carved stucco. Its complexity and structural ingenuity marked a difference in the Islamic world of architecture.

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