Istanbul – with its rich history and diverse religious culture and outstanding architecture – is often described as the bridge “between Europe and Asia”. With nearly 3,000 mosques in the city, it’s pretty much a given that you’re not going to miss the azan wherever you are in the city. Each of these mosques represents a different slice of history – one that can be appreciated by examining its unique shape, style and design.
The Sakirin Mosque, which opened to worshippers back in 2009, was designed by Zeynep Fadilioglu – the first-ever woman to design a mosque. After spending her childhood in Istanbul, Fadilioglu says that she had been heavily influenced by the remarkable mix of traditional and modern-day atmospheres in the city; before working on the Sakirin Mosque, Fadilioglu had designed restaurants, nightclubs, hotels and shops.
Like any architect worth their salt, she didn’t jump into the project without doing her homework. During the design process, she consulted theologians, art historians and local worshippers to make sure that her ideas were in-line with both Islamic traditions and the expectations of the people of Istanbul. “It might be colour, it might be texture, it might be form,” she says, “but each and every piece I have designed in the mosque, has some kind of connection with tradition.”
When you look at the outside of the mosque, it is metallic, sleek and grey – much like a lot of contemporary architecture you see in major cities across the globe. Fadilioglu believes that the Sakirin Mosque is designed to be the perfect place to worship. Why? “The humility you feel under the large dome, the secure feeling under the low-hanging chandelier and huge windows instead of walls,” she explains. “With the intricate metalwork, which allows light to stream in caressing you, much like the pages of the Quran.”
The low-hanging chandelier, which includes drops hanging down, symbolises the reflective process that all Muslims take part in when they pray – the light of the chandelier will fall upon the worshipper like the light that Allah bestows upon the world. The rings of the chandelier are adorned with the 99 names of Allah along with the name of the mosque, which is a literal meaning of “those who are thankful [to God]” in Arabic.
The female section of the mosque also strays from the norm; instead of being behind the men’s section or behind a curtain (as it normally is), it’s on the first floor with an alluring panoramic view of the surrounding area. It seems like the female worshippers will reap the benefits of praying in the first mosque to be designed by a woman. And why not?
When you look at the Sakirin Mosque, you can appreciate that it straddles the worlds of old and new; the East and West; a sleek modern-day creation which is still founded upon serenity and tradition. If you’re in Istanbul any time soon, we highly recommend you check it out.
Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons