Faisal Masjid is the largest mosque in Pakistan and South Asia. It is the sixth-largest mosque in the world in terms of area. Located on the foothills of Margalla Hills, this masjid provides a picturesque environment.
It is a major tourist attraction and is known as the icon of Islamabad. Apart from hosting tourists, this Masjid enjoys the status of the national mosque of Pakistan.
Historical Background of Faisal Masjid:
The construction history of this Masjid is pretty interesting which embodies the friendship of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. In 1951 Saudi Arabia and Pakistan had already established a friendly relationship. On1953 Saud bin Abdul Aziz became the ruler of Saudi Arabia and he visited Pakistan in 1954 strengthening the relations between both countries. In 1964 Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz became the new ruler of Saudi Arabia.
The movement for the mosque began in 1966 when King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz supported the initiative of constructing a national mosque in Islamabad during his official visit to Pakistan.
Design of the Masjid:
Around 1969, an international competition was held and several talented architects from 17 different countries submitted forty-three proposals. A Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay, won the competition selected by a jury appointed by the International Union of Architects.
The mosque design reflects contemporary Islamic Architecture. The absence of a dome differentiates its design as compared to other masjids and traditional Islamic architecture.
Vedat Dalokay’s vision of the design is explained by himself in the following quote.
“I tried to capture the spirit, proportion, and geometry of Kaaba in a purely abstract manner. Imagine the apex of each of the four minarets as a scaled explosion of four highest corners of Kaaba – thus an unseen Kaaba form is bounded by the minarets at the four corners in a proportion of height to base. Shah Faisal Mosque is akin to the Holy Kaaba in the designer’s imaginative eyes. Now, if you join the apex of each minaret to the base of the minaret diagonally opposite to it correspondingly, a four-sided pyramid shall be bound by these lines at the base side within that invisible cube.”Vedat Dalokay
The hall of the masjid is an eight-sided shell that depicts a Bedouin desert tent. The minarets are thin as compared to the traditional minarets of a masjid. The pillars are inspired by Turkish architecture.
Construction of the Masjid:
A foundation stone was laid by King Faisal’s successor King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz in October 1976, but the project was started in 1978 and completed in 1988 in a period of 10 years.
The mosque and the road leading to it were named after King Faisal after his assassination in 1975.
With the funding of $28 million from Saudi Arabia construction work began. The structural engineers of Faisal Mosque were R.L Lac Qurix from Paris and S. Erdolan from Turkey. The Project Manager was Muhammad Rafique Ahmed while the project was executed by contractor Azim Borejurdi known as Azim Khan’s National Construction Limited.
The main structure of the building is the main prayer hall. This might be the only masjid whose construction started from its roof. Since there are no pillars in the roof of this masjid rests on 4 concrete guarders that emerge from the ground. Masjid’s main hall is 40 meters high. The unusual thin minarets inspired by Turkish architecture have a circumference of 10 x 10 meters and are 90 meters tall.
A beautiful pool at the lower section has fountains in it. Stairs from 4 directions connect the lower section to the masjid’s courtyard. There are other pools and fountains which enhance the beauty of the masjid.
The masjid internal hall has a beautiful Turkish-style chandelier which enhances the masjid ambiance. The interior hall is covered in white marble and decorated with mosaic patterns. Internationally renowned artist Sadequain has decorated quranic verses on the interior walls in Arabic calligraphic known as Koofi writing style.
Capacity of the Masjid:
Faisal Masjid covers an area of 5000 square meters. The main central hall holds a capacity of 10,000 while the porticoes have a capacity of 24,000 worshipers. 40,000 worshipers can offer prayers in the courtyard while another 200,000 worshippers can be accommodated in the adjoining ground.
Faisal masjid has is the 3rd largest mosque in terms of capacity in its 33 acres after Masjid al Nabawi (Prophet’s Mosque) in Madina and Masjid al-Haram (the grand mosque) in Makkah.
Misconception about Faisal Masjid:
A common misconception about Faisal Masjid is that this iconic mosque of Islamabad was fully funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. But the fact as per official documents of the project clearly denies this misconception.
As per the Public Relations Directorate of the Capital Development Authority (CDA)’s response to Daily Times Pakistan the fact is that it was partially funded by the Saudi Arabian government.
“The project was completed in $45 million, in which $28 million was contributed by Saudi Arabian Government while $17 million was provided by the Pakistani Government in addition to the allocation of 33 acres of land for the mosque.”Public Relations Directorate of CDA (response to Daily Times)
Faisal Masjid is not only a tourist attraction but an icon of the federal capital, Islamabad. It also enjoys the status of the national mosque of Pakistan. Apart from its beautiful design and architecture, it is the 3rd largest mosque in the world in terms of capacity. 6th largest in the world and largest in South Asia and Pakistan.
It also has a library, a lecture hall, cafe which are still used by International Islamic University Islamabad. After the unfortunate incident of the plane accident of the President of Pakistan, The mausoleum of General Zia ul Haq was made near the gate of Faisal masjid.
The views of Islamabad city from Margalla Hills and aerial views highlight this gem of architectural design prominently.
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