Islamic Social Complexes: The Mosques and The Kulliyahs

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What is the islamic social complexes? What is the kulliyahs in islam? What are the main features of islamic architecture?

Mosques are places in which the people who want to worship gather, communicate, converse and take lessons from the religious functionaries. Although mosques are currently used only as places of worship, they carried out various services in the past. Hence, mosques are structures that are situated at the very center of Muslims’ lives.

In Islam, performing the acts of worship (ibadah), especially in congregation, preserving the mosques, taking care of their maintenance and repairing them are very important acts of worship. For this purpose, thousands of mosques have been built by many Muslim benefactors. When you go into a city for the first time, you can immediately recognize whether this is a Muslim city or not through the minarets and the domes which appear on the landscape of the city.

When we use the term “Jami or mosque”, there are some other words that we need to know, such as “kulliyah,” “masjid,” “namazgah” etc.

Some mosques are not merely places of worship. These are called ‘kulliyah’. Such as; the Kulliyah of Sultanahmed or the Kulliyah of Suleymaniye. They have been established to carry out many different services apart from being a place of worshipping. Around it, there are some extra facility structures like a madrasa (college), a library, a school, a hospital, a soup kitchen, fountains and a bathhouse.

It includes shops and a market place whose incomes were endowed to cover the expenses of the mosque, and there are also guesthouses for those who need a shelter. There is a tomb and a small graveyard (hazira) next to the mosque. All these structures are called together “kulliyah.” It is not required that all what we have mentioned above be available in a kulliyah. Kulliyahs like the Kulliyah of Fatih, Süleymaniye, or Sultanahmed built by the Ottoman sultans are magnificent kulliyahs which include most of these above mentioned facilities. However, there are also some small-scale kulliyahs built by some generous statesmen. Kulliyahs are the central structures of a city or a district in which they were built. The cities and districts were flourished around the kulliyahs.

The word Jami means “gatherer, collector, or compiler.” As to the word “masjid,” it means “a place in which acts of worship and prostration are performed. Both of these words, i.e. jami and masjid, have been used interchangeably throughout the Islamic history. As for today, only small places of worship are called “masjid.”

The places which are not surrounded by walls and which are prepared with simple structures only to perform prayer in open air are called “namazgah.”

Some historical mosques in Istanbul can easily be distinguished from the others. They are called “Salatin mosques.” It means mosques that were built by the sultans. The mosque built in the name of a sultan from the Ottoman family, in the name of a prince, in the name of a wife of a sultan, or his mother or his daughter is called Salatin mosque. The most distinguishing feature of such mosques is that they have two or more minarets. This is a historical tradition. A second minaret cannot be built to any mosque which is not a Salatin mosque. Such as Mihrimahsultan Mosque, Valide-i Atik, Ortakoy (Grand Majidiye), New Mosque, Nuruosmaniye Mosque are among the Salatin mosques.

There is an order among the Salatin mosques of Istanbul: The most significant one is Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) Mosque, for it represents the conquest of Istanbul. Then Fatih Mosque comes next, since it was constructed by the conqueror (fatih) of Istanbul. Süleymaniye and Sultanahmed (Blue Mosque) are the ones that come next in the list. When a funeral prayer call (sala) started to be recited from all these four mosques at the same time, it meant that the ruling sultan had passed away.

Source: Harun Kırkıl, Read About and Travel Around ISTANBUL, Erkam Publications

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