A mosque may look like every thing and any thing, its a chameleon that adapts to human cultures while affirming the faith in the One.
Just like Muslims may look like anybody and everybody, they are Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Indonesians, French, Australians, Malian, Japanese, Turkish, Inuit while affirming the faith in the One.
# A main symbolic place:
A mosque is symbolically very important to Muslims, and is a humble way for man to recreate pure divine presence on earth. Mosques are not built according to divine patterns – they are divinely guided. Nor are there very clear rules to what a mosque should look like, except on some few points : it clearly indicates the direction of Mecca (this direction is called Qibla), the indication is in most mosques a mihrab; there can be no doors in the wall where the mihrab is placed.
# Evolution in the designs and introduction of the minaret:
The design of the mosques developed in short time from being very simple to becoming complex structures. In the first mosques in Hijaz there was minimal attention paid to the form of the mosques. The first minaret (the tower from which the prayer callings are made) came probably in 703, in Kairouan, Tunisia, almost 100 years after the Madina mosque. The minaret was absent in the early mosques, and its implementation was both for embellishment of the mosques, and for the functionality. But even for some time after the introduction of the minaret, the adhan was still performed with the muezzin walking through the streets while inviting for prayer (can you imagine how amazing it was? I could not refuse such an invitation !) The addition of adornments to the mosques was strongly discussed, and many Muslims opposed this process, and thought of it as a way of jeopardizing the purity of Islam, and they disliked letting Christian elements in, as well as using converted churches. Today, most mosques have elaborate domes, minarets, and prayer halls.
# The true architecture of the true mosque for true Islam ?
The original architecture used in the Malay world is more of this triangle rooftop. There was a discrepancy between Javaneese muslims on whether they should use Dome or triangle rooftops. The advocates of the first one claimed that this was the “true” mosque in the “true” Islam as Islam conquered the region throught the honest and friendly behaviour of Arab traders. Their opponents would rather recall that their cultural architecture is the triangle one and that it should be the one used for Mosques as well. Of course, there is no such a thing as an Islamic architecture in the sens of one advocated by the Sources. And the Mosque of the Prophet SAWS has been built very simply, without neither a dome nor a geometrical rooftop but rather the simplest straight rooftop. Therefore, the expression of the different cultures through the architecture of the most symbolic place is to me a proof of God’s Greatness and a blessing for mankind:
And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge.
So I felt it is a pity when I saw those retailer of aluminium domes in the countryside of Java and Sumatra. Many retailers along the street sell ready-to-use dome that you only have to carry and put on the top of your building, as a cherry on the top of a cake or a seal on an enveloppe. It is as if the building needed this dome as a certificate of its Islamic identity.