mosque

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mosque

Islamic public place of prayer. The masjid jami', or “congregational mosque,” is the centre of community worship and the site of Friday prayer services. Though the mosque—originally a sacred plot of ground—has been influenced by local architectural styles, the building has remained essentially an open space, usually roofed, with a minaret sometimes attached. Statues and pictures are not permitted as decoration. The minbar, a seat at the top of steps placed at the right of the mihrab, is used by the preacher (khatib) as a pulpit. Occasionally there is also a maqsurah, a box or wooden screen originally used to shield a worshiping ruler from assassins. The minaret, originally any elevated place but now usually a tower, is used by the muezzin (crier) to proclaim the call to worship five times each day. During prayer, Muslims orient themselves toward the qiblah wall, which is invariably oriented toward the Ka'bah in Mecca. The mosque has traditionally been the centre of social, political, and educational life in Islamic societies.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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