What Happens in a Mosque?

Mosques are typically used as places of prayer and worship, particularly for the five times of prayer each day required in Islam. Mosques may also provide services such as counseling, marriages, funerals, education and charity.

In Islam, adherents are expected to pray daily, with men encouraged to pray in mosques and women encouraged to pray at home. The word "mosque" comes from an Arabic word meaning "to prostrate," and during prayer services participants kneel and touch their foreheads to the ground to submit and be close to God. In many mosques, public announcements are made to call people to prayer.

While the Prophet Muhammad's home is considered to be the first mosque, later structures developed more complex designs. Mosques typically feature a niche to indicate which wall faces Mecca, and that wall is often decorated. They also contain a pulpit, a public fountain and a tall tower for making the call to prayer. Although each mosque is different, each offers a place to retire from the bustle of daily life and spend quiet time in prayer.

Some mosques around the world are beautiful examples of architecture and attract large numbers of tourists. The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, is known for having more minarets (towers) than typical and for its high ceiling with blue tiles. The Mezquita de Cordoba in Cordoba, Spain, is famous for its red and white striped interior.