The Faisal Mosque in Islamabad is the largest mosque in Pakistan and South Asia and one of the largest mosques in the world. It was the largest mosque in the world from 1986 until 1993, when it was overtaken in size by the completion of the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. Subsequent expansions of the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) of Mecca and the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (Prophet's Mosque) in Medina, Saudi Arabia during the 1990s relegated Faisal Mosque to fourth place in terms of size.
Faisal Mosque is conceived as the National Mosque of Pakistan. It has a covered area of 5,000 m2 (54,000 sq ft). It can accommodate 10,000 worshippers in its main prayer hall, 24,000 in its porticoes, 40,000 in its courtyard, and another 200,000 in its adjoining grounds. Although its covered main prayer hall is smaller than that of the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca (the world's third largest mosque), Faisal Mosque has the third largest capacity of accommodating worshippers in its adjoining grounds after the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) of Mecca, the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (Prophet's Mosque) in Medina. Each of the Mosque's four minarets are 80 m (260 ft) high (the tallest minarets in South Asia) and measure 10 x 10 m in circumference.
The Faisal Mosque is named after the late King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, who supported and financed the project.
The impetus for the mosque began in 1966 when the late King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia supported the initiative of the Pakistani Government to build a national mosque in Islamabad during an official visit to Pakistan. In 1969, an international competition was held in which architects from 17 countries submitted 43 proposals. After four days of deliberation, Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay's design was chosen. Construction of the mosque began in 1976 by National Construction of Pakistan, led by Azim Khan and was funded by the government of Saudi Arabia, at a cost of over 130 million Saudi riyals (approximately 120 million USD today). King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz was instrumental in the funding, and both the mosque and the road leading to it were named after him after his assassination in 1975. The mosque was completed in 1986, and used to house the International Islamic University. Many conservative Muslims criticised the design at first for its non-conventional design and lack of the traditional dome structure, but virtually all criticism was eventually silenced by the mosque's scale, form, and setting against the Margalla Hills upon completion.
The mosque is located in the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad. It is situated at the north end of Faisal Avenue, putting it at the northernmost end of the city and at the foot of Margalla Hills, the westernmost foothills of the Himalayas.
The Faisal Mosque is the work of famous Turkish architect, Vedat Dalokay who won the Aga Khan Architectural Award with this project. The mosque's relatively unusual design fuses contemporary lines with the more traditional look of an Arab Bedouin's tent, with its large triangular prayer hall and four minarets. However, unlike traditional masjid design, it lacks a dome. The minarets borrow their design from Turkish tradition and are thin and pencil like. The interior of this prayer hall holds a very large chandelier and its walls are decorated with mosaics and calligraphy by the famous Pakistani artist Sadequain. The mosaic pattern adorns the west wall, and has the kalimah writtern in early Kufic script, repeated in mirror image pattern.
The mosque's architecture is a departure from the long history of South Asian Islamic architecture. It is one of the most outstanding and modern Islamic architecture examples in the world.
References in literature
The Faisal Mosque is described in the book The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.