Conversion of non-Islamic places of worship into mosques

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Hagia Sophia, an Eastern Orthodox cathedral converted into a mosque in 1453 AD.

The conversion of non-Islamic places of worship into mosques occurred during the life of Muhammad and continued during subsequent Islamic conquests and under historical Muslim rule. Hindu temples, Jain Temples, Christian churches, synagogues, and Zoroastrian fire temples have been converted into mosques.

Several such mosques in the areas of former Muslim rule have since been reconverted or have become museums, including the Parthenon in Greece and numerous mosques in Spain, such as Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, etc. Conversion of non-Islamic buildings into mosques influenced distinctive regional styles of Islamic architecture.

Qur'anic holy sites[edit]


Before Muhammad, the Kaaba and Mecca (referred to as Bakkah in the Quran), were revered as a sacred sanctuary and was a site of pilgrimage.[1] At the time of Muhammad (AD 570–632), his tribe the Quraysh was in charge of the Kaʿaba, which was at that time a shrine containing hundreds of idols representing Arabian tribal gods and other religious figures. Muhammad earned the enmity of his tribe by preaching the new religion of Islam. Early Muslims practiced, or attempted to practice, their rituals by the Ka'aba alongside polytheists, until they eventually left Mecca, driven out by escalating persecution. The aborted first pilgrimage, which was prevented by the Quraysh, who promised to allow it the following year in the Hudaybiyah treaty, did not also entail the prevention of continuing practices by polytheists. However, before the second pilgrimage season, allies of the Quraysh violated the treaty, allowing the Muslims to return as conquerors rather than guests. Henceforth, the Kaʿaba was to be dedicated to the worship of the one God alone, and the idols were destroyed. The Black Stone (al-Hajar-ul-Aswad) at the Kaʿaba was a special object of veneration at the site. According to some traditions the text of seven or ten especially honoured poems were suspended around the Kaʿaba.[2]


Dome of the Rock is a shrine in Jerusalem. Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, is traditionally believed to have ascended into heaven from this site. In Jewish tradition, it is here that Abraham, the progenitor and first patriarch of the Hebrew people, is said to have prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. The Dome and Al-Aqsa Mosque are both located on the Temple Mount the site of Solomon's Temple and its successors.

Upon the capture of Jerusalem, it is commonly reported that Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, refused to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in spite of a treaty.[3] The architecturally similar Dome of the Rock was built on the Temple Mount, which was an abandoned and disused area since 70 AD in the 7th century but which had previously been the site of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, the most sacred site in Judaism.[4] Umar initially built there a small prayer house which laid the foundation for the later construction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by the Umayyads.[5]

Conversion of church buildings[edit]


Bosnia and Herzegovina
Fethija Mosque in Bihać, Bosnia

The Fethija Mosque (since 1592) of Bihać was a Catholic church devoted to Saint Anthony of Padua (1266).[citation needed]


Following the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus, a number of Christian churches were converted into mosques. A relatively significant surge in church-mosque conversion followed the 1974 Turkish Invasion of Cyprus. Many of the Orthodox churches in Northern Cyprus have been converted, and many are still in the process of becoming mosques.


During the Ottoman wintering in Toulon (1543–44), the Toulon Cathedral was temporarily used as a mosque for the 30,000 members of the crew of the Ottoman fleet.

Painting of the ruins of the Parthenon and the Ottoman mosque built after 1715, in the early 1830s.

Numerous orthodox churches were converted to mosques during the Ottoman period in Greece. Among them:

The Rotunda of Galerius in Thessaloniki, initially a Mausoleum of Roman Emperor Galerius, a Christian church (326–1590), then a mosque and again a church after 1912.

Following the Ottoman conquest of the Kingdom of Hungary, a number of Christian churches were converted into mosques. Those that survived the era of Ottoman rule, were later reconverted into churches after the Great Turkish War.

  • Church of Our Lady of Buda, converted into Eski Djami immediately after the capture of Buda in 1541, reconverted in 1686.
  • Church of Mary Magdalene, Buda, converted into Fethiye Djami c. 1602, reconverted in 1686.
  • The Franciscan Church of St John the Baptist in Buda, converted into Pasha Djami, destroyed in 1686.

A Catholic Christian church dedicated to Saint Vincent of Lérins, was built by the Visigoths in Córdoba; during the reign of Abd al-Rahman I, it was converted into a mosque.[6][7][8] In the time of the Reconquista, Christian rule was reestablished and the building became a church once again, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption.[6][7][8]


After the Ottomans conquered Mangup, the capital of Principality of Theodoro, a prayer for the Sultan recited in one of the churches which converted into a mosque, and according to Turkish authors "the house of the infidel became the house of Islam."[9]

Middle East and North Africa[edit]


Cathedrals and churches were converted into mosques in the mid-20th century include:


The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria converted a number of Christian churches into mosques after they occupied Mosul in 2014. The churches were restored into its original functions after Mosul was liberated in 2017.[10]

  • Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Ephraim in Mosul, Iraq; converted to the Mosque of the Mujahideen
  • Chaldean Church of St. Joseph in Mosul, Iraq
After the conquest of Hebron, this holy place was "taken over from the Jewish tradition" by the Muslim rulers. The cave and the surrounding Herodian enclosure was converted into a mosque.[11]

The Herodian shrine of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the second most holy site in Judaism,[14] was converted into a church during the Crusades before being turned into a mosque in 1266 and henceforth banned to Jews and Christians.[15] Part of it was restored as a synagogue by Israel after 1967.[16] Other sites in Hebron have undergone Islamification. The Tomb of Jesse and Ruth became the Church of the Forty Martyrs,[17] which then became the Tomb of Isai and later Deir Al Arba'een.[18]


Cathedrals and churches were converted into mosques in the mid-20th century include:

The Umayyad Mosque mosque was built on the site of several prior religious sites



Hagia Sophia[edit]

Following the Ottoman conquest of Anatolia, virtually all of the churches of Istanbul were converted into mosques except the Church of Saint Mary of the Mongols.[23]

Other churches[edit]

Rest of Turkey[edit]

The Selimiye Mosque was the largest and oldest surviving Gothic church in Cyprus, which was possibly constructed on the site of an earlier Byzantine church.

Elsewhere in Turkey numerous churches were converted into mosques, including:

Armenian Apostolic[edit]

Hundreds of Armenian Churches were converted into Mosques in Turkey and Azerbaijan. Thousands were destroyed after Armenian Genocide in 1915

Conversion of Hindu temples[edit]

Temple Name Mosque Name Images City Country Ruler Notes Current Status
Kashi Vishwanath Temple Gyanvapi Mosque Kashi-gyanvapi (1).jpg Varanasi, UP India Aurangzeb The temple was demolished under the orders of Aurangzeb, who then constructed the Gyanvapi Mosque atop the original Hindu temple. The demolition was motivated by the rebellion of local zamindars (landowners) associated with the temple.[31] The demolition was intended as a warning to the anti-Mughal factions and Hindu religious leaders in the city.[32] Mosque; temple reconstructed adjacent to Mosque
Keshavdeva Temple Shahi Edgah The Idgah, Mathura 1949.jpg Mathura, UP India Aurangzeb attacked Mathura and destroyed that Keshavdeva Temple in 1670 and built the Shahi Eidgah in its place.[33][34] Mosque; temple reconstructed adjacent to Mosque
Somnath temple Veraval, Gujarat India Mahmud of Ghazni, Alauddin Khalji, Muzaffar Shah I, Mahmud Begada, Aurangzeb The temple was attacked, destroyed and rebuilt multiple times and was converted into an Islamic Mosque in the 19th century.[35][36] Temple rebuilt
Jain and Saraswati Temple Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra Adhai Din-ka-Jhonpra Screen wall (6133975257).jpg Ajmer, Rajasthan India Qutb ud-Din Aibak The original building was partially destroyed and converted into a mosque by Qutb ud-Din Aibak of Delhi in the late 12th century.[37] Iltutmish further built the mosque in 1213 CE.[38] Mosque
Rudra Mahalaya Temple Jami Mosque Ruins of the Rudra Mala at Siddhpur, Gujarat, retouched.jpg Siddhpur, Gujarat India Ahmad Shah I The temple was dismantled during the siege of the city by Ahmed Shah I (1410–44) of Muzaffarid dynasty; parts of it were reused in setting up a new congregational mosque.[39] Ruined, partly converted into Mosque

Conversion of Zoroastrian fire temples[edit]


After the Muslim conquest of Persia, Zoroastrian fire temples, with their four axial arch openings, were usually turned into mosques simply by setting a mihrab (prayer niche) on the place of the arch nearest to qibla (the direction of Mecca). This practice is described by numerous Muslim sources; however, the archaeological evidence confirming it is still scarce. Zoroastrian temples converted into mosques in such a manner could be found in Bukhara, as well as in and near Istakhr and other Iranian cities,[22] such as: Tarikhaneh Temple, Jameh Mosque of Qazvin, Heidarieh Mosque of Qazvin, Jameh Mosque of Isfahan, Jameh Mosque of Kashan, Jameh Mosque of Ardestan, Jameh Mosque of Yazd, Jameh Mosque of Borujerd, Great Mosque of Herat as well as Bibi Shahr Banu Shrine near Tehran.

Influence on Islamic architecture[edit]

The conversion of non-Islamic religious buildings into mosques during the first centuries of Islam played a major role in the development of Islamic architectural styles. Distinct regional styles of mosque design, which have come to be known by such names as Arab, Persian, Andalusian, and others, commonly reflected the external and internal stylistic elements of churches and other temples characteristic for that region.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Britannica 2002 Deluxe Edition CD-ROM, "Ka'bah."
  2. ^ Amnon Shiloah (2001). Music in the World of Islam: A Socio-Cultural Study. Wayne State University Press. p. 4. ISBN 9780814329702.
  3. ^ Adrian Fortescue, "The Orthodox Eastern Church", Gorgias Press LLC, 1 December 2001, pg. 28 ISBN 0-9715986-1-4
  4. ^ Orlin, Eric (19 November 2015). Routledge Encyclopedia of Ancient Mediterranean Religions. ISBN 9781134625598. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  5. ^ Le Strange, Guy (1890). Palestine Under the Moslems. p. 10. It seems probable, also, that this latter Khalif, when he began to rebuild the Aksa, made use of the materials which lay to hand in the ruins of the great St. Mary Church of Justinian, which must originally have stood on the site, approximately, on which the Aksa Mosque was afterwards raised.
  6. ^ a b Christys, Ann (2017). "The meaning of topography in Umayyad Cordoba". In Lester, Anne E. (ed.). Cities, Texts and Social Networks, 400–1500. Routledge. It is a commonplace of the history of Córdoba that in their early years in the city, the Muslims shared with the Christians the church of S. Vicente, until ʿAbd al-Raḥmān I bought the Christians out and used the site to build the Great Mosque. It was a pivotal moment in the history of Córdoba, which later historians may have emphasised by drawing a parallel between Córdoba and another Umayyad capital, Damascus. The first reference to the Muslims’ sharing the church was by Ibn Idhārī in the fourteenth century, citing the tenth-century historian al-Rāzī. It could be a version of a similar story referring to the Great Mosque in Damascus, which may itself have been written long after the Mosque was built. It is a story that meant something in the tenth-century context, a clear statement of the Muslim appropriation of Visigothic Córdoba.
  7. ^ a b Guia, Aitana (1 July 2014). The Muslim Struggle for Civil Rights in Spain, 1985–2010: Promoting Democracy Through Islamic Engagement. Sussex Academic Press. p. 137. ISBN 978-1-84519581-6. It was originally a small temple of Christian Visigoth origin. Under Umayyad reign in Spain (711–1031 CE), it was expanded and made into a mosque, which it would remain for eight centuries. During the Christian reconquest of Al-Andalus, Christians captured the mosque and consecrated it as a Catholic church.
  8. ^ a b Armstrong, Ian (2013). Spain and Portugal. Avalon Travel Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61237031-6. On this site originally stood the Visigoths' Christian Church of San Vicente, but when the Moors came to town in 758 CE they knocked it down and constructed a mosque in its place. When Córdoba fell once again to the Christians, King Ferdinand II and his successors set about Christianizing the structure, most dramatically adding the bright pearly white Renaissance nave where mass is held every morning.
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  14. ^ Johnson, Paul (14 September 1988). A History of the Jews. Harper Collins. pp. 3–5. ISBN 978-0-06-091533-9.
  15. ^ Tristram, Henry Baker (1865). The land of Israel: a journal of travels in Palestine, undertaken with special reference to its physical character. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. pp. 390–396.
  16. ^ Goren, Shlomo (2016). With Might and Strength: An Autobiography. Maggid. ISBN 978-1592644094.
  17. ^ Pringle, Denys (1993). The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: A Corpus: Volume 2, L-Z (excluding Tyre). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-39037-8.
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  19. ^ "Tripoli Cathedral". New Statesman. 138: 26. 2009. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  20. ^ Morocco. Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Travel Guides. 2006. p. 133.
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