Mosques to visit when the Coronavirus ends (Chapter 10): Nasir-ol-molk mosque
The majority of worldwide citizens have now been forced to lead an end-of-the-month existence, owed to the abrupt severing of salaries across the globe. We can only hope that our level of medicine will suffice to overcome the surging COVID-19 and its financial consequences, and that Allah will not test us for faith during a two-year period, as it was with the Spanish flu little more than 100 years ago.
Currently, it won’t take much longer to push most countries over the line, as many citizens and small and medium businesses are already edging on bankruptcy. If this continues for too long, the economic consequences might indeed be violent enough to trigger civil wars, especially in countries where it is legal to be in possession of a weapon.
Indeed we pray and read in the Holy Quran: “Allah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into the light.” (Qur’an 2:257)
Thus, we shouldn’t succumb to senseless fear and believe in Allah, worshipping him ever-more in these times of ubiquitous plague. If you are tired of praying in your home, you can join me on a fictional journey to a majestic destination where the fabulous interior design of the mosque would appease you in your prayer. Such is the Nasir-ol-Molk mosque of Iran.
This marvellously designed mosque is commonly known as the Pink Mosque, the construction of which began in 1876 under the rule of the Qajar dynasty in the city of Shiraz and lasted up until 1888.
One of the designers working on the project, Mohammad Hasan-e-Memar, was an extremely talented and well-spoken Iranian architect whose skill can be traced back to his plan of the famous Eram Garden (UNESCO world heritage site) not far from this mosque.
At the time, though Persia was long known for its production of diverse tile-work, there occurred a reduction in tile output around the 18th century. In order to meet the local demand, Persia began to import tiles embellished with landscapes, diverse architecture and colourful patterns typical to European countries.
Seeing as much of Persian architecture incorporated the use of tiles which began growing less abundant in the country, the bright and perky Western tiles gladly took the opportunity to make their way into the mosques and homes of their foreign customers. Not only was the trade with the West comparatively more frequent at the time, but the cultural exchange and its integration were likewise very pronounced.
In effect, the creation of this mosque fell perfectly into the epicentre of Iran’s westernisation epoch. Most of the innumerable tiles that were used on its inner and outer decor were imported from either Britain, France or the US; though the architecture itself isn’t that atypical for the Persian style.
The exterior of the mosque closely resembles traditional designs you could find in cities throughout Iran or Uzbekistan. The walls and ceilings of the mosque however, are covered with lurid tiles portraying distant landscapes and spring flowers, interjected with beautifully carved, spiralling pillars.
The lively-coloured stained glass used on the windowpanes is quite surprising, as it is more of a common asset for a church than a mosque. Though this goes against the general custom in mosque construction (to allow as much light in as possible), it creates a vivid scene of multicoloured lights dancing gracefully on the surfaces of Persian carpets and tiled walls, giving the inside of the mosque an unforgettable charm.
If you ever are so lucky as to be able to travel around the middle-east, you should definitely treat yourself to a visit around this spectacular site, as the unique interior design really is the pinacle of intercultural architectural beauty.