Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Zaydi Mosques

First constructed in the ninth century, the Mosque of al-Hadi in Sa'da is one of the oldest mosques in Yemen. It is named after Al-Hadi Yahya bin al-Hussain, the founder of the Zaidi dynasty, whose tomb adjoins the mosque. The tombs of eleven of his successors are also found at this mosque.
A typical example of the early mosques in Yemen, this hypostyle mosque is square in plan with a central courtyard. The original ninth-century structure included only the section of the mosque south of the current court. This area has two mihrabs on its qibla wall. It is three bays deep and fifteen bays wide, with a flat roof carried on twenty-eight pillars. It measures approximately eight by forty-five meters.
In the middle of the thirteenth century, a large u-shaped prayer hall was added to the north of the old mosque, creating the mosque that exists today and its rectangular courtyard. This section has a large mihrab that is on axis with the larger of the old mihrabs. An impressive dome, visible from anywhere in the city crowns the mihrab. There is a single minaret inside the court.
To the south of the old sanctuary is a long irregularly shaped courtyard, lined by the domed tombs of the imams of various height and size. Some have mihrabs on their qibla walls. The tomb of Imam al-Hadi was originally open on all sides; it is now surrounded by three other tombs. The profusion of ornamentation and inscription on these tombs is not seen in the prayer hall where decorative treatment is focused on the mihrab.
The new section of the mosque has two entrances with stairs to the east while the old section has a side entrance to the west and doors along the qibla wall that lead into the new section. The courtyard with tombs is entered through entry halls to the east and west.
Sa'da, and the Mosque of al-Hadi in particular, is a well-known center for Islamic theology and, especially, Zaidi teaching. The mosque is the home to priceless manuscripts and books on Islam.

Located 242 km north of the capital, Sana'a, Sa'ada City rises 2261 meters above sea level, and was established on a plain known as Ka'a Al Sahn. First built as a trading point, Sa'ada spread out till it became a city. It came to the fore thanks to the attention it received from the Kings of Himiar, mainly because of its fertile soil and the crude iron that was discovered in its lands.

After the advent of Islam in Yemen, the city retained its great significance and flourished as a city of science, religion, culture, commerce and agriculture. Eventually, it became known as a city of Islamic monuments in Yemen as it contained several religious, civil and military buildings and movable rarities.

When Imam Hadi arrived in 897 A.D. to settle down in the city, he built a mosque and a house for himself outside the vicinity of the old city with an idea of making it the first stage of the construction of a new city that would develop and expand with time.

Today, the mosque is located at the southern east part of the city. It consists of an open nave in the middle surrounded by four porticos, the deepest of which is that of the kiblah. The mosque is accessible through thirteen doors and has two minarets, the bigger of which is placed in the nave. This minaret is considered the tallest minaret in Yemen as its 52 meters high. The second minaret is smaller and is located at the southern courtyard.

The Al Hadi Mosque has great religious status, in addition to its fabulous religious and artistic Islamic architecture. It contains several architectural elements that give the viewer an impression of the disparity of the artistic and architectural style that were carried out on the mosque in different eras.

The Al Hadi Mosque is considered the third mosque in Yemen to have a minaret -- the first is the Farwa bin Maseek Mosque and the second is the Grand Mosque in Sana'a. It is also the oldest mosque to have annexes for the devotees and expatriates, in addition to the fact that it is the only mosque with a two-level grade mihrab that tapers off as the building rises.

The mosque is also famed for its wooden pulpit which is considered the oldest pulpit with a recorded date of 922 A.D., in addition to eight other magnificent structures. These structures contain various types of Arab and Islamic decorations (arabesque).

Another extraordinary feature of the mosque is its walls, which have miscellaneous plans, as well as geometric and written decorations made out of gypsum. All the building materials used in the construction, were taken by architects from the area surrounding the mosque.

To see a picture of the minaret of the ancient Kawkaban mosque, click on this link:
And here are some pictures of the Ali bin Talib mosque in Sana'a, Yemen:


  1. If anyone has links to more pics and info about Zaidi mosques, please add them below....