Quwwat-Ul-Islam Masjid

The Quwwat-Ul-Islam Masjid or Mosque which means the ‘Might of Islam’ is known to be one of the oldest and ancient mosques that survived through the centuries and a definite sight to behold. It is called by many as the ‘Great Mosque of India’ and the ‘Qutub Mosque’ or ‘Qutb Mosque’ that lies within the beautiful and ancient expanse of Qutb Complex in South Delhi and was built along with the Qutub Minar in 1193 AD and finished in 1197 AD by Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak of the Slave dynasty as a ‘Jami Masjid’ or ‘Friday Mosque’.

Some state that the Qutub Minar was built as an exclusive minaret for the Quwwat-Ul-Islam Mosque and hence is also known as the ‘Minar of Jami Masjid’ which means the ‘Tower of Quwwat-Ul-Islam Mosque’ from where the Muzim would call people for their prayers. The architecture and design of this Mosque resembles the Arhai-Din Ka Jhompra Mosque in Ajmer, Rajasthan, which was also constructed under the rule of Qutb-ud-din Aibak who destroyed several Hindu Temples and an ancient School of Sanskrit to make way for the Ajmer mosque.

Like the Qutub Minar, even Quwwat-Ul-Islam Mosque was constructed by using the stones from the 27 demolished ancient Jain Temples and completed with the typical Islamic style of using mud and bricks on the building decorated with glazed tiles. The Mosque was constructed on a paved and raised platform that measures 141 feet by 105 feet with two courtyards on the inner and outer portions surrounded by colonnades and sanctuaries supported by pillars added sometime between 1210 and 1220 AD by Sultan Iltutmish and seen with elaborately decorated shafts which were made from the destroyed Temple parts that Aibak retained which gives this mosque a typical blend of Hindu and Islamic contours.

In 1196 AD, a 16 metres tall screen made of stone with a pointed central arch and two smaller pointed arches on either sides forming an ‘S’ shape engraved with motifs and beautiful Arabic calligraphic inscriptions were erected to separate the Courtyard from the main Prayer Hall that lies on the western end of the Mosque. The central arch measuring 6.15 metres high is heavily decorated with the finest carvings and designs that display the pure fusion of Hindu-Islamic architecture.

The entrance of the Quwwat-Ul-Islam Mosque is seen with an ornamental dome or Mandap which was taken from the demolished Jain Temples and leads to a flight of steep steps into the interior that welcomes you with a stunning view of the inner courtyard fringed with corbelled pillars on either side and decorated with exquisitely carved ceilings depicting Hindu carvings like floral motifs, bells, ropes, tassels, cows and leaves etc. These pillars were also taken from the debris of the Jain Temples and are lined across the mosque and beyond the arched screens of its interiors that once directly led to a row of aisles covered with low dome shaped ceilings out of which only the arched screens on its western section survives today.

In 1230 AD, Sultan Iltutmish aka Altamash (successor of Qutb-ud-din Aibak) added three more arches to the existing five so as to extend the screen of the Prayer Hall of the mosque in order to accommodate the increasing number of worshippers. These three arches depict the true Islamic and Arabic style of architecture as they were specially ordered to be made by craftsmen from Afghanistan who exquisitely carved the arches with Islamic motifs in geometric patterns that executed a distinct feature making the three arches unique from the rest.

The previous five arches were originally carved by local Hindu masons who were unaware of the Islamic techniques used to make the keystone that holds the arches in place. This technique was known only to skilled Muslim craftsmen who would cut out each stone into a wedge-shaped semicircle to form the centre of the arch known as the ‘keystone’ in Islamic architectural terms. Due to increased pressure from the Sultan, the local Hindu craftsmen invented the corbelled arches also called as the ‘Sham arch’ extensively seen in the architecture of the mosque which were made by placing layers of stone over each other in a horizontal position which increased its length as seen in the pointed arched gateways. Then, the layered stone were rounded on all sides to form the curved shape and lines of the arch.

Later, in 1315 AD, Ala-ud-din Khalji (Khilji) added the outer courtyard to extend the area size of the mosque and the Alai Darwaza made of red sandstone and white marble on the eastern side to create an elaborate and royal entrance leading through an exterior pavement right into the mosque. He also added gates on the northern and southern exterior walls of the Mosque.

Today, the Quwwat-Ul-Islam Mosque or the Jami Masjid is set partially in ruins amidst the majestic Qutub Minar and the other ancient structures. Many religious Muslims do hope that this mosque could accommodate their ‘Salat’ or daily five prayer sessions and Friday prayer sessions so that they could experience the delight of being able to silently and religiously offer their prayers and seek blessings of Allah within the precincts of this magnificent ancient mosque of Delhi that once hosted many great Muslim Royalties and worshippers centuries ago. Entry fee is Rs. 10/- per head for Indians and Rs. 250/- per head for Foreign Nationalities and an extra charge of Rs. 25/- per camera for photography and video filming.

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