A mosque or masjid as it is known in Arabic is a place of worship where the Muslims, the followers of the religion of Islam perform their prayers (namaz). The word masjid itself has most probably derived from the Arabic word sajad which means to prostrate, an action which is performed by the worshippers when they pray.
Mosques have evolved throughout the ages from simple places of worship to centers of learning as well as economic and cultural activities. There are mainly two types of mosques according to their range of influence and also the religious activities undertaken; for example mosques which conduct the Friday prayers on a grand scale (jama'a) which have special religious significance are known as great mosques and are often built on an elaborate scale, while the other mosques used for daily prayers are simply known as masjids.
Mosques conducting the Friday prayers called salat are more often than not architectural masterpieces employing the use of domes and minarets, from where the imam the prayer leader or the muezzin as he is also known calls the faithful for prayers, in various patterns. An important feature in the construction of mosques is that the direction to Mecca, the main religious pilgrimage centre of Islam in Saudi Arabia, has to be indicated' the wall facing that direction is called qibla as prayers are performed facing that direction.
Another important feature is the mihrab a semi circular alcove set into the qibla wall. The pulpit next to the mihrab from where the imam gives sermons is called as the minbar. Inline with the mihrab there is a dikka a platform where fellow muezzins chant in unison along with the imam. Most of the mosques built in earlier times were modeled on the house of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of the religion of Islam and the first mosque was believed to have been built in Kaaba (Mecca). Since one has to cleanse himself before entering the mosque there is often a fountain in the courtyard.
Prayers are offered five times at different intervals in the day lead by the imam who reads from the Koran, the holy book of Islam, in the prayer halls of the mosque where one should remove his shoes before entering and also maintain a dress code; often women have a separate prayer hall and in some mosques non-muslims are forbidden entry.