The Ancient Masjed-e-Jame in Shiraz (The Congregational Mosque) has survived from far distant centuries. It was designed and built 281 A. H. in the time of Amr Ibn Laith Saffar. He was the ruler of Fars. Later on, in the time of Shah Sheikh Abu’l Eshaq Inju, a square building was erected in the middle of the mosque, and in the time of the Safavids, various parts of the faience work were built again and then renewed.
There were two reasons why the princes and kings were interested in the erection of great magnificent Ancient Masjed-e-Jameand colleges. One was that, from ages ago, building temples and places to worship had been a custom of the peoples of the east, and Islam approved of that.
The other was that mosques and colleges were not only for religious rites but also places of assembly, where discussion and debate took place, and leaders made political and social decisions there. Many of the teachers and scholars of repute conducted their classes in the Ancient Masjed-e-Jame.
The classes of instruction held in Neyshabur, Balkh, Herat, Baghdad, and Fars were famous. Many historical sources have mentioned them. The fourth century of the Hejra onwards is well-known for many cities, colleges, and ancient Masjed-e-Jame. Also, colleges were jointly places of instruction, discussion, and assembly. In Shiraz, leaders gave the order to build or donators and designers, designed around thirty great and congregational mosques, such as the Jame Atiq, Masjed-e-Vakil, colleges such as the Madresseh Khan and Mansurieha. We shall come back to them in our other blogs.
Among the ancient historians, the author of Nezam Uttavarikh, the Shiraznameh, and Shadulezar, and other historians have ascribed the actual building to the time of Amr Ibn Laith. Since the part of this building that had survived on the western side of the mosque was in danger of falling, it was restored by pious and charitable persons about fifteen years ago.
The most charming, ancient, and interior part of the mosque is a stone building in the center of the Ancient Masjed-e-Jame called Khoda Khaneh (The house of God) or Bayt Al-Mashaf (The House of the Quran). No construction of this shape and decoration exists in any other Islamic mosque. Shah Sheikh Abu’l Eshaq Inju, the King of Fars in 752 A. H. (1351 A. D.), built it or gave the command. The style of the building consists of four cylindrical towers of square dressed white stone at the four corners and four porches, each of which has two pillars, between the four towers, and one room in the center, where they kept the holy Qurans.
On the facade of this beautiful ancient Masjed-e-Jame is a raised inscription in the Suls character, which in its sphere is unique. Yahya Aljamali wrote that. He was the famous calligraphist in the time of Shah Sheikh Abu’l Eshaq. Over time the standing part of this building, except three of the towers, collapsed. However, where the architecture wrote the date of the construction was not destroyed, and archeologists found it later in the form of an inscription above the southern tower. In recent years with the help of the Archaeological Directorate and artists, the original inscription text was prepared and restored by competent craftsmen.
The inscription was so cut in white stone that the builders had to sink the space around its letters deeply to let the \turquoise glazed tiles insert. This style of work is known to the Persian craftsmen. It means that they separately cut out every detail of the design, and the background is fitted to it. They used Mosaic work with glazed tile in all the old mosques, but the combination of faience with raised characters in stone is an extremely beautiful and unique feature visible only in this mosque.
In addition, to the mosaic work we mentioned above, there are pushed stone panels in the porches, in which delicate raised patterns and have carved unique designs. In the lower parts of ancient Masjed-e-Jame, they carved arabesques in the stone. The Renovators put back all that was left from this design back to where it belonged.
On the four sides of the ancient Masjed-e-Jame, extensive buildings and great pillared halls (Shabistan) surrounded it, which perhaps formerly occupied a larger area than at present, for certain parts in the past were added by degrees to people’s houses. Moreover, there was a free and open space originally in front of the mosque, which was later encroached upon, and built over, with the result that the approaches are now narrow, and the doorways do not appear impressive.
The buildings surrounding the mosque and doorways have several times been damaged by the earthquake and natural causes, but they have been repaired. The northern doorway was repaired in the time of the Safavid King Shah Abbas by Emam Quli Khan, the governor of Fars in the year 1031 A. H. (1621 A. D.).
The latest repairs in the past were carried out in the year 1090 A.H (1681 A. D.) by the governor of Shiraz, Emam Verdi Beg, son of Allah Verdi Beg. Later in the present-day several parts of the northeast and west were completed by individuals, and parts of the Khuda Khaneh northern doorway and southern section by the Archaeological Directorate.
In the southern section, there are two great pillared halls each, 20 meters by 20, in the middle of which is another hall, the width of the doorway, eight meters wide and 48 long. At the further end is a (Mehrab) prayer niche, and a wooden pulpit with fourteen steps, where services were conducted. The part in front of that was used for sitting and eating. Under the whole of this central room and the two wide pillared halls on either side of it, there is a crypt, which is now full of rubbish and is not made use of.
The roof of the crypt is high and was decorated in the time of Safavid King, Shah Suleiman in the year 973 A. H. (1565 A. D.) with glazed tiles and mosaic work. The Archaeological Directorate is now engaged in repairing it. The ancient Masjed-e-JameMasjed-e-Jameh has six doors of the entrance.