A Deeper Look at Islamic Architecture in Mindanao

In a predominantly Roman Catholic country, Mindanao has a distinct Islamic Culture evident by the architecture such as the mosques, and the strong Islam traditions.

A word that identifies a unique type of architecture that dates back thousands of years, Islam has been formed by a civilization that transformed the qualities of their belief into a visible and tangible material; building structures with a striking focus on details and experiences within enclosed spaces. Not only do the buildings themselves serve as places of worship and centers for community, but their designs reflect Muslim beliefs and morals, and reveal the rich Islam history.

Cotabato City Grand Mosque. Photo Credit to Mindanao Travels and Photography

Also known as Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid or the Cotabato Grand Mosque, this mosque now stands as the second largest mosque in the country and in Southeast Asia. Designed by Felino Palafox, Jr. in 2011, The mosque was built on the coastal tip of Cotabato, right by the mouth of the Tamontaka River, surrounded by the quiet countryside.

The height of the mosque is equivalent to a 15-storey building. With Crescent moons adorning the domes painted in gold, four towering minarets stand 43 meters high (141 feet). On top of which are pilot’s lights to avoid aerial accidents at night. 

Elevated from the ground, the Cotabato Grand Mosque radiates elegance, letting natural light in with two courtyards on either side. An arcaded pathwalk acts as a breezeway for wind circulation, leading to a rotunda with a water fountain in the middle. The massive walls are punctured by big arch openings, making the imposing structure feel lighter. And the gold color for the domes strike a perfect balance to the white building base, making the mosque gleam especially during sunsets.

A number of Muslim faithful goes to the Grand Mosque of Marawi City to mark the last day of month-long Ramadan. Photo credit to Michael John Paclar, taken from the Philippine Information Agency
Marawi Grand Mosque Post-Siege. Photo credit to Philippine Information Agency

5 Years after the warfare between the military forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-linked Maute group, the Muslim faithful in Marawi City had a chance for the first time since then to celebrate this year’s Eid al-Fitr at the city’s Grand Mosque.

The Jameo Mindanao Al-Islamie Islamic Center has always been a belowed place of worship among the Maranaos. Situated at the heart of the most affected area (MAA) or the Marawi Ground Zero, The Grand Mosque of Marawi has been rebuilt by the founding Pangarungan clan that built it over half a century ago. Now, it stands as the country’s biggest place of Islamic worship. With a total area of 9,484 square meters, it consists of three floors with a basement and can accommodate 20,000 worshippers at any given time. 

The mosque explores the combination of light and built form around a spiritual experience. The domes, painted in gold, are decorated with intricate motifs that frame the domes’ windows. The entrance of the mosque is carved in an elegant, rounded shape, with an open space lined with pillars. 

The mosque interiors display a symmetrical space adorned with Arabic symbols, pillars and windows. In the middle is a black, square minbar, bearing script as 

The Grand Mosque Details. Image credit to Philippine Information Agency-Caraga and Karl Norman Alonzo

Inside, the mosque’s interiors showcase a symmetrical space adorned with golden motifs and Arabic symbols, pillars, and windows. In the middle stands a black, square minbar bearing script, while a chandelier hangs from the ceiling.

While these mosques stand as a shining symbol in their own cities, it also showcase the grandness of Islamic architecture – a place that epitomizes the traditions, practices, and historical identities of the Islamic Culture in Mindanao.

Photo credits to the Presidential Communications and Philippine Information Agency.