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Islamic Architecture: The Later Period

©Naila Alam & Farhana Chowdhury

In the field of architecture, Islamic architecture is sadly something we don’t talk much about. Islamic rulers have tried to establish their influence and dominance by leaving a mark on their architecture. From the early medieval to the later period, we can see some remarkable changes and development in Islamic architecture. Islamic dynasty has left an important remark on the face of architectural engineering. The science is complex and the development is quite impressive since the early days of Islam. Different time periods have executed different types of architecture under the influence of their own specific regions. Certainly, there is a lot to know and admire about the Islamic architecture. The most significant architecture is which still leaves the viewers amused is probably the later period of Islamic architecture which still stands to this day. Here, we’re going to discuss are Ottoman, Timurid, Safavid& Mughal from the later period.

Ottoman (1300-1924)

The later period of Islamic architecture began with the Ottoman Empire. Earlier, they were only a group that got separated from the dissolution of the Anatolian Seljuq sultanate.

In 1453, the Ottomans took over the capital of Byzantine, Constantinople. In 1517, they also defeated Mamluk’s and started one of the greatest empires in Islamic history.

In the early period of Ottoman Islamic architecture, stone was an important element. Ottoman architecture is famous for masonry work. The combination of brick and stone is used for arches, domes & vaults.

Although it may seem like the Ottomans had ruled for the longest amount of time, their most significant change in architecture came under the ruler Süleyman the Magnificent's reign (r. 1520-1566). The time was also known as the ‘golden age’.

In the large scaled architectures, we may have the chance to observe some significance. For instance, decorative ceramic tiles like Iznik tiles, have different kinds of designs and arts, which made them very magnificent and one of a kind.

The Ottoman architecture was constructed in different time periods. Early Ottoman period In this early period, the Ottomans were looking for new ways to explore the architectural field. They established three types of mosques: tiered, single-domed, and sublime-angled mosques. The HacıÖzbek Mosque (1333) in İznik, the first important center of Ottoman art, is the first example of an Ottoman single-domed mosque. Classical period This period is the longest and the most important one because we can see a lot of new styles and development which is still ideal to this day. Many architectural establishments including the ‘Mimar Sinan’, ‘Sultanhmet Mosque’, and ‘Shehzadi Mosque’ (fig: 1-3& 11) were built during this time.

Westernization period In this period the Ottoman Empire became very influenced by the European Rococo and Baroque styles. Examples are Divriği Great Mosque and Hospital, a UNESCO world heritage site, Sivas, Çifteminare, Konya İnce Minare Museum, and many more. Empire period Some important architecture within this period is Nusretiye Mosque, Ortaköy Mosque, Sultan Mahmut Tomb, Galata Lodge of Mevlevi Derviches, Dolmabahçe Palace, Çırağan Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, Sadullah Pasha Yalı, Kuleli Barracks, and Selimiye Barracks. Late period: The "National Architectural Renaissance" This is the final and the most important architectural time period for the Turkish people because this period and its architecture left an important footprint on the young ‘Turks’ mind. Also, this period is the result of the last 200 years of architecture in the Ottoman dynasty.

Timurid (1369-1502)

This period was significant due to the might of its ruler Tamerlane (ruled 1370-1405), which is derived from Timur the Lame. This time era actually resembles the brilliant revival of artistic and intellectual life in Iran and Central Asia. The ruler was powerful and he claimed to be a descendent of Genghis Khan and demonstrated some of his supposed ancestor’s ruthlessness in conquering neighboring territories. Timur believed in monumental architecture because he thought it would be befitting his power, and sought to make Samarkand the “pearl of the world.”

Timur was a conqueror, he wanted to spread his power and might in all way possible so he built many monuments which were aesthetic but bold. He had taken control over many artisans and craftsmen who were talented and had unique ideas.

The result of this period was Registan (fig: 4-5,13) created on a lavish scale that exhibited tall, bulbous domes and the finest ceramic tiles. The structures and even the cities themselves are often described foremost by the vibrant colors of blues and gold.

The Timurid period was short-lived, but it left a great impact on the Islamic architecture dynasty.

Safavid (1502-1736)

The Safavids are a group that belongs to the mystical part of Islam where they follow the Sufi tradition. The Safavid dynasty comes from the brotherhood called Safaviyeh which appeared in Azerbaijan around 1301, with Sheikh Safi-ad-din Ardabili naming it. The Safavids have greatly contributed to the spread of the Twelvers branch of Shia Islam, those who consider the twelfth imam hidden like his leader.

In the first stage of the Safavid dynasty, they were not much concerned about the architectural invasions because the Timurid architectures were already enough for them. But later under the ruler called Shah Abbas, the Safavid empire started to gain their own identity.

Some of the admirable architectures in the Safavid dynasty are Nagsh e Jahan (fig: 6-8, 12) Isfahan, Ali Qapu, The Qaysarieh, the mosque of Sheikh Lutfallah, the Shah mosque, etc.

Mughal (1526-1858)

The Mughal architecture is an Indo-Islamic architecture style that was developed in northern and central India.

The Mughal time period is the golden stage of Islamic architecture in Indian history. This time frame had created the establishment of the Islamic dynasty and changed the face of Indian architecture forever. Islam was introduced in India a long time ago. But Islamic architecture began when Akbar; then time emperor started building mosques, tombs, gardens, and other establishments.

The Mughals were inspired by Central Asian and Persian aesthetics.

The architecture that was significant during Akbar’s time was known as Akbari architecture. One of the most mention-worthy architecture was the Humayun’s Tomb. It was one of the finest architecture of the Mughal time period and was also very geometrically sound. It is one of the biggest establishments that is made of red sandstone. Another great and most possibly one of the world’s best architecture of all time would be the ‘Taj Mahal’ (fig: 9-10, 14) built under the command of Emperor Shahjahan. It is a tomb that he made out of love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal.

The Taj Mahal is one of the seven wonders in the world and there are so many reasons for it to gain that title. The Taj Mahal is so well designed in shape and proportion. It is built with white marble stone and the stonework is magnificent. The white color is very eye-catching and will take the breath away of all kinds of people from various cultures that are to visit this place. Historians may say that the Islamic architecture period has ended, but to our perception, we agree that it is still one of the most boldly established architecture dynasties there is. The Muslims still practice the art and architecture to keep the Islamic dynasty alive and there are so many new possible outcomes that are yet to come in the future.



Naila Alam & Farhana Chowdhury

This is a joint venture of essay writing of two young Architects who’ve just finished their graduation and are looking for new opportunities that the field of architecture can offer. We are very passionate about architecture and we decided to work on this paper because the

world needs to know more about Islamic architecture. Since, we both are from the Islamic background and both are from the architectural background., we decided to work on something we both can relate to and let others know about our identities as well. We think this essay writing will help us as an experience and will make us feel heard.

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