A mosque (/; from Arabic: مَسْجِد, romanized: masjid, pronounced [masdʒid]; literally "place of ritual prostration") is a place of worship for Muslims. Any act of worship that follows the Islamic rules of prayer can be said to create a mosque, whether or not it takes place in a special building. Informal and open-air places of worship are called musalla, while mosques used for communal prayer on Fridays are known as jāmiʿ. Mosque buildings typically contain an ornamental niche (mihrab) set into the wall that indicates the direction of Mecca (qiblah), ablution facilities and minarets from which calls to prayer are issued. The pulpit (minbar), from which the Friday sermon (khutba) is delivered, was in earlier times characteristic of the central city mosque, but has since become common in smaller mosques. Mosques typically have segregated spaces for men and women. This basic pattern of organization has assumed different forms depending on the region, period and denomination.
Mosques commonly serve as locations for prayer, Ramadan vigils, funeral services, Sufi ceremonies, marriage and business agreements, alms collection and distribution, as well as homeless shelters. Historically, mosques were also important centers of elementary education and advanced training in religious sciences. In modern times, they have preserved their role as places of religious instruction and debate, but higher learning now generally takes place in specialized institutions. Special importance is accorded to the Great Mosque of Mecca (center of the hajj), the Prophet's Mosque in Medina (burial place of Muhammad) and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem (believed to be the site of Muhammad's ascent to heaven). In the past, many mosques in the Muslim world were built over burial places of Sufi saints and other venerated figures, which has turned them into popular pilgrimage destinations.
With the spread of Islam, mosques multiplied across the Islamic world. Sometimes churches and other temples were converted into mosques, which influenced Islamic architectural styles. While most pre-modern mosques were funded by charitable endowments, modern states in the Muslim world have attempted to bring mosques under government control. Increasing government regulation of large mosques has been countered by a rise of privately funded mosques of various affiliations and ideologies, many of which serve as bases for different Islamic revivalist currents and social activism. Mosques have played a number of political roles. The rates of mosque attendance vary widely depending on the region.
A nomad's mosque orientated towards Mecca
The word 'mosque' entered the English language from the French word mosquée, probably derived from Italian moschea (a variant of Italian moscheta), from either Middle Armenian մզկիթ (mzkit‘), Medieval Greek: μασγίδιον (masgídion), or Spanish mezquita, from مسجد (meaning "site of prostration (in prayer)" and hence a place of worship), either from Nabataean masgĕdhā́ or from Arabic Arabic: سَجَدَ, romanized: sajada (meaning "to bow down in prayer"), probably ultimately from Aramaic sĕghēdh.