The Symbolic Use of Color in Islamic Architecture

The Islamic Architecture style has a diverse history, spanning over a millennium, stretching from Western Africa to Europe to Eastern Asia. Beginning in early 7th century Arabia, this form of architecture emerged with the rise of the Islamic civilization. In fact, Al Masjid Al Nabawi, the first Mosque to ever be constructed was built in 622, in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Moreover, early Islamic architecture was influenced by the pre-existing styles around the region, such as Roman, Byzantine, and Persian qualities.

Today, Islamic architecture is known for its acute attention to detail, craftsmanship, and its spiritual symbolism. Furthermore, as color plays an essential role in architecture, influencing the emotional experience of the space, different colors have been utilized over the years in Islamic Architecture to evoke certain meanings. In Islamic Architecture, colors hold significant spiritual symbolism, reflecting the values and beliefs of the Islamic faith. Four core colors, Green, Blue, Gold, and White, are each used to convey various cultural, religious, and symbolic meanings.

Read on to discover the use of these colors in various Islamic architectural icons around the world.

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Considered a sacred color in Islam, associated with “khidr” or landscapes of greenery, the color is indicative of the heavens. In fact, the Muslim faith believes that the people in paradise are dressed in all green. It is the most common color used in mosques, creating a sense of connection to the surrounding nature.

Masjid Al Nabawi, Saudi Arabia

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via Shutterstock | Nurlan Mammadzada, Masjid Al Nabawi Green Dome

Also known as the Prophet’s Mosque, Al Masjid Al Nabawi is closely associated with the life and legacy of the Islamic community’s Prophet Muhammad. The prophet built the mosque in the year 622, using palm trunks and mud bricks. Serving as the center of the Muslim community and the main place of worship, Al Masjid Al Nabawi is the first mosque that was ever built. The construction is known for its green dome, situated directly above the burial chamber of Prophet Muhammad and his two companions. The green represents the color most closely associated with the faith and distinguishes the tomb from other domes surrounding it that are silver in color atop Al Masjid Al Nabawi.  

al-Nouri Mosque / Nur ad-Din Zangi, Iraq

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Courtesy of Directorate of Sunni Waqif | North West view of Al-Nuri Mosque.

Dating back to the 12th century, the Great Mosque of al-Nouri, also known as the Green Mosque, is one of the oldest mosques in the city of Mosul, Iraq. It is most known for its crooked minaret due to its significant tilt. In 2014, the mosque was captured by a terrorist group and was destroyed with its iconic minaret. In 2020, UNESCO and the Iraqi Ministry of Culture announced an international design competition for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the historical Al Nouri Complex in Mosul. Moreover, it has now been rehabilitated, with its iconic green dome sitting atop the construction.


A symbol of spirituality and the heavens, blue is often associated with contemplation and reflection. It is often used in tile work, domes, and ceiling constructions. Blue signifies the impenetrable depths of the universe, with specific shades of water turquoise blues thought to have mystical qualities. At its core, blue stands as a reminder of the skies and the alluring distances of higher knowledge.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) / Sedefkar Mehmed Agha, Turkey

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© Shutterstock | Yarygin, Blue Mosque

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, is one of the most iconic landmarks in Istanbul, Turkey. It is renowned for its blue-tiled interior, built during the 17th century during the Ottoman Empire’s rule. The entirety of the building is adorned with thousands of blue tiles on its interior walls, creating a blue ambiance even during the daylight, featuring intricate patterns and floral designs. Associated with protection from the evil eye and a reminder of the eternal sky, this specific use of blue is correlated with the Ottoman architectural style of the 17th century.

Shah Mosque, Isfahan

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© Ariana Zilliacus | Shah Mosque, isfahan

The Shah Mosque is a very well-known architectural site in Isfahan, Iran, showcasing classic Persian architecture. The mosque was built during the Safavid dynasty and is famous for its vibrant blue tiled domes and facades, from deep blues to turquoise. In fact, the blue dome in the interior seemingly merges with the sky, accentuating the spiritual experience of the visitors.


This color is associated with divine perfection and nobility. It is also culturally the color symbolizing royalty, representing status and wealth. The color gold in Islamic architecture reveals the pride and importance given to the faith and its construction. When used in decorative embellishments, it is meant to elevate a space and provide it with grandeur. The symbolic nature of gold is also associated with eternal value.

Al Aqsa Mosque Complex, Jerusalem

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Courtesy of Pixabay | Jerusalem's Al- Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock

Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque is among the holiest sites in Islam. Built 1,300 years ago in the old city of Jerusalem, the mosque holds immense spiritual, cultural, and political importance for Muslims. The Dome of the Rock is located inside the Mosque complex, known for the Golden Dome in anodized aluminum. The dome was initially made from wood and then ornamented with marble and gold-colored aluminum encasement, symbolizing absolute perfection.


As with almost every faith, the color white in Islam symbolizes purity and cleanliness. It is associated with sacredness, simplicity, and humility. The color represents modesty and the kind of heart required during holy acts of worship. Moreover, white represents the eternal peace that the religion preaches, further emphasizing harmoniously living together. In construction, it fosters an atmosphere of devotion and tranquility for worshippers.

Islamic Religious and Cultural Center / Bevk Perović arhitekti, Ljubljana

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© David Schreyer | Islamic Religous and Cultural Center in Ljubljana Bevk Perović arhiteki

The Islamic Religious Cultural Center in Ljubljana was completed in 2020 by Bevk Perović arhitekti. The building consists of a religious school building, a cultural and office program, and an apartment building for the employees of the community, as well as the first mosque to be built in Slovenia. The entirety of the exterior and interior is filled with white concrete on the lower levels and transparent glass on the upper part, allowing the sun to flood the interior space. The use of the color white creates an ambiance of harmony and purity, emphasizing a sense of peace in spirituality.

Mosque of Mohamed Abdulkhaliq Gargash / Dabbagh Architects, Dubai

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© Garry OLeary | Mosque of Mohamed Abdulkhaliq Gargash, Dabbagh Architects

Designed by Dabbagh Architects in 2021, the Mosque of Mohamed Abdulkhaliq Gargash was built in Dubai. It is designed with a unified form and specific natural light to evoke “a sense of calm and spiritual connection to transition the worshipper from the outer material world to inner sense of being.” The design aims to create a contemporary mosque that is minimalistic in its essence, redefining Islamic architectural elements.

This article is part of the ArchDaily Topics: Color in Architecture presented by Sto.

Material, texture, sheen, and color are inseparable – the identity of a building becomes clear in an Architect’s choices of how these come together. Considering the lifecycle of a building from design, occupation, and legacy, we understand that achieving the right expression is tantamount to the success of a building. Sto’s innovative materials and data-driven color system complement design ambitions with technical knowledge and rigorous testing, to offer possibilities, accuracy, and longevity when Building in Color.

Produced by Sto, the short documentary ‘Building in Colour’ is a cinematic exploration into the role of materials and color in architecture, taking the work of Stirling Prize-winning architect Michael Wilford CBE (1938 – 2023) as its starting point.

Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and architecture projects. We invite you to learn more about our ArchDaily Topics. And, as always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.

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Cite: Nour Fakharany. "The Symbolic Use of Color in Islamic Architecture" 07 Aug 2023. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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