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PART IV - THE EAST
CHAPTER II - THE MOSQUE

MOST of us see our first mosque at Woking. As the train slackens a small bulbous building appears among the fir trees to the left, and perhaps someone in the railway carriage says, ' That's Oriental.' Our attitude is vague ; and years afterwards, despite visits to the East, the vagueness remains. Whereas a Christian church or Greek temple wakens definite sentiments, a mosque seems indeterminate. We can recall its component parts and memorize it architecturally or can make a pretty picture of it against the blue sky, but its central spirit escapes. And before we grapple with such a book as the late Commendatore Rivoira's on Moslem Architecture it may be worth while to do what he would scarcely think of doing : to question our memories, and through them the mosque itself, and to listen to what it has to say.
` I was built,' comes the answer, ` in the first place at Medina, where I was a courtyard, and if you would understand me to-day you must still think of me as a courtyard, decorated by the accidents of history. Attached to the Prophet's house, I was the area to which he proceeded when he would worship God, and where his companions joined him, summoped for this purpose by a cry from the top of my wall. I contained no ornament or shrine, nor was one part of me more holy than another. Near me was a well for ablution ; in me was a fallen tree whereon the Prophet stood to preach ; and against my north wall lay a stone to indicate the direction of Jerusalem, city of the prophets Abraham and Jesus. My inmates prayed northwards at first, but afterwards turned south, their aspiration being Mecca. Before long I was built at Mecca also, but (strange though this may sound) you should not think of Mecca if you would understand me, because there, contrary to my spirit, I enclosed a sacred object and became a shrine. Dismiss the Caaba with its illusion of a terrestrial goal. Recall the courtyard of Medina, construct

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