Lithuania – the only of the Baltic states having mosques
In Lithuania the first mosques were being built in the 15th century. The Mosques of Trakai, Vilnius, Naugardukas, Daubutiskes and others were first mentioned in written sources in the 16th century. However wars and the division of the territory of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th and the 19th centuries, as well as the migration of Tatars inside Lithuania and abroad made the impact to the upbuilding of some new mosques and dismantling of the others. There were 25 mosques in the year 1914, but 5 of them were demolished during the First World War.
Currently there are four mosques in Lithuania: one in Kaunas, two in the district of Vilnius (Nemezis and Keturiasdesimt totoriu village), and one in Raiziai, the district of Alytus. The Muslims’ community of Lithuania is still hoping to build one more mosque in the capital, Vilnius, instead of the demolished mosque of Lukiskes in the year 1968.
The mosques of Prophet Muhammad in Makkah and Madina were taken as the examples by the Muslims of Lithuania for building their mosques in Lithuania. These were small, square shaped buildings having a dual pitched (mosques of Trakai, Lukiskės [until 1866], Keturiasdesimt Totoriu village) or triple pitched (mosques of Raiziai and Lukiskes [after 1867]) roof and a small minaret on the top. By their shape they looked similar to the churches. Lithuanian tatars used timber for the building of the mosques. This resulted in the change of their facade and finish because many of them burnt down and had to be rebuilt few times. The first brick-built mosques started being built only in the second half of the 20th century (mosques of Kaunas and Minsk).
The four distinct architectural features of the mosques:
1. Square or rectangle shaped building, having a dual-pitched roof (mosque in the village of Keturiasdesimt Totoriu);
2. Rectangle shaped building having hip roof or longer top;
3. Hipped roof with a ridge and an elevated minaret at the frontal side of the building;
4. Building having a dual-pitched or triple- pitched roof and a small minaret on the top of it.
Lithuanian mosques are situated in the villages, except the mosque of Kaunas which is located in the quiet park in the centre of the second largest city of Lithuania. They are surrounded by scenery views and natural landscapes covered by lawn. Usually Muslims’ cemetery called mizar used to be close to or near the mosques.
Except the mosque in Kaunas which is divided into two levels, the prayer halls of the other mosques in Lithuania are divided lengthwise into two parts: one side is for the men and another – for the women. Each side has a separate entrance. There is a glassless window, covered by the curtains, in the wall which divides these two sides of the mosque. This window is made mainly for acoustic reasons. The contemporary mosque of Kaunas has a single entrance but two floors, second of which is a spacious balcony. On the right next to the entrance of the mosque there are stairs to this balcony which is used by the women while men stays and prays in the hall of on the first floor.
In one of the walls of the mosques there is a niche called mihrab which indicates the direction of prayer towards Makkah. To the right side of mihrab you will find a small staircase called minbar from which the imam addresses the congregation and reads khutbah. The walls of Lithuanian mosques are embelished in a very simple way by framed panels with Quranic inscriptions in calligraphic arabic writing style. The floors are usually covered by mats of different sizes or one big carpeting for the Muslims to offer their daily prayer, but benches can also be found for those who are weak or old and find it too difficult to bow down on the floor. Islamic literature, booklets, magazines, books and the Quran versions in arabic, russian, lithuanian languages are stored in the mosques.