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Mosque Name: Wasit Hajjaj Mosque

Country: Iraq

City: Wasit

Year of construction (AH): 87 AH

Year of construction (AD): 706 AD

GPS: 32.190400 46.303899

Gibson Classification: Between

Rebuilt facing Mecca: never


Wasit is an Islamic city south east of Kut Iraq, built in the last quarter of the first Hijra century (the 7th century CE) by Al-Hajaj bin Yousif Al-Thaqafi, as an administrative centre for Iraq. General Al-Hajjaj married the daughter of Caliph Walid I, and became the administrator of the eastern half of the empire.

The new city was built in 702 CE on the west bank of the Tigris across from the historical city of Kashkar. Al-Hajjaj is said to have taken the doors for the citadel and the main mosque from Zanzaward. As an ancient city its circumference was an amazing 16 km. It was abandoned in the tenth century after the change in the river (Tigris) bed. Its remains stood sound and safe due to its distance away from constructive and agricultural influence. However in recent years this has changed and farms are encroaching all over the ruins. Most of its buildings were made of bricks. Investigations took place there between 1936-1945 by F. Safar, (excavation 1939-1945) as well as some small renovations and restorations in recent years. Its large mosque and a building known as the minaret was cleared out, including a tomb and a school that date back to the seventh century. Preservation took place on some parts of the minaret due to walls been worn out, but no real maintenance was carried out.

Below is a drawing made by Creswell. On the right is a drawing made by the Safar expedition. There are several things to note from this drawing. First, as Creswells drawing shows, there are two mosques at this spot. The earliest mosque was built by al-Hajjaj. The later mosque was above it, built later. Second there is a discrepancy between the angles of the two mosques. While they look close, the angels of the two drawings do not match exactly. This is why modern measurements, made with more exact instruments is important.

The lower mosque had a qibla facing the Between position. The upper mosque has a qibla facing Mecca.

The lower mosque had a qibla facing the Between position. The upper mosque has a qibla facing Mecca.

The Qibla of the early mosque faced an empty spot in the Arabian Desert.

The Qibla of the early mosque faced an empty spot in the Arabian Desert.

Dan Gibson: There has been some confusion over the name Wasit. While it clearly means “between” or “middle” in Arabic, not everyone agrees if the term applies to just the name of the mosque, or the city that grew up around it, or the name of the qibla itself.

This however can be solved by considering a statement made by Rasā’il-Jahiz al-Kinānī al-Baṣrī (776 - 868 AD) “The setting of the Between Qibla is among the misdeeds of Caliph Walid I and his family.”

So this the first mosque that faced the Between position, pointing to a spot between Petra and Mecca. It became known as the Wasit Mosque, or Between mosque. This mosque was built by General Hajjaj who, under the authority of the Caliphs in Damascus attacked the holy city and killed Ibn Zubeyr who was in rebellion. From the archeology, and the orientation of the mosques in Islam at this time, I understand this to be Petra, and I can understand why Hajjaj did not want to face his mosques there. He also did not want to face towards Mecca, because that is where the rebels were still hanging out, close to the Black Stone in its new location. So he did the next best thing. He chose a between position. During the lifetime of Hajjaj, over 20 mosques and buildings were constructed using the Between position. This ceased when Hajjaj died. And in the case of the Wasit mosque in Iraq, the mosque was torn down and a new one was built with a Qibla facing Mecca. However, many other mosques remained with a Between Qibla.


Safar, Fuʾād, 1945. Wāsit, the Sixth Season Excavation, Le Caire: l’Institut français d’archʹeologie orientale.

Antun, Thallein, 2016. The Architectural Form of the Mosque in the Central Arab Lands, from the Hijra to the End of the Umayyad Period, 1622-133750, BAR International Series 2790, Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 6-14.

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