[Tagging] I have been tagging mosques wrong all along

Joseph Eisenberg joseph.eisenberg at gmail.com
Sat Mar 23 23:52:16 UTC 2019

I believe that the form and functions of Mosques is variable. The
original poster (Jean-Marc Liotier) said that they are mapping in the
Sahel, the Muslim-majority region along the southern border of the
Sahara desert in Africa. This is a semi-arid, tropical region where
most people are Sunni muslims from the Maliki school, and they share
some cultural similarities. But their practices are different than
those of Shia / Shiite people in Iran, or the Muslim diaspora in
Europe and North America.

I live in Indonesia, where the majority practice Sunni Islam, under
the Shafi'i school of jurisprudence. In the past there was strong Sufi
influence, and there are still a number of pilgrimage sites where
people visit the tombs of Saints or places associated with these
religious heroes.

Since the weather is always warm, most Indonesia mosque buildings are
open on 2 or 3 sides, but the whole area will be inclosed by a fence
or wall that marks the borders of the mosque area, including the areas
for ritual washing and often classrooms for children's religious
education. Mosques are supposed to always be open to the public for
prayer 5 times a day.

A mosque ('masjid", from Arabic) is not just a place of prayer here in
Indonesia. There is a different word (also from Arabic), "musholla" or
"musyola", for a simple prayer room. This can be a small room plus an
area for washing, within a larger secular structure such as an
airport, train station, retail mall, or government office. It can also
be a small separate building in a residential area. I believe a
musholla / musyola is considered a temporary place of prayer, while a
masjid (mosque) is land that is permanently dedicated as an Islamic
place of worship, at least in this school of Islam.

I map the central masjid building as a building=mosque, because
Indonesians refer to the building itself as a mosque, and this is
where the actual worship services and prayers take place, while some
of the other buildings may be offices or classrooms, not specifically
places of prayer or public assembly.

I would not map a musholla as a building=mosque, but I'm not actually
sure what would be the best tagging for these prayer rooms. The
(rather outdated) Indonesian tagging guidelines suggest tagging as an
amenity=place_of_worship for both, which seems imprecise.

Here's 2 interesting links to discussions about the meaning of
"mosque" vs mushollah:

It's hard to decide when to use landuse=religious. If the whole land
area is already tagged as amenity=place_of_worship then database users
already know that the land area is used for religious purposes. But if
only the main building is mapped as amenity=place_of_worship then it
would make sense to map the surrounding land, within the fence or
wall, as landuse=religious.

In the United States, most "Islamic Centres" have all the religious
activities indoors, partially due to cold weather in the winter. In
this case I would definitely tag the main mosque building as the
place_of_worship, rather than the whole land area. Certainly a
suburban mosque, where most of the land is a surface parking lot, does
not need to be tagged amenity=place_of_worship out to the edge of the

On 3/24/19, Paul Allen <pla16021 at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Sat, 23 Mar 2019 at 17:41, Tom Pfeifer <t.pfeifer at computer.org> wrote:
>> On 23.03.2019 18:19, Paul Allen wrote:
>> >
>> > Until you mentioned outside prayer, the obvious solution to a building
>> complex would
>> > be a multipolygon.
>> No, there is no MP needed. As there are several distinct objects used for
>> worshiping, it would even
>> be wrong.
> I disagree with that statement.  If they're all part of the same mosque, an
> MP is not incorrect.
> You'd have to find out if Muslims consider those different buildings to be
> components of
> the same mosque or not.  I doubt that they would, but maybe you're right.
> If we follow your thinking, only the pews in a church are for worshipping.
> The confessional is for
> confessing, and the pulpit is for preaching.  Most people would consider
> them to be all part of
> the same church.  Even if, say, the confessionals were in a different
> building (I've never heard
> of such, but it's a remote possibility).  At one time, in some
> denominations, the pews were
> segregated between rich and poor and/or between men and women.  Different
> places of
> worship or the same?  Some universities have buildings in different
> locations scattered around
> a city: same university or each a different university?
> --
> Paul

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