Many of the buildings which are mentioned in this article are listed as World Heritage Sites. Some of them, like the Citadel of Aleppo, have suffered significant damage in the ongoing Syrian Civil War.
According to one set of views, Islam started during the lifetime of Muhammad in the 7th century CE, and so did architectural components such as the mosque. In this case, either the Mosque of the Companions in the Eritrean city of Massawa, or Quba Mosque in Medina, would be the first mosque that was built in the history of Islam.
According to another set of views, which uses passages of the Quran, Islam as a religion preceded Muhammad, representing even previous Prophets such as Abraham. Abraham in Islam is credited with having built the Ka‘bah (Arabic: كَـعْـبَـة, 'Cube') in Mecca, and consequently its sanctuary, which is seen as the first mosque that ever existed.
The Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhrah) in Jerusalem (691) is one of the most important buildings in all of Islamic architecture. It is patterned after the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Byzantine Christian artists were employed to create its elaborate mosaics against a golden background. The great epigraphic vine frieze was adapted from the pre-Islamic Syrian style. The Dome of the Rock featured interior vaulted spaces, a circular dome, and the use of stylized repeating decorative arabesque patterns. Desert palaces in Jordan and Syria (for example, Mshatta, Qasr Amra, and Khirbat al-Mafjar) served the caliphs as living quarters, reception halls, and baths, and were decorated to promote an image of royal luxury.
The horseshoe arch became a popular feature in Islamic structures. Some suggest the Muslims acquired this from the Visigoths in Spain but they may have obtained it from Syria and Persia where the horseshoe arch had been in use by the Byzantines. In Moorish architecture, the curvature of the horseshoe arch is much more accentuated. Furthermore, alternating colours were added to accentuate the effect of its shape. This can be seen at a large scale in their major work, the Great Mosque of Córdoba.
The Great Mosque of Damascus (completed in 715 by caliph Al-Walid I), built on the site of the basilica of John the Baptist after the Islamic invasion of Damascus, still bore great resemblance to 6th and 7th century Christian basilicas. Certain modifications were implemented, including expanding the structure along the transversal axis which better fit with the Islamic style of prayer.
The Abbasid dynasty (750 AD- 1258) witnessed the movement of the capital from Damascus to Baghdad, and then from Baghdad to Samarra. The shift to Baghdad influenced politics, culture, and art. The Great Mosque of Samarra, once the largest in the world, was built for the new capital. Other major mosques built in the Abbasid Dynasty include the Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo, Abu Dalaf in Iraq, the great mosque in Tunis. Abbasid architecture in Iraq as exemplified in the Fortress of Al-Ukhaidir (c.775-6) demonstrated the "despotic and the pleasure-loving character of the dynasty" in its grand size but cramped living quarters.