The Jami al-Tawbah (Mosque of Repentance) closely resembles the Great Mosque in layout and other architectural elements, but it has no founding inscription so its exact date of construction is unknown. Since the mosque is located on the river bank and has therefore often suffered from high water, it is likely that its founding inscription once did exist but has since been carried off in one of the floods. The inscription on the northeast entrance to the mosque testifies to its rebuilding in June 1612 after it had been badly damaged by the flood of the previous January 20. It is a bronze plaque containing seven lines of naskh which read as follows:
"Glory to God who has endowed His servant with the flow of His abundant favors and thereby made this good deed easy for him and guided him into this action-Glory be to Him-by his saying, "Only he shall inhabit God's places of worship who believes in God" [Qur an 9:18]; thus was he able to overcome obstacles and renovate this blessed mosque [jami'] for the love of God the Generous, after the destruction of its wall and minbar and mihrab and its water fountain by the great flood of the sixteenth of zO al-Qa dah in the year one thousand and twenty [January 20,1612], he who believes in the creator king, Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Sharabadar1 al-Ansarl Katkhadary [under-vizier] of His Excellency Husayn Pasha, son of YOsuf Pasha al-Saybi, amir of the amirs in Tripoli, may God bestow on them power and happiness and forgive them and all Muslims. Amen. And its construction was completed in the month of Rabi the second in the year one thousand and twenty-one [June 1612], and completed in prosperity."
The dates suggested for the mosque's original construction range over the spectrum, but Tadmuri's argument for a date coinciding with the very foundation of Mamluk Tripoli itself is far and away the most convincing. Kurd Ali, Conde, and Salem also all at least refer to it as a Mamluk building, and only the Unesco report lists it among the Ottoman buildings of the city. Tadmuri's argument attributes the building to al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qala un's third, and last, sultanate (790-41/1309-40). Although no textual evidence attests to his patronage, Tadmuri has found enough secondary evidence to support it. AlQalqashandl, in his great encyclopedic work (1412), refers to the appointment of a khatib (preacher) to the al-Tawbah mosque. Since the only other such appointment he mentions was for the Great Mosque, we can infer that al-Tawbah was also a royal mosque, which, like the Great Mosque, needed a royal decree for the khatZb's appointment. Al Qalqashand also mentions a preacher by the name of Sadr al-Dm alKhabur~ as having been appointed to al-Tawbah. Sadr al-Dm died in A.H. 769 (A.D. 1367), so we can also infer that the building existed before that date. Al-Qalqashand1 calls the mosque "al-Jami' al-Nasirl, known as al-Tawbah," which confirms that it was built by an "al-Nasir." There were three al-Nasirs in Mamluk times, but the only one whose dates correlate is al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qala un. Finally al-Tawbah shared its waqfs with the Great Mosque. Since the Great Mosque was completed in A.H. 693 (A.D. 1293) and the arcading added by order of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad in A.H. 1315), the property set as waqf provides an A.H. 693-715 date for al-Tawbah as well.
A folk tale handed down over the centuries, although unprovable, also corroborates this date and provides some information about the character of the building. According to it, the person entrusted with the building of the Great Mosque embezzled most of the funds set aside for it and the building had thus to remain unadorned. When his crime was discovered, he promised to build another mosque by way of repentance, l09 and that is said to be the reason both for the building's name and for its resemblance to the Great Mosque. Curiously, the Mosque of Repentance (Masjid al-Tawbah) in Damascus (built in 1234) was also built to resemble that city's Great Mosque (built in 705), suggesting that repentance somehow involved copying the most important and the holiest local building available.
From the outside the al-Tawbah mosque has no decoration to attract passers-by. An oblong massive building of sandstone, its presence is marked only by an octagonal minaret and three green domes. The minaret, in the northwest corner of the building, consists of an octagonal shaft set on a square base. A square room of more recent date rests on four muqarnas squinches and is opened by two windows on each of its four sides. It is topped by a balustraded balcony surrounding a short shaft with a conical roof. The large central dome is plain; the two smaller domes are ribbed; all three rest on octagonal zones of transition and have been painted green.
The mosque is entered through an arched door on the southwest corner of the building, a few steps lower than the street level. Inside, a corridor-like area along the western side is covered by two cross-vaults with concave grooves and a central ribbed rosette. At the end of the corridor a rather ornate domed area opens onto the courtyard. The dome has a ribbed cupola with a ribbed rosette in its center resting on an octagonal area that rests in turn on a raised square area opened by two windows on each of its four sides. The vaulting is similar to that found in the vestibule of the al Mu'ayyad mosque in Cairo (1415-20). From this corridor one enters the rectangular courtyard with a domed structure resting on four columns in its center. On the south side of the courtyard is the oratory; on the north side, the ablutions area entered by three arcades; on the west side, the entrance corridor opened by two arcades; and on the east side, an iwanlike arched vault leading to the west entrance on the river side. The oratory wall contains a simple mihrab niche for outdoor prayers set in a balanced composition of two doors and two windows framed by fish scale with various stylized floral motifs. This composition takes the place of an external facade.
The oratory is a long, rectangular low-vaulted hall, with a simple round dome in its center resting on an octagonal zone with a simple transition of corner arches. The mihrab and minbar are in the center of the qiblah wall. As in the Great Mosque, the qiblah wall has two additional mihrabs on either side of the main mihrab. As the inscription tells us, these date from the reconstruction of 1612. The mihrab is a simple niche with two side colonnettes with muqarnas capitals like those in the courtyard and is set in a rectangular frame with the same stylized fish-scale motifs as the outside mihrab. The minbar, a wooden structure decorated with Mamluk star motifs and a muqarnas entrance, is now painted white.
Sources: . Salam-Liebich, Hayat, 1983. The Architecture of the Mamluk City of Tripoli. Cambridge: The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture.
Saliba, Robert, ed. 1994. Tripoli, the Old City: Monument Survey-Mosques and Madrasas: A Sourcebook of Maps and Architectural Drawings. Beirut: American University of Beirut, Department of Architecture.