In this edition of Imagining Islamic Aesthetics (before I forget to post for a whole week again) I would like to show you a few pictures and a little info regarding one of the fundamental element of Islamic religious architecture, the Mihrab.
Mihrab usually refers to a niche on a wall (called the Mihrab Wall) that faces Mecca, the city which all Muslims face when they offer their prayer to God. To put it put for more easier understanding and draw parallels, the Mihrab is like the Altar to Christian churches. The Mihrab, like other features of Islamic architecture, develops from simple carved niche on a wall to a grandiose lavishly decorated wall.
The Mihrab of the Mezquita, Cordoba, Spain. Primary decoration of this Mihrab is the usage of gold coloured mosaics, used for the Kufic Quranic inscriptions on the top of the Mihrab. The Mezquita was build during the Umayyad Caliphate, and the gold coloured mosaics used are an apparent influence from the Byzantine empire.
The Mihrab of Bou Inania Madrasa in Fez, Morocco. The madrasa was built in 1351-1356AD by Abu Inan Faris, hence the name of the madrasa. The Mihrab is very similar to the Mihrab in the Mezquita mentioned above. It has horseshoe arch and two black pillars flanking the niche.
The interior of the Krekelstraat Mosque, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. This mosque is not an old mosque, but retains the trait of a traditional one. Here you can see the wooden carved Mihrab and Mimbar. It is assumed that this mosque particularly served Turkish immigrants to the Netherlands and built by them . The presence of a lectern, uncommon to the rest of Islamic world but very much common to the Turkish mosque, and the shape of the Mimbar (pointed tower) further suggests the idea.
The interior of the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia. The building is the largest mosque in Indonesia, and features a modern architectural aesthetic. Here you can see both the Mihrab and the Minbar together, on a wall bordered with tiles. The Mimbar is on the right side, and the Mihrab is a small niche in the middle. Even though the whole structure have a modern flair, the Mihrab and the Mimbar took a rather traditional Islamic flair.
Mihrab of the Şakirin Mosque, Üsküdar, Istanbul, Turkey. The whole building have a modern architecture, and even the Mihrab looks like something out of a modern house catalogue. Even if it does not look like any other Mihrab featured above, or any Mihrab in the world, that is, it still retains the same function – it points to the Qibla, and the Mihrab faces Mecca, to guide the Muslims who wants to offer their prayer to God.