Study – The Evolution of Minarets ; The Early Forms of the Minarets

Minarets are one of the distinct feature of the Islamic architecture particularly Mosques. The word minaret comes from the Arabic loanword manara(منارة), which originally means lighthouse. It is usually a structure taller than the main building, with a base, shaft and gallery, and have certain characteristics unique to different regions.

During the early years of Islam, there was no minarets for mosques. The call for prayers or Azan would be made on the roof of the Prophet Muhammad, according to some Hadis (the Prophet’s saying and traditions), the place which also used as a place for prayer. It is only after 80 years from the Prophet’s death that the first minaret of the Islamic world emerged.

The first minaret in the Muslim world is one from the Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia hence it is the oldest minaret. It was completed in 836 CE. It reaches the height of 31.5 meters. The design, which is three square sections stacked up and decreasing in size from bottom up, became the ubiquitous plan for many other early Islamic minarets.

Tower (Minaret) of the Great Mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia

Two other surviving examples of the minarets that follows this minaret’s plan are in Syria, one in the great citadel of Aleppo and another is in Damascus. Two of these sites are also significant sites in Islamic civilization.

The minaret of the Great Mosque of the Aleppo citadel only have two levels but follows very closely to the one in Tunisia. It is simpler, topped with a balcony where the Muezzin calls to prayer.

Author - Bernard Gagnon

Minaret of the Great Mosque of the Citadel of Aleppo, Syria

The Minaret of the Bride in the Great Mosque of Damascus or the Umayyad Mosque, is one of the three minarets of the mosque. It is considerably larger and taller than the one in Kairouan, and more decorated. There is a balcony in the middle and topped with a domed finial.

Author - Bernard Gagnon

Minaret of the Bride, Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria

On the course of the years of the Islamic civilization, the minaret became increasingly lerger, taller and more decorated but differs from region to region.



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