This research paper seeks to focus on the history of two of Islamic features: the Minbar and Muqarnas. The Minbar is a necessary element in any mosque because it is the pulpit from which the imam delivers khutbah. The Muqarnas is a decorative and supportive vaulting that consists of tiny cells called squinches.
In terms of the history, the Minbar comes from the Arabic word “to raise”. That is because the Minbar was used by as an elevated platform for delivering speeches, lectures, and prayers. During the early ages of Islam, the Minbar was used by rulers to deliver political or informative messages. According to Husband et al, the minbar became an important symbol of authority throughout the Islamic culture. During the Islamic Golden Age under the Abbasid Caliphate, the Minbar was used only for religious purposes as it became a religious object. During the Islamic Golden Age, the Minbar became higher as the number of steps increased. In addition, the Minbar became an important feature of a mosque. The oldest preserved Minbar in the world was built in the late 9th century. It is located in the Mosque of Uqba, Kairouan, Tunisia.
When it comes to the function, the Minbar is the platform that serves as a place from which the sermon is delivered. In terms of construction, the Minbar must have at least three steps. However, the Minbar can have more steps. For example, the Minbar is the Hagia Sophia has around twenty steps. According to Rashid and Ahmad, the Minbar may or may not have handrails and a roof. In addition, the entrance to the Minbar may have narrow doors. There may be a seat on the top of the Minbar. However, the preacher never uses the seat because it is reserved for the Prophet Muhammad alone (Husband et al. 3). The Minbar is made of stone and brick. According to Husband et al., the Minbar from the Kutubiyya Mosque in Marrakesh, Morocco is made of brick (3). This is an example of medieval Islam. However, during the Golden Age of Islam, the Minbar was also covered with a cloth.
According to Kazempour, the Muqarnas is a very complex three-dimensional ornament in Islamic architecture (13). In terms of construction, Tabbaa argues that it can be made of wood, stucco, brick, or stone (61). According to Tabbaa, the Muqarnas is one of the most original inventions of Islamic architecture (61). In terms of history, it is believed that Muqarnas originated in either Iran or Syria in the late 8th century and early 9th century (Kazempour 14). However, Tabbaa argues that the Muqarnas could have originated in Iraq. To prove this, Tabbaa presents the earliest example of a fully-fledged Muqarnas dome in Imam al-Dawr, Iraq (62). Whatever its place of origin, by the end of the 12th century, Muqarnas was widespread all over the Muslim world. During the Timurid dynasty in the East (the late 14th and early 16th centuries), a lot of huge Muqarnas were built using radial organization. During the Safavid dynasty in Iran (the early 16th and 18th centuries), squinches were covered with mosaic. The main idea about the evolution of Muqarnas is that it transformed from serving structural purposes in a building to being “a non-load-bearing decorative element” (Kazempour 15). However, there are still many examples in which the Muqarnas serves both structural and decorative purposes. Therefore, it is safe to argue that the function of the Muqarnas has evolved over time. Tabbaa also argues that the Muqarnas reflects the new occasionalist Muslim view of the universe. Also, since the Muqarnas seems very unsupported and perishable, it serves as a proof that God can keep this element from destruction.
The Minbar and Muqarnas are integral features for the Islamic world. The Minbar originated in the early centuries of Islam. It function and construction evolved throughout the years from being a platform for rulers to becoming a place for delivering khutbah. The Muqarnas originated during the Golden Age of Islam. It function changed from being a supportive element to serving only decorative and symbolic function.