Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mihrab

Mihrab in the Bou Inania madersa in Fez
The mihrab is an important element in Islamic architecture.  It is a semi-circular niche located in the qibla wall of a mosque.  Qibla, meaning 'direction' in Arabic, refers to the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca, towards which Muslims pray their five daily prayers.



Mihrab in the Tin Mal mosque, in Southern Morocco.
The origins of the Mihrab date back to 707 AD during the Ummayad period, when the mosque of the Prophet in Medina was rebuilt.  Coptic masons were employed for the construction of the mosque, and may have drawn from the apse design in Coptic churches for the design of the niche.

Regardless of its origin, the mihrab has become a widely used symbol for prayer.  Prayer rugs usually depict a mihrab, sometimes with the Kaaba in the center (as in the red rug, center).

Mihrab in the Great Mosque/Cathedral of Cordoba, Spain.
The word mihrab in the Qur'an referes to a refuge, sanctuary, or place of worship.  It also has functional value as an acoustic instrument, amplifying and bouncing the voice of the Imam back to the congregation behind him. 

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