Minarets came about because mosques were structurally small, so practitioners used mini-towers to perform their call to prayer. According to Hadiths, the first community of Muslims gave the call to prayer from the Prophet Muhammad’s house’s roof.
Scholars say minarets originated from the Ummayad Caliphate. These minarets are described as church steeples in Syria during their early years of use. These earlier (or first) minarets architecture was created to complement the church towers in Syria.
Some scholars say that these towers in Syria were patterned after Babylon’s ziggurats and the Assyrian shrines of Mesopotamia. Minarets witnessed centuries of comparisons from these ancient histories of church steeples.
In this article, our experts will help you understand all you need to know about minarets, their history, their place in modern times, and their significance in Islamic culture and religion.
What is a Minaret?
A Minaret is a significant characteristic of Islamic architecture. People describe it as a mosque tower where the call to Islamic prayer goes out. Minarets are also referred to as manār, while in the Arabic language, it’s called “manāra,” and describes it as a place of fire or light. Scholars also say that the word ‘manāra’ came from the Aramaic language, which means a candlestick. Some other scholarly interpretations say minaret came from the word Sawma’a -‘cloister’ or a cell, that when translated, would mean the shining light of a lantern in a cloister. Another name, “mi’dhana,” which is a less frequently used Arabic phrase, correctly interprets the minaret message and its significance.
A minaret is an Islamic tower where the faithful are called to prayer five times a day by a crier or muezzin. They make this prayer call at dawn, noon, in the afternoon, at sunset, and lastly in the evening. These holy men face each cardinal point direction (that’s the east, west, north, and south) when reciting the prayer call; positioning in such a manner allows his voice to so that it’s widely heard while dispensing the holy message.
A Muezzin, or the person required to exhibit the greatness of character, skills, and voice. He is responsible for ensuring the mosque is kept clean at all times, including rolling the carpets at the mosque, keeping the toilets of the mosque clean. Also, the muezzin must ensure that the place where Muslims wash their hands, legs, and face are kept clean at all times before offering prayer.
Minarets and mosques are typically connected with one or two balconies or galleries. These galleries are from where the muezzin recites the call for prayer and declares prayer time for worshippers.
Minarets usually are built in various forms, either as thick, squat, spiral ramps, delicate or as pencil-thin spires. These minarets, which are landmarks of Islam, are usually square at the base where it connects to the mosque. Above the square base, it rises into circles, hexagonal or octagonal shaped stages, differentiated with a balcony projecting forward. The top stands a bulbous dome, opened pavilion, or even a metal-covered cone with its upper parts richly decorated with carvings. The steps are either internal or external placed steps. Some mosques may have many minarets ranging from one to six.
What is a minaret used for?
Early history has shown the significance and origin of the “minaret.” The mi’dhanah or mi’dhanah refers to a place from which prayer time is announced, although it hardly appears in the Middle Ages’ scholarly review. This name seems to have entirely disappeared since another common word, “mandrah,” was discovered.
In the early days, mosques were built without minarets. Mosques constructed in the days of Mohammed at Kuiba and Medinah were so uncomplicated that there weren’t spaces to build minarets even if they had the expertise required at that time. Scholars say that when the first community of Muslims came to Medinah, they prayed without requiring any calls to prayer/adhan. But when Muslims realized the Jews used a horn for their prayers while the Christians used a clapper, they decided to use something related for their prayers.
So Muhammad commanded “Rise O Bilal and came together for prayer. It wasn’t long enough this tradition was buried. Al-Nawawi also used his own wise words, “Go to some prominent place and summon to prayer.” As it was expected, Bilal would make use of a location where he will be seen and heard by everyone.
On another event, Bilal made another prayer call from the heights of a house in the mosque’s neighboring houses. Even in later books, scholars also added that a muezzin could call for prayer even while on the road. The illustrations by Muhammad and Bilal were followed; though, not formally backed up.
Hence if there is a large mosque, there is no harm if the muezzin makes a prayer call in different directions to come together and begin prayers at the same time. Before Maslamah ibn Mukh, one of the governors in Egypt commanded an added increment to the mosque’s size. The governor wanted to build an elevated height for the adhan, so Maslamah built four elevated steeples at its four corners for the muezzins.
The first renowned minarets came up as of the 9th century under Abbasid rule but were not used until the 11th century. These first minarets were located in the middle of the wall opposite the qibla wall and were three steeples tall. While most ancient minarets were found in the Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia, its construction dates back to 836 AD.
Since then, minarets come in round, square, spiral, or octagonal shapes. These minarets are made of easily sourced materials, and their appearance also changes depending on the area or region. The tallest minaret in the world is the Hassan Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco that heights 210m tall. However, there is no required number of minarets per mosque, but they are expected to be present in mosques.
While these mosque tower constructions vary, they are meant for holy men or muezzins to make prayer calls when it’s time for prayer.
The Belief on Moslems about minarets: its significance
The Muslims believed that minarets, which are the best confirmation for close-by mosque proximity, assumed several rules. The minarets served as a center for social activities, a place for prayers to be made, where all teachings about Mohammed and the Holy Quran were orchestrated and carried out. Minarets also served as a location for a court of justice, a place for financial and all monetary transactions, and lastly, an area for administrative and office-related organizations.
The minaret, a tower and has created feedback for defense and communication, is looked at in ancient times to represent power and dominance. This is so since there has always been an association between elevation and heights representing superiority, divinity, and absolute power. So cities and countries display their towers in high esteem. The symbol of minaret also represents various principles, traditions, a system of value, and wisdom.
The minaret brought together the various possible meanings of elements to human existence in the political, social, and religious realms of life while it still held its primary aim of gathering members of the community. Since the world faces global challenges, there is a need for cooperation and solidarity with all hands together to fight future challenges hence a need for unity in the human race amongst tall minarets.
More so, modern architects have proven that they can design a modern mosque that speaks to younger generations of the Islamic religion while still preserving religion. However, the idea of constructing a mosque with a minaret is beginning to fade away. Architects had started to realize that building mosques with minarets is becoming old-fashioned and out of style.
They believe that this modern approach better describes the identity of Muslims of our times in general as people that hold tight to their religious beliefs and heritage while positively dealing with the challenges that come about with urban modernity.
Modern mosques are made up of two buildings: one is utilized as a deposit site for a safe work company, while the other building is constructed as a concrete cube with a veil of ancient network ornament. It screens the windows in” mahrabeya” style, and apart from the decorations and the sign on the gate, it will be difficult to tell that it’s a mosque.
Further modifications include the breaching of chanting adhan on loudspeakers, and so the maiden begins the adhan with his natural voice while standing at the front of the gate. Hence the need to deliver the adhan in different directions wasn’t a challenge since it was never encountered as the mua’dhen will stand at the mosque’s gate. Hence the function of the minaret has been deleted with an increase in modernization.
An example of an even smaller mosque that’s minaret-free is the Bishop’s way community center in London, which looks like a little bit in London’s cities.
The only means to identify it as a mosque is the symbol that abstracts the ancient tradition of a mosque and the sign at the mosque’s gate. Another example is seen in the center of the” Muhimmat neighborhood” in Nasr’ city in Cairo, Egypt. These mosques are minaret-free, and it also has a characteristic sloped skylight that takes the mosque off the conventional mosque- that’s dome-shaped.
The adhan is done from loudspeakers that are 3.5m high; one speaker is placed near the outer wall close to the entrance while the other is placed at the back near the skylight with these two speakers facing opposite sides.
These speakers help deliver the adhan message to all in the neighborhood efficiently, and so despite other mosques raising the prayer message quite loudly, the speaker sounds are heard even on the street. The visual writings on the wall make it possible for a pedestrian on the roads to behold the mosque’s central entrance, understanding that a mosque is situated at that location.
Other uncharacteristic designs of mosques are also noted, like the globe town mosque in London. The mosque architects are trying so hard to blend with modernization in the city, with fears of social and political pressure and demands with these mosques looking like mini-marts or offices.
These provocating changes in modern mosques without minarets and hence these modern architects make these mosques look less like mosques. In terms of shaping and religious ruling, modern mosques have no particular way they are expected to look for viewers, pedestrians, and Muslims to be able to identify them.
However, the mosques and religious places are public facilities. It is vital for there to be means of identification either by using motifs and ornamental decorations and not only by reading signs to find them.