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For the mountain formation, see Minarets (California).

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Minarets (Turkish: minare,[1] from Arabic manāra (lighthouse) منارة, usually مئذنة) are distinctive architectural features of Islamic mosques- generally tall spires with onion-shaped or conical crowns, usually either free standing or taller than any associated support structure; the basic form includes a base, shaft, and gallery. Styles vary regionally and by period. They provide a visual focal point and are used for the call to prayer (adhan).



As well as providing a visual cue to a Muslim community, the main function of the minaret is to provide a vantage point from which the call to prayer is made. The call to prayer is issued five times each day: dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night. In most modern mosques, the adhan is called from the musallah, or prayer hall, via microphone to a speaker system on the minaret. Minarets also function as air conditioning mechanisms: as the sun heats the dome, air is drawn in through open windows then up and out of the minaret, thereby providing natural ventilation.[citation needed]


The minaret of the Great Mosque of Kairouan- the oldest standing minaret. Kairouan, Tunisia

The earliest mosques were built without minarets, the call to prayer was performed elsewhere; hadiths relay that the Muslim community of Madina gave the call to prayer from the roof of the house of Muhammad, which doubled as a place for prayer. Around 80 years after Muhammad's death the first known minarets appeared.[2]

The massive minaret of the Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia is the world's oldest standing minaret.[3][4] Its construction began during the first third of the 8th century and was completed in 836 CE[5]. The imposing square-plan tower consists of three sections of decreasing size reaching 31.5 meters [5]. Considered as the prototype for minarets of the western Islamic world, it served as a model for many later minarets.[5]

Minarets have been described as the "gate from heaven and earth", and as the Arabic language letter alif (which is a straight vertical line).[6]

The world's tallest minaret, at 210 metres (689ft.) is located at the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco The world's tallest brick minaret is Qutub Minar located in Delhi, India.[citation needed]

In some of the oldest mosques, such as the Great Mosque of Damascus, minarets originally served as illuminated watchtowers (hence the derivation of the word from the Arabic nur, meaning "light").[citation needed]


Mosque in Aswan, Egypt, with minarets.

Minarets basic form consist of three parts: a base, shaft, and a gallery. For the base, the ground is excavated until a hard foundation is reached. Gravel and other supporting materials may be used as a foundation; it is unusual for the minaret to be built directly upon ground-level soil. Minarets may be conical (tapering), square, cylindrical, or polygonal (faceted). Stairs circle the shaft in a counter-clockwise fashion, providing necessary structural support to the highly elongated shaft. The gallery is a balcony which encircles the upper sections from which the muezzin may give the call to prayer. It is covered by a roof-like canopy and adorned with ornamentation, such as decorative brick and tile work, cornices, arches and inscriptions, with the transition from the shaft to the gallery typically sporting muqarnas. Originally plain in style, a minaret's origin in time can be determined by its level of ostentation.[citation needed]

Local styles

Styles and architecture can vary widely according to region and time period. Here are a few styles and the localities from which they derive:

Turkish (11th century) 
1, 2, 4 or 6 minarets related to the size of the mosque. Slim, circular minarets of equal cross-section are common.
Egypt (7th century) / Syria (until 13th century) 
Low square towers sitting at the four corners of the mosque.
For a free-standing conical minaret surrounded by a spiral staircase, see Malwiya.
Egypt (15th century) 
Octagonal. Two balconies, the upper smaller than the lower, projecting mukarnas, surmounted by an elongated finial.
Persia (17th century) 
Generally two pairs of slim, blue tile clad towers flanking the mosque entrance, terminating in covered balconies.
Tatar (18th century)
A sole minaret is used, placed at the centre of a gabled roof.
Typically a single square minaret. A notable exception is the octagonal minaret located in Chefchaouen.
South Asia
Octagonal, generally three balconied, with the upper most roofed by an onion dome and topped by a small finial.


See also


  1. ^ "minaret." Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 21 Mar. 2009.
  2. ^ Paul Johnson, Civilizations of the Holy Land. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 173
  3. ^ Titus Burckhardt, Art of Islam, Language and Meaning: Commemorative Edition. World Wisdom. 2009. p. 128
  4. ^ Linda Kay Davidson and David Martin Gitlitz, Pilgrimage: from the Ganges to Graceland : an encyclopedia, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. 2002. p. 302
  5. ^ a b c Minaret of the Great Mosque of Kairouan (Qantara Mediterranean Heritage)
  6. ^ University of London, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Volume 68. The School. 2005. p. 26

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MINARET (from the Arabic manarat; manar or minar is Arabic for a lighthouse, a tower on which nar, fire, is lit), a lofty, turret peculiar to Mahommedan architecture. The form is derived from that of the Pharos, the great lighthouse of Alexandria, in the top storey of which the Mahommedan conquerors in the 7th century placed a small praying chamber. The lighthouse form is perpetuated in the minarets which are found attached to all Mahommedan mosques, and probably had considerable influence on the evolution of the Christian church tower (see an exhaustive study in Hermann Thiersch, Pharos Antike, Islam and Occident, 1909). The minaret is always square from the base to the height of the wall of the mosque to which it is attached, and very often octangular above. The upper portion is divided into two or three stages, the wall of the upper storey being slightly set back behind the one below, so as to admit of a narrow balcony, from which the azan, or call to prayer, is chanted by the muazzin (muezzin, moeddin). In order to give greater width to the balcony it is corbelled out with stalactitic vaulting. The balconies are surrounded with stone balustrades, and the upper storeys are richly decorated; the top storey being surmounted with a small bulbous dome. The earliest minaret known is that which was built by the caliph Walid (A.D. 705) in the mosque of Damascus, the next in date being the minaret of the mosque of Tulun, at Cairo (A.D. 879), with an external spiral flight of steps like the observatory towers in Assyrian architecture. This minaret at also the example of El Hakim (996), is raised on great square towers. The more remarkable of the.other Cairene minarets are those of Imam esh-Shafi (1218), Muristan al Kalaun (1280), Hassan (1354), Barkuk (A.D. 1382) and Kait Bey (A.D. 1468). Of the same type are the two minarets added to the mosque of Damascus in the 15th century. In Persia the minarets are generally circular, with a single balcony at the top, corbelled out and covered over. In India, at Ghazni, there are no balconies, and the upper part of the tower tapers upwards; the same is noticeable at Delhi, where the minaret of Kutab is divided into six storeys with balconies at each level. In the well-known tomb of the Taj Mahal the four minarets are all built in white marble, in three storeys with balconies to each storey, and surmounted by open lanterns. The minarets of Constantinople are very lofty and wire-drawn, but contrast well with the domes of the mosques, which are of slight elevation as compared with those at Cairo.

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Simple English

, Egypt with its two minarets]] A minaret is a structure like a tower. Minarets are associated with mosques, because many mosques have minarets. Minarets are used by muezzins to call Muslims to prayers five times a day.


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