Crescent on a minaret in Azerbaijan

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A minaret (Turkish: minare,[1] from Arabic manārah (lighthouse)مناره , sometimes مئذنه) is a distinctive architectural feature of Islamic mosques, generally a tall spire with an onion-shaped or conical crown, usually either free standing or taller than any associated support structure. The basic form of a minaret includes a base, shaft, and gallery. Styles vary regionally and by period. Minarets 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.[2] City of 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.[3]

Minarets have been described as the "gate from heaven and earth", and as the Arabic language letter alif (which is a straight vertical line).[4]

The massive minaret of the Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia is the oldest standing minaret.[2][5] Its construction began during the first third of the 8th century and was completed in 836 CE.[6] The imposing square-plan tower consists of three sections of decreasing size reaching 31.5 meters.[6] Considered as the prototype for minarets of the western Islamic world, it served as a model for many later minarets.[6] Despite the austerity of its decoration, the minaret of the Great Mosque of Kairouan stands out by its harmonious appearance and striking majesty.[6]

The tallest minaret, at 210 metres (689 ft.) is located at the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco The tallest brick minaret is Qutub Minar located in Delhi, India.[7]

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]


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:

(7th century) Quadrangular, the Mosque of Uqba of kairouan have the oldest Minaret in the Muslim world.
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)
Tatar mosque:A sole minaret is used, placed at the centre of a gabled roof.
Typically a single square minaret. Notable exceptions are the octagonal minaret located in Chefchaouen and the round minaret located in Moulay Idriss.
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. ^ a b Titus Burckhardt, Art of Islam, Language and Meaning: Commemorative Edition. World Wisdom. 2009. p. 128
  3. ^ Paul Johnson, Civilizations of the Holy Land. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 173
  4. ^ University of London, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Volume 68. The School. 2005. p. 26
  5. ^ Linda Kay Davidson and David Martin Gitlitz, Pilgrimage: from the Ganges to Graceland : an encyclopedia, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. 2002. p. 302
  6. ^ a b c d Minaret of the Great Mosque of Kairouan (Qantara Mediterranean Heritage)
  7. ^ Jamal Malik, Islam in South Asia: a short history, BRILL, 2008, page 424

External links

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  • MINARET — MINARE Dérivé de l’arabe manara , le terme minaret s’appliqua aux tours à feu avant de désigner toutes les tours islamiques et plus particulièrement celles qui, près des mosquées, servent à l’appel à la prière (ma‘dhana); au début de l’islam, cet …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • minaret — MINARÉT, minarete, s.n. Turn înalt alipit unei moschei, amenajat în partea superioară cu un foişor sau cu un balcon, de unde preoţii musulmani cheamă credincioşii la rugăciune; minarea. [var.: (rar) minarétă s.f.] – Din fr. minaret, germ.… …   Dicționar Român

  • minaret — (n.) 1680s, from Fr. minaret, from Turkish minare a minaret, from Arabic manarah, manarat lamp, lighthouse, minaret, related to manar candlestick, derivative of nar fire; Cf. Hebrew ner lamp (see MENORAH (Cf. menorah)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • minaret — 1. (mi na rè ; le t ne se prononce et ne se lie jamais ; au pluriel, l s se lie : des mi na rè z aigus ; minarets rime avec traits, succès, paix, etc.) s. m. 1°   Nom des tours des mosquées, d où les imans avertissent le peuple du temps de la… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • minaret — {{/stl 13}}{{stl 8}}rz. mnż I, D. u, Mc. minaretecie {{/stl 8}}{{stl 7}} wysoka, smukła wieża meczetu, z której muezin pięć razy w ciągu dnia wzywa muzułmanów na modlitwę : {{/stl 7}}{{stl 10}}Minaret czworoboczny, cylindryczny. Ganek minaretu.… …   Langenscheidt Polski wyjaśnień

  • minaret — [min΄ə ret′, min′ə ret΄] n. [Fr < Turk menāret < Ar manāra(t), lighthouse, minaret < base of nār, fire] a high, slender tower attached to a mosque, with one or more projecting balconies from which a muezzin, or crier, calls the people to …   English World dictionary

  • Minaret — Min a*ret, n. [Sp. minarete, Ar. man[=a]rat lamp, lantern, lighthouse, turret, fr. n[=a]r to shine.] (Arch.) A slender, lofty tower attached to a mosque and surrounded by one or more projecting balconies, from which the summon to prayer is cried… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Minaret — Minaret, schlanker, turmartiger Bau an Moscheen (s.d.), oben mit einer Galerie, von der aus der Muezzin die Gebetstunden abruft …   Lexikon der gesamten Technik

  • Minaret — Minaret, siehe Moschee …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • Minaret — Minaret, arab., d.h. Ort des Lichts, der schlanke Thurm an der Seite der Moschee, von welchem der Muezzin 5mal des Tages das Volk zum Gebete aufruft …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • mináret — m (minára, munára ž) arhit. 1. {{001f}}prvobitno naziv za signalne tornjeve i svjetionike 2. {{001f}}isl. toranj džamije s kojeg mujezin poziva muslimane vjernike na molitvu ✧ {{001f}}tur. ← arap …   Veliki rječnik hrvatskoga jezika

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