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A mihrab (Arabic: محراب pl. محاريبmaharib) is semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the qibla; that is, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying. The wall in which a mihrab appears is thus the "qibla wall."

Mihrabs should not be confused with the minbar, which is the raised platform from which an Imam (leader of prayer) addresses the congregation.



The word mihrab originally had a non-religious meaning and simply denoted a special room in a house; a throne room in a palace, for example. The Fath al-Bari (p. 458), on the authority of others, suggests the mihrab is "the most honorable location of kings" and "the master of locations, the front and the most honorable." The Mosques in Islam (p. 13), in addition to Arabic sources, cites Theodor Nöldeke and others as having considered a mihrab to have originally signified a throne room.

The term was subsequently used by the Islamic prophet Muhammad to denote his own private prayer room. The room additionally provided access to the adjacent mosque, and the Prophet would enter the mosque through this room. This original meaning of mihrab - i.e. as a special room in the house - continues to be preserved in some forms of Judaism where mihrabs are rooms used for private worship. In the Qur'an (xix.12), the word mihrab refers to a sanctuary/place of worship.[1]

During the reign of the Uthman ibn Affan (r. 644-656), the Caliph ordered a sign to be posted on the wall of the mosque at Medina so that pilgrims could easily identify the direction in which to address their prayers (i.e. that of Mecca). The sign was however just a sign on the wall, and the wall itself remained flat. Subsequently, during the reign of Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik (Al-Walid I, r. 705-715), the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (Mosque of the Prophet) was renovated and the governor (wāli) of Medina, Umar ibn AbdulAziz, ordered that a niche be made to designate the qibla wall (which identifies the direction of Mecca), and it was in this niche that Uthman's sign was placed.

Eventually, the niche came to be universally understood to identify the qibla wall, and so came to be adopted as a feature in other mosques. A sign was no longer necessary.

The Qur'anic passage (xix.11) that refers to a minrab – "then he [i.e. Zakariya] came forth to his people from the sanctuary/place of worship" – is inscribed on or over some mihrabs.[1]

Present-day use

Today, Mihrabs vary in size, are usually ornately decorated and often designed to give the impression of an arched doorway or a passage to Mecca.

In exceptional cases, the mihrab does not follow the qibla direction. One example is the Mezquita of Córdoba, Spain that points south instead of southeast. Among the proposed explanations, there is the localization of the ancient Roman cardo street besides the old temple the Mezquita was built upon.


Mihrab in the Mosque of Uqba also known as the Great Mosque of Kairouan; this mihrab dates in its present state from the 9th century, Kairouan, Tunisia  
Mihrab at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria  
The Lotfallah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran.  


  1. ^ a b Kuban, Doğan (1974), The Mosque and Its Early Development, Muslim Religious Architecture, Leiden: Brill, p. 3, ISBN 90-04-03813-2 .
  • Diez, Ernst (1936), "Mihrāb", Encyclopaedia of Islam, 3, Leiden: Brill, p. 559–565 .
  • Fehervari, Geza (1993), "Mihrāb", Encyclopaedia of Islam, New edition, 7, Leiden: Brill, p. 7–15 .

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mihrāb — Miḥrāb in der Aljafería, Saragossa Mihrāb (arabisch ‏محراب‎, DMG miḥrāb pl. ‏محاريب‎, DMG maḥārīb) ist die …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mihrab — Miḥrāb in der Aljafería, Saragossa Mihrāb (arabisch ‏محراب‎, DMG miḥrāb pl. ‏محاريب‎ …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mihrab — de la Grande Mosquée de Kairouan, à Kairouan en Tunisie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • mihrab — [ mirab ] n. m. • 1874; mot ar. ♦ Didact. (Arts, etc.) Niche pratiquée dans la muraille d une mosquée et orientée vers La Mecque. L imam officie dans le mihrab. Des mihrabs. ● mihrab nom masculin (mot arabe) Dans une mosquée, niche creusée dans… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Mihrab — del oratorio de La Aljafería, Zaragoza Mihrab, محراب: Voz árabe con que se designa un nicho u hornacina. Refiere al pequeño espacio interno precedido por un arco (normalmente de medio punto) o a veces, como en la Mezquita de Córdoba, una pequeña… …   Wikipedia Español

  • mihrab — MIHRÁB s.n. Altar într o moschee, de forma unei nişe, bogat ornamentat şi orientat spre Mecca. – Din tc. mihrap. Trimis de LauraGellner, 30.05.2004. Sursa: DEX 98  mihráb s. n. (sil. hrab), pl. mihrábi Trimis de siveco, 10.08.2004. Sursa:… …   Dicționar Român

  • mihrab — mìhrāb (mìkrāb) m <G mihrába> DEFINICIJA isl. arhit. središnja niša u zidu džamije okrenuta u smjeru Ćabe; ispred nje stoji imam za vrijeme molitve ETIMOLOGIJA tur. mihrab, mihrap ← arap. miḥrāb …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • mihrab — (Del ár. clás. miḥrāb). m. En las mezquitas, nicho u hornacina que señala el sitio adonde han de mirar quienes oran …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • mihrab — [mē′räb΄] n. [Ar miḥrāb] a niche in that wall of a mosque that is closest to Mecca: it indicates the direction toward which to pray …   English World dictionary

  • Mihrab — Mihrab, Hochaltar in den Moscheen …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Mihrâb — (arab.), Gebetsnische, s. Moschee …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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