chapter  13
20 Pages

The Origins of the Mihrab Mujawwaf: A Reinterpretation

WithEstelle Whelan

This chapter discusses early development of the mihrab in the mosque will be explored in an effort to provide a more convincing alternative to the theory of its function and significance put forward by Sauvaget. Although the focus is on the mihrab, which usually occurred in the center of the qiblah wall, in the earliest decades of Islam the minbar and the maqsurah seem to have shared with it certain connotations and to have fulfilled overlapping functions. Although the origins of “mihrab” thus remain somewhat clouded, a rapid survey of its various uses in early Arabic literature is suggestive. As for the material evidence, some instances in which it has been suggested that a surviving mihrab can be dated to the period before al-Walid’s reconstruction of the Mosque of the Prophet at Medina. Yet several later sources include reports on good authority that Qurrah himself was the first to add a mihrab mujawwaf to this mosque, in 92/ 711.