Saturday, September 12, 2009

Early Mosques Without Minarets surveyed on Abu Dhabi Islands

I found this article very interesting. I didn't realize that mosques have not always had minarets. According to Dr. Geoffrey King, an expert in Islamic art and archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London and now academic director of the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey, early mosques, in many cases, were simple structures of natural materials pointed towards Mecca.

[Image - Muraykhi mosque, dating back to the 1930s, is one of the 45 studied by the archaeological team. It has been restored as a heritage museum. Image courtesy of The National Centre for Documentation and Research]

“The minaret is a northern development out of Syria,” he says. “The first minarets were introduced when the Muslims got to Damascus and built the Great Mosque, using the old temple there and utilising the old Roman corner towers, making them into what became minarets. All the places that were influenced by the very old Arabian tradition have none; that means east Africa and Oman and those on Delma are the same.”

In all, Dr. King's team surveyed 45 mosques found on the islands.

"The simplest remains, built from small stones or slabs of beach rock, without roof or wall and ranging from one metre to 30 metres long, are impossible to date. Little more than defined spaces facing Mecca, they contained no dateable material – kept clean and certainly not used as sites for cooking or other household chores, they yielded none of the detritus of daily life.

What is certain, however, Dr King said, is that these sites echo the oldest Islamic tradition, dating back to the reported provisions for prayer made during the Prophet’s military expedition to Tabuk, in present-day north-west Saudi Arabia, in 630: “When they prayed, they just laid out some stones to face Mecca.” - More: The National