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The Early Mosque Revisited: Introduction of the Minbar and Maqṣūra

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As the mosque evolved in response to the contested authority of Islam’s early rulers, the dependency of this authority upon the public audience in the mosque gave rise to a series of changes that occurred within the qibla of the mosque. By considering the congregational mosques at Kufa, Basra, Damascus, Wasit, and Madina between 630 and 715, and revisiting the development of their qibla spaces, three changes are presented as embodiments of this shift. This includes the development of the minbar as a platform for the khuṭba (Friday sermon) and of the enclosure screen (maqṣūra) in front of the qibla for the caliph, as well as the provision of direct access to the dār al-imāra via the qibla wall. By situating these developments within the context of contested religious and political authority in early Islam, this study challenges paradigms of formal influence in the interpretation of mosque architecture.

Affiliations: 1: The Kress Foundation Department of Art History, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

This research would not have been possible without the generous support of the Sultan Program in Arab Studies at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Department of Art History at the University of California in Berkeley, and was carried out while I was a postdoctoral research fellow there between 2012 and 2014. I would also like to thank Nezar AlSayyad, Wendy Pullan, and Hugh Kennedy for their guidance and support.

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