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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Islamic Prayer Niche

Islamic Prayer Niche - Pergamon Museum

Islamic Prayer Niche

A Prayer Niche in Arabic is called a miḥrāb and indicates the direction of prayer to Mecca. This prayer niche comes from Kashan, Iran and corresponds to the flat type characteristic of medieval Iran, only the columns appear semi-plastic. This miḥrāb consists of 74 individual tiles, which were embossed with moulds, painted and glazed. Large blue inscriptions and patterns, as well as small turquoise fillings, stand out from the dominant chandelier pattern, which shimmers in different golden brown tones. The blue clours were applied on the glaze, the lustre painted on the finished glaze was added in a subsequent firing of the tiles.

The most prominent inscription is the Islamic creed between the capitals:

“There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

The other inscriptions, provide texts from the Koran, referring to the prayer and the Muslim faith. At the end of the large frame inscription, Master al-Ḥasan bin’Arabschāh has added his signature and date of manufacture.

Mihrab

A Mihrab is usually a semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the qibla, which 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 called the “qibla wall”.

The word mihrab originally had a non-religious meaning and simply denoted a special room in a house or a throne room in a palace. The term was subsequently used by the Islamic prophet Muhammad to signify his private prayer room.

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.

Shahada

The Shahada is an Islamic creed, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, declaring belief in the oneness of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as God’s prophet. The declaration, in its shortest form, reads:

“There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

Reflections

  • An Islamic Prayer Niche would be very useful for visitors to mosques.

Islamic Prayer Niche

  • Name:                     Islamic Prayer Niche
  • Date:                      1226
  • Original Location:  Kashan, Iran
  • Material:                Quartz frit, model decorated and painted under transparent colourless glaze, lustre painting
  • Dimensions:          Height: 280 cm; Width: 180 cm
  • Museum:                Pergamon Museum

Highlights of the Pergamon Museum

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“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history
is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”

– Aldous Huxley

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Photo Credit: 1) JOM

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