Origin and Semantics of Mihrab in Islamic Funerary Architecture

Keywords: Mihrab, Semantics, Funerary architecture, Tombs, Mausoleum, Representation, Influences.


The research is aimed towards the analysis and semantics of the Mihrab which is a concept for a prayer niche that is used in Mosque design to represent the direction of the Qibla. The objectives of the research focus on signifying the developments and influences that have been involved in the usage of Mihrab in different parts of the world and also discuss the relationship of this architectural feature to the religious, cultural and other influences that have been involved in its usage in different geographical settings. Mihrab is a small, empty niche carved out of a wall that points towards the Holy Kaaba in Mecca considered as the most sacred site in Islam. The Umayyads are credited with introducing it first when they built the Masjid e Nabvi in Madina and the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. Later Islamic funerary architecture also encompasses the original concept of the Mihrab with some apparent symbolic and decorative elements and its meaning is intricate and multidimensional. The Mihrab later used as a vital component of Islamic funerary architecture, has a long and complicated history leading to a symbolic significance. Its origin in tombs is traced to Medieval times and is presently used in Islamic culture as a potent symbol of religion, death, and the hereafter. It presents itself as a sort of a commemorative feature that serves as a spot for the deceased to face the Qibla direction. The symbolic representation appears to be the notion that death is a journey and Mihrab acts as a doorway or passage to the afterlife. The semantics of Mihrab also appeared to be dependent upon the particular cultural and religious setting where the concept of spiritual purification, the value of prayer, and the belief in the afterlife are some recurring themes. This research adopts qualitative method to signify and analyze the initial traces of Mihrab's presence in earlier constructed structures in Islamic funerary architecture in Central Asia and their possible influences in cases of historic tombs of Pakistan. Moreover, the semantics found in the Mihrab of tombs have been analyzed for their possible meaning. The findings of the research are evident of the fact that cross-cultural influences as well as the depiction of religious concepts have contributed in the development of the Mihrab and its usage in Islamic funerary architecture. The research concludes on the analytical findings that are potential to contribute in the ongoing relevant researches.

Author Biographies

Dr. Yasira Naeem Pasha, Professor, Department of Architecture and Planning-DUET, Dawood university of Engineering and Technology

Professor / Dean Faculty of Civil and Architecture & Planning / Chairperson Department of Architecture and Planning-DUET, Dawood University of Engineering and Technology

Dr. Munazzah Akhtar, Associate Professor, University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore

Chairperson, Associate Professor, University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore