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Minaret (/ˌmɪnəˈrɛt, ˈmɪnəˌrɛt/;[1] Persian: مأذنة‎ ma'thena, Azerbaijani: minarə, Turkish: minare,[2] from Arabic: منارة‎ manarah [2]) is a type of tower typically built into or adjacent to mosques. Minarets serve multiple purposes. While they provide a visual focal point, they are generally used for the Muslim call to prayer (adhan). The basic form of a minaret includes a base, shaft, a cap and head.[3] They are generally a tall spire with a conical or onion-shaped crown. They can either be free-standing or taller than the associated support structure. The architecture, function, and role of the minaret vary by region and time period.


Minarets attached to mosques serve two main functions: to perform the call to prayer and to act as a symbol of Islam.

In addition to providing a visual cue to a Muslim community, the other function is to provide a vantage point from which the call to prayer, or adhan, is made. The call to prayer is issued five times each day: dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night.[6] In most modern mosques, the adhān is called from the musallah (prayer hall) via microphone to a speaker system on the minaret.[6]


The basic form of minarets consists of four parts: a base, a shaft, a cap and a head.[3] Minarets may be conical (tapering), square, cylindrical, or polygonal (faceted).[3] Stairs circle the shaft in a counter-clockwise fashion, providing necessary structural support to the highly elongated shaft.[7] The gallery is a balcony that encircles the upper sections from which the muezzin may give the call to prayer.[8] It is covered by a roof-like canopy and adorned with ornamentation, such as decorative brick and tile work, cornices, arches and inscriptions, with the transition from the shaft to the gallery typically displaying muqarnas.[8]


The earliest mosques lacked minarets, and the call to prayer was often performed from smaller tower structures.[4][10][11] Hadiths relay that the early Muslim community of Medina gave the call to prayer from the roof of the house of Muhammad, which doubled as a place for prayer.[4]

The first known minarets appear in the early 9th century under Abbasid rule, and were not widely used until the 11th century.[4] These early minaret forms were originally placed in the middle of the wall opposite the qibla wall.[4] These towers were built across the empire in a height to width ratio of 3:1.[4]

The oldest minaret is the Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia and it is consequently the oldest minaret still standing.[4][9][12] The construction of the Great Mosque of Kairouan dates to the year 836.[4][13] The mosque is constituted by three levels of decreasing widths that reach 31.5 meters tall.[4][13]

Minarets have had various forms (in general round, squared, spiral or octagonal) in light of their architectural function.[7] Minarets are built out of any material that is readily available, and often changes from region to region.[4] The number of minarets by mosques is not fixed, originally one minaret would accompany each mosque, then the builder could construct several more.[14]

Local styles

Styles and architecture can vary widely according to region and time period. Here are a few styles and the localities from which they derive:

Central Asia

See also

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