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Minaret (/ /,; Persian: گلدسته goldaste, Azerbaijani: minarə, Turkish: minare, from Arabic: منارة manarah or المنارة menara) 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), though they may also exist as standalone non-religious structures, especially in the Indian subcontinent. Minarets can have a variety of forms, from thick, squat towers to soaring, pencil-thin spires. The top is often decorated with a conical or onion-shaped crown.
In the early 9th century, the first minarets were placed opposite the qibla wall. Oftentimes, this placement was not beneficial in reaching the community for the call to prayer. They served as a reminder that the region was Islamic and helped to distinguish mosques from the surrounding architecture.
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. In most modern mosques, the adhān is called from the musallah (prayer hall) via microphone to a speaker system on the minaret.
The region's socio-cultural context have influenced the shape, size and form of miranets. Stairs circle the shaft in a counter-clockwise fashion, providing necessary structural support to the highly elongated shaft. The gallery is a balcony that encircles the upper sections from which the muezzin may give the call to prayer. 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.
The earliest mosques lacked minarets, and the call to prayer was often performed from smaller tower structures. 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.
Scholarly findings trace the origin of minarets to the Umayyad Caliphate and explain that these minarets were a copy of church steeples found in Syria in those times. The first minarets were derived architecturally from the Syrian church tower. Other references suggest that the towers in Syria originated from ziggurats of Babylonian and Assyrian shrines of Mesopotamia.
The first known minarets appear in the early 9th century under Abbasid rule, and were not widely used until the 11th century. These early minaret forms were originally placed in the middle of the wall opposite the qibla wall. These towers were built across the empire in a height to width ratio of 3:1.
However, there is a report that the first minaret was dated during the early days of Umayyad caliphate in 6th century AD, which built by Maslama ibn Mukhallad al-Ansari, the governor of Egypt during that time
In the Indian subcontinent, minars can often exist as non-religious structures, in addition to being used in mosques. Prominent examples of such minars include the Kos minars, which served as distance markers, Chand minar and Firoz minar. Minars have also been used as memorials in the post-colonial era, especially in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore and Fateh Burj near Chandigarh are examples of this.
The oldest minaret survived toward 20th century is the Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia and it is consequently the oldest minaret still standing. The construction of the Great Mosque of Kairouan dates to the year 836. The mosque is constituted by three levels of decreasing widths that reach 31.5 meters tall.
Minarets have had various forms (in general round, squared, spiral or octagonal) in light of their architectural function. Minarets are built out of any material that is readily available, and often changes from region to region. The number of minarets by mosques is not fixed, originally one minaret would accompany each mosque, then the builder could construct several more.