Mihrab Nich

 

Immediately after Zubayr’s rebellion and consequent rebuilding of the Ka’ba, the Mihrab mark or niche was introduced. It is said that during the reign of the ’Uthman ibn Affan (644-656), the caliph ordered a sign to be posted on the wall of the mosques at Medina so that pilgrims could now easily identify the direction in which to address their prayers. This seems to be a strange development, since up until this time there was no question as to which direction the faithful should pray. The entire building faced the qibla. Now, however, a sign was provided in the older mosques, seeming to indicate that a new qibla had been introduced.

During the reign of Al-Walid ibn ’Abd al-Malik (Al-Walid I, 705-715), the Mosque of the Prophet (the Masjid al Nabawi) was renovated and the governor (wali) of Medina, ’Umar Ibn ’Abdul Aziz, ordered that a niche be made to designate the qibla. ’Uthman’s sign was then placed inside this niche.

Eventually, the niche came to be universally understood as identifying the qibla direction, and so came to be adopted as a feature in other mosques. A sign was no longer necessary.

It is most interesting to notice that the mihrab niche was developed right after the time we are suggesting the qibla changed. Evidently since there was confusion over which way to pray, older mosques began to adopt the mihrab so that the faithful could pray in the new direction.

Below: Photos of old mihrab niches.

Tari Khana Mosque, Iran

Above: The Ibra Mosque Niche, Oman

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