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Muslim funerary architecture: The origins and significance

Published: 15/02/2010 03:06:00 PM GMT
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It is widely held that the first known mausoleum in Islam was built in Samarra, once the Abbasid capital in Iraq.

 

By Dr. Spahic Omer

  • Part One: The Birth of Funerary Architecture in Islamic Civilization

• The Qubbah al-Sulaybiya mausoleum in Samarra, Iraq

It is difficult to ascertain the beginning of Muslim graves being marked with special distinctions that subsequently evolved into the building of mausoleums and memorials, because the process was gradual and long. It involved many individuals and parties, and some of its episodes and aspects remained deeply shrouded in numerous fibs, embellished tales and ambiguities.

Nevertheless, it is widely held that the first known mausoleum in Islam was built in Samarra, once the Abbasid capital in Iraq. Its name is Qubbah al-Sulaybiya and was built for the Abbasid caliph al-Muntasir who died in 248/862. It is said that the caliph’s Christian mother had asked for and obtained permission to have a tomb built for her son.  The building is a domed one “quadrangular in the interior, while outside the corridor-like octagonal pathway round it cut off the corners. The transition to the (now destroyed) dome was made by an octagonal series of squinches with niches, of which only fragments survive. There are four gates at the ends of the axes. The building followed the Kubbah al-Sakhrah (the Dome of the Rock) in Jerusalem.”

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It is widely held that the first known mausoleum in Islam was built in Samarra

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