جامع عقبة بن نافع

( Great Mosque of Kairouan )

The Great Mosque of Kairouan (Arabic: جامع القيروان الأكبر), also known as the Mosque of Uqba (جامع عقبة بن نافع), is a mosque situated in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Kairouan, Tunisia and is one of the largest Islamic monuments in North Africa.

Established by the Arab general Uqba ibn Nafi in the year 50 AH (670AD/CE) at the founding of the city of Kairouan, the mosque occupies an area of over 9,000 square metres (97,000 sq ft). It is one of the oldest places of worship in the Islamic world, and is a model for all later mosques in the Maghreb. Its perimeter, of about 405 metres (1,329 ft), contains a hypostyle prayer hall, a marble-paved courtyard and a square minaret. In addition to its spiritual prestige, the Mosque of Uqba is one of the masterpieces of Islamic architecture, notable among other things for the first Islamic use of the horseshoe...Read more

The Great Mosque of Kairouan (Arabic: جامع القيروان الأكبر), also known as the Mosque of Uqba (جامع عقبة بن نافع), is a mosque situated in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Kairouan, Tunisia and is one of the largest Islamic monuments in North Africa.

Established by the Arab general Uqba ibn Nafi in the year 50 AH (670AD/CE) at the founding of the city of Kairouan, the mosque occupies an area of over 9,000 square metres (97,000 sq ft). It is one of the oldest places of worship in the Islamic world, and is a model for all later mosques in the Maghreb. Its perimeter, of about 405 metres (1,329 ft), contains a hypostyle prayer hall, a marble-paved courtyard and a square minaret. In addition to its spiritual prestige, the Mosque of Uqba is one of the masterpieces of Islamic architecture, notable among other things for the first Islamic use of the horseshoe arch.

Extensive works under the Aghlabids two centuries later (9th Cent.AD/CE) gave the mosque its present aspect. The fame of the Mosque of Uqba and of the other holy sites at Kairouan helped the city to develop and expand. The university, consisting of scholars who taught in the mosque, was a centre of education both in Islamic thought and in the secular sciences. Its role at the time can be compared to that of the University of Paris in the Middle Ages. With the decline of the city from the mid-11th century, the centre of intellectual thought moved to the University of Ez-Zitouna in Tunis.

Evolution Period photo showing the southern facade and South. View of the Great Mosque of Kairouan in the early 20th century

At the foundation of Kairouan in 670, the Arab general and conqueror Uqba ibn Nafi (himself the founder of the city) chose the site of his mosque in the center of the city, near the headquarters of the governor. Around 690, shortly after its construction, the mosque was destroyed[1] during the occupation of Kairouan by the Berbers, originally conducted by Kusaila. It was rebuilt by the Ghassanid general Hasan ibn al-Nu'man in 703.[2] With the gradual increase of the population of Kairouan and the consequent increase in the number of faithful, Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik, Umayyad Caliph in Damascus, charged his governor Bishr ibn Safwan to carry out development work in the city, which included the renovation and expansion of the mosque around the years 724–728.[3] During this expansion, he pulled down the mosque and rebuilt it with the exception of the mihrab. It was under his auspices that the construction of the minaret began.[4] In 774, a new reconstruction accompanied by modifications and embellishments[5] took place under the direction of the Abbasid governor Yazid ibn Hatim.[6]

Plan architect of the building. Current plan of the Great Mosque of Kairouan

Under the rule of the Aghlabid dynasty, Kairouan was at its apogee, and the mosque profited from this period of stability and prosperity. In 836, Emir Ziyadat Allah I reconstructed the mosque once more:[7] this is when the building acquired, at least in its entirety, its current appearance.[8][9] At the same time, the mihrab's ribbed dome was raised on squinches.[10] Around 862–863, Emir Abu Ibrahim enlarged the oratory, with three bays to the north, and added the cupola over the arched portico which precedes the prayer hall.[11] In 875 Emir Ibrahim II built another three bays, thereby reducing the size of the courtyard which was further limited on the three other sides by the addition of double galleries.[12]

The current state of the mosque can be traced back to the Aghlabid period—no element is earlier than the ninth century besides the mihrab—except for some partial restorations and a few later additions made in 1025 during the Zirid period,[13] 1248 and 1293–1294 under the reign of the Hafsids,[14] 1618 at the time of Muradid beys,[15] and in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In 1967, major restoration works, executed during five years and conducted under the direction of the National Institute of Archeology and Art, were achieved throughout the monument, and were ended with an official reopening of the mosque during the celebration of the Mawlid of 1972.[16]

Host stories Postcard from 1900 showing entry. Entry way (1900)Postcard from 1900 showing the use of a well. Pilgrims around one of the wells (1900)

Several centuries after its founding, the Great Mosque of Kairouan is the subject of numerous descriptions by Arab historians and geographers in the Middle Ages. The stories concern mainly the different phases of construction and expansion of the sanctuary, and the successive contributions of many princes to the interior decoration (mihrab, minbar, ceilings, etc.). Among the authors who have written on the subject and whose stories have survived[8] are Al-Bakri (Andalusian geographer and historian who died in 1094 and who devoted a sufficiently detailed account of the history of the mosque in his book Description of Septentrional Africa), Al-Nuwayri (historian who died in Egypt, 1332) and Ibn Nagi (scholar and historian of Kairouan who died around 1435).

On additions and embellishments made to the building by the Aghlabid emir Abu Ibrahim, Ibn Nagi gives the following account:

« He built in the mosque of Kairouan the cupola that rises over the entrance to the central nave, together with the two colonnades which flank it from both sides, and the galleries were paved by him. He then made the mihrab. »[8]

 Old postcard (1900) showing the carved teak minbar and the maqsura

Among the Western travelers, poets and writers who visited Kairouan, some of them leave impressions and testimonies sometimes tinged with emotion or admiration on the mosque. From the eighteenth century, the French doctor and naturalist John Andrew Peyssonnel, conducting a study trip to 1724, during the reign of sovereign Al-Husayn Bey I, underlines the reputation of the mosque as a deemed centre of religious and secular studies:

« The Great Mosque is dedicated to Uqba, where there is a famous college where we will study the remotest corners of this kingdom : are taught reading and writing of Arabic grammar, laws and religion. There are large rents for the maintenance of teachers. »[17]

At the same time, the doctor and Anglican priest Thomas Shaw (1692–1751),[18] touring the Tunis Regency and passes through Kairouan in 1727, described the mosque as that: "which is considered the most beautiful and the most sacred of Berberian territories", evoking for example: "an almost unbelievable number of granite columns".[19]

At the end of the nineteenth century, the French writer Guy de Maupassant expresses in his book La vie errante (The Wandering Life), his fascination with the majestic architecture of the Great Mosque of Kairouan as well as the effect created by countless columns: "The unique harmony of this temple consists in the proportion and the number of these slender shafts upholding the building, filling, peopling, and making it what it is, create its grace and greatness. Their colorful multitude gives the eye the impression of unlimited".[20] Early in the twentieth century, the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke describes his admiration for the minaret:

« Is there a more beautiful than this still preserved old tower, the minaret, in Islamic architecture? In the history of Art, its three-storey minaret is considered such a masterpiece and a model among the most prestigious monuments of Muslim architecture. »[21]

^ Amédée Guiraud, Histoire de la Tunisie : les expéditions militaires arabes du VIIe au IXe siècle, éd. SAPI, Tunis, 1937, p. 48 ^ Jack Finegan, The archeology of world religions, vol. III, ed. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1965, p. 522 ^ Paul Sebag, La Grande Mosquée de Kairouan, éd. Robert Delpire, Paris, 1963, p. 25 ^ Djait, Hichem (September 10, 1973). "L'Afrique arabe au VIIIe siècle (86-184 H./705-800)". Annales. 28 (3): 601–621. doi:10.3406/ahess.1973.293371. S2CID 162217635 – via www.persee.fr. ^ Archéologie méditerranéenne, n°1–2, 1965, p. 163 ^ Binous, Jamila; Baklouti, Naceur; Ben Tanfous, Aziza; Bouteraa, Kadri; Rammah, Mourad; Zouari, Ali (2010). "V1.f The Great Mosque". Ifriqiya: Thirteen Centuries of Art and Architecture in Tunisia. Islamic Art in the Mediterranean (2nd ed.). Museum With No Frontiers & Ministry of Culture, the National Institute of Heritage, Tunis. ISBN 9783902782199. ^ Razia Grover Mosques, p. 52, New Holland, 2007 ISBN 1-84537-692-7, ISBN 978-1-84537-692-5. ^ a b c Golvin, Lucien (September 10, 1968). "Quelques réflexions sur la grande mosquée de Kairouan à la période des Aghlabides". Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée. 5 (1): 69–77. doi:10.3406/remmm.1968.982 – via www.persee.fr. ^ Alexandre Papadopoulo, Islam and Muslim art, ed. Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1979, p. 507 ^ "Soha Gaafar et Marwa Mourad, « La Grande Mosquée de Kairouan, un maillon clé dans l'histoire de l'architecture », Le Progrès égyptien, 29 octobre 2005, p. 3" (PDF) (in French).[permanent dead link] ^ Paul Sebag, op. cit., p. 40 ^ Georges Marçais, L’architecture : Tunisie, Algérie, Maroc, Espagne, Sicile, vol. I, éd. Picard, Paris, 1927, p. 12 ^ Néji Djelloul, op. cit., p. 32 ^ Paul Sebag, op. cit., p. 53 ^ Paul Sebag, op. cit., p. 59 ^ "Jacques Vérité, Conservation de la Grande Mosquée de Kairouan, éd. Unesco, Paris, 1981" (PDF) (in French). (1.40 MB) ^ "Mahmoud Bouali, « Il y a près de trois siècles, un tourisme éminemment éclairé », La Presse de Tunisie, date inconnue". ^ "Courte biographie sur Thomas Shaw (Société des anglicistes de l'enseignement supérieur)". Archived from the original on August 13, 2010. ^ (in French) Kairouan n’était pas une ville interdite (Capitale de la culture islamique 2009)[permanent dead link] ^ Mohamed Bergaoui, Tourisme et voyages en Tunisie : les années régence, éd. Simpact, Tunis, 1996, p. 231 ^ (in French) The influence of Kairouan on art and literature (Capital of Islamic culture 2009)[permanent dead link]
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