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Qubba , also Kubba, Kubbe, ( Arabic قبّة 'Dome', plural: qibāb, qubab ) is an Islamic tomb that is covered by a dome. Qubba describes both an architecturally outstanding mausoleum of a significant personality and, regardless of the design requirements, a grave building or a place of worship in a place that is connected with the life of an Islamic saint ( Wali , Marabout ) or revered sheikh . The grave or sham grave ( cenotaph ) located in the building is in the second case a pilgrimage destination, from which the visitor imagines the baraka (power of blessing). The shape of the domed roof over the tomb is not an Islamic development and is also found in buildings of Islamic architecture that have a different function. Some secular representative buildings from early Islamic times are also known as Qubba . The symbolic content of a domed tomb goes back to certain pre-Islamic cult tents.

Māʾ al-ʿAinains (1830–1910) mausoleum in Smara , Western Sahara. He was revered as a political leader and saint at the same time because of his struggle against colonial rule.

Word environment

The names for Islamic tombs are not strictly separated. Qubba, or “dome”, was transferred from the special architectural form in a broader sense to all places of worship, which are generally called mašhad ( mashhad ), places of witness or remembrance. In the simplest case, Mašhad is a stone setting at which a believer has said a prayer. The erected structure refers to the legendary resting place of a saint. Mazār (Pl. Mazārāt ) literally means "visited place" and also applies generally to a place of pilgrimage. The actual tombs can be delimited with the Arabic term turba (Turkish turbe ); In the Persian region, mausoleums with conical roof structures are called gunbād in Persian and saints' graves imām-zāde ("son of the imam "). The places of worship of Sufi saints are also called maqām (Pl. Maqāmāt ). Several of these maqāmāt ("places") can bear the same name and serve to worship the same saint. Occasionally, the regional Arabic honorific titles of the saints are transferred to the building dedicated to them, for example marbūṭ in the Maghreb and nābi in the Middle East. The paraphrases qaṣr , "fortress", and dargāh , "palace" (usually Persian for tekke ) were less common in the past .

The word Qubba goes back to the pre-Islamic Bedouin traveling sanctuary qubbe . The Islamic qubba can have three meanings: 1) as a designation for the place where a revered person is buried; 2) the place where a religiously significant historical event took place and 3) the place where a saint appeared in a vision or who is otherwise associated with the saint in a legend without being his tomb. Such distinctions hardly play a role in the practice of worship.

Cultic origin of the canopy

In pre-Islamic times, Bedouins erected a makeshift tent ( qubbe ) over a fresh grave. The tent consisted of a wooden structure that was covered with animal skins. In its masonry design over the grave, this protective structure was given the shape of a real dome, which was architecturally formulated in Roman antiquity and gave important buildings their symbolic elevation. The transition from tent to dome in the Arab world is not only that of a temporary to a permanent construction, but also reflects the change from a nomadic to a sedentary way of life.

In addition to covering graves, the qubbe also served the Bedouins as a traveling sanctuary . It was the oldest and central cult device of each tribe and consisted of a red pyramid-shaped leather tent in which two betyls were kept. These cult stones were the residence of tribal deities. Every year the tribe of its qubbe sacrificed a white camel, with whose blood the tent frame was smeared. On the way to a new camp site, the tribe followed a camel loaded with the tent, which indicated the direction of the march and through which the will of God was expressed for the tribe. The tribal shrine was guarded by the Kāhin , whose other functions as priest, seer and magician can be deduced from his epithets. Probably from the middle of the 1st millennium BC. Two slaughter girls stood at his side. During fights, the girls rode camels next to the qubbe they were carrying , which was supposed to have a magical protective effect. The troupe's courage to fight was increased by the girls making music and their feminine charms.

In Judaism , the stone idols disappeared and the portable tent became the "Stiftszelt", Hebrew Mishkan or ʾōhel mōʿēd, which means tent ( ʾōhel ) of encounter ( mōʿēd ) between people and the saint. The empty tent now represented the residence of the Yahweh , who was to be worshiped without a picture . Originally only the tribe of Judah owned such a tent as a central shrine. The Mishkan, in their own possession of each nomadic tribe, withdrew in their cultic significance in the later Jewish religion behind the ark of the covenant , which united all the tribes , in which the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments were kept instead of the two cult stones .

The old tent-like wandering sanctuary qubbe was given a meaning adapted to the new religion, even in Islamic times. Up to the 20th century, Otfe (ʿuṭfa) was a tent frame that was attached to a camel saddle and represented the spiritual center of a Bedouin tribe. The empty interior was considered the abode of Allah . The tribe's reputation and power were linked to the possession of an otfe, which still contained remnants of the ancient ancestral cult of the Bedouin tribes. As in ancient Arab times, it had to be carried along during the battle, accompanied by two young women. The continuation of this custom is exemplified by Mohammed's favorite wife Aischa , who took part in the camel battle , carrying a copy of the Koran in a camel litter ( haudaǧ ) . Most of the tent construction was decorated with ostrich feathers , which enhanced the magical aspect of the power center. In the course of settling down, the former wandering shrine was transformed into a processional shrine, which was solemnly shown around once a year and to which a white camel was sacrificed on this occasion.

The maḥmal (Pl. Maḥmil ) represents a further development of the tribal symbol otfe to the insignia of the ruling power. The pyramid tents , which are similar in shape, were fastened to the women's saddle of a camel with a splendid brocade fabric ( kiswa ), which is at the head of the annual pilgrimage ( Hajj ) was led to Mecca . The custom was institutionalized during the Mamluk rule in the 13th century and maintained in the Ottoman Empire . The rulers in Egypt, Syria and Turkey once claimed their protective role for the pilgrimage and, with this symbol, extended their territorial rights to the Kaaba in Mecca, where they tried to assert themselves as defenders of Islam. The Wahhabis fought the maḥmal because of its pre-Islamic origins and from 1936 banned its being taken to Mecca, which had been suspended for other reasons since 1926.

No distinction is made between a coffin containing bones and a cenotaph (both in Arabic tābūt ). The empty tābūt in a burial chapel corresponds in its religious meaning to the maḥmal - both are wooden frames and are covered with grave cloths called kiswa - and the otfe. The traveling sanctuary of the Bedouins has a religious-historical connection with the processional sanctuary of the sedentary peasants and the stationary place of veneration of saints.

Architectural forms

The shape of the roof of the dome does not necessarily mark a saint's grave in the Islamic world. The same architecture can be found in mosques, madrasas or zawiyas . From the Maghreb to the Middle East, there are regional rural types of houses with stone or adobe domes. The simplest square qubbas resemble those domed houses in which the flat vault was raised and in the case of large mausoleums it was monumentalized by a semicircular dome with connecting links inserted between the building cube and the dome.

There are grave structures with which religious rulers of the past wanted to create a worthy burial site for themselves or others and which are now maintained as architectural monuments. A distinction must be made between old and new graves of saints, in which the architecture is only important for the practice of veneration. The simple Qubbas have only one entrance door, the outline of which is occasionally taken on the other sides as wall niches. Some buildings still have a small window ( ṭāqa ) on one side .

Islamic cemeteries are mostly outside the cities in the open field and often on a hill. In this case, they continue the old Middle Eastern tradition of a high-altitude cult site. Qubbas as pilgrimage sites are established in or near villages, on hills, mountain peaks, but rarely in valleys. They are often surrounded by free-standing trees or a grove; together they form a sacred area ( ḥimā ) derived from the Greek Temenos and often also walled . There are wells, springs, or cisterns near Qubbas. Trees and watering holes are not regarded as sacred in themselves, but because of their particularity, in contrast to the treeless and dry environment. Some places have been considered sacred since pre-Islamic times, with them the legend of the origin was adapted and constructed, similar to the occasional genealogical descent of the saints.

Architectural origin of the Islamic mausoleum

Muslim cemetery in Damascus . Daguerreotype by Pierre-Gustave Joly de Lotbinière, 1840

The development of tomb architecture in early Islamic times is speculative. Even if the Muslims found mature architecture of memorial buildings and other places of worship in the Byzantine and Sassanid areas over which they expanded their power, they did not adopt any form of architecture unchanged. On the one hand, in the new Islamic culture, the architectural needs required for religious practice first had to be formulated. On the other hand, in early Islamic times it was not allowed to worship saints at graves. The commandment of taswīyah al-qubūr applied , i.e. the equality of all people before God, which should be expressed by aligning the tombs with their natural surroundings. To this day, most of the graves in Muslim cemeteries are relatively unadorned. Disregarding this commandment was chalked up against the Christians and Jews against whose behavior it was directed. There are only stories from which it can be concluded that certain forms of grave maintenance from the pre-Islamic tradition were retained, such as visiting graves and setting up tents over graves or columns next to them. Even the tomb of the prophet was shielded from the believers and could not be visited. It was only given a wooden dome at the end of the 13th century. (Today Muhammad's tomb is under a green dome, Qubba al-ḫaḍrā , inside the Prophet's Mosque in Medina.) This restrictive practice was first broken at the beginning of the 9th century when the mother of the Abbasid caliph al-Mutawakkil (r. 847-861 ) was allowed to build a family grave in which her son and later two other caliphs were buried.

The architecture of the tombs is difficult to read from the early Islamic sources because names such as maschhad or turba were not clearly used. In early Islamic times, turba only seems to have been an open area in a cemetery at first. At a later time, the graves there were perhaps demarcated by a fence or wall. The Arab geographer al-Muqaddasī, who lived in the 10th century , used the word mashhad to refer to different types of building: in addition to dome graves, simple tombs, caves and even military border fortresses ( Ribāt ). With Mashhad a mosque may have been meant. From the 10th century some cemetery mosques with nine domes over a square building are known literarily under this name. One of them is the Mashhad of Sherif al-Tabataba in Cairo, usually regarded as a mausoleum , which was built after his death in 945/46 and was preserved as a ruin. Apart from a Qibla -Wand with mihrab was the building on all sides open.

The oldest and probably most famous Islamic domed building is the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem from 691. The building consists of a round domed central room, around which two octagonal walkways lead. The oldest Qubba planned as an Islamic mausoleum, the Qubba aṣ-Ṣulaibīya in Samarra , which was completed with the death of the Abbasid caliph al-Muntasir in 862, is architecturally connected to the Dome of the Rock, which was built as a symbol of Muslim rule and later became a place of worship . Here a square domed central room is surrounded by an octagonal ambulatory. According to KAC Creswell (1940), the Christian mother of the caliph orientated herself on the Dome of the Rock because there was no Byzantine tradition of tombs for rulers. The contemporary historian at-Tabarī describes the burial place ambiguously as maqbara ("burial place"), but the discovery of three graves suggests that, as stated in the sources, al-Muntasir and next to him the caliphs al-Mu'tazz and whose successor al-Muhtadi were buried.

The shrine of Fatima Masuma in the Iranian pilgrimage site of Qom for the 817 deceased sister Fātima bint Mūsā of the eighth Imam, ʿAlī ibn Mūsā ar-Ridā , possibly dates back to the second half of the 9th century. According to the historical source Tarʿīch-i Qum , written in 988/99 , the mausoleum was initially given a flat roof with mats and a dome only two generations later, when a second qubba was built next to it. A total of six descendants of the imam were buried in both mausoleums. The mausoleum of the Islamic scholar al-Hakīm at-Tirmidhī (768-818) in Tirmidh ( Termiz in Uzbekistan) was built either at the end of the 9th century or from the 11th century. Comparisons of the style of building decoration speak for the early dating; A later date suggests that nothing is known about a grave cult immediately after the death of al-Hakīm. A first construction of the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf over the grave of the Shiite Imam ʿAlī was probably built in 902 and replaced by a new building in 929. What it looked like is not known. From various other miniature representations, Oleg Grabar (1966) deduces an open round building with a dome supported by pillars. Round buildings ( tholoi ) are known from medieval Armenian evangelists , the round building of the Armenian cathedral of Zvartnots stood until the 10th century. Accordingly, the first qubba above the tomb of ʿAlī would be derived from an architecture that has nothing to do with tombs. This Qubba was replaced by a new mausoleum around 980, which burned down in 1051 and was rebuilt by 1086.

Overall, only a few examples of Islamic mausoleums are known up to the 10th century. Their rapid and widespread distribution began in the 11th century in the Iranian region. According to Robert Hillenbrand (1974), this trend was probably not triggered, but at least accelerated, by the Turkic peoples advancing south , who brought with them a pronounced burial culture. Apart from the already mentioned, known mausoleums, the earliest preserved and datable mausoleums come from Central Asia . Of the many mausoleums from the 11th century in Iran, none can be dated with certainty. The mausoleums in the 11th century are similarly numerous only in Fatimid Egypt. There, 49 tombs from the 11th century were counted on what was then the southern border of Islam in Africa . Most of these were square buildings with a drum and above a dome as well as one or four doors and a mihrab. Otherwise, very few mausoleums have survived in North Africa that can be dated before the 13th century.


Qubbat al-Barudiyin in Marrakech

It is not known exactly when the individual forms of veneration of saints were introduced in the Maghreb, as no tombs from the early days of Islam have survived. The very rare architecture of an open domed structure resting on four pillars and at the same time the only religious building preserved from the Almoravid period in Marrakech is the Qubbat al-Barudiyin , which was completed around 1120 . A narrow tambour leads from the approximately 5.4 × 7.3 meters large area to the dome, which is decorated with stucco ribbons based on the Andalusian model. The 12 meter high structure did not appear under rubble until 1948 and represents a transition stage between the early Umayyad architecture in Spain and the ornamentation subsequently spread by the Merinids . While geometric rib structures are placed on the outer dome shell, the inner wall fields are between the horseshoe-shaped ones Pillar arches completely filled with plant forms of intertwined leaf tendrils, flowers and pine cones. Although the Qubbat al-Barudiyin is architecturally equivalent to tombs, a basin exposed in the middle with a water supply indicates a function as a cleaning place for the ritual washing ( wudū ' ). According to another opinion it was a palace pavilion. The development of the decorative Moorish style took place in the late Almoravid period.

In Morocco , the Merinids established the tradition, holy men do not cheri fischer descent (in the 13th century marabouts ) and - of Muhammad's grandson - allegedly Hasan derived Sharif to worship in tombs. During this time the annual pilgrimages ( mausim ) began to the holy places, which in the flourishing popular Islamic currents were sometimes even seen as equivalent to the Hajj to Mecca. The Moroccan tradition of worshiping rulers began with the necropolis of Chellah in Rabat and another on a hill in the north of Fès , for which tombs were erected as domes based on models from the Near East.

In contrast, the tombs of the Saadian and Alawid dynasties (16th / 17th and from the 17th century until today) make the building tradition of the Andalusian craftsmen in Morocco visible. The pyramid roofs covered with green-glazed tiles instead of the domes over the main rooms can also be derived from the wooden structures that were common in the densely wooded areas of the Atlas Mountains . The posthumous worship of rulers continued with the grave of Mulai Ismail in Meknes and extends to the mausoleum with a pyramid roof of Mohammed V in Rabat.

Tomb of Sidi Abdallah al-Ġazwānī, called Moulay al-Qsur († 1528), one of the Seven Saints of Marrakech

Countless small square domed tombs of local saints are typical of rural areas in the Maghreb countries. They are painted white and often lie within an enclosure together with simple gravestones. White is the color of purity, it protects against dirt and negative influences from the other side.

Apart from the tombs with pyramid roofs, the Maghreb cupola tombs are variations of the monumental Middle Eastern architectural style. The transition from the square floor plan to the dome takes place via an octagonal link or via a round drum. Both create a base on which the dome can be placed. The outer walls are aligned with the base of the dome by means of corner gussets ( trumpets ).

In the Algerian highlands, the Qubbas are built in a local architectural style, which is characterized by a free-standing, slim, high dome in the form of a Nubian vault made of burnt bricks or mud bricks . In the suburb of al-ʿUbbād al-Suflī, two kilometers from the city center of Tlemcen in the north-west of Algeria, there are still a few Qubbas from pre-Merinid times before 1195. The brick buildings have horseshoe-shaped arches between four corner pillars, which support octagonal drums and domes. Next to these open pavilions, which are rare as tomb architecture, is the closed building of the Sufi saint and city patron Abū Madyan from the 14th century. As here, in the Maghreb, the Qubbas often belong to a building complex together with a mosque or a medrese.


Fatimid cemetery in Aswan . The mud brick tombs were originally plastered white.

After the Islamic conquest in 642, Aswan gained religious and economic importance as a stop on the pilgrimage to Mecca. The oldest grave structures in the Fatimid cemetery date from the 9th century, from the Tulunid period. The graves of the saints can no longer be assigned to their owners, as the marble inscriptions have fallen off and were brought to Cairo.

The oldest preserved domed tombs in Cairo are dated to the Fatimid period and stand on Muqattam Hill in the east of the city. The buildings are called Mashhad , they are monuments to a Shahid ( šahīd, literally "witness", meaning martyr ), who mostly comes from the family of prophets. This includes the Mashhad al-Dschuyuschi , which, according to an inscription, was built in 1085 by Grand Vizier Badr al-Jamali († 1094) and his son al-Afdal Shahanshah (around 1066-1121). The tomb with mosque is on the highest point of the bare hill on its western slope. It consists of a rectangular prayer hall containing a stuccoed and carefully painted mihrāb . The room next to it is intended to house the builder's grave. The building is dominated by an octagonal drum and a high pointed arch dome based on the Persian model. On the opposite side of the inner courtyard ( Sahn ) rises a three-story minaret, the top octagonal floor of which also leads to a high dome.

According to legend, al-Jamali is said to have chosen this vantage point over the city for himself in order to be able to see the mausoleums of his seven favorite women in the plains after death. The tomb is particularly popular with women who want to have children. A special sequence of rituals is necessary to fulfill wishes. The women have to climb the minaret and offer a prayer on each floor. Once at the top, you have to climb seven times over a wooden beam and throw a stone you have brought down from each of the four window openings. Saint Juyuschi is venerated as the ruler of the jinn and as the tsar spirit.

Mausoleum, madrasa and chanqah of the Mamluk
sultan al- Ashraf Barsbay (r. 1422–38), Northern Necropolis in Cairo
Mausoleum of the Mamluk sultan al-Mu'aiyad Sheikh in a corner of his tomb mosque, built between 1415 and 1420, at Bab Zuwayla in Cairo

Another Fatimid qubba is the Mashhad built by Sayyida Ruqayya in 1133. The Sayyida (feminine form of Sayyid ) was a daughter of the fourth caliph ʿAlī . She and ʿAlī's other daughters, Nafisa at-Tahira and Zainab bint Ali , are regarded as the patron saints of Cairo and venerated in their own tombs. The Qubba of the Sayyida Ruqayya is located in the southern part of the City of the Dead in Cairo. In front of the dome, made of bricks with a stucco covering, is an arcade, the three keel arches of which are supported in the middle by two slender double columns. The upper wall area is formed by muqarnas , which lead over to the octagonal transition zone below the dome, similar to Mashhad al-Juyuschi. A special feature are the vertical longitudinal ribs of the dome, which are visible from afar.

In the 13th century, the Bahri mamluks began to raise the domes by lengthening the drum. At the beginning of the 20th century, two qubbas of the family of Sultan Qalawun (r. 1279–1290) in this style with octagonal tambours were preserved. One of them has been renovated, it is part of a medresa complex. The stone substructure is the earliest surviving example of a new Syrian handicraft tradition which, together with the local use of bricks and stucco, makes the mausoleum one of the most important Mamluk buildings in Cairo.

In 1298, followers of Sheikh Zain ad-Din built a Qubba for the founder of their Sufi order, who was also chief judge ( Qādī ) under Sultan Qalawun, in the area of ​​the southern cemetery of Cairo . Around 1325 the tomb was integrated with other buildings into a zawiya , which ten years later received a monumental free-standing portal. On the outside, the dome is structured with bead-shaped vertical ribs that grow out of a circular drum pierced by a row of windows. The inner transition to the dome is broken up by delicate stucco muqarnas, which lead to the 28 ribbed arches of the dome, which are decorated with leafy tendrils. The ornamentation as well as the elevation of the dome and the drum refer to an influence from Central Asia, whereby the plastic outer design of the domes represents a design specialty of Cairo.


Three Wali tombs south of Karima . The interior of the left and middle grave building is limited by an inner round dome halfway up, the third grave on the right is open at the top and has light openings.

Many popular rituals have disappeared or are less publicly practiced in Egypt since the rise of Wahhabi Islam in the second half of the 20th century. Although an authoritarian state religion has dominated politics in Sudan since the 1980s with the introduction and strict interpretation of the Sharia laws, the traditional worship of saints has remained the characteristic element of Sudanese Islam.

Qubba by Muhammad al-Majdhub as-Sughayir (1796-1833) in ad-Damir . The influential scholar and saint headed the Sufi order of the Majdhubiya.

In Nubia , the white Qubbas that can be found everywhere are symbols of the veneration of local saints ( faki or feki, Pl. Fuqara or fuqaha ), whose fields of activity ranged from practicing magical practices at the request of customers to settling disputes as the lower judicial authority. According to general understanding, the blessing baraka of a saint increases after his death and is transmitted to the believers especially at his grave.

The simplest qubbas are egg-shaped structures made of adobe bricks that are built up in horizontal ring layers to form a Nubian vault . Apart from a mostly low entrance door, the interiors are only illuminated by a few small windows or light openings in the ceiling. The construction method is not reserved for graves of saints, there are also dovecotes in the same shape. The actual tomb in the Qubba is surrounded by sacrificial candles and hung with scraps of cloth, depending on the degree of veneration. The room can also be completely empty. To take advantage of the saint's protective power, farmers used to store their agricultural implements in the tombs. They were also the place to take solemn oaths.

Slightly larger qubbas consist of a square room above which a cone-shaped structure rises in the middle, the pointed shape of which is repeated in miniature domes at the four corners. Typical of this style is the tomb in Omdurman of Muhammad Ahmad , known as the Mahdi . The members of the numerous Sufi orders ( Tarīqas ) in Sudan venerate the graves of their sheikhs , which are usually located within a larger cemetery. Weekly dervish dances are held at the tomb of Hamad al-Nil, a Qadiriyya Sheikh in Omdurman .

Syria, Jordan

Over 100 qubbas have been counted in Damascus and the surrounding area, and even greater numbers are known in the Middle East as pilgrimage sites of saints in remote places in nature.

Domes of the Nur ad-Din tomb complex
Rukn ad-Din mausoleum dome

Mausoleums in urban settings

The architecture of the urban rulers' tombs follows the well-known principle of a cubic substructure with a drum pierced by windows and a dome above the main room on the flat roof. The earliest surviving tombs in Syria date from the 12th century, from the Zengid and the subsequent Ayyubid period. The Zengide Nur ad-Din (1147–1176) had the earliest combination of a madrasa and his own tomb built in the old town of Damascus in 1167 . The mausoleum has a square floor plan with a side length of 6.6 meters, the central dome structure of which consists of a multi-layered staggering of trumpets , which form a plastic cell structure ( muqarnas ) outside and inside . The actual round dome is only the upper end of the conical structure.

At the northwest corner of the Umayyad Mosque , Saladin's tomb ( Turbat Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn al-Ayyūbī ) from 1195/96 was preserved in the Ayyubid architectural style, while the madrasa that once belonged to it has disappeared except for a round arch. Above the central cube, a drum with 16 sides leads over to the dome. The inner transitions to the dome are made by trumpeting into octagon, then into hexagon . According to inscriptions, alterations took place in 1611 and 1878, among others; In 1898, after his visit , Kaiser Wilhelm II had it restored and a new sarcophagus erected.

From the time of the Bahri-Mamluken (1250-1390) several qubbas (referred to here as turbat ) have been preserved, which, as in Cairo, have been monumentalized with higher drums and domes. In particular, the portal niche decorated with muqarnas expanded in length. At the beginning of this development is the mausoleum, completed in 1224, in the madrasa of Emir Rukn ad-Din ( ar-Rukniyah-Madrasa ), the Ayyubid governor of Damascus, in which two drums are stacked on top of each other. The octagonal lower tower zone has wide Persian keel arch niches , the sixteen-cornered recessed step above is divided alternately by arched windows and blind niches with shell decorations. The mausoleum is located in the Damascus suburb of Salihiye north of the old town, where several rulers had their tombs built in the 12th and 13th centuries. The design and ornamentation are similar for the others.

The at-Turba at-Taynabiyya called mausoleum of Tanibak al-Hasani, who was governor of Damascus 1393-1400, is located in the southern part of Midan, where numerous mosques and mausoleums from Mamluk and Ottoman times are lined up on the pilgrimage route to Mecca . The harmonious looking facade from 1394/95, made of alternating layers of yellow sandstone and black basalt, is interrupted by the entrance niche with an upper muqarnas closure. This ends at the same level as the two twelve-sided reels of the roof domes that have been destroyed today. The construction is characteristic of the former suburban district.

Rural pilgrimage destinations

About 25 kilometers northwest of Damascus on a hilltop in the Barada valley is the most visited pilgrimage destination in Syria today, the tomb of the biblical Abel ( Qubbat an-Nabī Hābīl ), who is venerated as a prophet in Islam. The first description of the place comes from the English scholar Richard Pococke around 1740 . According to an earlier legend, Cain is said to have killed Abel here and then carried his body to the Jabal Qāsiyūn , Damascus' local mountain. Today the story goes the other way round: The murder took place on Jabal Qāsiyūn and only the tomb of the prophet Abel is located here. The grave building is a popular pilgrimage destination throughout the year, around 200 places to stay overnight have been built for the rush of visitors. On Fridays, lines of people form in front of the burial chamber. The pilgrims are predominantly Druze , with Alawites , Ismailis and, more rarely, Sunnis . The inner courtyard measures 30 × 30 meters, there is an oak in the middle and the mausoleum on the east side. The tomb inside is covered with red and green cloths. The length of the grave of seven meters has several explanations: It is not only Abel's body, but also the blood that was shed in it when he was murdered, and the people used to be giants and have reached a very old age. The number seven is sacred in Islam.

Classic shape of a remote place of pilgrimage. Tomb of Nabī Hārūn near Petra

Another biblical prophet in Islam is Aaron , whose alleged grave is on a 1,400 meter high mountain peak in Petra, Jordan . Today's Jabal Hārūn is said to correspond to Mount Hor of the Old Testament . The simple, almost square stone substructure is surmounted by a white round dome. In the north-west corner of the 9 × 10 meter room, a staircase leads to a narrow underground chamber. According to tradition, Hārūn (Aaron) died on a hill three days' journey northwest. A huge bird appeared and carried the body eastward. When the tired bird wanted to rest on a rock, it backed away so that it could not land. He could only put his load down on the local mountain peak. When the dead man lay on the rock, it opened, picked him up and closed again. The population noticed light appearances, came here and built a sanctuary. The body was removed from the rock and placed in a marble sarcophagus in the tomb. According to another legend, Aaron, riding a mare camel, asked Moses to bury him where the animal would stop and he would die. Moses buried him on the top of Mount Hor. Goats were sacrificed on the annual pilgrimages and on the weekly pilgrimage day (Friday), so that the sick could be healed.

South side of the Georgskirche

There were or are pilgrimage destinations in Syria that are visited by several Islamic religious communities and also by Christians. For example, the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George in Izra 'is visited by Muslims who suspect the grave of al-Ḫaḍr in the adjoining room behind the altar . This mythical figure ("the green one") is a herald of spring, has to do with the resurgent earth and is also seen as a being of the sea. He is mainly worshiped in Syria and is also known from West Africa to India. Muslims equate him with the prophet Elijah and St. George . They regard the church as the tomb of their saint, to whom they still offer animal sacrifices outside the church walls. In the past, this happened directly in the tomb behind the iconostasis .

The wish-fulfilling Nabī Hurī is venerated in an architecture that is unusual for Muslim graves. The tower building called Mazār an-Nabī Hurī from the 2nd or 3rd century was part of the Roman city of Kyrrhos and was given a new origin legend in Islamic times.


Mevlana Mausoleum in Konya. The green doorway rises above the sarcophagus of Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi.

From 1081 Konya was the capital of the Sultanate of the Rum Seljuks . The grave of the donor ( Waqf ) was often part of the madrasas . In the typical Hofmedresen the seldschukischen rum architecture orient the spaces on a central rectangular courtyard, at its narrow sides on the major axis two Iwane opposite and in other cases, two more Iwane on the transverse axis. In the Sırçalı Medrese, built in 1243–1244 , the tomb ( Türbe ) of the founder Bedreddin Muslih is located on the right side of the large entrance portal in the east. The transitions to the dome point to a Central Asian influence, they take place by means of curves between consoles and protruding friezes. A smaller part of the madrasas, in whose sequence of rooms tombs were integrated, are completely enclosed buildings by domes. Mosques and madrasas were often combined with outbuildings to form a larger building complex ( Külliye ).

The most famous building in Konya is the Mevlana Tekke . The former center of the Mevlevis (known as the Whirling Dervishes) was founded in the mid-13th century and contains the Rumis sarcophagus . The current building dates from the 16th century, the Seljuk architectural style only shows the conical green dome over the grave of the founder of the order.

The freestanding Qubbas of Asia Minor are commonly called Türbe, Gunbād or Minareli . The tower-like buildings have a polygonal symmetrical base and a slender pyramidal or conical roof. The inner transition to the dome in the Seljuk tomb towers is made by rows of keel arches placed one on top of the other. The simple exterior door next to the Lala Paşa mosque in Kayseri from the 14th century is typical of the building method mentioned . It merges from an octagonal base into a pyramid roof. In contrast, the octagonal door in front of the entrance to the Esrefoğlu Mosque from 1299 in Beyşehir is crowned by a conical roof. The builder of the mosque, Seyfettin Süleymen Bey, is buried here.

Iran, Iraq, Central Asia

Followers of Zoroastrianism buried the bones of the deceased in ossuary . The remains of a square building with a dome and a portal from the 5th / 6th centuries. Century were preserved in Merw . There was a grave cult here, but no mausoleum yet. While searching for the origin of the Muslim domed structure in Central Asia, Oleg Grabar (1963) came across an unusual mural fragment from the Sogdian city ​​of Old Punjakent (near Punjakent ) from the beginning of the 8th century. Behind a seated group of people, which apparently belongs to a funeral ceremony, a laid body can be seen, which is surrounded by a presumably temporary wooden structure made up of five round arches. This carries a domed roof that could be made of tent fabric. Grabar relates this construction to the portable tents in Arabia.

The two main forms of Iranian mausoleums since the Seljuk period in the 11th century have been qubbas, which are mostly square domed buildings in their basic form, and gonbads ( gunbād ), slender high tomb towers with a round or polygonal floor plan and a pointed roof. Burial towers are far more common in Iran than domed structures, but outside of Iran and Anatolia they are practically non-existent. The distinction is an architectural criterion, even if, for example, the grave tower Gonbad-e Qabus is mentioned in the inscriptions qubba and qasr .

Dome structures, which are formed by trumpet transitions over several intermediate zones with an octagon, are of Iranian origin. They differ from the Byzantine development of the pendentive dome, which extends uniformly into the room from the four corners of the base. The Iranian trumpet dome was used by the Sassanids for palaces and fire temples , in the Islamic period for mosques, graves and other cult buildings.

An early example of the free-standing polygonal towers built from the 9th century is the mausoleum with a conical roof built for Saiyida Zubayda, a wife of Caliph Harun ar-Raschid near Baghdad . In the holy Iranian city of Qom , 16 Qubbas of this type made of fired bricks from the 12th to 16th centuries have been preserved. Almost all of them have an octagonal basic shape and a pyramid roof, under which an inner round dome was drawn in for stabilization.

The oldest surviving domed tomb is the Samanid mausoleum in Bukhara for the Samanid ruler Ismail († 907). It is famous for its external walls made of fired bricks, completely covered with geometric ornaments. The badly damaged mausoleum of the Seljuk sultan Ahmad Sandschar from 1157 is in the Turkmen town of Merw . The square structure, impressive due to its size, consists of 6 meter thick walls. The cube has a side length of 27 meters and is 14 meters high. Above this is a 5.5 meter high arcade as a gallery, behind which the lower part of the dome disappears. With a total height of around 30 meters, the dome shape is reminiscent of the stupas once revered by Buddhists around the northern Afghan city of Balch .

Restored Gur-Emir mausoleum

From around the 14th century, an architectural development began with the aim of further increasing the dome with a tambour and a second outer dome shell. The inner dome reduces the height of the room, while the outer shape continues to approximate the regional tower-like stupas. The Gur-Emir mausoleum in Samarqand from 1405 is an example of this. The gallery is now within the main drum; instead of the arcades, only stone lattice windows open to the outside, which lie in the wall surface.

Another development under the Shiite Safavids is the tomb of Khwaja Rabi (Khoja Rabi) from 1621 in Mashhad . The eight-sided lower structure has four large wall niches on two floors at the corners and keel-arched ivans in the middle of both floors . The upper gallery is also connected to the interior via windows. There is an architectural connection with the contemporary garden pavilions such as the Hascht Behescht (Hasht-Bihisht) in Isfahan , which has the same two-storey corner rooms and in which the wives of the Shah stayed. The name means "eight paradises" according to the Koranic idea of ​​the hereafter. It refers to a symmetrical floor plan in which eight rooms surround a central domed hall and which was further used in the Indo-Islamic architecture of the Mughal Empire . The Indian tomb Taj Mahal is based on the same plan . The Hascht Behescht mausoleums are located in the center of a Persian garden (Persian chahār bāgh , "four gardens").

Qubba as a palace

Particularly in the early Islamic period, some representative buildings without a religious function were called qubba . Several Umayyad palaces were named Qubbāt al-ḫaḍrā . The first was built from bricks under the caliph Uthman (r. 644–656) in Damascus near the Friday Mosque and was at least in the 9th century. Another palace with this name was built around this time in the city of Wasit (today in the governorate of al-Wasit in Iraq), the third palace was built by Caliph Hisham (r. 724-743) in Resafa (in the Syrian desert ). When the Abbasid caliph al-Mansūr laid the foundation stone for his capital Baghdad in 762 , the " Round City " , according to the historian at-Tabarī , included a domed palace called Qubbāt al-ḫaḍrā , which is said to have formed the center of the complex with a height of 40 meters . At its tip there was therefore a kind of weather vane in the form of an equestrian statue. The figure was supposed to predict storms and did so: in a storm in 941, the dome collapsed, four years before the city was conquered by the Buyids .

Qubbāt al-ḫaḍrā is usually translated as “green dome”, where ḫaḍrā means “green” as an adjective. Since there were no green tiles with which domes were later covered in the Umayyad period, the early palace buildings, which have only been handed down in literary terms, could have been covered by a wooden dome clad with copper sheet. The Arabic root ḫ-ḍ-r also means "nature" or "life" and as a noun al-ḫaḍrā can refer to heaven. This resulted in the originally more accurate translation of “dome of heaven”, which was only later changed - perhaps when you actually saw green domes - to the meaning that is common today. The interpretation as a sky dome allows comparisons with early Islamic palaces, where this impression was aroused by appropriate design. In the hunting lodge Qusair 'Amra , which was probably built by the Umayyad prince al-Walid (706–744) , the dome of the caldarium is painted with a night sky. The stars are represented figuratively based on ancient or Byzantine models. The palace of the Hisham , built by the same client, had, as stucco fragments show, a dome with four winged horses and above it with birds painted. The representation corresponds with the other details of the late antique symbolism of an otherworldly, divine sphere.

With the influence of Arab culture, the name qubba came to mean a secular palace belonging to the Norman kings in Sicily . In 1180 the La Cuba Castle near Palermo was completed. It is a tall cube without a domed roof. Another castle nearby is called Cuba Soprana to distinguish it . The Cubula ("small dome") is a pavilion also from the 12th century in Palermo with a dome.

Small dome buildings called cuba on the Iberian Peninsula are based on the Arabic name and the Arabic design . They are particularly numerous in rural regions in the south of Portugal, where over 300 cubas are known as free-standing buildings or as extensions to houses.

Holy cults and dogmatic Islam

A qubba is a cult of saints that has become architecture as a grave cult. Muslim worship of saints is practiced in different Islamic faiths, it is particularly popular in North Africa, South Asia and Indonesia . Even in strictly Islamic ruled states like Yemen , a personality cult around saints can assert itself. However, dogmatic currents in Islam have always rejected the veneration of saints as heterodox . They include the salafitisch embossed Ahl al-Hadith , the Wahhabis , Muhammadiyah in Indonesia and the Hanafi movement Deobandi and Tariqa-yi Muhammadiya in India. In relation to Qubbas, these currents are in the tradition of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1792), whose followers destroyed the dome tombs there after the conquest of Mecca. Among other things, they took a hadith from the Muslim as a reason .


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