Qutb Minar and its Monuments
On the outskirts of Delhi, the capital of India, stands the tallest tower in the country. It is 72.5m tall and is called the Qutb Minar. It was commissioned by the Islamic warlord, Qutb-ud-din- Aibak.
In 1192 Aibaks military forces swept into India, seizing Delhi and establishing the first Islamic dynasty in the region. The tower was built to commemorate his victory and to emphasize the dominance and power of Islam over the population. The tower is in fact a Mina, the tower from which the Islamic call to prayer is made.
Since the teachings of Islam forbid the worship of idols or icons, only texts from the Koran are carved onto the towers walls as decoration. This use of the texts became a highly developed aesthetic as well as religious art form.
However, before the tower, Aibak ordered the construction of the first mosque in India.
He named it Quwwat-ul Islam, which means The Might of Islam.
The mosque is decorated with delicate and detailed Islamic patterns as well as boasting some decidedly un-Islamic features. For example, the pillars which hold up the passageways around the perimeter of the interior courtyard are all different from one another in shape, pattern and width. Not a single column has the same design as another so that there is no sense of unity. This is not what one would expect to find in Islamic architecture, in which unity of design is highly prized.
There is another strange detail, as can be seen on the top of this column, there is a carved figure of a person, which is most certainly contrary to Islamic teachings So why did an Islamic ruler allow the creation of such an unusual mosque?
It is because the stones which were used to build the columns were actually taken from Hindu temples. In a hurry to establish his dominance on the population, Aibak used military elephants to quickly demolish 27 Hindu temples and used the stones to build mosques.
So, ironically, the first mosque in India, which was intended to symbolize the power and might of Islam is, at least aesthetically, a rather un-Islamic building.
Both the tower and the mosque combine elements not only of the conquerors culture but also of culture of the people he conquered.
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