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Technical Glossary


The sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Any hadith is of two parts the matn (subject) and the isnad (chain of transmission).  


Literally means presence and is used by Sufis to denote an act of devotion. In a hadra different prayers, verses from the Qur’an and zikr (remembrance of God) are recited/chanted. 

Hafsids (1229-1574 A.D.) 

This was the dynasty ruling Tunisia, eastern Algeria and Tripoli from their main capital Tunis. They were originally the Berber tribes of Banu Hafs Umar, named after one of the primary supporters of Ibn Tumart, the Almohad founder. Abu Hafs Umar's son, Abu Zakariya Yaha (r. 1229-1249 A.D.) became the Almohad governor of Tunisia, and established independence in 1229 A.D. creating the largest dynasty succeeding the Almohads. Zakariya's son, Muhammad I al-Muntasir (r.1249-1277 A.D.) repelled the Seventh Crusade in 1270 A.D., taking on the title of caliph. Following his death bloody feuds errupted, but prosperity was recovered under Abu-l Abbas Ahmad (1370-1394 A.D.) and continued until 1494 A.D. when many sub-regions gained independence. The Hafsids were dominated by Ottomans in 1505 A.D. and forced to accept the Spanish Emperor Charles V's occupation in 1535 A.D. They struggled between Ottoman authority and Spanish attacks until they were eventually deposed by the Ottomans in 1574 A.D. 

Haft rang 

Persian for seven colours. It describes overglaze painted tiles in Iran.  


Derived from the Arabic root hajab or to veil. A hajib is a chamberlain who controlled the access to the ruler.  


The Pilgrimage to Mecca. It can also be used as a title for someone who has gone on pilgrimage. In the latter context, Hajj refers to a man and Hajjah is used for women.  


A special type of a staircase mentioned frequently in the Mamluk documents, however examples of which are no longer extant. The name is derived from Halab (Aleppo), because the style was inspired from there.  


Refers to bath houses, both private and public. Public hammams were an important feature of Islamic cities. 


One of the four Sunni legal schools. The originator of this school was Abu Hanifa al-Nu‘man ibn Thabit ibn Zuta (699-767 A.D.), a Persian who studied with Ja‘far al-Sadiq in Madina.  


One of the four Sunni legal schools. The originator of this school was Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780-855 A.D.). His school of law was the strictest amongst the four.  


A squinch. An architectural element in the form of a niche used to carry domes on square or rectangular bases. Some other uses are purely decorative as the one used on the Raqqa gate built by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur in the 8th century A.D. In a sense it was the basis for the evolution of muqarnas.  


Rooms beneath religious buildings used as shops, warehouses, or stand-alone stores. This can be seen in the shops beneath the Mosque of Salih Tala’i‘ (1160 A.D.), the Madrasa of Sarghatmish (1356 A.D.) and the Mosque of Qijmas al-Ishaqi (1481 A.D.). The hanuts were rented and the revenue generated as a result was used for the upkeep of the building.  


Arabic word generally referring to a sort of sanctuary. It is usually used to denote sanctuary of the mosque, specifically with reference to the Holy Mosques of Mecca and Medina. 


Arabic term referring to the Holy Mosques of Mecca and Medina. It derives from the word haram, meaning sanctuary. 


Derived from Turkish. The space in a house or palace allocated for the women.  

Hasht Bihisht 

Literally means 'Eight Paradises,' and is a term used to refer to octagonal pavilions. 


A storage place. They were rooms found in wikalas or beneath religious buildings, the function of which were the same as the hanut.  


Water basin.  


A large open area that could be a courtyard of a house or a cemetery attached to a large religious structure.  


Ground floor hall in Anatolian Ottoman houses used to receive male guests. 


Walled enclosure, sometimes used to contain game for hunting, and usually associated with early Islamic palaces. Examples are found in Qasr al-Hayr West (724-7 A.D.)and Qasr al-Hayr East (728-9 A.D.) in Palmyra, Syria, although these enclosures may have been more utilitarian in nature.  

Hazar Baf 

Persian, literally meaning 'thousand weavings'. In architecture it is a surface decoration where the wall is patterned in relief with bricks that create a play of light and shadow.  


Funerary enclosure that is unroofed and often includes a mosque, found particularly in the Iranian regions.  




The migration of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Madina (Yathrib) in 622 A.D., which is the first year in the Hijri calendar.  


Camp for short-term usage. 


A square terrace-like structure with four corner towers that is surrounded by a circular moat and circular walls. 


Prefecture of civil life during the medieval period. The post was held by the muhtasib.  


A fortress.  


With reference to the kiswa of the Ka'ba this is an embroidered or woven textile band composed of eight sections used to cover the upper part of the kiswa


Room, chamber or cell. 


Al-Husayn was the second son of ‘Ali and Fatima, and the grandson of the Prophet. He was born in 642 A.D. and was murdered in 680 A.D. Being a venerated saint, many structures were built in different parts of the Muslim world commemorating him. The Fatimids had brought his head from Karbala’ and buried it next to the Eastern Palace. The 19th century mosque of al-Husayn now occupies this spot.  


A structure composed of supporting columns beneath a flat roof. This was very popular in mosque construction, particularly in the early periods.