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Symbol

This circular figure appears on the top of the minarets and domes of a great number of Islamic worship places around the world (even as far back as the middle ages—the first image is from the Book of Wonders / Kitab al-Bulhan). What does it represent? A common theory is that it's a stylized crescent; but many Muslims say the crescent is not intrinsically a symbol of Islam. I've seen someone call it "the horns of Dhul Qarnayn"; which sounds too far-fetched, as Dhul Qarnayn isn't that much of a major figure in Islam.

So, what are the most common explanations in Muslim literature/historiography for this symbol?

  • What about a crescent moon? – Sassir Jan 5 '18 at 20:48
  • The crescent not having having a religious basis doesn't mean that it isn't part of Muslim culture, albeit adopted from the Turks rather than the Arabs. – UmH Jan 7 '18 at 2:41
  • @Uma It is true that crescent has been adopted by Muslims. But as far as I know, Turks achieved dominance over the Islamic world by the end of the middle ages. There are many non-Turkish Islamic architecture built before that period which have this symbol. – Esoppant Jan 8 '18 at 21:49
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    Esoppant is correct. The moon is a significant symbol in Islam. There is a surah in the Quran named after the moon; surah 54 Al Qamar. In this surah a miracle of our prophet is mentioned where the moon is split asunder and moments later put back together. The onlookers dismissed what they witnessed as a magical illusion or trick. Some scholars also signıfy this revelation as the start of the muslim lunar calendar coinciding with the Hijra (migration) to Medina (Yathrib). The moon is also mentioned numerous times in the Quran. – Ed Kideys Oct 10 '18 at 8:50
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    @0tyranny0poverty The same can be said of many other things. There is a surah named after the sun, surah 91 Ash-Shams. The sun regulates prayer and fasting times. The sun is even mentioned more times than the moon in the Quran. – UmH Oct 10 '18 at 12:09
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The origins of the crescent moon and associated star symbols predate Islam as revealed to the prophet Muhammed by several millenia with archeological evidence of its use dating back to ancient Sumer. Thus these were originally pagan symbols with "the crescent usually being associated with the moon god Sin (Nanna) and the star with Ishtar (Inanna, i.e. Venus).

There are aleem that claim the cresent and star have nothing to do with Islam and remain pagan symbols that should not adorn the tops of mosques. They emphasize that masjids should be free of any symbols other than calligraphic verses from the Quran.

Other Islamic scholars opine that the crescent moon and the moon itself are significant in Islam. The moon is referenced many times in the Quran. There is a surah in the Quran named after the moon; surah 54 Al Qamar. In this surah a miracle of our prophet is mentioned where the moon is split asunder and moments later put back together. The onlookers dismissed what they witnessed as a magical illusion or trick. Some scholars also signıfy this revelation as the start of the muslim lunar calendar coinciding with the Hijra (migration) to Medina (Yathrib).

The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar month. A new month does not officially begin unless the new moon is witnessed. Since timing and scheduling of worship is based on the calendar moon and the daytime positions of the sun (Shems), it would be natural to put a symbol of the sun or the moon on top of the place of worship. The only practical and recognizable symbol would be the crescent moon since a spherical or semi-spherical object would be too obtuse.

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  • Ah, I didn't know there were disputes over this in the Islamic world. I'd side with the contrarian aleems on this one. Since while the moon might be culturally relevant to Arabs, its significance in Islam seems modest to me. Thank you for the in depth answer. – Esoppant Oct 8 at 8:34
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This is a crescent, heraldry of Tatars and Mongols who got absorbed into Muslim culture.

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  • Salam and welcome to IslamSE the Q&A site about Islam. Consider taking the tour and checking our help center to learn more about our site and the stackexchange model. As to your post adding evidences to support your claims would make it more helpful (see How to Answer). – Medi1Saif Oct 10 '18 at 9:52

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