The minbar is the elevated seat of honor in the mosque and it represents religio-political authority. It is similar, but not identical to, the place and function of the pulpit in Christian churches. Not only is the Muslim Friday sermon (khutba) delivered from its base by the local preacher, but important public pronouncements are also made from it. For instance, in the past the Qur˒anic prohibition on wine was delivered from the minbar. Muslim rulers (caliphs), as well as provincial governors or their representatives sat on it and delivered the Friday sermon. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, preaching from the minbar has been used to oppose political authority as well as to support it. In Egypt and Saudi Arabia, minbar sermons in local mosques critiquing the government have been taped and widely distributed. In 1979, minbar sermons were instrumental in mobilizing revolutionary activity against the shah of Iran. However, the main function of the minbar has always been ethical rather than political, with sermons providing guidance on worship, family life, education, and cordial human relations.
Sermons and announcements delivered from the minbar assume greater consequence in part because the minbar is located next to the prayer niche (mihrab) in the most sacred part of the mosque. Minbars are composed of a platform with steps with a seat at the top and a balustrade, all usually made of wood and sometimes, in urban mosques, they may be elaborately carved and decorated.
Borthwick, Bruce. "The Islamic Sermon as a Channel of Political Communication." The Middle East Journal 21, no. 3 (1967): 299–313.
Gaffney, Patrick. The Prophet's Pulpit: Islamic Preaching in Contemporary Egypt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
Richard T. Antoun