The Minaret of Mosul's Great Mosque, 1170-2, known locally as Al-Hadba, is attributed to Nur al-Din al-Zangi Atabeg of Damascus who occupied Mosul in 1170 taking control from his brother Saif el Din Ghazi bin Qutb al-Din al Zingi.
The minaret was built as part of a complex composed of a mosque and a madrasa all named after the patron. The madrasa, which was known as Madrasat al Jami' al-Nuri, and the mosque itself known as Jami' al-Nuri were destroyed in 1942 as part of rennovation project orchestrated by the Iraqi Department of Antiquities. These restoration works consisted of destroying the old mosque and rebuilding it with old and new material according to a total new plan. All that remains from this complex are the impressive minaret, two mihrabs, an inscribed marble slab, and some stucco decoration.
It would appear, as Herzfeld states, that what remained standing until 1942, was not the sole construction of Nur al-Din but the result of expansion and embellishment works carried out by Nur al-Din on an earlier mosque built by Sayf al-Din Ghazi I in 1148 which has also been built over an earlier Islamic shrine. The validity of this statement has been contested as early as 1949 by Diwaji, a Mosulite writer referring to the text of Ibn al-Athir who gained the information from his father, a high official in the court of the first Zangids of Mosul.
The brick minaret lies in the northwestern corner of the mosque courtyard. It is built on a tapered stone cubical base 15.5 meters high and 8.8 meters deep. Its four sides have different decoration patterns. The north, south and eastern sides can be grouped, having stepped squares motifs placed on their edges; they are framed by a six pointed stars band; whereas the western side is decorated with a central medallion with geometric and vegetal motifs, a field and border very similar to carpet designs. The center is occupied by an eight-sided star, surrounded by eight five-sided stars. The field is filled with patterns similar to the ones of the three other sides of the cube but here the squares are larger and filled with smaller ones. The border of the western panel consists of hexagons filled with arabesque interlaces. An arcaded door on the eastern side of the square, define the entrance point to the minaret. The tapered cylindrical brick shaft, 45 meters high, leaning eastward, has a circular plan that rests on the square base. It is decorated with seven bands of different brick motifs separated with six thin friezes some of which display hazarbaf detailing (brick ornament which is part of the surface, not just applied to it). The balcony sits on metallic consoles supporting the slab and the metallic balustrade. The balcony dates from 1925 when it was repaired after its destruction in 1796 by lightning. The spire is made of simple brickwork topped with rope motif just below the dome ending.
This minaret demonstrates the impact of Iranian architecture in both construction and decoration where hazar-baf is known from as early as the first half of the eleventh century. This type of minaret construction and decoration with a square base is considered to be a typical feature of the later Abbasid minaret constructions and remains in the architectural vocabulary of Iran and Afghanistan.
Al-Janab Tariq Jawad, 1982, Studies in Medieval Iraqi Architecture, Baghdad, Ministry of culture and Information, State Organization of Antiquities and Heritage, 207-211.
Ettinghausen Richard and Grabar Oleg, 1994. The Art and Architecture of Islam 650-1250, Yale University Press, 298.
Michell, George, Ed: 1978. Architecture of the Islamic World. London, Thames and Hudson, 249.
Bosworth, Clifford Edmond. 1996. The New Islamic Dynasties, New York, Columbia University Press, 190-191.
Al-Tabbaa, Yasser Ahmad, 1982. The architectural patronage of Nur al-Din, (1146-1174), New York University, University Microfilms International.