Driving through Salalah city, or through remote villages in the mountains and villages at the edge of the desert, the minarets of the mosques are immediately recognizable. The Sultanate of Oman has about 13000 mosques. Nowadays the call for the prayer via loudspeakers has become the norm. So when and why minarets became so popular?
In his book ‘ Islamic Architecture, form, function and meaning’ Robert Hillenbrand mentions the fact that “according to literary evidence, the first minaret was erected under the caliph Mu’awiya in 665AD at the instance of his governor in Iraq. Soon in 673AD at behest of the governor of Egypt the mosque of Amr at Fustat was given a quartet of minarets. Although nothing remains of any of these structures, this literary evidence reveals that the demand to build minarets came from the highest power in the country. The idea may well have come from Syria at that time the center of the Umayyad dynasty.”
By further reading one can say that Mu’awiya’s conception of his role as caliph is very relevant in the story of the minarets. Robert Hillenbrand: “It was precisely in Mu’awiya’s caliphate that the four minarets for the Fustat mosque were ordered. Christian Syria, within which the Muslim formed a few small enclaves, was endowed with fine stone churches whose most striking external feature was a tall tower. Mu’awiya sensitively attuned to the discrepancies between Christian and Muslim culture and to the need to reconcile them wherever possible, can scarcely have failed to compare this Christian practice with its much simpler Islamic equivalent.”