Since decoration must not interfere with people’s concentration in prayers, the decoration carved inside and immediately next to the mihrab (imam’s or prayer leader’s niche) section, in particular, and on the qiblah wall, in general, normally stands above the eye-level. Certainly, this is not a wide-spread custom by chance. The Muslims are strongly advised to fix their sight in prayers on the place of prostration to ensure full concentration. This decree was issued by the Prophet (pbuh) when mosque decoration had a long way to go and when nobody was giving it serious consideration. Thus, in most mosques on the lower section of the qiblah wall, decoration is either completely non-existent or greatly minimized so that its potentially negative impact during prayers is thwarted. The upper section of the qiblah wall is reserved for rich decoration with a rich Islamic artistic vocabulary.
Decoration as an instrument of enhancing the real qualities of a thing
The other type of decoration or beautification brought to light in both the Holy Qur’an and the statements (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the one that plays the role of an instrument that enhances the real and original qualities of a thing. The Qur’an says, for example:
“We have indeed decked the lower heaven with beauty (in) the stars” (Al-Saffat 6).
“It is We Who have set out constellations in the heavens and made them fair-seeming to (all) beholders” (Al-Hijr 16).
“Do they not look at the sky above them? How We have made it and adorned it, and there are no flaws in it” (Qaf 6).
“…But Allah has endeared the Faith to you, and has made it beautiful in your hearts, and He has made hateful to you unbelief, wrongdoing, and rebellion…” (Al-Hujurat 7).
Decoration, adornment, embellishment or beautification, all these are regularly translated in Arabic in their noun forms as zinah and zukhruf, and in their verb forms as zayyana and zakhrafa. The Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) speak of the idea of decoration in diverse contexts, such as the built environment, natural environment, the meaning of life, man’s spiritual progression, family life, society, and the like. In this manner, Almighty God and His last Messenger convey powerful messages to people, regardless of their ages, vocations and overall life interests. The Qur’anic verses and the Prophet’s traditions of the mentioned type have adopted varied tones, styles and substance so that the intended messages could be conveyed effectively. However, all the messages and lessons that could be drawn from the mentioned Qur’anic verses and the Prophet’s statements and traditions can be placed, by and large, under the jurisdiction of two thrusts: decoration as an instrument of deception, and decoration as an instrument of enhancing the original qualities of a thing. It goes without saying, therefore, that due to their significance and implications for life with all its facets and secrets, the two cited thrusts lie at the core of the Islamic message.