Essay on Mubkhar

1. This paper is dedicated to the objects of the Islamic art, their connections to the history of the Islamic art, origins of design as well as historical approximate period of emergence. I have chosen an incense burner Mubkhar and will present it in two ways- objective descriptive and subjective personal.

Mubkhar is an incense burner for agar wood and bukhoor. It is a portable burner and its dimensions are usually about 10 cm in width and 20 cm in height. Of course, dimensions can vary. Mubkhar relates to the category of metal work of Islamic art. In general there are two major types of incense burners, which are distinguished according to their origin- western and oriental types. Western types are of Coptic and Byzantine origins of design.

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Oriental type is of Indian origin. Incense burners of western origin emerged during Umayyad period, at the end of 7th or at the beginning of the 8th century. The material from which Mubkhar is made can be different- copper, brass, bronze, ceramics, steel, but it should have a metal cup inside. It can also be decorated with silver and gold inlaid design (Monsul, after Mongol invasion of Central Asia and Iran). In general, Mubkhars were traditionally decorated with arabesques, inscriptions, plant forms, etc. Interesting fact is that Islamic Traditions forbade use of human and animal figures from religious art. Therefore decorations are usually abstract.

2. It was historically developed that incense burners were used for magical, religious and social occasions. Speaking about my personal experiences regarding Mubkhar I must say that I and my family are using Mubkhar for burning bekhoor to provide a good Arabic natural smell. We are using it instead of wearing perfumes. It is generally used by all my family members, but it is kept away from little children and it cannot be used by them as it can be dangerous and they can get a burn. I use Mubkhar on everyday basis, before I go to school; it is a normal day-to-day practice to me. My family also uses it for different special occasion of Islamic origin, such as Eid and Ramadan. When someone comes to visit us, we also use Mubkhar for a good smell at home.

When nothing is inside burning, then it feels like cold and metal to touch. For me, using of Mubkhar is not a simple thing; it is a real ritual that I pay much attention and importance to. I can even say that it is sacred to me, as it connects me with my forefathers. I try to experience the same things as they did when they used is centuries ago. I want to feel the importance that use of Mubkhar carried to them and meaning of it in their lives. It is a kind of spiritual gift from the past.

It can be stored anywhere in the house, because as far as I know the place of storage does not matter very much. In our house it can be found on the table or commode. It is obviously a visible location, as there is no sense in hiding Mubkhar, as it is not a personal thing that should be kept from other’s eyes.

Frankly speaking I associate Mubkhar with no activities, but every time I use it I am remembering the past of my family as Mubkhar is already used by many generations. My Kuwaiti parents and grandparents used it for a long time, and feel myself the part of something eternal, as historical heritage and traditions of my nation and of my family matters a lot to me.

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