The inscription in geometric kufic reads: al-'inaya li'llah al-quwwah li'llah al-qudrah li'llah al-hidayah li'llah (Sympathy is God's, power is God's, strength is God's, guidance is God's).
The inscription around the niche in kufic and naskh comprises the Throne Verse, Qur'an II, sura al-baqara, v. 255. The upper band has the beginnings of a hadith of the Prophet which reads qala al-nabi 'alayhi al-salam ... (The Prophet, peace be upon him, said...).
The hanging lamp decorating the niche illustrates sura al-nur (The Light): Allah is the Light of the heavens and of the earth. His light is as if there were a lustrous niche, wherein is a lamp contained in a crystal globe (Qur'an XXIV, vv.36-39).
One of the closest comparables to this elegant panel is the tombstone of Mahmud bin Dada Muhammad dated AH 753/1352 AD now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Géza Fehérvári, 'Tombstone or Mihrab? A Speculation' in Richard Ettinghausen, ed., Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1972, p.241-54, cat.5). The two panels have a central niche with a pointed arch supported by columns with vase-shape pedestals. They each have a similar square field with a kufic seal script form. The foliage growing in the background is very similar on each panel as are the spandrels with geometric interlace and the calligraphic scripts used in the inscriptions. The rows of muqarnas decorating the niche of the Metropolitan Museum example have been replaced on our panel by the large hanging mosque lamp whilst the muqarnas have been used above the central arch as cornicing elements, giving the panel a strong architectural aspect. Similarities between both panels are striking and there are few doubts that they were both carved in the same region and at a similar time.
Although of relatively small format (81 x 50cm), our panel can be compared with monumental examples which have similar decorative motifs and layout such as a mihrab in the mausoleum of the Imamzadeh Abu al-Fazl wa Yahya in Mahallat Bala, Iran, dated circa 1300. Mihrab panels of smaller dimension existed and a panel now in the Fars Museum in Shiraz was originally placed in the Friday Mosque of that city and used as a mihrab. It measures 103 x 95cm and displays decorative features similar to those visible here (Géza Fehérvári, op.cit., p.249, cat.7). These comparable examples suggest that our panel was probably used as a mihrab in a private foundation or mosque.