By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on
Caliph 'Abd al-Malik bin Marwan (688-703) had the مسجد قبة الصخرة Dome of the Rock built in 692.
It had no precedent in Islamic architecture's short history of simple and utilitarian buildings. If anything, the Dome was not functional, it was not even a mosque, but it was commemorative, a monument, a shrine to the Rock and to محمد Muhammad's mission.
Today the Rock is associated with محمد Muhammad's Night Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, and from the Rock to Heaven, where he conversed with earlier prophets and God gave him the Islamic doctrine.
However, this tradition was only present from the early 8th century onwards. Its function when built is debated, and discussed below.
|Arabs Take Jerusalem||AD 638||Muslim Arabs conquer Jerusalem, taking it from the Christians.|
|Construction||AD 685 - 692||An inscription dates the Dome of the Rock to year 72, equivalent to AD 692. Its construction was commanded by Umayyad king 'Abd al-Malik bin Marwan.|
Little is known about Islamic perception of Jerusalem and the Dome in the pre-Crusades era.
There is an especial paucity under the Umayyad kings, as no Islamic historical sources have been found from the Umayyad era. The earliest Islamic historical sources are from the Abbasid kings, whose mentions of Umayyads are limited to bombastic criticism, failing to mention good, pious acts like al-Malik's building of the Dome.
Thus it has remained a mystery as to the Dome's exact function, and its temporal context in Jerusalem. However, scholar Oleg Grabar posited an accepted theory about the role of the Dome in this era.
Grabar saw the Dome as an injection of Islamic presence into the Holy City.
Religiously, its Biblical connotations (see below, comparisons with the Solomonic Temple) and Christian-Byzantine forms implied Islam's continuity with Judaism and Christianity. Politically, al-Malik drew upon classic Levantine and even Iranian motifs to reflect the Umayyads' fresh conquest of the region.
Yet its role would change. In the 8th century, tradition trumped confusion over where محمد Muhammad ascended to heaven. It grew accepted that the Rock was the site, giving the Dome an additional, still widely adored, significance.
From the 8th century until the Crusades, the preachings of Abu Bakr al-Wasiti (? - 1019) are one of the only sources; his analysis is below.
Muslim awareness of Jerusalem was transformed yet again with the Crusades in the 12th century. Ayyubid king Saladin propagandized about the Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, exalting their great sanctity to instigate Muslims to join his fight to reclaim them from the Crusaders who had taken Jerusalem.
This congealed and heightened Muslim piety toward the city and its Islamic monuments.
|Associated to Ascension||8th cent|
|Crusades||Christians take Jerusalem.|
|Muslim Re-Conquest||12th cent|
al-Wasiti and the Dome of the Rock
al-Wasiti's brief account of the Dome of the Rock reveals that the traditions regarding Mount Moriah, the site of the Dome and the Temple, were rooted in the Old Testament (except for محمد Muhammad's Night Journey, attested in القرآن the Quran).
Jerusalem's holiness to Islam was primarily Judaic, a heritage to which Islam laid claim. Indeed, Jerusalem's sanctity was likely transmitted by محمد Muhammad's Companions, who were themselves rooted in Judaism and Christianity. al-Wasiti's account reveals essentially three Islamic pre-Crusade traditions about Mount Moriah, the site of the Dome and the Temple.
(1) Contrasting Mount Moriah with the Ka'aba in Mecca, and their timetable in the Creation and Day of Judgment. (2) The miracles witnessed there by David and Solomon, and that a hierophany there led to the Temple being built. (3) محمد Muhammad's Night Journey.
Further, the Rock itself had several roles.
(1) It was the second earthly place created by God, after the Ka'aba. (2) God ascended to heaven from the Rock after the Creation. (3) David and Solomon (regarded as prophets) saw miracles performed on the Rock. (4) محمد Muhammad led the other Islamic prophets to pray at it when they visited Jerusalem. Among these traditions, noticeably absent is the Abrahamic sacrifice. This is because Islam assigned Abraham to Mecca, where he built God's first house, the ka'ba.
However, Jerusalem was the sacred spot of David and Solomon, God-sent messengers and God-supported kings. These early associations explain why Jerusalem, not a major urban center nor political capital, was given such priority by the Umayyads. It is also clearer why the king Mu'awiya would choose Jerusalem as where to proclaim himself king.
Dome of the Rock, the Solomonic Temple and the Chuch of the Holy Sepulchre
Across from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was the Temple Mount (Eastern Hill), reflecting the inseparability of Judaism from Christianity.
Yet the Temple Mount was left barren under Christian rule, revealing the animosity the latter exerted against the former. The Dome of the Rock responded both to Judaism and to Christianity: it was built atop the Temple Mount, and the site became associated in Muslim thought with the Abrahamic sacrifice; and it was built across from the Church, as "Abd al-Malik, seeing the greatness of the qubba of the Holy Sepulchre and its magnificence, was moved lest it should dazzle the minds of Muslims and hence erected the Dome of the Rock" (from Al-Muqaddasi).
Priscilla Soucek saw Solomonic precedence in the Dome of the Rock's ornamentation.
Solomon's Temple was praised by Islamic sources for its decorations, and it is unsurprising that those same motifs found their way into the outer octagon of the Dome of the Rock.
However, Soucek concluded that these associations had more to do with Mount Moriah, the Rock and the holiness of the site; it was not a resuscitation of the memory of Solomon's Temple itself.
Dome of the Rock Inscriptions
|South||In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. There is no god but God alone, without partner. Say: He is God, One, God the Everlasting, who has not begotten and has not been begotten. He is without equal [Qur’an 112] Muhammad is God’s messenger, may God bless him.|
|SW||In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. There is no god, but God alone, without partner. Muhammad is God’s messenger. God and His angels send blessings on the Prophet.|
|West||O, you who believe, send blessings on him and salute him with all respect [Q 33:54/56]. In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. There is no god but God alone. Praise|
|NW||be to God who has not taken a son and who does not have any partner in dominion nor any protector out of humbleness. Magnify Him with repeated magnificats [Q 17:111]. Muhammad is God’s messenger,|
|North||may God, His angels and His messengers bless him and God grant him peace and mercy. In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, there is no god, but God alone, without partner.|
|NE||To Him belongs dominion and to Him belongs praise. He gives life and He makes to die; He is powerful over all things (Q 64:1 and 57:2]. Muhammad is God’s messenger, may God bless him and accept his intercession on the day of resurrection for his community.|
|East||In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. There is no god but God alone, without partner. Muhammad is God’s messenger, may God bless him […] God’s servant,|
|SE||‘Abd al-Malik, prince of the believers, built this dome in the year seventy-two, may God accept [it] from him and be pleased with him. Amen. Lord of the Worlds. Praise be to God.|
|South||In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. There is no god but God alone, without partner. To Him belongs dominion and to Him belongs praise. He gives life and He makes to die; He is powerful over all things [Q 64:1 and 57:2]. Muhammad is God’s servant and His messenger.|
|SE||God and His angels send blessings on the Prophet. O, you who believe, send blessings on him and salute him with all respect [Q 33:54/56]. May God bless him and grant him peace and mercy. O, people of the book, do not go beyond he bounds in your religion.|
|East||nor say anything but the truth about God. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only God’s messenger, His word that He committed to Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him. So, believe in God and His messengers. Do not say ‘three’. Refrain,|
|NE||it is better for you. For God is one god. Glory be to Him—that He should have a son! To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth. God suffices for a guardian. The Messiah will not disdain to be|
|North||God’s servant; nor will the angels who are stationed near to Him. Whoever disdains to serve him and waxes proud, He will muster them to Him, all of them [Q 4:169-71/171-72]. O, God, bless your messenger and servant, Jesus,|
|NW||son of Mary. Peace be upon the day he was born, the day he dies, and the day he is raised up alive. That is Jesus, son of Mary, in word of truth, about which they are doubting. It is not for God to take a son. Glory be to Him.|
|West||When He decrees a thing, he only says to it ‘Be’, and it is. God is my lord and your lord. So serve Him. This is a straight path [Q 19:34-7/33-36]. God, His angels and men possessed of knowledge and upholding justice bear witness that there is no god but He. There is no god but He|
|SW||the All-Mighty, the All-Wise. The true religion with God is Islam. Those who were given the book did not dissent except after knowledge came to them, when they became envious of each other. Whosoever disbelieves in God’s signs, God will swiftly call to account [Q 3:16-17/18-19].|