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The Dome of the Rock: Origin of its Octagonal Plan


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The Dome of the Rock is one of the earliest existing monuments in Islam and was erected during the Umayyad period. It was unique among the concurrent monuments of Islamic architecture, either by its location over the famous rock of Jerusalem, or by its octagonal form unfamiliar within Islamic culture. How did these two factors get incorporated to produce that glorious building? What were the cultural origins of its octagonal plan? What message did the sponsors want to deliver? This paper was prepared by my late professor, Dr. Anwarul-Islam and myself (Zaid Al-Hamad) as an attempt to discuss these issues and shed more light on the early practice of Islamic architecture from new angles.
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© Palestine Exploration Fund 2007 doi: 10.1179/003103207x194145
Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 139, 2 (2007), 109–128
M. Anwarul Islam and Zaid F. Al-hamad
The Dome of the Rock or Qubbat al-Sakhra is a monument in the city of Jerusalem built on
the platform at the top of Mount Moriah known as Bayt al-Maqdis or Bayt al-Muqaddas (the
Holy House) and, by the common term for similar Muslim sacred places in Makkah and
Madinah, the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary). The 34-acre platform is also known as
Masjid al-Aqsa (the Farthest Mosque) following such reference in the Qur’an, although a
mosque called by the same name exists on its southern edge. The monument itself is a single-
storey building of octagonal plan with sides of 20.6 m covered at the centre by a dome 20.44
m in diameter, resting on a cylindrical drum, and rising up to a height of about 36 m. The
drum is supported by an arcade of sixteen arches resting on four piers and twelve columns
between them forming a circular perimeter around the sacred ‘rock’ that has some signifi-
cance in all the three Abrahamic religions. The area between the inner circle and the outer
octagonal wall is divided into two ambulatory spaces separated by an inner octagon made of
twenty-four arches resting on eight piers and sixteen columns (Fig. 1).
The Dome of the Rock was designed and built during the caliphate of Abd al-Malik,
the 5th Umayyad caliph of Islam (685–705 ad), and its construction was completed in 692 ad
under the supervision of Raja ibn Haywa and Yazid ibn Sallam who are thought to have
been in financial and administrative control. However, further research shows that the
former, from Beysan in Palestine and originally of the Kinda tribe of Yemen, worked as a
treasurer and special assistant of Abd al Malik and also as advisor to two later caliphs,
Sulayman (715–717 ad) and Umar II (717–720 ad). He was a renowned Tabi’, i.e., a scholar of
the generation that followed the companions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) known as
Sahaba, a transmitter of hadith (the traditions of the Prophet) and was trustfully quoted by
the later scholars (Ibn Asakir 1995, 359). In keeping with the tradition of the Sahaba’s con-
tribution in the design of mosques of that period, it is likely that Raja ibn Haywa was also
involved in the design of the Dome of the Rock. Yazid ibn Sallam was a local Jerusalemite.
The religion of Islam introduced to the world of architecture a new type of building —
the mosque — the basic plan of which was standardised by the time of the Dome of
the Rock’s construction. Evolving from the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah (632 ad) (Fig. 2),
typically it was a square or a rectangular building with an inner courtyard, the covered area
towards the qibla (the direction to face for prayer) side being the main prayer hall, with
narrow porticoes (riwaqs) on the other three sides (Fig. 3). In the very earliest phase of Islam,
all the mosques and other public buildings were very simple, made of sun-dried mud bricks
and timber, providing the basic functional needs that satisfied the religious guideline for the
practice of modesty in all aspects of life. Minor enlargements to the mosques were made
during the rule of the pious caliphs (632–661 ad) who followed the Prophet to cater for the
growing size of congregation. However, major extension to or reconstruction of the mosques
with more durable and expensive materials began in the early Umayyad period — Basra 665
ad, Kufa 670 ad and Fustat 673 ad — and the mosque of Kufa was now 100 m
(E–W) × 150 m (N–S) in plan built with stone columns specially cut from the mountain of
Ahwaz, and its prayer hall was 16.2 m high with riwaqs surrounding the other three sides of
the courtyard (Tabari, 4/46). These were the earliest examples of Umayyad attempts at the
symbolic expression of the presence of Islam in a visually perceptible form. The only extant
building of the period, the Dome of the Rock, which is ‘in all probability the first Islamic
110 palestine exploration quarterly, 139, 2, 2007
Fig. 1. The Dome of the Rock: section and plan (after Cresswell 1969).
111the dome of the rock: origin of its octagonal plan
monument that was meant to be a major aesthetic achievement’ (Ettinghausen 1987, 28),
significantly departed from the expression of modesty to that of ostentation and unlike the
character of the earliest Islamic buildings, intended to be a prominent visual attraction. As it
was not a mosque, a palace or a mausoleum, several hypotheses have been put forward over
the years as to why Abd al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock.
why was it built?
One of the reasons given for building this monument, conveniently linked with the historical
accounts of the time, was initiated by the Shi’i historian Yaqubi in 874 ad. Abd al-Malik’s
provincial governor for the region of Makkah and Madinah, Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr,
considered himself independent and defied the authority of the Umayyad caliph based in the
capital city of Damascus. To dissuade people from travelling to Makkah for Hajj, the annual
event of Muslim pilgrimage, Abd al-Malik is said to have built the Dome of the Rock. The
intention was to create an object of piety as an alternative to the holy Ka’ba in Makkah, a
Fig. 2. The Prophet’s Mosque of Madinah (after the description of Bisheh 1979).
112 palestine exploration quarterly, 139, 2, 2007
cubical structure which is circumambulated as a liturgical requirement for the Hajj. The
element of piety for the new monument would have been provided by a number of traditions
about the city of Jerusalem, the platform itself and the ‘rock’ lying at its centre. However,
many scholars have refuted this reasoning and, according to a recent author, ‘When Abd
al-Malik ordered the Dome of the Rock, Mecca was still in the hands of Abdullah ibn
al-Zubayr, but it is unlikely that he intended it as a counter-Ka’ba, for such an act would
have been anathema to a pious person like Abd al-Malik who had re-issued the standardised
Uthmanic text of the Qur’an and pilgrimage continued throughout Abd Allah ibn
al-Zubayr’s occupation’ (Blair 1992, 84–85).
After a century of Yaqubi’s record about Abd al-Malik’s supposed order forbidding
pilgrimage to Makkah, the writings of the 10th century Jerusalemite scholar Muqaddasi
(1892, 22–23) form the basis of a different reason for the building of the Dome of the Rock.
According to him, the importance of the ‘rock’ or the platform was secondary to the desire
of offsetting the influence of architecture in Syria, ‘a country that had long been occupied by
the Christians’, of ‘churches still belonging to them, so enchantingly fair; so renowned for
their splendour’, and ‘. . . Khalif Abd al Malik, noting the greatness of the dome of the
Kumamah (the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) and its magnificence, was moved lest it
should dazzle the minds of the Muslims, and hence erected above the Rock, the Dome
which is now seen there’. Other reasons given for the building of this monument include (1)
Fig. 3. A typical Arab mosque of the Earliest Period.
113the dome of the rock: origin of its octagonal plan
the portrayal of the triumph of Islam, the final Revelation, based on the use of opulent
surface decoration throughout the building, especially the jewel-studded mosaics, precious
stones, etc., and the calligraphy of specific Qur’anic verses symbolising holiness, wealth
and power, and (2) the commemoration of the location of Prophet Muhammad’s ‘Night
Journey’, especially of the ‘rock’ itself on top of which, according to later traditions, the
Prophet stood before being led by angel Gabriel to meet God in the second part of the
‘Night Journey’ — the Miraj.
In his discussion about the possible reason for the construction of the Dome of the
Rock, Grabar (1996, 114) mentions two religious themes that were taking root in Jerusalem
during the period 640 to 690 ad. The first of these is the realisation that the platform on top
of Mount Moriah is where the Isra or the first part of Prophet Muhammad’s ‘Night Journey’
from Makkah to Jerusalem ended and the ‘rock’ is where the Miraj began. ‘The second
theme was much more specifically associated with the Rock and involved one segment of a
myth long associated with Jerusalem, the city’s place in God’s creation and, most particu-
larly, its role at the end of time as the place of God’s return for the last judgement. The
Islamisation of this theme was occurring at several levels, at times concrete and popular and
at other times abstract and intellectual. And within it, a bare rock, with surface traces that
could be interpreted as footprints, was dramatically imagined as the spot from which God
left the earth and to which He will return.’ A part of the second theme forms the basis of
arguments presented in this paper regarding the origin of the Dome of the Rock’s octagonal
suggested sources of influence
Creswell describes Mauss’ theory about how the corner points of the inner and the outer
octagons in the plan of the Dome of the Rock are set out from two interlocking squares
within the inner circle which is ‘just large enough to surround the rock’ (Creswell, 1958, 18).
A central circular space surrounded by an ambulatory was a fairly common type of
commemorative or other religious building in Roman and Byzantine architecture. ‘A
circular domed structure became the most popular form of Roman mausoleum whereas
types entirely different prevailed in Syria’ (Creswell 1958, 34). The rotunda of the Church
of the Holy Sepulchre (335 ad), also known as Anastasis (Fig. 4) built by the emperor
Constantine at a short distance away from Mount Moriah is the earliest example of this
type of design in the Syrian region. Its design had possibly derived from the Mausoleum of
Santa Costanza in Rome built by the same emperor a few years earlier. Both the buildings
identified as having influenced the design of the Dome of the Rock have a central space
covered by a dome carried by a ring of supports and an ambulatory between it and the
outer circular wall — a geometrical construction defined by Creswell (1924, 30) as ‘circle
surrounded by circle’. The Dome of the Rock, on the other hand, has two octagonal
ambulatories around a central circular space, i.e., ‘circle surrounded by octagon surrounded
by octagon’. Neither of the two earlier buildings has any octagonal feature and the diameter
of the inner circle of the Dome of the Rock being more or less equal to that of the Anastasis
is likely to be just a coincidence as the former has been dictated by the dimension of ‘the
smallest possible circle surrounding the rock’ (Lev 1990, 61).
To date, several other buildings have been presented as precedents that may have influ-
enced the design of the Dome of the Rock. In his paper entitled ‘The Origin of the Plan of
the Dome of the Rock’, Creswell (1924, 18–25) presented two other buildings in the nearby
lands in addition to the Anastasis. First of these is the Bosra Cathedral (573 ad) in southern
Syria (Fig. 5). The suggested reconstruction of the building shows a double ambulatory with
a series of internal columns arranged to form an octagon outside the ring of columns of the
114 palestine exploration quarterly, 139, 2, 2007
inner circle. The geometry of the plan is described by Creswell as ‘circle surrounded by
octagon surrounded by circle in square’ as the perimeter of the outer ambulatory is made
circular with the help of niches in a square plan. Projected apse and chapels on the east side,
however, make the overall plan of the building a rectangle.
The second example is the Church of Ascension in the Mount of Olives, an area
adjacent to the Dome of the Rock. According to Creswell, this domed building had an
octagonal plan before 378 ad with exterior walls surrounding a space divided by a ring of
columns with footprints of Jesus Christ at the centre. However, this building was destroyed
by the Persians in 614 ad and the reconstructed building was described by Bishop Arculf
Fig. 4. The Anastasis (after Cresswell 1924).
115the dome of the rock: origin of its octagonal plan
(1895, 22), the earliest Western Christian traveller to the holy lands in c. 670 ad, as ‘a great
round church, having in its circuit three vaulted porticoes covered over above. The interior
of the church, without roof or vault, lies open to heaven under the open air’. In the 12th
century, the Crusaders built a new church which ‘was no longer a single building as in
Byzantine times, but octagonal in shape, and essentially a central shrine or edicule (the
structure we see today), surrounded by a fortified monastery’ (Lev 1990, 212).
In his later publication, Creswell (1969, 108–109) cites two other earlier buildings whose
plans may have been obtained by using the same geometrical construction as that of the
Dome of the Rock. One of these is the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, also in the same area of
Jerusalem, which has an octagonal plan surrounding a circular colonnade. Again, from
Fig. 5. The Bosra Cathedral (after Cresswell 1924).
116 palestine exploration quarterly, 139, 2, 2007
Arculf’s (1895, 17) description, Prag (1989, 263) writes about the 7th century building as being
on ‘two levels: the upper contained four altars, and like the lower was round’ and ‘the ruins
of this church were rebuilt by the Benedictines c. 1130.’ The other example is the Mauso-
leum of Diocletian at Split, Croatia (306 ad), which is an octagonal building surrounded by
an octagonal portico with rows of slender columns and a central core within a ring of eight
columns. About this Roman building within a large palace complex Fletcher (1996, 278)
wrote: ‘extensive use of ashlar as well as concrete, the colonnaded streets, and much of the
architectural detail, strongly suggest that the architect came from Syria or Arabia.’
Prag (1989, 120) refers to two other buildings in the region ‘that have reflections in the
Dome of the Rock’. The great basilica church at Bethlehem whose 4th century plan shows
an octagonal enclosure on its east side was built over the cave of the nativity and was
destroyed in 529 ad. The new larger basilica built by Justinian in the 6th century ad which
survives to the present day does not have any octagonal element in its plan. The 5th century
Byzantine octagonal church at Capernaum in Galilee was built on the site of a larger St
Peter’s House and reported to have been visited in 570 ad. This building and two others in
Palestine of the same period, i.e., (1) the Church of Mary in Mount Gerizim (Nablus) and
(2) the church at Caesarea in the Mediterranean coast built on the platform of an earlier
Herod’s Temple, had octagonal features in their plans. However, all these were parts of large
Christian religious building complexes and may not have been an influencing factor for the
design of a free-standing religious monument by the Muslims in Jerusalem.
The discussion above shows that the only significant aspect of similarity between the
design of the Dome of the Rock and those of the Roman/Byzantine buildings suggested as
having influenced its design is in the area of the rotunda, i.e., the ring of columns forming
the inner circle supporting a dome. Some of these religious buildings had an ambulatory
around the inner space and some had octagonal elements in their design which were possibly
influenced by the symbolic value of the number 8 (eight) in Christianity. ‘The eighth day
is the eternal day, sanctified by the Resurrection of Jesus. Octagonal monuments are thus
inherently an interpretation of the Resurrection’ (Rosen-Ayalon 1989, 66). However, in the
internal planning, none of these has two concentric octagonal ambulatories around a circu-
lar space with a sacred object at the centre and, more importantly, none of these buildings
express the same external character as that of the Dome of the Rock. The two nearby
examples, i.e., the Anastasis and the Church of Ascension, as described by Arculf, were both
rotunda-type buildings. Along with some others buildings in distant lands mentioned in this
regard, e.g., the Mausoleum of Santa Costanza, the Temple of Minerva Medica, etc., these
were predominantly round monolithic structures around a strong vertical axis. The Dome of
the Rock, on the other hand, is composed of two equally strong and distinct elements. Unlike
the other buildings, the dominance of its vertical rotunda, although twice the height of the
horizontal base element, is counter-balanced by the distinct octagonal shape of the latter,
the outline of which is not interrupted by any attachment, extension or broken by a large
opening. The resulting view gives the unique impression of an imposing object being carried
by a solid element spread underneath in a disciplined manner.
In a detailed discussion on the ‘shape of the building’, Grabar (1996, 104–110) acknowl-
edges ‘that the model for the Dome of the Rock was a fairly common type in Late Antique
and Early Christian or early Byzantine architecture’, but concludes that the ‘the still stand-
ing’ similar examples ‘as well as liturgical or symbolic information derived from written
sources separate the Dome of the Rock quite radically from its parallels’ and ‘the plan of the
Dome of the Rock is distinguishable from the plans of the most similar buildings by its inor-
dinate size and by the perfection of its symmetries around multiple axes without visible focus
or direction.’ The distinguishing features that demonstrate the originality of the building
may be listed as:
117the dome of the rock: origin of its octagonal plan
i. the unusual height of the central cylinder topped up with ‘a dome that is more important as a sign
to be seen from afar than as a visible focus of an interior architectural composition’.
ii. the perimeter walls, like ‘thin membrane’ compared with the heavy interior structural elements
supporting the drum/dome and the inner octagon (piers, columns, arches, cross-beams, etc.), was
always an essential feature of the design unlike other rotunda-based martyria and churches.
iii. the absence of a single main entrance and four small, almost invisible, doors and the lack of ‘clearly
marked facade conveying a hierarchy of form and function’.
iv. the lack of any ‘focus towards which one is directed to go’ and an ‘architectural composition that
seem more important by what it is rather than what happens in it’.
As there does not seem to be an obvious precedent amongst the earlier buildings with
regard to the design of the Dome of the Rock, specifically with reference to its external
shape, where did its octagonal plan originate? The various alternatives suggested as the
reason for building this monument do not indicate the need for an octagonal plan either.
Lev (1990, 61) suggests that the choice of this plan was derived from a philosophical compre-
hension of geometry rather than the design of a preceding example or fulfilling a functional
requirement. Yet, the general impression given by the previous studies on the subject is that
the monument’s design shows continuation of the preceding Roman/Byzantine architecture
in the region. This view was also based on the comprehension that ‘Arabia constituted a
perfect architectural vacuum’ (Creswell 1958, 16) and that Islamic architecture was yet to
form a distinctive style of its own. There was no attempt to look at the religion itself
for possible sources of influence on any aspect of the Dome of the Rock’s design and only a
recent author, from her work of re-examining the dating inscriptions and scrutinising the
decorative programme, comments that ‘it is doubtful that we will uncover any new sources
to tell us why Abd al-Malik ordered the Dome of the Rock’ which is ‘an example of artistic
adaptation in which early Islamic patrons and builders modified existing traditions to meet
the needs of a new religion and culture’ (Blair 1992, 59). One of the most important ‘needs’
for the ‘new religion’ at the time must have been the manifestation of religious themes of
which its people were aware. As mentioned above and to be further discussed later, the
Dome of the Rock was built on a site of utmost religious significance and sensitivity. The
possibility that its design could have been influenced by some aspect of the religion in fulfill-
ing one of these ‘needs’ has not been considered by the earlier researchers except the one
that suggests some religious link by proposing that the design was based on the description of
Several verses of the Qur’an mention ‘heaven’, ‘paradise’ or ‘garden’ as the place
of eternal life hereafter for ‘those who believe and do deeds of righteousness’ (4:57), and
describe its opulence with expressions like ‘bracelets of gold and pearl’ (22:23), ‘garments of
the silk and heavy brocade’ (18:31), etc. Rosen-Ayalon (1989, 46–69) carried out a detailed
study of the interior surface decorations of the Dome of the Rock, which is a major contri-
bution in its aesthetic achievement, and suggests that the general theme for the design of
the monument was to portray the symbol of Paradise. Images of trees, basket of fruits and
precious jewels — all included in the Qur’anic description of Paradise — as well as pairs of
wings suggesting angels, have been used in the mosaic. However, the indicators used by
the author to relate the octagonal plan with paradise are less convincing. For example,
the reference to the 11th century author Al-Wasiti’s description of paradise to confirm
its number of gates, i.e. ‘. . . Eight gates of gold and precious stones, wooden beams made of
alternating silver and gold . . .’, which is also mentioned in a hadith,1 is inappropriate because,
in spite of the opportunity of providing eight gates through each of its eight walls, there are
only four gates in the building. Similarly, the other quotation from the same source, i.e. ‘. . .
I shall raise upon thee a wall of gold, a wall of silver, a wall of emerald, a wall of clouds, a
wall of pearls, a wall of rubies, and a wall of mother of pearls’, refers to seven walls, whereas
the Dome of the Rock has eight walls.
118 palestine exploration quarterly, 139, 2, 2007
It is, however, possible that the designer wanted to portray the image of paradise in
some its features, e.g., a strong element of the building is the series of seven arcaded bays in
each of its eight walls, the number ‘seven’ being associated with the number of heavens
mentioned in several verses of the Qur’an (23:86, 67:3). The knowledge about the original
treatment of the upper part of the walls also supports this view. Whereas the current
decoration with tiles dates from the 16th century, glass mosaics covered the part of the wall
above the arches when the Dome of the Rock was built and ‘the subject of these mosaics are
known to have included trees, flowering plants, and buildings. They were probably intended
as symbols of Paradise, as are those which still remain in the riwaqs of the Great Mosque of
Damascus’ (Hoag 1975, 12) which was built a few years later.
jerusalem and BAYT AL-MAQDIS — islamic belief and tradition
At the time of Abd al-Malik, i.e., about fifty years after Prophet Muhammad, the various
aspects of life of the followers of Islam were still being formulated according to theological
guidelines based on the Qur’an and the traditions attributed to the Prophet. All the verses of
the Qur’an were available to the people as it was already compiled by Caliph Uthman in
650–652 ad. The traditions of the Prophet were also known to the people through the Sahaba
and the Tabi’ although the compilation of authentic versions of hadith, known as the Sahih
Hadith, was done much later — near the end of the 8th century ad — after scrutiny through
the process of isnad or the chain of transmission. The most important reference with regard
to the significance of Jerusalem is found in the opening verse of Surah al-Isra of the Qur’an,
i.e., ‘Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a journey by night from the “Sacred
Mosque” (Masjid al-Haram) to the “Farthest Mosque” (Masjid al-Aqsa) whose precincts We
did bless in order that We show him some of Our signs . . .’ (17.1)
The verse relates to the Prophet’s ‘Night Journey’, i.e., the Isra and the Miraj mentioned
earlier, that happened in c. 619 ad. Although the verse does not mention Jerusalem by name,
‘the Farthest Mosque’ is meant to be the mosque that was deemed to have existed in Jerusa-
lem long before the time of Prophet Muhammad. The descriptions in hadith about Isra of
‘His servant’, i.e., Prophet Muhammad, confirms that it began in Makkah, the place of the
sacred Ka’ba or the Masjid al-Haram and ended on this platform in Jerusalem (Masjid al-Aqsa
/ Bayt al-Maqdis) (Bukhari 1987, 3/1409: no. 3673 and Muslim, 1/145: no. 170). The word
masjid is derived from sajd (to prostrate) and literally means a ‘place for prostration’ or a
‘place of prayer’.
The religious significance of Jerusalem is also conveyed by a number of other Qur’anic
verses about David (Dawood) and Solomon (Sulayman), the earlier prophets of God (4:16,
21:78, 27:15), and, as narrated in Surah Sa’d (38:21–24), David gave judgement on a dispute in
his mihrab (private chamber) that was believed to be in Jerusalem. After the Muslim conquest
of Jerusalem in 638 ad, Caliph Umar wished to visit the site of ‘mihrab Dawud’ when he was
taken to the platform of Mount Moriah where he ordered a mosque to be built. A further
ingredient of holiness for Jerusalem is provided by the fact that it was chosen by Prophet
Muhammad as the first qibla at the very beginning of the Prophet’s mission in 610 ad.
Apart from the Qur’anic verse 17.1 and those about the ‘mihrab Dawud’, there are a few
hadith about the piety of Masjid al-Aqsa or Bayt al-Maqdis in Jerusalem, one of which is the
Hadith of the Three Mosques’ quoted below which, according to some, Abd al-Malik may
have used to justify the building of the Dome of the Rock as alternative to the Ka’ba.
Narrated by Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, ‘Do not set out on a journey except for three mosques,
i.e., Al-Masjid Al-Haram (at Makkah), Masjid Ar-Rasul (the mosque of Allah’s messenger at Al-Madinah)
and Masjid Al-Aqsa (Al-Aqsa mosque of Jerusalem)’ (Bukhari 1994, 312: no. 2.281).
There are other hadith that narrate the Prophet’s esteem of Bayt al-Maqdis2 and also its role
in the ‘Night Journey’.3 However, as mentioned earlier, the Sahih Hadith were compiled
119the dome of the rock: origin of its octagonal plan
much later and although according to Grabar’s ‘taking root’ of the linkage between Isra/
Miraj and the platform of Bayt al-Maqdis in Jerusalem happened during 640 to 690 ad, there
is also an opinion that the localisation of the ‘Night Journey’ on this platform happened even
after the death of Abd al-Malik’s successor al-Walid (705–715 ad). Therefore, it is unlikely
that this monument was built to commemorate anything related to Prophet Muhammad and
his ‘Night Journey’. This view is supported by the fact that the inscriptions of several verses
from the Qur’an in the walls of the Dome of the Rock do not include the one referring to the
‘Night Journey’, i.e., verse 17:1. What then was the religious theme associated with the plat-
form and believed by the Muslims and their caliph Abd al-Malik that may have generated
the design ideas for this monument?
As mentioned earlier, apart from the Qur’an, Muslim beliefs emanated from the tradi-
tions of Prophet Muhammad, some of which were attributed to him at the time and rejected
from being a Sahih Hadith later on for failing the test of isnad. One such text made a link
between God and Bayt al-Maqdis: ‘The Prophet says: When I was carried away at night
to Bayt al-Maqdis Gabriel passed with me by the grave of Abraham (at Hebron). He said:
“Dismount and pray two rak’at here! Here is the grave of your father Abraham.” Then he
passed with me by Bethlehem. He said: “Dismount and pray two rak’as here! Here your
brother Jesus was born.” Then he came with me to the Rock and said: “Here your Lord
ascended to Heaven . . .” ’ (Ibn al-Jawzi 1992, 224). According to Grabar, however, it is the
role of Jerusalem and the ‘rock’ in God’s action on the ‘Day of Judgement’ which he defines
as the second theme that formed among the Muslims during the fifty years before the build-
ing of the Dome of the Rock. Unlike the Ka’ba, also known as Bait Allah or the ‘house of
God’, this monument was linked with God only for this specific act.
the day of judgement, jerusalem and BAIT AL-MAQDIS
At several places in the Qur’an, the expression about belief in Allah — the first of the five
pillars of Islam — is extended to include the belief in the ‘Last Day’, the ‘Day of Resurrec-
tion’ or the ‘Day of Judgement’. Some of the verses also mention the presence of God on the
Day of Judgement (39:31) and some include the expression ‘gathering together’4 associated
with the same event. The Qur’an does not specify the exact place of this gathering or the
venue of the day of judgement. There is, however, a verse which states,
‘And listen to the Day when the Caller will call out from a place quite near.’ (50.41)
Sale, the 18th century translator of the Qur’an, presented Al-Beidwai’s interpretation of
‘quite near’ as ‘a place whence every creature may equally hear the call. This place, it is
supposed, will be the mountain of the temple of Jerusalem, which some fancy to be nigher
heaven than any other part of the earth’ (Sale 1921, 502). In his interpretation of the verse,
the 14th century Syrian scholar Ibn Kathir (1999, 81) wrote, ‘Ka’b al-Ahbar (a companion of
caliph Umar) said, “Allah will order an angel to stand in Bayt al-Muqaddas and proclaim: ‘O
rotten bones and torn flesh, God commands you to gather together for His judgement’.” ’.
Another hadith also confirms this belief, e.g.,
Narrated by Meymouna, the Prophet said: ‘(Bayt al Maqdis is) the land of manshar (resurrection) and
mahshar (gathering), go and pray in it.’ (Ibn Majah 1952, 1/451: no. 1407)
Muqaddasi’s book, ‘Description of the Province of Syria, including Palestine’ (1892,
1,37), written in the 10th century ad began with the sentence: ‘Here dwelt the Saints,
and here is the First Kiblah; also the Place of Resurrection, and of the Night Journey’ and
includes: ‘Verily Makkah and Al Madinah have their superiority by reason of the Ka’abah
120 palestine exploration quarterly, 139, 2, 2007
and the Prophet . . . but verily, on the Day of Judgement, they will both come to Jerusalem,
and the excellence of them all will be united.’
The traditions about the ‘Day’ also relate to a number of signs about its imminence that
are linked with Jerusalem. For example, the appearance of Dajjal or the false messiah who
will seduce a large number of people away from their true faith in God, will not be able to
enter Makkah and Madinah which will be protected by the angels and he will be killed on
his way to Jerusalem by prophet Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), at a place called
Ludd near Jerusalem (Muslim, 4/2250: no. 2937). The reappearance of Jesus on the Day of
Judgement is also confirmed in the Qur’an.5
Like the link with ‘Night Journey’, the Muslims of the earliest period did not relate the
platform or the rock to any past or future action of God either. According to a well-known
tradition, when deciding about the location of the first mosque on the platform, caliph Umar
ignored the suggestion of Ka’b al-Ahbar, his companion of Jewish descent, to site the
mosque on the north side of the ‘rock’ so that people would have prayed facing it as well as
towards the Ka’ba. The caliph asked the mosque to be built in the southern part of the plat-
form so that there was no link with the rock. The factors that helped in the formation of the
link between God the ‘Last Day’ and Jerusalem included the Islamic traditions discussed
above as well as the Islamisation of the local traditions that had roots in the other two
The Jewish tradition links Jerusalem not only with the ‘Day of Judgement’ but also with
the very beginning. Their belief is that the God’s Creation took place in Mount Zion, i.e., in
Jerusalem, where He created Adam and then ascended back to the heaven. The Christians
believe in the ascension of Jesus Christ, rather than that of God, which is commemorated by
the Church of Ascension. In both the traditions, however, at the end of time the ‘Divine
Presence’ will reappear on the mountain and according to the Bible, the place of God’s
Judgement will be ‘the Valley of Jehoshaphat’ (Joel 3.2 & 3.12), identified as the Kidron
Valley (Jeremiah 31.40) on the south-east of Bayt al-Maqdis (Prag 1989, 247). So the percep-
tion of the link between God and Jerusalem on the ‘Last Day’ was a long standing belief
among all sections of the people of this region before Islam came here in 638 ad. Some
Muslims of the Syrian region were from the Arab tribe of Ghassanids, the monophysite
Christians, who may not have had to reject all the traditions and beliefs of their predecessors
as, unlike the polytheists, the Jews and the Christians are described in the Qur’an as ‘’the
People of the Book’ and treated with expressions like ‘our God and your God is One; and it
is to Him we bow’ (29:46).
It may therefore be concluded that the belief about the link between the platform and
God’s action on the Day of Judgement was sufficiently strong at the time of the monument’s
construction and the very first building on this barren site, built by a caliph who wanted to
create a monument of maximum piety, was designed to reflect some aspect of this belief.
Elad (1992, 33) discusses a number of known and hitherto unknown texts on this subject and
concludes, ‘although the immediate cause of the construction of the Dome of the Rock and
the attempt to divert the Hajj from Mecca to Jerusalem may have been his struggle with Ibn
al-Zubayr, Abd al-Malik was also concerned to emphasise the central place of Jerusalem, of
the Haram, and of the Sakhra within the religious landscape of early Islam. There is no con-
tradiction in arguing that he built the Dome of the Rock on the site of the Temple of
Solomon, as a symbol of the Last Days, and as a rival to Mecca, which was then in the hands
of his political opponent Ibn al-Zubayr’.
Apart from the Dome of the Rock two other buildings are believed to have been built
by Caliph Abd al-Malik on this 477.5 mx295.6 m (average) platform (Fig. 6) and a number
of structures followed since. The themes associated with many of these objects confirm the
existence of the belief about the platform’s link with the Day of Judgement at the time of
Abd al-Malik and its continuation since then. The four doors of the Dome of the Rock were
121the dome of the rock: origin of its octagonal plan
Fig. 6. The platform layout of the Masjid al-Aqsa.
122 palestine exploration quarterly, 139, 2, 2007
called by various names at different times. In Muqaddasi’s description, the northern gate
is mentioned as Bab al-Sur (the Gate of the Trumpet), a clear reference to the blowing of
trumpet to announce the ‘Last Day’ as stated several times in the Qur’an.6 This gate is now
called Bab al-Janna (the Gate of Paradise) and according to a 13th century text (Elad 1992, 36)
the western gate was called Bab Jibril (Angel Gabriel Gate). Both the names have an
eschatological connection. The eastern entrance to the monument, which is now called Bab
Daw’ud (the Gate of David) or Bab al-Silsila (the Gate of the Chain) was known at the time of
Muqaddasi as Bab Israfil (Israfil Gate) after the angel Israfil who, it is believed, will blow the
trumpet as indicated by a hadith.7
The surface decoration of the interior of the Dome of the Rock has 240 metres of
inscription — mainly verses from the Qur’an — just below the ceiling on both faces of
the inner octagon. Some of these verses imply the role of the angels in God’s justice8, His
‘gathering together’9 and Jesus being ‘raised up to life’10, all with eschatological connota-
tions. The main bulk of the interior decoration of the Dome of the Rock, however, is the
mosaic work. The images of a wide range of items, some implying the paradise, also include
a number of cornucopiae expressed in various forms. In the northern arcade of the inner
octagon, oriented towards the northern gate of the building that was known as ‘the Gate
of the Trumpet’, two such motifs, drawn differently from the others, are described by
Rosen-Ayalon as, ‘these cornucopiae are actually the trumpets of the Judgement Day’
(Rosen-Ayalon 1989, 69).
The other buildings built by Abd al-Malik on this platform are the congregational
mosque on its south-east corner and the Dome of the Chain or Qubbat al-Silsila, a smaller
open structure of two concentric rows of columns. Like the Dome of the Rock, the latter was
also built on the elevated terrace, 2.5 m to 6 m higher than the platform itself. Among the
various reasons given for the construction of the latter is the commemoration of the location
of ‘mihrab Dawud’, i.e., the place of judgement by David and, hence, its other name ‘Mahkamat
Dawud’. However, this monument, which stands at the centre of the platform, i.e., at the
cross section of its two central axes (Fig. 6), is associated with several versions of tradition
related with ‘judgement’ and ‘chain’. One of these refers to it as ‘the place of Judgement,
with themes associated with a chain that would stop the wicked and let the just pass through’
(Grabar 1996, 130–131).
Traditions about the names of some of the minor structures and the gates and doors,
given at various times of their existence, also confirm the eschatological theme. A gate on the
northern wall is called Bab al-Hitta which means the Gate of Pardon. The only gate on the
eastern wall of the platform is known as Bab al-Rahmah (the Gate of Mercy) or the Golden
Gate in the Christian tradition. The two doors of this gate were also known separately as Bab
al-Rahmah and Bab al-Tauba (the Gate of Repentance). All these names are eschatological
terms referring to God’s pardon/mercy and the repentance of the sinner. The adjacent
valley in the east is known in the Islamic tradition as Wadi Jahannam (the Hellfire valley)
implying that only those who have repented and on whom mercy has been bestowed by God
will be allowed to pass through these gates away from the hell. According to Strange, the
translator of Muqaddasi’s (1892, 49) work, ‘Mukaddasi’s Valley of Jahannam, however,
would be the Valley of Jehoshaphat and the Kedron together, the modern Wadi Sitteh
Maryam’, i.e., the Biblical place of Judgement.
Of the minor structures, the eight free-standing arcades at the top of the stairs that
provide access to the elevated terrace (10th to 15th century ad) are called ‘Scales’ (mawazin)
— ‘so called from the tradition that scales to weigh the souls of the dead will be suspended
from them on the Day of Judgement’ (Prag 1989, 114), as indicated in the Qur’an11. Two
smaller domed structures on the terrace, i.e., the Dome of the Ascension (Qubbat al-Miraj),
perceived to have been built to commemorate the spot where Prophet Muhammad prayed
123the dome of the rock: origin of its octagonal plan
before he ascended to paradise and the Dome of the Spirits (Qubbat al-Arwah), could also
have been built to portray the Qur’anic verses about the role of angels and spirits and their
ascension on the Day of Judgement12. The former was seen by Muqaddasi (985 ad) and the
latter was possibly built in the 16th century ad.
the day of judgement and the ‘throne’ of god
God’s throne is mentioned twenty-two times in the Qur’an. One of these is in Ayat al-Kursi
(the Throne Verse) of Surah Al-Baqara: ‘. . . His throne doth extend over the heavens and the
earth . . .’ (2:255), where the word kursi has been translated as ‘throne’ and the expression is
interpreted as a metaphor symbolising the extent of God’s authority. In all the other verses,
the usual word for throne in Arabic, i.e., arsh, has been used in expressions like ‘(God is)
firmly established on the throne’, ‘the Lord of the throne’, etc. Despite the belief among the
followers of Islam that Allah is the omnipresent being who cannot be seen and ‘the purpose
for the use of such terminology in the Qur’an is to bring the scenario of God’s rule of
the universe to the level of human perception’ (Maudoodi 2002, 36), the notion of an anthro-
pomorphic concept of God sitting on a throne is thought to have existed amongst many
Muslims of the time of Abd al-Malik of which he was likely to have been one. ‘In the early
period, anthropomorphic hadith was widespread . . . the authors of these systems did not see
any serious contradiction with the Qur’an’ (Van Ess 1992, 97). However, apart from the
hadith that describes Prophet Muhammad’s meeting with God during the Miraj, none of these
are included in the collection of Sahih Hadith for failing the test of isnad. As for the Qur’an,
the verses that have been shown as a justification of anthropomorphism are in Surah al-Ikhlas,
‘Say: He is Allah, the one and only; Allah, the eternal, absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
and there is none like unto Him’ (112:1–4).
This surah, either in full or most of it, is quoted in the inscriptions of the inner octagon and
in the north and east door plaques of the Dome of the Rock. The latter also included the
following (non-Qur’anic) expression: ‘We ask, our God, by Your mercy, by Your beautiful
names, by Your noble face, by Your immense power, . . . we are all saved from Your
punishment on the day of resurrection by Your abundant grace, by Your great nobility, . . .’
Van Ess’s analysis (1992, 98) of the relevant texts also mentions: ‘Abd al-Malik is blamed
for his anthropomorphic conception of God. This has something to do with God’s sitting on
the throne, for his opponent rebukes him by quoting Qur’an 2:255, the famous throne-verse:
“His Throne comprises the Heavens and the Earth”, i.e., God’s Throne could never stand
on the earth alone.’ The idea of an association between God, His throne, the ‘rock’ in
Jerusalem and the role of Abd al-Malik may be observed more clearly in the 13th century
text presented by Elad (1992, 38) where it quotes Ka’b al-Ahbar having said: ‘I have found
in one of the Books of God that were sent down, that God, may He be exalted, said: Rejoice
Oh Jerusalem, which means I shall send to thee my servant, Abd al-Malik who shall restore
to you your first kingdom, and I shall adorn thee with gold, silver, pearls, and precious
stones, that is the Sakhra, and I shall put my throne on thee as it was before.’ In some of the
Qur’anic verses this image of God sitting on a throne forms part of the description of the
Day of Judgement (39:67–75, 69:13–18), an image that the people of the region were already
aware of through ‘a previous local belief which said that God set up his throne in Jerusalem’,
and the ‘Rock represents the lower throne of God under which the entire earth is spread out’
and where He will be present for the ‘Last Judgement’ (Van Ess 1992, 95–99).
All these lead to the argument that as the Dome of the Rock was built exactly at the
place where it was believed the ‘Day of Judgement’ will happen, it must reflect some aspect
of the ‘Day’ which includes God sitting on His throne. According to Al-Wasiti, there was an
124 palestine exploration quarterly, 139, 2, 2007
existing conception that ‘the Dome of the Rock is the Temple . . . the throne of the Day of
Judgement will stand on the Rock, and there will all congregate . . .’ (Rosen-Ayalon 1989,
60–61). As such, the design ideas for the Dome of the Rock must have been influenced by the
perceived scenario of the ‘Day’ derived from the existing traditions and, more significantly,
from its description in many verses of the Qur’an. One of these mention ‘those who sustain
or bear the throne’ (40:07) and in another: ‘the angels surrounding the throne on all sides,
singing Glory and Praise to their Lord’ (39:75). Some of the verses of Surah Al-Haqqa (the sure
reality) narrate the eschatological scenario of the religion of Islam including a description of
the ‘Day of Judgement’ of which the following may have had the most significant influence
on the design of the Dome of the Rock:
‘On that Day shall the (Great) Event come to pass, and the sky will be rent asunder, for it will that Day
be flimsy, and the angels will be on the sides, and eight will on that Day bear the Throne of thy Lord
above them. That Day shall ye be brought to Judgement: nor an act of yours that ye hide will be
hidden.’ (69:15–18)
There have been several interpretations of the verse that mentions the eight angels
carrying the throne. Sale (1921, 550), again quoting Al Beidwai, wrote: ‘The number of those
who bear it at present being generally supposed to be but four; to whom four more will be
added at the last day, for the grandeur of the occasion.’. Analysing the verse Ibn Kathir
(1999, 639) wrote that ‘Sa’d ibn Zubayr says that “eight angels” is meant to be eight rows
of angels. Many other scholars gave similar descriptions. Ibn Abbas says that the gathered
angels are in eight groups.’ A comparatively recent scholar interpreted the verse as follows:
‘The angels will be on all sides, arrayed in ranks upon ranks, and the Throne of the Lord on
high will be borne by eight angels (or eight rows of angels). That will be the Day when Justice
will be fully established and man be mustered to his Lord for reckoning. The number eight
has perhaps no special significance, unless it be with reference to the shape of the throne or
the number of the angels. The Oriental Throne is often octagonal and its bearers would be
one at each corner.’ (Ali 1992, 1518)
All the interpretations suggest an image of a throne conveniently shaped for either eight
angels or eight rows/groups of angels to hold it. To judge from the arguments presented
earlier that strongly establish the possibility that the Dome of the Rock was built to reflect
God’s action on the ‘Day of Judgement’, it is most likely that the above description of God,
the ‘throne’ and the angels that bear it on the ‘Day’, stated in a surah of the Qur’an whose
title is an expression that means the ‘Day of Judgement’, have made the most significant
contribution in the determination of the octagonal shape of the building. The Dome of
the Rock’s support system beyond the central rotunda consists of two concentric octagonal
structures that emphasise the eight radiating axes originating from the core surrounding the
‘rock’ and passing through the corresponding corners of the two octagons (Fig. 7). The eight
distinct corner points of the outer octagon along these eight axes of the lower half of
the building and the unusually high central part topped with a dome have created a configu-
ration that clearly depicts the image described in verses 15 to 18 of Surah Al-Haqqa of the
The design of the Dome of the Rock with its central space fully occupied by the rock
and lit by the cylindrical shaft of light beaming through the openings in the upper drum, is
such that it does not allow either the rock or the dome to be perceived from most places
inside the building. According to Grabar (1996, 107), ‘This may mean that the building
was planned in such a way that the specificity of the holy object — a rock to be touched or
perhaps only seen — was replaced by the general evocation of something holy but almost
invisible, a secret shared by the faithful, an invisible presence consciously designed into the
building.’ This observation about a ‘holy but invisible’ object on top of the rock being
125the dome of the rock: origin of its octagonal plan
‘designed into the building’ concurs with the view that the designer of the Dome of the Rock
was trying to portray the image of the ‘Throne of God’ held over the ‘rock’ on the Day of
Judgement. The description of the ‘Day’ in Surah al-Haqqa about the angels carrying the
throne provides the ingredient for the shape of the monument’s lower part, i.e., the octagon,
to convey the image of eight or eight rows of angels standing along the eight axes passing
through the corners of the concentric octagons.
Although it was erroneously entitled by some as ‘the Mosque of Umar’ and a mihrab (the
niche in the qibla wall of a mosque) was added to its southern wall at some point of time, the
Dome of the Rock was not intended to be a mosque and therefore its designers had to look
for a new architectural expression appropriate to the purpose of the building and/or the
Fig. 7. The axes of the octagonal plan.
126 palestine exploration quarterly, 139, 2, 2007
message it conveys. The discussion in this paper has shown the existence of a belief among
the people of the region that links Jerusalem, or more precisely the platform identified in the
Qur’an as ‘Masjid al-Aqsa’, with the ‘Day of Judgement’. And that the design of the Dome of
the Rock built on this site was intended to reflect this link by portraying an aspect of the
‘Day’ as described in the Qur’an.
So far, studies on the subject failed to contemplate any influence of the religion of Islam
mainly owing to some aspects of its design reflecting the earlier Roman/Byzantine buildings
in the region and also as the Arabs were thought to have no architectural heritage. Two of
these buildings were in nearby areas of Jerusalem, i.e., the Anastasis or the rotunda of the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of Ascension, and the latter’s octagonal shape
has now been confirmed as a 12th century reconstruction. As for the Anastasis, its description
by Arculf (1895, 5–6), believed to be that of the building restored by Abbot Modestus
(616–628 ad) after the sacking of Jerusalem by the Persians in 614 ad, is ‘This round and very
large church . . . is supported by twelve stone columns of marvellous size’, which does not
mention any pier amongst the columns as there are in the Dome of the Rock. With regard
to its roof, although the 6th century Madaba mosaic suggests a domed building at the
location of the Constantinian church, another representation of the same period suggests it
to be a ‘circular building’ that ‘has a conical roof’ (Duckworth 1922, 97 & Couasnon, 1974,
Plate VI). The reconstructions by Couasnon of the 4th century rotunda (Plate XVII) as well
as the 11th century building (Plate XXV) show the cupola in the shape of a truncated cone
open to the sky. On the mosaic in the apse of St. Pudenziana in Rome, it is shown as ‘a
rather low dome, presumably built of wood with a lead covering’ (Prag 1989, 182). According
to Duckworth, ‘whatever may have been the condition of the Anastasis in this respect at the
time of Arculf’s visit, there can be no doubt but that by the middle of the 9th century it had
been provided with a cupola, the form of which was a truncated cone.’ This cone, built by
Thomas, the Patriarch of Jerusalem (809–829 ad), provoked the displeasure of the Muslims
because of the suspicion ‘that the Church of the Sepulchre now overtopped the sacred
Dome of the Rock’ (Duckworth 1922, 159–61). The ‘dome of the Kumamah’ described in
Muqaddasi’s report (985 ad) is likely to be this building of the Anastasis with its conical dome
built in c. 815 ad. The mention of a ‘hemispherical, not conical’ (Duckworth 1922, 299)
and ‘heavy dome’ (Prag 1989, 186) first appears in its description after the reconstruction
following the fire of 1808 ad. All these accounts show that the Dome of the Rock, whose
basic architectural design has not changed since it was built in 692 ad, did not have much in
common with either of the two other monuments in Jerusalem as they existed at the time
and raises the possibility that, instead of being the sources of influence, some aspects of the
design of these two buildings — as they exist now — could have been influenced by the
Dome of the Rock itself.
The aesthetic treatment of the Dome of the Rock is the first to ‘surpass all previous
buildings’ and it ‘manifested a full-fledged stylistic, structural, and ornamental program
which put it in a class apart as a meaningful architectural monument’ (Rabbat 1989, 17). It
also began the period of excellence in Islamic architecture with remarkable innovation in
aesthetics that continued up to the 17th century through the architecture of the Ottomans,
the Persian and the Mughals and several features of the Dome of the Rock’s design had
significant influence in the later buildings. The imposing high dome, the arcaded support
system and, most importantly, the surface decoration with calligraphy and non-figurative
design became the hallmark of Islamic architecture. Yet, there is no record of any other
important building built with an octagonal shape anywhere in the Islamic world during this
period of a thousand years. This confirms the view presented in this paper that the Dome of
the Rock needed to be octagonal to reflect the unique religious scenario that was believed
to be happening only in the location where it was being built and will not be repeated
anywhere else.
127the dome of the rock: origin of its octagonal plan
1Narrated by Sehl ibn Sa’ad, the Prophet said ‘The
paradise (jannah) has eight gates, of which there is a gate
called the “Rayan” and no one will go through it but
those who fast’ (Bukhari 1987, 3/1188: no. 3084)
2Narrated by Anas ibn Malik: Allah’s Messenger
said, ‘The prayer of a person in his house is a single
prayer; . . . his prayer in the Mosque of Aqsa (i.e., Bayt
al-Maqdis) has a reward of fifty thousand prayers’.
(Ibn Majah 1952, 1/453: no. 1413)
3Narrated by Abu Hurayrah: The Messenger of
Allah said ‘I found myself in hijr and the Quraysh were
asking me about my Night Journey, I was asked about
things pertaining to Bayt al-Maqdis which I could not
preserve (in my mind). . . . Then Allah raised it (Bayt
al-Maqdis) before my eyes. I looked towards it, and gave
them the information about whatever they questioned
me.’ (Muslim, 1/156: no. 170)
4‘It is Allah who gives you life, then gives you death,
then He must gather you together for the Day of Judge-
ment about which there is no doubt.’ (45.26)
5‘And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the
Hour (of Judgement); therefore have no doubt about
the (Hour), but follow Me; this is a Straight Way.’
6‘On that day We shall leave them to surge like
waves on one another, the trumpet will be blown, and
we shall collect them all together’ (18:99).
7Narrated by Abu Said al-Khudri: The Prophet
(pbuh) said, ‘How can I feel comfortable when Angel of
the Trumpet (Israfil) has put his lips to the trumpet wait-
ing to hear the order to blow the trumpet.’ (Ibn Hibban
1987, 3/105: no. 823)
8‘There is no god but He: that is the witness of Allah,
His angels, and those endued with knowledge, standing
firm on justice. There is no god but He, the exalted in
power, the wise.’ (3:18)
9‘. . . Those who disdain His worship and are arro-
gant — He will gather them all together unto Himself
(to answer).’ (4:172)
10 ‘He (Jesus) said: “. . . So peace on me the day I was
born, the day that I die, and the Day that I shall be
raised up to life (again)” ’. (19:30–33)
11 ‘We shall set up scales of justice for the Day of
Judgement, so that not a soul will be dealt with unjustly
in the least.’ (21:47)
12 ‘. . . from Allah, Lord of the ways of ascent. The
angels and the spirits ascend unto Him in a Day the
measure thereof is fifty thousand years’ (70:3–4) Surah Al
Ma’arij (The Ways of Ascent)
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... (i) The fear that Muslims would be influenced by previously built structures: Geographer Makdisi says: Goitein, 1950: 104;İslam and Al-Hamad, 2007: 111). ...
... The cultural practices in the early years were similar to the actions of the Prophet. The archaic form of the Medina mosque has been imitated in cities such as Kûfe, Basra and Vasıt ( Rabbat, 1989: 12;Humpreys, 1991;İslam and Al-Hamad, 2007: 109). Where in the world of the first 60 years these similar and repeated forms, the exchange of one of the sides of the subject brings about the change of other things as well: In this process, people, or here in this context Arabs also changed. ...
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Holy places have an important part in people's lives as areas in which belief in a way becomes visualized. Jerusalem appears as the holiest common area for Judaism, Christianity and Islam which are referred to as Abrahamic religions. In Grabar's words, the city which has become the symbol of Palestine nationalism embodies significant places, structures and stories for all three religions. For Muslims, the city is important since it is the first kiblah and due to the belief that the event of Isra referred to in Qur'an/night journey and Ascension (of the prophet Mohammed) have taken place in Jerusalem. As a result of the effect of this belief, the structure which was to be named Kubbet'üs-Sahra (Dome of the Rock) was built in the holiest point of Jerusalem in 692. Researchers who have analyzed the period and the structure suggest three different views as to why the structure was built. These can be expressed as follows: 1-It was built in the memory of Prophet Mohammed's ascension; 2-Caliph Abd al-Malik got very excited upon seeing the Church of Ascension when he came to Jerusalem which was built by the order of Justinian and wished to have a similar structure built on a rock to prevent Muslims from being affected by the church; 3-The wish to have a structure built in Jerusalem which could compete with the Ka'bah and pilgrimage journey. The most researched point by the researchers along with why the structure was built is the origin of the plan of the structure. Noting that it was impossible for Muslims who did not have an art tradition to have built such a structure, it is suggested that the source of the plan was obtained from the Roman-Byzantium repertoire. What is more, the ornamentation technique and compositions are used to support this view. A new view on the origin argues in the favor of the legendary mausoleums of the ancient Arab kings which were built in Yemen area. The lack of a historical document indicates that this issue will be discussed for a long time to come. In this abstract titled The first Islamic Monument Kubbet'üs-Sahra (Dome of the Rock): A New Proposition, current discussions and views on the structure will briefly be presented and the subject will be dealt in terms of the cultural environment of the period and Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik. A new evaluation will be presented on Kubbet'üs-Sahra which can without doubt be defined as the most controversial structure not only in Islamic art, but also in terms of the cultural history of the world.
... This view has not been seen as historically acceptable, since pilgrims from Syria continued to make pilgrimage during the Umayyad period, and Caliph Abd al-Malik bin Marwan who built the Dome of the Rock, also visited Makkah for the pilgrimage. 30 This disregarded view was presented in the text as a view shared and accepted by the Muslim world. ...
U.S. President Donald Trump declared his long-awaited and debated Middle East ‘peace plan,’ the so-called ‘deal of the century,’ in January 2020, standing alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He promised to keep Jerusalem as Israel's undivided and united capital with recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank. With regards to al-Aqsa Mosque, the plan puts forth the Zionist prospect and point of view, while undermining the Islamic importance of the area. It reduces the area of al-Aqsa Mosque to one single building of the Mosque’s compound and in practical terms, it intends that the whole area of al-Aqsa Mosque (al-Haram al-Sharif) be transformed to allow open access for prayer for visitors of all faiths and thus to end Muslim control over the site of one of Islam’s holiest mosques. The plan would, in practice, lead to three main changes that would undo the centuries-old status quo completely: the transfer of the site to Israeli sovereignty, the repealing of Jordan's apparent custodianship over it, and the expiry of the ban on non-Muslim prayer. This, in turn, would give Israel full control over the site of al-Aqsa Mosque compound, something it could not achieve during the 1967 occupation of the city. Such changes would not only mean that Muslims lose further access to their mosque, but would also allow people of other faiths, particularly Jews, to share the site with Muslims in preparation for a full Jewish monopoly over the site and the building of a Jewish temple on its site.
... The Dome of the Rock was designed and built during the caliphate of Abd al-Malik, the 5th Umayyad caliph of Islam (685-705 AD), and its construction was completed in 692 AD under the supervision of Raja ibn Haywa and Yazid ibn Sallam who are thought to have been in financial and administrative control [10]. The building is octagonal with a wooden dome with a diameter of 20.44 m. ...
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The developments of technology in realizing contemporary designs become a hot issue for the development of the mosque’s appearance and shape. The development of the shell building in the mosque which is quite attractive to the public was the construction of the Cologne Central Mosque in Germany in 2017. For the point of view that shape of the building is a new era in the use of shell structures in the mosque. The shell structure commonly used as a dome of the mosque that is used as a symbol of the mosque buildings in general use and continues to this day which began from the era of the caliphate. This paper will present a review of the structural designs and building materials on the shell structure of the mosque which has been developing from time to time. And can be used as a possible new reference in the future developments of mosque architecture.
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In recent decades, the attention given to the concept of heritage, whether tangible or intangible, has significantly increased. Governments have associated the concept of national identity with heritage. However, such an association has transformed heritage, including Islamic urban heritage, into an emotional concept that inspires nostalgic sentiments towards an idealised past. This research raises questions regarding the concept of heritage and its formulation: Does heritage include everything that has been inherited from previous generations? How can we create a landscape of urban heritage that reflects the image of the desired national identity? This research aims to re-read the concept of Islamic urban heritage in a contemporary perspective. It adopts a methodology of critical analysis, stemming from Foucault’s concept of governmentality, to tackle contemporary issues related to urban heritage, such as the concepts of identity, power, and authority, commonly referred to as politicisation of heritage, as well as the concepts of history, tradition, and the inherited. In its analysis of Islamic urban heritage, the research refers to writings on Islamic politics as well as Ibn Khaldoun’s theory of Islamic political modes. The research concludes that the concept of Islamic urban heritage has been developed to serve, among other purposes, the formation of a national identity of an Islamic character, and therefore, it is a selective, politicised heritage that does not reflect authentic Islamic tradition. Rather, it is subject to contemporary capitalist mechanisms that serve to promote national identity, gain material profit, and benefit the heritage tourism industry.
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In the last few decades, Islamic urban heritage has emerged as a concept associated with notions of national and cultural identity. However, if we distinguish between heritage, in its contemporary sense, and the inherited, the question is, does all the inherited constitute heritage? Can we form heritage by selecting from history? As argued in this article, the contemporary notion of Islamic urban heritage was manufactured in a selective, politicized manner to serve, among its objectives, the process of instituting a national identity that embraces capitalist mechanisms and aims to maintain its power structure. It is a politicized process that empties history and tradition from their authenticity to create an image of the past, one that has never existed. It is simply a falsification of the past, or a simulacrum.
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This article challenges the received narratives regarding the history of Jerusalem framed by what I call a generous theology of history. By this I mean that world history avails us with a model for inclusion, recognizing how different people at different times and places understood the history and meaning of Jerusalem. I wrote this to challenge Jews, Muslims, and Christians to shift their sectarian understanding of Jerusalem so that space can be created for recognizing God's providence throughout history.
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"On The Political Rhetoric of Toponyms: Jerusalem in the History of Redemption" Place names, or toponyms, convey meaning, shaping our understandings of ourselves, our communities, and “the others” who agree and disagree with us about them. By studying historical geography, we learn that over time places are named and renamed, and that what was once here is now there. Jerusalem’s symbolic power is beyond calculation. The more we study Jerusalem, the more our assumptions about her are challenged. We know that the political rhetoric of toponyms has been deployed for polemical reasons throughout the immensely long history of Jerusalem. What we think we know because of these names and concepts often is the site of conflict as competing interpretations of the evidence—literary, archeological, and historical monuments—are enough to lead to war and trauma. Nowhere is quite like Jerusalem, with its identity shaped by the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, The Quran, and the traditions of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Here I lay out the framework for my understanding of the evidence and scholarship on the theme of how we understand the toponyms “Israel” and “Palestine” and the place of Jerusalem in our own thinking. For the followers of Yeshu’a, who sanctified the Temple by His appearance there, this history is an important source of our understanding of His life and the history of those who have been called by His name. Our witness is to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us, making us the Temple of the Holy Spirit in this dispensation, the Age of the Messianic Movement, in all its historical complexity. Jewish believers have a burden to become the most knowledgeable experts about the history of the Land of Israel. Our scholarship is a critical dimension to our existence as a community that transcends politics, pointing towards Second Coming of the Lord and His coming Kingdom.
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Place names, or toponyms, convey meaning, shaping our understandings of ourselves, our communities, and "the others" who agree and disagree with us about them. By studying historical geography, we learn that over time places are named and renamed, and that what was once here is now there. Jerusalem's symbolic power is beyond calculation. The more we study Jerusalem, the more our assumptions about here are challenged. We know that the political rhetoric of toponyms has been deployed for polemical reasons throughout the immensely long history of Jerusalem. What we think we know because of these names and concepts often is the site of conflict as competing interpretations of the evidence-literary, archeological, and historical monuments-are enough to lead to war and trauma.
Seen in the distance of this photo is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. After surviving much destruction and repair, the church stands presently in Jerusalem. It was built to commemorate the hill of crucifixion and Christ’s tomb. The church itself is very intricately designed by the use of many ornamental techniques throughout its structure. Certain elements such as the rosette-frieze design on the arches, and the acanthus medallion between the two portals parallel architecture common in churches of the 5th and 6th centuries in Syria.
DISSERTATION (PH.D.)--THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN Dissertation Abstracts International,