Dome of the Rock

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The Dome of the Rock

There is no doubt that the Dome of the Rock is one of the rarest works of the Islamic regions. The Dome of the Rock is one of the first known domed works of Islamic architecture. The Dome of the Rock is called with different names which are Qubbat al-Sakhrah in Arabic, and Templum Domini (Kapolony, 2010, p. 78) or Temple of the Lord during the Crusades. It is close to the centre of al-Aqsa Mosque enclave, and it has been built a few meters to the north-west of the centre of the al-Aqsa enclave (AL-RATROUT, 2004, p. 369). Also, the Dome of the Rock takes place the highest point on the centre of the al-Aqsa enclave. After the city came under Muslim rule by Umar ibn al-Khattab in 637CE had given sign the place would be given importance throughout Islamic history. The Dome of the Rock is the best sign of this in the early Islamic period. It is said that, the Dome of the Rock was built in place of the Umar mosque that had been built in the time of the Umar al Khattab after the conquest of the the Holy City. This is not accurate as the mihrab (the niche in the qibla wall of a mosque) still exists at its southern wall (Al-Hamad, 2007). The remarkable monument which was built by the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik was completed in 691 (Rabbat, 2014, p. 12). Also, the date of completion of it has been understood from an inscription in Kufi script (AL-RATROUT, 2004, p. 370) inside of the monument. Some claim that the Dome of the Rock had been planned as a shrine (a place of visit) rather than a Masjid (place of prayer). But in the early Islamic period, it was used as a place of prayer. Moreover, the structure has created a discussion that the purpose of the building and why it was needed. According to the Oleg Grabar who quotes from the other authors, they explain the purpose of the structure. They argue that Abd al-Malik considered Jerusalem Beytülmakdis as the religious centre of Islam and built the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhrah) as a centre for pilgrimage (Grabar, 1959, p. 35), basing these interpretation on a singular quotation from the Shi'i historian al-Ya’qubi. Whereas, according to al-Ratrout, the Dome of the Rock should be associated with Kaaba in terms of pilgrimage. Namely, The Dome of the Rock should have had a similar shape, like the Kabah. Besides, the Dome of the Rock does not have a large courtyard as Kaaba, which means it is very hard for all Muslims to tawaf at the same time (AL-RATROUT, 2004, p. 372). Rejecting this claim, he argues that it can be said that the reason for the building of the Dome of Rock was part of the overall rebuilding project of al-Aqsa Mosque. Also, this monument has changed the skyline of the city and provides a Muslim identity to the city(AL-RATROUT, 2004).

Dome of The Rock within Al Aqsa Compound

The Significant of Religion for The Dome of The Rock

According to Muslim belief, this Rock is significant as it is associated with Prophet Muhammad's Qiblah and Ascension. In the Qur'an, this relationship has been described with the Surah of Isra. Surah of Isra mentions about the destination of his Night Journey (AL-RATROUT, 2004, p. 373). It is said that The Prophet Muhammad had ascended from the rock where later the Dome of the Rock was built. In addition, the area of al-Aqsa Mosque, and in particular where the Dome of the Rock is located, has been accepted as the first Qiblah of Muslims (AL-RATROUT, 2004). Another important significance is that, the place of al-Aqsa Mosque is generally associated with the Day of Judgment(al-Awaisi, 2007, p. 32).Therefore, the Dome of Rock or Qubbat al-Sakhrah in the heart of al-Aqsa Mosque is a milestone in Muslim belief.

The History of the Dome of the Rock

It is known from history that the Dome of the Rock had been built in the period of Umayyad and before the dome was built over the Rock, its significance is recorded and some historical accounts associate it with certain periods. Late in the 6th BC period, Jerusalem has been occupied by Babylon but in this period, it cannot be mentioned existed neither monuments nor monuments places. Because all monuments completely were destroyed by them, however, they did not interest in reanimating all city structures, also included the enclave of Masjid al Aqsa(Shammalah, 2019, p. 47). After the Persians occupied the Jerusalem Beytulmakdis in 539 BC, it is claimed that the walls of the city which were built with "Solomon's Temple", were destroyed by the Babylonians(“Solomon temple,” 2020). Respectively, the period of sovereignty in Jerusalem Beytulmakdis had followed by the Greek period so, Greek-style was seen to affect monuments in Jerusalem. One of the most remarkable performances in the period of King Herod the Great in 40 BC. The boundaries of the area known today as “Al-Aqsa Mosque” were determined by the walls built during Herod's time(“time of Herod in Jerusalem,” 2020). The Roman period continued until 325AD(Shammalah, 2019, p. 48). Roman commander Titus destroyed many buildings in Jerusalem Beytulmakdis, like the Persians in that period. Jerusalem Beytulmakdis had different environments than before in the time of the Byzantine in 313-640AD(Magnis, 2012, p. 333). The Christianising culture had been seen over the many structures and profound impact on Jerusalem. The Islamic period, furthermore, started with the Islamic conquest of Beytulmakdis and the conquest took place from 634 AH to 644 AH(Schick, 1998). However, the period of the Caliph Umar, the enclave of Masjid al Aqsa witnessed renewing and Caliph Umar bin al-Khattab was interested in these innovations. He restored as the first Muslim musalla praying place in al-Aqsa Mosque that is oriented toward Qiblah(Shammalah, 2019, p. 51) and it was stimulated as the Prophet’s Mosque. During the Umayyad period, the most important thing is the building of the Dome of the Rock which is a magnificent structure representing Muslims became the symbol of Beytulmakdis. Beytulmakdis had entered a different period including the Dome of the Rock in the period of the Crusaders. The city's common area and structure changed with the Crusaders. Hence, The Latin kingdom of Jerusalem was established in Baytulmakdis and the Dome of the Rock was turned into a church which is called "Church of the Holy of Holies”(Shammalah, 2019, p. 54). In the followed Ayyubid period, the city was conquered by the Commander Salah Ad-Din and He particularly restored the area of Al-Aqsa Mosque enclave and especially the Dome of the Rock which was cleansed from all kinds of dirt and rubbish. Salah Ad-Din gave the city a Muslim appearance(Shammalah, 2019, p. 55). After the Ayyubids, the Mamlukes had given great importance and restored the al-Aqsa enclave and the Dome of the Rock. Apart from this, during the Ottoman period, the interest in the region was continued by the Sultans. Especially Solomon the Magnificent made changes in the appearance of the Dome of the Rock(Sevinc, 2016).

Kufic Inscriptions within the Dome of the Rock

Umayyad inscription in the inner face of the arcade taken from squarekufic.com

To further disprove the claims made by Grabar, 1959, p35 based on a quote by the Shi’a historian Al Ya’qubi that Abd al Malik Ibn Marwan was building the dome of the rock to become the new centre of Pilgrimage, we look within the structure itself, in particular, its inscriptions. According to the Orientalist Estelle Whelan in her article “Forgotten Witness: Evidence for the Early Codifica-tion of the Qur’an” printed in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, the inscriptions are connected to a “wider anti-Christian propaganda” She believes “the script was not chosen randomly but was selected to convey a message”. Although, the script is evidently one which calls to Tawhid (Oneness of ALLAH) and against the Trinity (Christian belief of Father, Son and the Holy spirit), Lawrence Nees in his book titled Perspective on Early Islamic Art in Jerusalem sees the script from a fresh perspective. He states that being “an outsider” helped him to look at things differently. He suggested that although tensions had increased between religions in the later centuries. It doesn’t mean that was the case in the earlier stages. Nees also remarks that the inscriptions themselves were ‘Less anti-Christian than it might well have been’ that they can in fact be ‘appealing rather than rejecting the Christians.

Inscriptions within the Inner Octagon, Dome of the Rock, Islamicjerusalem

Inscriptions in the Inner Octagon with their closest interpretations in English

S: In the Name of ALLAH, The Merciful, The Compassionate. There is no deity worthy of worship except ALLAH. HE is One. He has no partners. To HIM belongs all Sovereignty and to HIM belongs all praise. He gives life and death and HE has power over all things. Muhammed is the Servant of ALLAH and His Messenger.

SE: Verily, ALLAH and HIS angels send salah (mercy/blessings) upon the Prophet (Muhammed). O, you who believe, send Salah and peace upon him. May ALLAHs salah and peace be upon him and ALLAHs mercy upon him. O people of the book. Do not be extreme in your deen.

E: And do not say upon ALLAH except the truth. Verily, the messiah, Son of Maryam (Mary) is the messenger of ALLAH and the word of ALLAH (Be!) that he gave to Maryam and the spirit that ALLAH created for Maryam for Eesa (Jesus) to be alive. So believe in ALLAH and HIS messengers and do not say the trinity. Stop.

NE: It is best for you as ALLAH is One deity. Glory be to HIM; he is far beyond having a son. He owns what is in the heavens and the earth. ALLAH is sufficient as a defender. The Messi-ah would never frown to be a

N: a servant of ALLAH. Nor will the angels. Whoever frowns in his Ibaadah (worship) to ALLAH and is proud and arrogant. They will all be resurrected to him. O ALLAH, send your mercy and blessings upon your messenger and servant Eesa (Jesus)

NW: Son of Mary, and Peace upon him the day that he was born and the day he dies and the day he is resurrected alive. For this is Eesa (Jesus) son of Maryam (Mary). The word of truth which they doubt. For it is not for ALLAH to take a son. Glory be to HIM

W: if he decrees a matter, all he needs to say is Be and it is. Verily, ALLAH is my Lord and your Lord so worship HIM. This is the straight path. For ALLAH bears witness that there is no other deity than HIM and the angels and those with knowledge also bear witness. So, ALLAH is the one who has maintained justice. There is no deity but him

SW: The Mighty, The Wise. The deen of ALLAH is Islam. Those who received the book previ-ously (The people of the book) differed between themselves after the knowledge came to them, and whoever disbelieves in the ayahs (signs) of ALLAH. Allah is swift in his reckoning.

Inscriptions within the Outer Octagon, Dome of the Rock, Islamicjerusalem

Inscriptions in the Outer Octagon with their closest interpretation in English

S: In the name of ALLAH, The Merciful the Compassionate. There is No God but ALLAH. HE is One. He has no partners. Say: HE is ALLAH, the One. ALLAH, The Eternal. He does not have children and HE was not given birth to. And there’s no-one like HIM. Muhammed is the messenger of ALLAH. (Salah) Mercy/blessings be upon him.

SW: In the name of ALLAH, the most merciful and the most compassionate. There is no deity worthy of worship but ALLAH. He has no partner. Muhammed is the Messenger of ALLAH. ALLAH and HIS angels send salah (Mercy/blessings) upon the Prophet.

W: O, you who believe, send Salah (Mercy/Blessings) upon him and peace and salutations. In the name of ALLAH, the Merciful, the compassionate. There is no deity worthy of worship except ALLAH. HE is one. Praise be to

NW: ALLAH Who has never had any children/son. HE does not have a partner or any protector. Revere HIM with the highest reverence. (Surah Isra, verse 111) Muhammed is the Messenger of AL

N: LAH, Salah of ALLAH and HIS angels and HIS messengers and the peace upon the Prophet (Muhammed) and mercy of ALLAH. In the name of ALLAH, The merciful, The compassionate. There is no deity worthy of worship except ALLAH. The One. HE has no partners.

NE: To HIM belongs the sovereignty and to HIM belongs all praise. HE gives life and death and HE has power over all things. Muhammed is the messenger of ALLAH. Salah (Mercy/Blessings) of ALLAH upon HIM. And HE accepts his intercession on the Day of Judgement on behalf of his Ummah.

E: In the name of ALLAH, the Merciful, the Compassionate. There is no deity worthy of worship except ALLAH. HE has no partner. Muhammed is the messenger of ALLAH. Salah (Mercy/Blessings) of ALLAH be upon him. The dome was built by (Abd

SE: ULLAH(Ibn Marwan Crossed out, but historians highlight that the origin was Abdullah Ibn Marwan due to the year it was made; 72 AH and Caliph Ma’mun changed it) The Imam Ma’mun. The leader of the believers. In the year two and seventy. May ALLAH accept it from him and be pleased with him. Aameen. Lord of the Worlds. Praise be to ALLAH

It is clear from the above Inscriptions that Abdullah Ibn Marwan had no intention to replace the Qiblah for the Muslims. As the dome is built facing the South and the Inscriptions begin in the name of ALLAH from the direction of the Qiblah in Makkah.

It is also clear that the main intention for the inscriptions is to call people to Tawheed and praise ALLAH in a society that was dominantly of the Christian belief of Trinity.

Structure feature of the Dome of the Rock

Mosaic decoration within Dome of the Rock, Islamicjerusalem

The rock is in the centre of the Dome of the Rock and is surrounded by two concentric rows of columns enclosed within octagonal walls(Magnis, 2012, p. 351) and it has different boundary walls and eight sides, also “each faces measure 20.6 meters in length and 12.1 meters in height including the 2.6 meters of the parapet”. The outer walls are also in harmony with the octagon. Each wall that has seven windows(AL-RATROUT, 2004, p. 388) including doors are aligned to a different side and each wall has its own central door. According to Routrout, each central door measures “2.55 meters in width and 4.35 in height”. Moreover, since the boundary walls have both a small arched parapet(AL-RATROUT, 2004, p. 383) and belong to the same period, they have been in general harmony. On the other hand, even though the Dome of the Rock has been restored or erection at different times, it sustains its originality in building interior decoration including the dome. But according to Richmond quoted by Rautrot, the exterior mosaic was changed by ceramic tiles in 16AD thus, the exterior original mosaics no longer exist today(AL-RATROUT, 2004, p. 383). Furthermore, interior design and structure of the building have sustained its attractiveness and many different decorative arts were utilized such as wood, mosaic, and stucco(AL-RATROUT, 2004, p. 405). There have eight piers and sixteen marble columns that supported the main arches inside of the Dome of the Rock, and all piers and columns are connected by decorated wooden tie-beams, also, and the wooden tie-beams are surrounded inside the area(AL-RATROUT, 2004, p. 387). The flat surfaces of the interior side of the Dome of the Rock consist of a white marble floor(Kapolony, 2010, p. 68) and plaques. The purpose of the plaques is to show the better patterns, besides on the top of the wall, that is, under the arches, there have mosaics that have gold leaf patterns that covered with colorful mosaics(Magnis, 2012, p. 352). According to Richmond quoted by Routrout, the mosaics were utilized also with glass tesserae and mother-of-pearl(AL-RATROUT, 2004, p. 388). Moreover, Mosaics in the Dome of the Rock are admiring because many mosaics have different motives and patterns and meanings. It can be said that those motifs and patterns are jewelry, cornucopias, and vegetal shape with vases(Grabar, 1959, p. 47). The jeweled motif is located on the inner surface of the octagonal column and it is seen brighter against the light(Grabar, 1959, p. 47). Additionally, some motifs composition like floral(AL-RATROUT, 2004, p. 409) has resembled motifs of other monuments in the Masjid al-Aqsa enclave. The Dome of the Rock' mosaics can be diverse in terms of meaning than they seem. Namely, the tangible shape on the mosaics can have abstract meaning, moreover, they can have the interpretive meaning as the iconographic(AL-RATROUT, 2004, p. 412) that means the mosaics may contain different comments. For instance, according to Oleg Grabar, crowns and jewels also may state an artistic theme of Byzantine origin, which, in an Islamic context, to highlight sacred symbols in the sanctuary and may symbolize Muslims' victory over Christians(Grabar, 1959, p. 52). Another interpretation of the mosaics' meaning according to Rosen-Ayalon quoted by Routrout(AL-RATROUT, 2004, p. 414) their meanings have been described both Paradise and resurrection, also from the Arabic scripts are proved meaning of resurrection and Judgement and the proof is seen that in the Quran 69:17 as the meaning of the day of Resurrection. In addition, the Dome of the Rock makes a difference with its inscription at the inner and exterior octagonal arcade, like its structural feature and spiritual meaning(A.J. Deus, 2013, pp. 34–35). The inscription of arcade proves that the dome of the Rock represents only Muslims and it has not been utilized from Christian or Jews architecture. Moreover, having a magnificent visual structure of the Dome of the Rock has been completed with the Dome which it's named. Besides, it has a roof as a dome which is given details by some scholars. According to them, the dome occurs from sheets of lead and plates of copper gilt, followed by another explanation, the dome consists three-layer which are the first layer is wooden planking decorated with paintings, the second one is bars of iron, the third one is wood covered with sheets(AL-RATROUT, 2004, p. 391). According to Beatrice St. Laurent, the gold-covered dome could be referred to as a sign of the magnificent existence of Islam in the city(St. Laurent, 1998). Besides, According to Kapalony, the dome can be accepted another subject of superiority of Islam over Christianity because the dome of the Rock has a higher dome than the Dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher(Kapolony, 2010, p. 65).

Cross Section of the Dome of The Rock, Islamicjerusalem

Conclusion

As mentioned further, the Dome of the Rock is a monument that was build to commemorate the Islamic significance of this place and was designed and thought according to its purpose and messages. The al-Aqsa enclave is one of the symbols of holiness where the Dome of the Rock is located. The Dome of the Rock, on the other hand, was built with the awareness of the Masjid al-Aqsa holiness. As it is said before, it is the first great Muslim monument in the Umayyad period. As much as Muslims, Jews, and Christian in the city that carries beliefs and traditions just like "Mount Moriah", the Dome of the Rock has testified to history(Grabar, 1959, p. 62). On the other hand, the Dome of the Rock has been unique with its remarkable octagonal design, the large golden dome, mosaics in deep-meaning, inscription, and architectural features.

References

A.J. Deus, 2013. The Umayyad Dynasty’s Conversion to Islam (from the low point until ca. 692 AD).

al-Awaisi, A.F.M., 2007. The Barakah Circle theory of Islamicjerusalem, in: Introducing Islamicjerusalem. Al-Maktum Institute Academic Press, England, pp. 1–147.

Al-Hamad, Z., 2007. The Dome of the Rock: Origin of its Octagonal Plan. Palest. Explor. Q. 139(2):109–128.

AL-RATROUT, H.F., 2004. QUBBET AL-SAKHRAH (The Dome of the Rock), in: THE ARCHITECTURAL DEVELOPMENT Of AL-AQSA MOSQUE IN ISLAMIC JERUSALEM IN THE EARLY ISLAMIC PERIOD SACRED ARCHITECTURE IN THE SHAPE OF “THE HOLY.” Al-Maktum Institute Academic Press, pp. 405–457.

Grabar, O., 1959. The Umayyad Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Freer Gallery Art Smithson. Inst. Dep. TheHistory Art Univ. Mich. Vol. 3, 33–62.

Kapolony, A., 2010. The Ḥaram of Jerusalem (324-1099): Temple, Friday Mosque, Area of Spiritual Power. Freiburger Islamstudien, Stuttgart.

Magnis, J., 2012. the archological of the Holyearly i. Cambridge University Press, USA.

Monumental Kufic Arabic script: https://www.islamic-awareness.org/history/islam/inscriptions/dotr

Rabbat, N., 2014. Islamic Architecture and the Profession. Int. J. Islam. Archit. 3, 37–40.

Schick, R., 1998. Archaeological Sources for the History of Palestine: Palestine in the Early Islamic Period: Luxuriant Legacy. East. Archaeol., 2 61, 74–108.

Sevinc, T., 2016. Mescidü’l-Aksa ve Kubbetüs-Sahre Camilerinde İmar ve Tamir Faaliyetleri. Yaşam Bilim. Derg. 6, 1720–1742.

Shammalah, S.A., 2019. Bayt al-Makdis: A short History from Ancient to Modern Times, in: Al-Quds History, Religion and Politics. SETA, Ankara, pp. 44–68. Solomon tample, 2020.

St. Laurent, B., 1998. The Dome of the Rock and the Politics of Restoration. Bridgew. State Coll. Rev. 17, 14–20. time of Herod in Jerusalem, 2020.

E. Whelan., 1998. “Forgotten Witness: Evidence for the Early Codification of the Qur’an”, in Journal of the American Oriental Society 118, 1