Skip to main content

Why was the Dome of the Rock built? A new perspective on a long-discussed question

  • Milka Levy-Rubin (a1)

The existing discussion regarding the motives for building the Dome of the Rock revolves around two suggestions: that the incentive for building was the fierce competition between ʿAbd al-Malik and ʿAbdallah b. al-Zubayr in Mecca, and that it was competition with local Christian monuments that moved ʿAbd al-Malik to building this outstanding edifice. This paper suggests that a third incentive lay in the political and ideological rivalry with Constantinople that was at its peak during that period. This rivalry drove ʿAbd al-Malik to build a monument that would outdo those of Constantinople, and especially that of the Hagia Sophia. Muslim tradition emphasized that Constantinople had contaminated the site of the Temple and had claimed to inherit its place as God's throne on earth. The building of the Dome of the Rock, the New Temple of Solomon, was thus meant to redeem the Temple of Jerusalem's honour as of old against the claims of Constantinople.

Corresponding author
Hide All

I would like to thank Prof. Amikam Elad for his helpful comments. Errors remain mine alone.

Hide All

1 For this ongoing discussion see Elad, A., “Why did ʿAbd al-Malik build the Dome of the Rock? A re-examination of the Muslim sources”, in Raby, J. and Johns, J. (eds), Bayt al-Maqdis, ʿAbd al-Malik's Jerusalem, Part One (Oxford Studies in Islamic Art, Vol. IX. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), vol. 1, 3358 ; idem, Medieval Jerusalem and Islamic Worship (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 147–63; for Elad's most recent version see ʿAbd al-Malik and the Dome of the Rock: a further examination of the Muslim sources”, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam (JSAI) 35, 2008, 167226 , including a full survey of the ongoing discussion. For the positions of Goldziher, Goitein and others, and a full bibliography, see O. Grabar, “Ḳubbat al-Ṣakhra”, in Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition (EI 2), ed. P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs; M. Milwright, “Dome of the Rock”, Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three (EI 3), ed. Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson; Grabar, , “The Umayyad Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem”, Ars Orientalis 3, 1959, 3362 ; Grabar, , The Shape of the Holy: Early Islamic Jerusalem (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996); Grabar, , The Dome of the Rock (Cambridge MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2006); and more recently Milwright, M., The Dome of the Rock and Its Umayyad Mosaic Inscriptions (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016). On the date of the construction see S. Blair, “What is the date of the Dome of the Rock?”, Bayt al-Maqdis, 59–83. For a discussion of the iconography see Rosen-Ayalon, M., The Early Islamic Monuments of al-Haram al-Sharīf: An Iconographic Study (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University, 1989); Shani, R., “The iconography of the Dome of the Rock”, JSAI 23, 1999, 158207 ; Necipoğlu, Gülru, “The Dome of the Rock as palimpsest: ʿAbd al-Malik's grand narrative and Sultan Süleyman's glosses”, Muqarnas 25, 2008, 17105 ; and more recently Nees, L., Perspectives on Early Islamic Art in Jerusalem (Leiden: Brill, 2016).

2 O. Grabar, “Ḳubbat al-Ṣakhra”, EI 2.

3 Goldziher, I., Muslim Studies II, trans. Stern, S.M. (London, 1967–71), 44–6; Elad, “Why did ʿAbd al-Malik build”; Elad, Medieval Jerusalem, 158–63; Elad, “ʿAbd al-Malik and the Dome of the Rock”.

4 Goitein, S.D., “The historical background of the erection of the Dome of the Rock”, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 70, 1950, 104–8; Goitein, , “The sanctity of Palestine in Early Islam”, in Studies in Islamic History and Institutions (Leiden: Brill, 1966), 135–48; for Grabar, see above, n. 1.

5 See Grabar, O., “The Umayyad Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem”, Ars Orientalis 3, 1959, 3362 , esp. 42; Grabar, , The Shape of the Holy, Early Islamic Jerusalem (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 112; see also Shani, “Iconography”, 164, n. 28, with additional bibliography regarding this question; see also Levenson, J.D., Inheriting Abraham (Princeton: PUP, 2012), who discusses among other issues Abraham's role in Islam, and the traditions locating the sacrifice of Isaac to the Temple Mount, passim.

6 Hasson, I., “The Muslim view of Jerusalem: The Qur'an and Hadith”, in Prawer, J. and Ben-Shammai, H. (eds), The History of Jerusalem: The Early Islamic Period (638–1099) (New York: New York University Press, 1996), 349–85.

7 Livne-Kafri, O., Jerusalem in Early Islam – Selected Essays (Jerusalem: Yad Ben Zvi, 2000), esp. “On Jerusalem in Early Islam”, 78–109 (in Hebrew); see also Livne-Kafri, Ofer, “A note on some traditions of Faḍāʾil al-Quds ”, JSAI 14, 1991, 7183 .

8 Van Ess, J., “ʿAbd al-Malik and the Dome of the Rock: an analysis of some texts”, in Raby, J. and Johns, J. (eds), Bayt al-Maqdis, vol. 1, 89103 .

9 “Why did ʿAbd al-Malik build”; Elad, Medieval Jerusalem, 158–63; Elad, “ʿAbd al-Malik and the Dome of the Rock”.

10 Cook, D., Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic (Princeton: Darwin Press, 2002), 54–5.

11 Berger, P., The Crescent on the Temple: The Dome of the Rock as Image of the Ancient Jewish Sanctuary (Brill: Leiden, 2012), 3153 .

12 “The Dome of the Rock as palimpsest”.

13 Crone, P. and Cook, M., Hagarism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 10.

14 Sharon, M., “The ‘praises of Jerusalem' as a source for the early history of Islam” , Bibliotheca Orientalis 44, 1992, 5667 ; Busse, H., “The Temple of Jerusalem and its restitution by ʿAbd al-Malik b. Marwān”, in Kühnel, B. (ed.), The Real and Ideal Jerusalem in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Art: Studies in Honour of Bezalel Narkiss on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday (Jerusalem, 1998), 2333 ; Rabbat, N., “The meaning of the Umayyad Dome of the Rock”, Muqarnas 6, 1989, 1221 ; Elad, Medieval Jerusalem, 161–3; Elad, “ʿAbd al-Malik and the Dome of the Rock”, 180–3.

15 Busse, “The Temple of Jerusalem and it restitution”, 30; Busse, , “Jerusalem in the story of Muhammad's night journey and ascension”, JSAI 14, 1991, 140 ; N. Rabbat, “The meaning of the Umayyad Dome of the Rock”, 12–3; Grabar, O., The Dome of the Rock (Cambridge, 2006), 140–41. Goitein and lately Rubin support the idea that this tradition is in fact early. See S.D. Goitein and O. Grabar, “Al-Quds”, EI2 vol. 5, 322–44; Rubin, U., “Muhammad's Night Journey (Isrā) to al-Masjid al-Aqṣā. Aspects of the earliest origins of the Islamic sanctity of Jerusalem”, Al-Qantara 29/1, 2008, 147–64; and see Hasson, “The Muslim view of Jerusalem”, who argues with Goitein.

16 See Robinson, C. F., ʿAbd al-Malik (Oxford: Oneworld, 2005), 19 , esp. p. 8.

17 Robinson, ʿAbd al-Malik, 7.

18 Elad, “ʿAbd al-Malik and the Dome of the Rock”, 211.

19 For a succinct description of this dilemma see Dagron, G., Constantinople imaginaire: études sur le recueil des ‘patria’ (Paris: PUF, 1984), 304–5.

20 Linder, A., “Ecclesia and Synagoga in the medieval myth of Constantine the Great”, Revue Belge de Philologie et d'Histoire 54, 1976, 1021–60, esp. 1027–30; Irshai, O., “Constantine and the Jews: the prohibition against entering Jerusalem – history and hagiography”, Zion 60, 1995, 129–78 (Hebrew).

21 In Jewish tradition this transition was not permanent as was conceived at the time in Christian theology, but was temporary just until its final return to Jerusalem. See E. Ben Eliyahu, who also claims that the Jewish tradition at some point shifted the destination of the divine presence following the destruction from the Mount of Olives to the desert in order to differentiate itself from the developing Christian tradition regarding the sanctity of the Mount: Ben-Eliyahu, E., “Mount of Olives – between Jews and Christians in the Roman Byzantine Era”, in Baruch, E. (ed.), New Studies on Jerusalem (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan University, 1998), 5563 (in Hebrew).

22 See Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, III, 25.

23 See e.g. Eusebius' Commentary of Psalms, 59, 7; Jerome, In Sophoniam, I, 15–6 (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina, vol. 75, p. 125), and more in Linder, “Ecclesia and Synagoga”, 1034–5;  Dagron, Constantinople imaginaire, 304–5.

24 Eusebius, Demonstratio Evangelica, VI, 18; idem, Tricennalia 9, ed. Heikel, GCS VII (1902), 221; Linder, Ecclesia and Synagoga”, 1032–33.

25 Linder, “Ecclesia and Synagoga”, 1033.

26 See A Letter of the bishops gathered in Constantinople”, in Tanner, Norman P. (ed.), Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils (London and Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 1990), vol. 1, 910 .

27 The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon: vol. 2, ed. and trans. Price, Richard and Gaddis, Michael (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2005), 244–9.

28 C. Mango, “The Temple Mount, AD 614 –638”, in Raby and Johns, Bayt al-Maqdis, I, 1–16.

29 Sackur, Ernest, Sybillinische Texte und Forschungen (Halle, 1898), 186, cited by Alexander, Paul, “The strength of empire and capital as seen through Byzantine eyes”, Speculum 37, 1962, 339–57, esp. 343–4.

30 For references to the original Syriac, Greek and Latin texts, introduction and annotated English translation of the last part (beginning with the Muslim conquest) as well as further bibliography, see Sebastian Brock, in Palmer, A., The Seventh Century in West-Syrian Chronicles (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1993), 222–42. For the full text beginning with the creation see now Garstad, B., Apocalypse Pseudo Methodius – An Alexandrian World Chronicle (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 14. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2012); For a new and updated edition of the Syriac text see Reinink, G.J., Die Syrische Apokalypse des Pseudo-Methodius, CSCO 540 SS Syri 220 (text) (Louvain: Peeters 1993), XIV, 2. Regarding the date of the text see Kmosko, Michael, “Das Rätsel des Pseudomethodius”, Byzantion 6, 1931, 273–6,  who dates it to the reign of Muʿāwiya (661–680 ce). Brock and Reinink date the text to 691; see Brock, S., “Syriac views of emergent Islam”, in Juynboll, G. (ed.), Studies on the First Century of Islamic Society (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982), 18–9; Reinink, G., “Pseudo-Methodius: a concept of history in response to the rise of Islam”, in Cameron, A. and Conrad, L.I. (eds), The Byzantine and Early Islamic Near-East I: Problems in the Literary Source Material (Princeton: Darwin Press, 1992), 178–86. Congourdeau claims that since the Cross is still to be found in Jerusalem, the text must have been written prior to the Muslim conquest, when the Cross was taken to Constantinople. See Congourdeau, M.H., “Jérusalem et Constantinople dans la littérature apocalyptique”, in Kaplan, M. (ed.), Le sacré et son inscription dans l'espace à Byzance et en Occident (Byzantina Sorbonensia 18. Paris, 2000), 125–36.

31 Trans. Brock, in Palmer, The Seventh Century, 240.

32 See Ousterhout, R., “Sacred geographies and holy cities: Constantinople as Jerusalem”, in Lidov, A. (ed.), Hierotopy: The Creation of Sacred Spaces in Byzantium and Medieval Russia (Moscow, 2006), 98116 , esp. 101–4.

33 John of Damascus, “Third homily on the dormition of Mary”, IX, 18–9, PG , 748–52, citing the lost Euthymian History, ch. 40; on these traditions see Wortley, J., “The Marian relics at Constantinople”, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 45, 2005, 171–87; Shoemaker, Stephen J., Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 207–8; Panagopoulos, S.P., “The Byzantine traditions of the Virgin Mary's dormition and assumption”, Studia Patristica 54, 2012, 18 .

34 See Avner, R., “The Kathisma: a Christian and Muslim pilgrimage site”, Aram Periodical 19, 2007, 541–57.

35 See Geyer, P. (ed.), Itinera Hierosolymitana Saeculi III–VIII (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 39, Vienna, 1898), 148; for English translation see Wilkinson, J., Jerusalem Pilgrims (Jerusalem, 1977), 70–1.

36 See Magdalino, Paul, “Aristocratic Oikoi in the tenth and eleventh regions of Constantinople”, in Necipoğlu, Nevra (ed.), Byzantine Constantinople: Monuments, Topography and Everyday Life (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 61–5.

37 See “Vita Danielis Stylites”, ch. 10, 11–16, in Delehaye, H., Les saints stylites (Subsidia Hagiographica 14. Brussels, 1923); for trans. see Three Byzantine Saints: Contemporary Biographies of St. Daniel the Stylite, St. Theodore of Sykeon and St. John the Almsgiver, trans. Dawes, Elizabeth, and introductions and notes by Baynes, Norman H. (London, 1948).

38 On the conflict between the earthly and heavenly Jerusalem, see Prawer, J., “Jerusalem in the Jewish and Christian perspective of the early Middle Ages”, Settimane di Studio del S. Centro Italiano di studi sull' alto medieoevo (Spoleto, 1980), 253–94; 739–95. For a version of this article in Hebrew, see J. Prawer and H. Ben-Shammai, The History of Jerusalem, 311–48.

39 Epistle 2: 9–10.

40 The far-reaching ramifications of this concept, according to which it is Byzantium and its capital Constantinople that are the distinct inheritors of the Jews as the Elect Nation, are discussed in a PhD thesis by Shay Eshel entitled “The concept of the elect nation in Byzantium: evolution of an identity and its socio-political implications” (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2016).

41 Magdalino, P., “The history of the future and its uses”, in Shepard, Jonathan (ed.), The Expansion of Orthodox Europe: Byzantium, the Balkans and Russia (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007), 2963 , esp. 37–8.

42 Makk, Ferenc, Traduction et Commentaire de l'homélie écrite probablement par Théodore le Syncelle sur le siège de Constantinople en 626 (Szeged: Acta Universitatis de Attila Jozsef Nominatae, 1975), French introduction, translation and brief notes, followed by Greek text reprinted from Sternbach, L., Analecta Avarica (Cracow, 1900).

43 Ch. 41: “I will go up against those which live on the navel of the earth. They are Sheba, Dedan and the traffickers of Chalcedon”. The Septuagint on Ezekiel 38: 13 translates Tarshish as Karkhdonioi, justifying in the eyes of Theodore the identification of Chalcedon, i.e. Byzantium, as the goal of Gog and Magog.

44 Jerome, Commentarium in Sophoniam, 1: 15, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 76A (Turnhout, 1970), 672–3.

45 Jerome, Commentarium in Isaiam, 64: 10, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 73A (Turnhout, 1963), 740; PL 24, 626.

46 See Gil, Moshe, A History of Palestine, 634–1099 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 67–8, section 81, and n. 70, for full references to the various sources regarding this subject; on Christian attitudes see Dagron, Constantinople imaginaire, 304–5.

47 See e.g. John Chrysostom's Adversus Iudaeos, V, 11 (Patrologia Graeca 48: 900), VI, 2 (PG 48: 905); Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio V (Contra Iulianum, second invective, 3), PG 35, 667, trans. King, C.W., Julian the Emperor (London, 1888), 87–8.

48 Cyril of Alexandria, Catechesis 15, PG, 889–92.

49 See Theophanis Chronographia, ed. C. De Boor (Leipzig: Teubner, 1883–85), AM 6127 (634/5), p. 339; For English trans. see The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern History, AD 284–813, translated, with introduction and commentary by Mango, Cyril and Scott, Roger, with the assistance of Geoffrey Greatrex, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 471–2.

50 Cameron, A., “Flavius Cresconius Corippus”, in Laudem Iustini Augusti minoris (London, 1976), 204–05; Dagron, Constantinople imaginaire, 303; Ousterhout, R., “New temples and new Solomons: the rhetoric of Byzantine architecture”, in Magdalino, P. and Nelson, R. (eds), The Old Testament in Byzantium, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (Washington, DC, 2010), 223–53.

51 See Wilkinson, J., “Paulinus Temple at Tyre”, JÖB 32/4, 1982, 553–61; Ousterhout, “New temples”, 226.

52 Eusebius, Church History, 10.4.2–72; trans. Defferari, R., Fathers of the Church 29 (New York, 1955), 2:244, cited by Ousterhout, “New temples”, 226.

53 The term chosen for the consecration is the specific term found originally in the Septuagint for the dedication of the Temple by Solomon (II Chr. 7: 9) and later used for the rededication of the Temple by the Macabees (I Macc. 4:56 et al.; John, 10:22). This term is not found in the classical Greek sources.

54 Egeria 48: 1, ed. E. Francheschini and R. Weber, Itinerarium Egeriae, in Itineraria et Alia Geographica, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, vol. 175, (Turnhout, 1965), 89; English translation of the text in Wilkinson, John, Egeria's Travels to the Holy Land (Jerusalem: Ariel; Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1981), 146.

55 See Ousterhout, “New temples”, 233–7.

56 See J. Wilkinson, Jerusalem Pilgrims, 36, 59, 83, 177a.

57 See Harrison, M., Excavations at Saraçhane in Istanbul, 1 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), vol. 1; Harrison, M., A Temple for Byzantium: The Discovery and Excavation of Anicia-Juliana's Palace Church in Istanbul (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1989). While Harrison found that the measurements of the church were those of Solomon's Temple, Milner claimed that in fact the measurements were those of Ezekiel's visionary Temple at the End of Days. See Milner, C., “The image of the rightful ruler: Anicia Juliana's Constantine mosaic in the Church of Hagios Polyeuktos”, in Magdalino, (ed.), New Constantines: The Rhythm of Imperial Renewal in Byzantium, 4th–13th Centuries (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1994), 7381 ; Shahid, I., “The Church of Hagios Polyeuktos in Constantinople: some new observations”, Graeco-Arabica 9–10, 2004, 343–55.

58 De Aedificiis, 1.1.61–2; for text with English translation see H.B. Dewing, (Loeb Classical Library, vol. 7, London: Heinemann, 1971), 26–7; Ousterhout, “New temples”, 239.

59 Corippus, Flavius Cresconius, In Laudem Iustini Augusti minoris, ed. and trans. Cameron, Averil (London: The Athlone Press, 1976), text, 81, l. 283, trans. 115.

60 “Le récit sur la construction de Sainte Sophie”, in Dagron, Constantinople imaginaire, 196–211, esp. 208. On this treatise see ibid., 306–7.

61 Ousterhout, “New temples”, 242; Dagron, “Constantinople imaginaire”, 305.

62 On this see Ley, J. and Wietheger, M., “Der karolingische Palast König Davids in Aachen: Neue bauhistorische Untersuchungen zu Königshalle und Granusturm”, in Pohle, F. (ed.), Karl der Grosse–Charlemagne. Orte der Macht (Dresden: Sandstein Kommunikation, 2014), 236–45; Heckner, U., “Der Tempel Salomos in Aachen. Neues zur Baugeschichte der Marienkirche”, in Pohle, (ed.), Karl der Grosse, 354–63, esp. 356–8. For the reference to Alcuin's letter see p. 354. Regarding Germigny see Nees, L., “Theodulf's mosaic at Germigny, the Sancta Sanctorum in Rome, and Jerusalem”, in Chandler, Cullen J. and Stofferahn, Steven (eds), Discovery and Distinction in the Early Middle Ages: Studies in Honor of John J. Contreni (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2013), 187211 ; Revel-Neher, E., “‘Antiquus Populus, Novus Populus’: Jerusalem and the People of God in the Germigny-des-Prés Carolingian mosaic”, in The Real and Ideal Jerusalem (Jerusalem, 1998), 5466 . The admiration of Jerusalem and its temple is also evident in Bede's writing on the Temple and the Tabernacle in conjunction with the debate on icon worship. See Noble, T.F.X., Images, Iconoclasm and the Carolingians (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), 113–4; 120. It should be noted, however, that Bede is not occupied with a physical representation; rather he is writing an allegorical commentary on the Tabernacle in which it is interpreted as symbolizing the Christian church.

63 le Mélode, Romanos, Hymnes, ed. de Matons, J. Grosdidier, (Paris, 1981), vol. 5, 492–5; trans. Carpenter, M., Kontakia of Romanos, Byzantine Melodist, vol. 2 (Columbia, MO, 1973), 246–7; cited by Ousterhout, “New temples”, 241–2.

64 A similar anonymous kontakion was written for the dedication of the Hagia Sophia in Edessa. This church was built by Justinian after the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople: it bore the same name, had a similar dome, and an identical dedication inscription. The kontakion too imitates that of the Hagia Sophia, repeating its message: “That Temple (i.e. Solomon's) was commonly known as the Place of God … and the whole of Israel flooded to it under compulsion … but they would certainly have to give us the credit for surpassing them for the very evidence of the senses demonstrates that this divine chef d'oeuvre transcends everything, and its buttress is Christ”. In this case, the church is a clear imitation, a duplicate, of the original Hagia Sophia and its dedication ceremony. See Palmer, A., “The inauguration anthem of Hagia Sophia in Edessa: a new edition and translation with historical and architectural notes and a comparison with a contemporary Constantinopolitan kontakion”, Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 12, 1988, 117–67, esp. 143.

65 Dagron, Constantinople Imaginaire, 268; Ousterhout, 247, referring to I. Bekker, Annales, Bonn 1836, 498; Patria Konstantinopouleos, 2.40, ed. Preger, 171.

66 Ousterhout, “New temples”, 248–9.

67 See above, notes 6–12.

68 See Abū al-Maʿālī al-Musharraf b. al-Murajjā b. Ibrāhīm al-Maqdisī, Faḍāʾil bayt al-maqdis wa-al-khalīl wa-faḍāʾil al-shām, ed. O. Livne-Kafrī (Shfaram, 1995), e.g. no. 5, 13, 14; no. 7, p. 15; no. 9, p. 17; nos 10, 11, 18; passim.

69 For the use of this term see Abū Bakr Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Wāsiṭī, Faḍāʾīl al-Bayt al-Muqaddas, ed. Hasson, I. (Jerusalem, 1979), 78–9; Ibn al-Murajjā, no. 38, 51.

70 See Muḥammad b. Jarīr al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh al-rusul wa-l-mulūk, ed. de Goeje, M.J. et al. (Leiden, 1879–1901), Taʾrīkh, I, 2408 with an isnād going back to Rajāʾ b. Ḥaywah (d. 730), a famous scholar born in Baysān (former Scythopolis) who was in charge of the construction of the Dome of the Rock under ʿAbd al-Malik. In this report it is the Jewish convert to Islam, Kaʿb al-Aḥbār who is asked by ʿUmar to designate the place of prayer on the Temple Mount; a fragment from the Cairo Geniza dating probably from the eleventh century contains a story about ʿUmar seeking the Jews’ help in locating the holy site: Cambridge TS Arabic Box 6 (1), fol. 1, published and translated from Judaeo-Arabic into Hebrew by M. Gil, Palestine during the First Muslim Period (634–1099), Part II – Cairo Geniza Documents (Tel-Aviv, 1983), 1–3 (in Hebrew).

71 Flusin, B., “L'Esplanade du Temple à l'arrivée des arabes d'après deux récits byzantins”, in Raby, J. and Johns, J. (eds), Bayt al-Maqdis, vol. 1, 1731 , esp. 25–6.

72 For references see above, n. 14; on the use of incense see Nees, L., “L'odorat fait-il sens? Quelques réflexions autour de l'encens de l'Antiquité tardive au haut Moyen-Âge”, Cahiers de civilisation médiévale 55, 2012, 451–71.

73 See above, notes 6–12, 14.

74 See R. Shani, “Iconography”, 158–207, with a survey of earlier literature regarding the ornamentation, esp. pp. 161–76; Soucek, P., “The temple of Solomon in Islamic art”, in Guttman, J. (ed.), The Temple of Solomon: Archaeological Fact and Medieval Tradition in Christian, Islamic and Jewish Art (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1976).

75 O. Livne-Kafri, “Islamic traditions on Jerusalem between Judaism and Christianity”, in O. Livne-Kafri, “A note on some traditions”, 81–3.

76 On the early date of the Faḍāʾil literature Kister, M.J., “A comment on the antiquity of traditions praising Jerusalem”, The Jerusalem Cathedra 1 (Jerusalem, 1981) 185–6; I. Hasson, “Jerusalem in the Muslim perspective: The Qurʾān and tradition literature”, in Prawer and Ben-Shammai (eds), The History of Jerusalem, 349–85: Elad, Medieval Worship, 6–22; Livne-Kafri, “Early Arabic literary works on Jerusalem”, in idem, Jerusalem in Early Islam, 1–6 (in Hebrew). Regarding the development of the Faḍaʾil genre see Mourad, S.A., “A note on the origin of Faḍāʾil Bayt al-Maqdis compilations”, Al-Abhath, 44, 1996, 3148 ; idem, The symbolism of Jerusalem in early Islam”, in Meyer, T. and Mourad, S.A. (eds), Jerusalem: Idea and Reality (London and New York: Routledge, 2008), 86102 .

77 As noted by Elad, Medieval Jerusalem, 162–3.

78 Abū al-Maʿālī al-Musharraf b. al-Murajjā b. Ibrāhīm al-Maqdisī, Faḍāʾil bayt al-maqdis wa-al-khalīl wa-faḍāʾil al-shām, ed. Livne-Kafrī, O. (Shfaram, 1995), 63, no. 50; see also al-Wāsiṭi, ed. Hasson, 86, no. 138; Elad, Medieval Jerusalem, 163. As Elad notes, in the version of al-Wāsiṭi, the expression “in one of the holy books” (baʿḍ al-kutub) is replaced by “it is written in the Torah” (maktūb fī al-tawrāt). See also Livne-Kafri, O., “Christian attitudes reflected in the Muslim literature”, Proche-Orient Chretien 54, 2004, 358, n. 52 and p. 365; idem, Jerusalem in early Islam: The eschatological aspect”, Arabica 53/3, 2006, 382403 ; On Muslim Jerusalem in the period of its formation”, Liber Annuus 55, 2005, 203–16. See also Mourad, “The symbolism of Jerusalem”, 97–8.

79 This tradition was later censured, its Jewish background obscured; see Elad, “Why did ʿAbd al-Malik build”, 38, where he translates a section from Sibṭ b. al-Jawzī's (1186–1256) Miraʾāt al-Zamān, as cited by Ibn Kathīr. The second part of this text bears close parallels to the traditions of Faḍāiʾl Bayt al-Maqdis and at its end appears the following version of this tradition: “Rejoice, Oh Jerusalem, which means I shall send to thee my servant, ʿAbd 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 Ṣakhra, and I shall put my throne on thee as it was before. For I am Allah, there is no God but myself alone, no partner have I”.

80 See Elad, “Why did ʿAbd al-Malik build”, 38. Ibn al-Jawzī's sources are noted as al-Wāqidī (d. 823) and Ibn al-Kalbī (d. 819) and his father (d. 763). Other traditions regarding David, which are based on Biblical and later Jewish tradition, are to be found in the Fadāʾil literature. See e.g. Mourad, “The symbolism of Jerusalem”, 91–3.

81 Livne-Kafri, Jerusalem in Early Islam, 24 and n. 36; for the Jewish sources see Aptowitzer, V., “The heavenly temple in the Agada”, Tarbitz 2, 1931, 145–9; 271–2 (in Hebrew); Solomon is described in I Chronicles 29: 23 as sitting on God's throne (“So Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king in place of his father David”).

On the concept of God's throne and its centrality in Jewish literature see Ilan, M. Bar, “God's throne – what is underneath it, against it, and next to it”, Daat, Journal of Jewish Philosophy & Kabbalah, 15, 1985, 2135 , and additional bibliography there (Hebrew).

82 See Livne-Kafri, Jerusalem in Early Islam, 24, n. 36 (Hebrew), citing Ibn al-Murajjā, 106, no. 113.

83 Rosen-Ayalon, M., The Early Islamic Monuments of al-Haram al-Sharif: An Iconographic Study (Jerusalem, 1989), 54, 62; Shani, “Iconography”, 176.

84 See Van Ess, “ʿAbd al-Malik and the Dome of the Rock”, esp. pp. 89; 95–8; Livne-Kafri, “A note on some traditions”.

85 See Busse, “The Temple of Jerusalem”, 24; Sebeos, ch. 43, in The Armenian History attributed to Sebeos, trans. and annot. by Thomson, R.W. (Liverpool, 1999), vol. 1, 102.

86 See Flusin, B., “L'Esplanade du Temple”, 25–6; Hoyland, R., Seeing Islam as Others Saw It (Princeton: Darwin Press 1997, 100–1).

87 Hoyland, Seeing Islam, 63.

88 Congourdeau, “Jérusalem et Constantinople”, 128–9.

89 See Theophanes, Chronographia, ed. De Boor, p. 339, AM 6127 (634/5), The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor, 471–2.

90 On Theophilus as a historical source see Howard-Johnston, J., Witnesses to a World Crisis (Oxford: OUP, 2010), 194236 , esp. 206–36; regarding ʿUmar in Jerusalem see pp. 15–6; for the text based on its various derivative sources see Hoyland, R., Theophilus of Edessa's Chronicle and the Circulation of Historical Knowledge in Late Antiquity and Early Islam (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2011), 126–7. See also Elad, Medieval Jerusalem, 31.

91 See Hoyland, Theophilus, n. 299.

92 For a survey of these sources see now also L. Nees, Perspectives, 8–13.

93 See Livne-Kafri, Jerusalem in Early Islam, 14 (Hebrew); Cook, Muslim Apocalyptic, 65–6.

94 Ibn al-Murajjā, no. 30, p. 40; see also the tradition attributed to al-Suddī in al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, I, 717. Livne-Kafri, “Islamic traditions”, 14 (in Hebrew). For an English version see O. Livne-Kafri, “A note on some traditions”, 71–83.

95 See Tafsīr al- Ṭabarī (Cairo, 1943), vol. 15, 16, and Ibn al-Murajjā, 35, no. 24, who does not mention Jaffa; Livne-Kafri, “Islamic traditions”, 14–5, and parallel sources there.

96 Al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, I, 706; trans. M. Perlmann, The History of al-Ṭabarī, vol. IV (Albany, NY, 1987), 98.

97 Gil, “The political history of Jerusalem in the early Muslim period”, in The History of Jerusalem, 196; Livne-Kafri, Jerusalem in Early Islam, 10 (Hebrew); Prawer, J., “Jerusalem in Christian and Jewish perspective in the early middle ages”, Cathedra 17, 1990 , 51 (in Hebrew).

98 See Livne-Kafri, “A note on some traditions”, 81–3.

99 Al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, I, 2409.

100 On him see Gil, History of Palestine, section 158, p. 122.

101 Al-Wāsiṭī, Faḍāʾīl al-Bayt al-Muqaddas, 78–9, no. 131.

102 Ibn al-Murajjā, no. 38, 51–2.

103 Heraclius, it should be noted, is consistently portrayed in Muslim sources as a positive Emperor, unlike all his predecessors and successors, having vindicated, according to Muslim tradition the umma and legitimized the Prophet; see El-Sheikh, Nadia Maria, Byzantium Viewed by the Arabs (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), 3954 .

104 The use of the name Rūmiyya refers to the Roman Empire, both before its Christianization, when Rome was its capital, and afterwards, when the capital was transferred to Constantinople. The term Byzantium is an early modern one, intended to create such a differentiation, while in Late Antiquity and the middle ages the name of the empire remained the same throughout.

See e.g. Ibn al-Murajjāʾ no. 38, 51–2; no. 231, 168; al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, I, 706 where the name refers to the Empire after Constantine, while in no. 24, 35 no. 218, 162, the name clearly refers to the city of Rome during the first century. See also Pirkei Mashiach”, Midrashei Geula, ed. Even Shmuel, Y., (Tel-Aviv, 1943), 320 (in Hebrew): “ויבא משיח בן יוסף ויתגרה מלחמתו עם מלך אדום וינצח את אדום, ויהרוג מהם תלי תלים. ויהרג את מלך אדום, ויחריב מדינת רומי, ויוציא קצת כלי המקדש, שהם גנוזים בבית יוליאנוס קיסר ויבא לירושלים.”

105 Ibn al-Murajjā, no. 29, p. 39. This tradition is told also by the Qaraites Salmon b. Yeruḥim, Commentary on Lamentation XLIV, in Gil, History of Palestine, Section 81, 67, n. 70.

106 See Elad, Medieval Worship, 19, 45, 54, 56.

107 Probably a reference to Isaiah 60:1 (“קומי אורי כי בא אורך וכבוד ה' עליך זרח; כי הנה החשך יכסה ארץ וערפל לאמים ועליך יזרח ה' וכבודו עליך יראה”  “Arise, shine, for your light has dawned; the Presence of the Lord has shone upon you! Behold! Darkness shall cover the earth, and thick clouds the peoples; But upon you the Lord will shine, And his Presence be seen over you”. The English translation is taken from the new Jewish Publication Society Hebrew?English Tanakh (Philadelphia, 2003).

108 “My House” is the Biblical term often used for the Temple in Jerusalem.

109 A more literal translation would be “bald and bare”. See D. Cook, Muslim Apocalyptic, 60, where he translates this expression in a parallel tradition in Nuʿaym b. Ḥammād as “bald and bare”.

110 Al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, I, 2409; trans. Y. Friedmann, The History of al-Ṭabarī, vol. 13, 196 with one change for shabbahūki “likened you to My Throne” rather than “presented you as if you were similar to My Throne”.

111 Al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh.

112 See Friedmann, The History of al-Ṭabarī, n. 732, citing H. Busse, “ʿOmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb in Jerusalem”, JSAI 5, 1984, 92 n. 72; Sabā and Qādhir are mentioned also in a prophecy on the destruction of Constantinople in Nuʿaym b. Ḥammād, Fitan, 285, following another such prophecy which names Yaman and Qays as the protagonists. Cook, Muslim Apocalyptic, 62, and n. 108, notes that Sabā is identified with Yemenite Arabs while Qādhir (= Kedar) is usually equated with Quraysh. In Abū ʿAbdallah Nuʿaym b. Hammād b. Marwān al-Khuzāʿī al-Marwazī, Kit ā b al-fitan (Beirut, 1993), 299, Sabā is equated with ahl al-yaman.

113 Rubin, U., Between Bible and Qurʾan: the Children of Israel and the Islamic Self-Image (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), 2026 ; see also, Cook, Muslim Apocalyptic, 61–2.

114 In a letter attributed to Kaʿb al-Aḥbār: قل لصور مدينة الروم, وهي تسمي باسماء كثيرة” Nuʿaym b. Hammād, Kit ā b al-fitan, 299; Cook, Muslim Apocalyptic, 61.

115 Nuʿaym b. Hammād, Kit ā b al-fitan, 299.

116 For Sharīḥ b. ʿUbayd see Tahdīb, vol. 4, p. 328; Livne-Kafri, Faḍāʾil Bayt al-Maqdis, no. 9, n. 3; no. 326, n. 1.

The version brought here is Nuaʿym b. Ḥammād, Kitāb al-fitan, 284. The translation is based on David Cook, Muslim Apocalyptic, 60–61 with a few changes; for parallel versions see also Ibn al-Murajjā, no. 342, 231–2. The text there is somewhat problematic, and the isnād goes back to al-Awzāʿī (d. 157/774) (on him, see Sezgin, F., Geschichte des Arabischen Schrifttums, vol. 1 (Leiden, 1967), 516–7; J. Schacht, “al-Awzāʿī”, EI2 ); also Yūsūf b. Yaḥyā al-Sulamī, ʿAqd al-durar fī akhbār al-muntaẓar (Beirut, 1983), 225; Ibn al-Fakīh, Kitāb al-Buldān, ed. De Goeje (Leiden: Brill, 1885), p. 146, cited by el-Cheikh, N., “Constantinople through Arab eyes”, in Neuwirth, A. et al. , Myths, Historical Archetypes and Symbolic Figures in Arabic Literature – Towards a New Hermeneutic Approach: Proceedings of the International Symposium in Beirut, June 25th–June 30th, 1996 (Beirut, 1999), 528.

What follows is Ibn al-Murajjā's version: Constantinople gloated over the destruction of Bayt al-Maqdis since they were avaricious(?). [The text reads الحاروا, maybe a corrupt form of لحز, تلحز] “And she behaved proudly and was insolent and haughty and God called her the insolent and the arrogant because she gloated over (the destruction of) Bayt al-Maqdis (saying) that God's throne is on the waters and explained that it was she who is on the waters. And God became angry at her and promised to punish her and the exalted one said to her: ‘I swear (to you), oh haughty (city), because you disobeyed my command and were insolent, I will send to you my servants, believers from dispersed dwellings, and I will fill their hearts with courage until I will cause them to be like the hearts of lions coming out of the forest. Then I will terrify the hearts of your people with the fear of the blasphemers. I will then take off your ornaments, your silk vestments and your splendid garments and will abandon you, and no one shall cry: “Woe to thee”, and your dove shall not hatch its eggs. Then I will bring down on you three fires from the sky: a fire of tar, and a fire of bitumen, and a fire of naphtha; and I shall leave you desolate, bare, and bald. Because it has been a long time already that I have been shared (by other gods) in you, that others have been be worshipped, and that I have been maligned, therefore I will ignore you until the day of your repentance, you will not hasten, oh haughty (city), but I shall not fail to attain my wish”.

117 Neuwirth, A., “The spiritual meaning of Jerusalem in Islam”, in Rosovsky, N. (ed.), City of the Great King (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), 93116 , esp. p. 109; see also now M. Milwright, The Dome of the Rock, 77–9.

118 See M. Rosen-Ayalon, The Early Islamic Monuments of al-Haram al-Sharif; Elad, Medieval Jerusalem, index “Last Days”; Neuwirth, “The spiritual meaning of Jerusalem”, esp. 109–12; Necipoğlu, “The Dome of the Rock as palimpsest”, 28–36.

119 On this see S. Bashear, “Apocalyptic and other materials on early Muslim–Byzantine wars: a review of Arabic sources”, JRAS, series 3.2, 1991, 173–207; El-Sheikh, Byzantium Viewed by the Arabs, 65–71; Rubin, Between Bible and Qurʾān, 20–31; Livne-Kafri, Jerusalem in Early Islam, 14, 29, 63–4, 66, 67 (Hebrew). On Constantinople in Byzantine apocalyptic literature see A. Külzer, “Konstantinopel in der apokalyptischen Literatur der Byzantiner”, in H. Hunger and W. Hörandner (eds), Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik (Vienna, 2000), 51–76; Cook, Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic.

120 For the Hagia Sophia as the symbol of Constantinople see Fenster, E., Laudes Constantinopolitanae (Munich, 1968), 201, 214.

121 See Kaegi, W.E., “Confronting Islam: emperors versus caliphs (641–c. 850)”, Cambridge History of Byzantium (Cambridge, 2008), 369–86; Rotter, G., “Maslama b. ʿAbd al-Malik b. Marwān”, EI2 , vol. 6 (Leiden: Brill), 740.

122 See Blair, “What is the date of the Dome of the Rock?”; Milwright, Dome of the Rock, 65–6.

123 See e.g. Khirbat al-Mafjir, the paintings in Quṣayr ʿAmra; various Roman bathhouses, e.g. Hammath Gader; it has been claimed that the Dome of the Rock is modelled after the Anastasis of the Holy Sepulchre: see Bieberstein, K. and Bloedhorn, H., “Jerusalem: Grundzüge der Baugeschichte von Chalkolithikum bis zur Frühzeit der osmanischen Herrschaft”, in Beihefte zum Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients Reihe B , N (Wiesbaden, 1994), vol. 3, 7292 .

124 See El-Sheikh, Byzantium Viewed by the Arabs, 56–9.

125 Flood, F.B., The Great Mosque of Damascus (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 228–45, 78–9.

126 Flood, The Great Mosque of Damascus, 243.

127 See Milwright, The Dome of the Rock, ch. 7, 172–213.

* I would like to thank Prof. Amikam Elad for his helpful comments. Errors remain mine alone.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
  • ISSN: 0041-977X
  • EISSN: 1474-0699
  • URL: /core/journals/bulletin-of-the-school-of-oriental-and-african-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed