Dome of the Rock (Qubat ul-Sakhr'a)

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The dome of the Rock (قبة الصخرة) shrine, with the large golden dome and an octagon structure, was built by the Umayyad Khalif Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan in 691 (72 year according to Muslim calendar), and named it after Omar. It is one of the most beautiful and enduring shrines in the World, and remained almost untouched throughout the years. The rock is, according to Muslim tradition, the spot where prophet Muhammad (pbuh) ascended to heaven.


It was initially completed in 691 CE at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik during the Second Fitna on the site of the Second Jewish Temple, destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Its architecture and mosaics were patterned after nearby Byzantine churches and palaces, although its outside appearance has been significantly changed in the Ottoman period and again in the modern period. notably with the addition of the gold-plated roof, in 1959–61 and again in 1993.

The Dome of the Rock remains a "unique monument of Islamic culture in almost all respects", including as a "work of art and as a cultural and pious document", according to historian Oleg Grabar. It is the earliest archaeologically-attested religious structure to be built by a Muslim ruler and the building's inscriptions contain the earliest epigraphic proclamations of Islam and of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Narratives by the medieval sources about Abd al-Malik's motivations in building the Dome of the Rock vary.

circa 690 CE

Dome of Rock as seen from Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. It was initially completed in 691 CE at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik during the Second Fitna on the site of the Second Jewish Temple, destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The eastern wall and Maqbara (cemetery) Bab al-Rahma can be seen in the lower area.

Brief Construction History

circa 690 CE

According to Sibt ibn al-Jawzi (1185–1256 CE), construction started in 685/86 CE, while al-Suyuti (1445–1505 CE) holds that its commencement year was 688 CE. The two engineers in charge of the project were Raja ibn Haywah, a Muslim theologian from Beisan and Yazid ibn Salam, a non-Arab Muslim native of Jerusalem.


circa 690 CE

The initial octagonal structure of the Dome of the Rock and its round wooden dome had basically the same shape as is does today. The structure is basically octagonal. It is capped at its centre by a dome, approximately 20 meters (66 ft) in diameter, mounted on an elevated circular drum standing on 16 supports (4 tiers and 12 columns). Surrounding this circle is an octagonal arcade of 24 piers and columns. The octagonal arcade and the inner circular drum create an inner ambulatorium that encircles the holy rock. The outer walls are also octagonal. They each measure approximately 18 m (60 ft) wide and 11 m (36 ft) high. The outer and inner octagon create a second, outer ambulatorium surrounding the inner one. Both the circular drum and the exterior walls contain many windows.

The Dome of Rock with the western Qanatir (arched entrances). Arched gates, also called “scales,” comprise a number of stone or marble columns that are linked together using arches. A number of arched gates surround the Dome of the Rock’s plateau on al-Aqsa compound, each one of them connected to a staircase. In addition to facilitating worshipers’ accessibility to the 4-meter high plateau, the gates were built to serve a decorative function.

circa 690 CE

The architecture of the Dome of the Rock has inspired the architecture of a number of buildings. These include the octagonal Church of St. Giacomo in Italy, the Mausoleum of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in Istanbul, the octagonal Moorish Revival style Rumbach Street Synagogue in Budapest, and the New Synagogue in Berlin, Germany.

circa 690 CE

The interior of the dome is lavishly decorated with mosaic, faience and marble, much of which was added several centuries after its completion. It also contains Qur'anic inscriptions. A dedicatory inscription in Kufic script is preserved inside the dome. The date is recorded as Hj. 72 (691/2 CE), the year historians believe the construction of the original Dome was completed.

Foundation Stone

circa 690 CE

The Foundation Stone and its surroundings is the holiest site in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. According to Jewish tradition, the stone is the site where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. According to some Islamic scholars, the rock is the spot from which the Islamic prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven accompanied by the angel Gabriel. Further, Muhammad was taken here by Gabriel to pray with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.

Well of Souls

circa 690 CE

Panoramic view of the Well of Souls, a partly natural, partly man-made cave located inside the Foundation Stone under the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem. The name "Well of Souls" derives from a medieval Islamic legend that at this place the spirits of the dead can be heard awaiting Judgment Day. For Christians, the site is known as the Holy of Holies (alluding to the former inner sanctuary within the Temple in Jerusalem).

Dome of the Rock Platform

circa 690 CE

The trapezoid upper platform is not located in the center of the Haram al-Sharif complex, rather it is somewhat shifted to the west. The largest and dominent structure on the platform is the Qubbat as-Sakhara. The upper platform is wider in the north and narrower in the suth, and occupies some 6 acres. It is some 4 meters higher than the rest of the mosque complex. Eight flights of steps lead to the upper platform from the lower areas. A number of Khilwat (solitary retreats) are situated along the northern and western flanks.


See Also


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