In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Dome of the Rock

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Historical Source Material
  • Religious Symbolism Before Islam
  • Religious Symbolism in Early Islam
  • Association with Muhammad
  • Pilgrimage to the Dome of the Rock
  • Architecture
  • Art
  • Inscriptions
  • Adjacent Structures
  • Premodern European Visual Representation
  • Modern Significance

Islamic Studies Dome of the Rock
Suleiman A. Mourad
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 May 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 May 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0103


The Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhra) is an octagonal structure on an elevated platform in the middle of the Temple Mount area in Jerusalem. It is revered by most Muslims as the spot from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven. Since its construction, the Dome has been for Muslims more than a mere structure. It stands as a symbol of the triumph of Islam and, more importantly, is a reminder of humanity’s unique connections to God through the many sacred events that unfolded on that spot since the time of creation. Over the centuries, Muslims have cherished the Dome for its many religious symbolisms, which, alongside the religious symbolisms of other sites on the Temple Mount and the city of Jerusalem, gave rise to a genre of literature called Fadaʾil al-Quds (religious merits of Jerusalem). The Dome, with its location and inscription, also provides some of the earliest dated evidence of the emergence of Islam and how early Muslims shaped their religious identity, internally as well as vis-à-vis their monotheist cousins, the Jews and Christians.

General Overviews

The Dome of the Rock is the oldest standing monument of Islamic architecture, as shown in Elad 1995, Grabar 2005, Grabar 2006, and Grabar and Kedar 2009. Grabar 2006 and Elad 1995 also show that it was built on the site of the ruined Second Jewish Temple by orders of the Umayyad caliph ʿAbd al-Malik b. Marwan (r. 685–705 CE). Grabar 1959 discusses the construction, which was completed in 691–692 CE, although Blair 1992 shows that some believe 692 to be the starting point of the construction. The Dome of the Rock along with the Aqsa Mosque (al-Masjid al-Aqsa) constitutes the Haram al-Sharif sanctuary, known in the Judeo-Christian traditions as the Temple Mount that was constructed by Herod the Great in the 1st century before the Common Era.

  • Blair, Sheila. “What Is the Date of the Dome of the Rock.” In Bayt al-Maqdis: ʿAbd al-Malik’s Jerusalem. Edited by Julian Raby and Jeremy Johns, 59–87. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

    This is an excellent short survey of art and architecture of the Dome of the Rock. Blair also argues for the year 692 CE as the terminus a quo for the construction of the Dome of the Rock.

  • Elad, Amikam. Medieval Jerusalem and Islamic Worship: Holy Places, Ceremonies, Pilgrimage. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1995.

    A pioneering work. Elad’s use of new sources exposed the weaknesses of many generalizations about the significance of the Dome of the Rock and Jerusalem in pre-Crusader times. He shows that the literature on Jerusalem’s religious merits (fadaʾil) was earnestly disseminated in greater Syria from the 8th century CE onward, and that the existence of several Muslim pilgrimage manuals demonstrate that the pilgrimage to Jerusalem was actively pursued until Ottoman times.

  • Grabar, Oleg. “The Umayyad Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.” Ars Orientalis 3 (1959): 33–62.

    This article is a classic and for a number of reasons, but some of the arguments have been revised by Grabar in his later works (Grabar 1996, under Religious Symbolism in Early Islam, and Grabar 2006) in light of new research.

  • Grabar, Oleg. Jerusalem. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005.

    A variorum volume comprising some of Grabar’s most insightful articles on the Dome of the Rock and Jerusalem. However, one needs to read the older articles in light of the revisions that he made in more recent works (Grabar 1996, under Religious Symbolism in Early Islam, and Grabar 2006).

  • Grabar, Oleg. The Dome of the Rock. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

    An outstanding survey intended primarily for a general audience and nonspecialists.

  • Grabar, Oleg, and Benjamin Z. Kedar, eds. Where Heaven and Earth Meet: Jerusalem’s Sacred Esplanade. Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi Press, 2009.

    A collection of studies (they vary in import and the degree of mastery) on all aspects of the history of the Temple Mount and the history and architecture of the structures that are or once were on it from biblical times to the 21st century. Published in the United States by the University of Texas Press.

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