The Dome of the Rock, completed in 691, occupies a site that is important to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Standing atop a hill known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), it is the site of the first Jewish Temple of Soloman, the location where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son, the area where numerous events in the life of Jesus took place, and the site that commemorates Prophet Muhammad’s Ascension to heaven. According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet’s Night Journey took place from Mecca to Jerusalem and his subsequent Ascension (mi’raj) from the Rock to heaven.
The inscriptions on the Dome do not corroborate the mi’raj since the aspiration had not been formulated at that time. The earliest source that linked the two events was codified by Ibn Ishaq (d. 761) in the eighth century.
Commissioned by the Ummayyad caliph Abd al-Malik and completed in 691 CE, scholars still debate the original function and meaning of the Dome of the Rock which has historically functioned, and continues to serve, as a shrine and not as a mosque. Along with the al-Aqsa Mosque and other smaller historical monuments, the Dome of the Rock lies in the al-Haram al-Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary) complex.
According to Oleg Grabar, the Dome is “a monument which used Biblical connotations and Christian-Byzantine forms to impose Islam’s presence in the Holy City. The combination would imply that the new faith considered itself the continuation and the seal of the two preceding ones: Judaism and Christianity.”1
The building suffered from several major earthquakes and was renovated and reconstructed during the Abbasid period by Caliph al-Mahdi (775-785) and possibly by Caliph al-Mansur (754-775). A further reconstruction was executed during the Fatimid period, in the eleventh century. The most notable of these restorations was completed by Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent in the sixteenth century.
In his Safarnama (‘Book of Travels‘), the Ismaili philosopher, da’i and poet Nasir Khusraw (1004-1088) gives an account of his seven-year journey to Cairo, the Fatimid capital, and includes a description of the Dome of the Rock when he travelled through Jerusalem:
“The mosque complex has been designed so that the platform is in the middle of the court, and the Dome of the Rock in the middle of the platform…On the qibla side is a depression that looks as though someone’s foot had sunk in, as into soft clay, for even the imprint of the toes remains…What I heard is that Ibrahim was here, and when Ishaq was a small child he walked there, and these are his footprints…The place is nicely furnished with carpets of silk…There are many silver lamps here, and on each is written its weight. They were donated by the Sultan of Egypt [the Fatimid caliph]…”
The restoration project of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock was one of the recipients of the awards of the 1984-1986 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. (AKTC)
1 Qubba al-Sakhra, Archnet (accessed May 2016),
Ana Botchkareva, The Dome of the Rock, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (accessed May 2016)
The Meaning of the Umayyad Dome of the Rock, Archnet (accessed May 2016)
Compiled by Nimira Dewji