Dome of the Rock
An Ancient Monument
The Dome of the Rock is located in Jerusalem. It was built in 691 CE, but despite its ancient age, it is still a building that holds special meaning for many people today. The Dome is actually a shrine and features a special rock, known as the “Foundation Stone,” at its center. This foundation stone, also sometimes referred to as the “pierced stone,” holds special significance for Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
Building the Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock was created due to orders by Abd al-Malik, the fifth ruler under the Umayyad Caliph. Al-Malik planned the dome’s overall design.
At the time of the dome’s construction, the Islamic empire was undergoing a time of political and military turmoil, a time that would later be referred to as the Second Islamic Civil War or the “Second Fitna.”
Despite, or perhaps because of, the turmoil going on around him, al-Malik desperately wanted to go ahead with building the dome and spared no expense when doing so. He even instructed the two engineers he commissioned to work on the project, Yazid ibn Salam and Raja’ ibn Hayweh, to spend as much money as needed while working on the dome.
The total cost of construction is believed to have been around seven times as much of the overall revenue of Egypt. While the reasons for creating the Dome were mainly religious, al-Malik also had more practical uses in mind, such as providing a place where Muslims could worship without being subjected to extreme weather conditions.
Al-Malik as Ruler
When one considers the many other great innovations al-Malik provided during his time as ruler, it should come as no surprise that he would be the person behind the much-beloved dome. Al-Malik, who is generally regarded as having been an excellent and benevolent ruler, is also credited with translating important historic documents into Arabic, introducing a Muslim currency, extending Muslim rule, organizing a postal service, and establishing Arabic as the official state language.
The Dome of the Rock and Islam
As mentioned, the Dome of the Rock and, more importantly, the rock it houses holds religious significance to many religious groups. Many followers of Islam, for example, believe the rock to be the place where the Prophet Muhammad and the angel Gabriel went up into heaven, as well as a place where the two, along with other Prophets such as Jesus and Moses, joined in prayer. At one time, modern Muslims faced toward the Dome and the Rock itself in prayer.
Despite the many religious significances and meanings attached to this structure, it is still a structure, a building that had to be designed and erected. Whatever the exact reasons behind its unique design, the Dome of the Rock is a fascinating and elaborate structure. Its large dome is supported by sixteen columns and contains elaborate mirrors, porcelain constructions, and windows. Perhaps what is and what will always be the most fascinating about this structure, however, is how it has come to hold importance to a wide variety of people, people from all walks of life and from all religious backgrounds. And, not only does it hold religious meaning, but it also holds value for lovers and students of architecture. The dome has held together nicely, especially considering its age, and is an excellent example of the type and quality of architecture constructed during that period of time.