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Capitalizing Jerusalem

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Capitalizing Jerusalem addresses a major lacuna in the monumental history of Early Islamic Jerusalem during the period of Mu‘āwiya—as governor and Commander of the Believers/Faithful (638-680). This period has been ignored due to a perceived lack of textual and archaeological data resulting in a history reliant on later narrative texts projecting backward, creating a version of history tainted by political bias favoring ‘Abd al-Malik and eradicating the memory of Mu‘āwiya. The focus is allowing monuments to speak for themselves, evaluating newly available archives, and revisiting archaeological evidence, textual sources and interpretations shedding new light on Jerusalem’s early Umayyad urbanization. 

Mu‘awiya’s political and architectural achievements in Arabia and Syria testify to strong imperial agency, economic success and the means and will for infrastructure and monument development. The goal of his urban vision was establishing Jerusalem as Umayyad imperial capital: rebuilding the walls and gates of the Herodian sanctuary allowing access to all; building his mosque (638-660) in the southeast corner, and the Dome of the Chain and Dome of the Rock (660-680) at the precinct’s apex; and initiating the state administrative district, and Muslim and Jewish neighborhoods south of the precinct. Significantly, the Dome of the Rock’s date proves to be earlier than previously believed and the undecorated mosque completed in 660 displaces the Dome of the Rock as the oldest surviving Islamic monument. The new monuments of Jerusalem reflect the combined visual language of Byzantine Syria, Persian Sasanian Iraq/Iran, and pre-Islamic Arabia resulting in a magnificent blending of cultural, political, and religious traditions culminating at the apex of the sanctuary in the diadem of the Dome of the Rock.

Published: Oct 1, 2025