Book: Identity, Politics and the Study of Islam
Chapter: 4. Identity Politics and the Study of Islamic Origins: The Inscriptions of the Dome of the Rock as a Test Case
The process that led to the gradual emergence and establishment of the Islamic religion is anything but clear. The view that Islam was fully formed in Muḥammad’s lifetime and subsequently spread by the rāšidūn caliphs and the Umayyads has been challenged on different grounds. There is no material evidence that Islam was the main reason behind the Arab overtake of the Near East. Nor is there evidence that the latter followed a linear development. In fact, it is difficult to speak of a unified Arab state, and of Islam as a new religion for that matter, until the late 7th century. My purpose in this paper is to analyse the inscriptions of the Dome of the Rock and explore how their rhetoric bears witness to a transition period in the process of Muslim identity making as a
means to examine the tacit connection between scholarship and identity politics in the study of Islam’s origins.