Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012
Originally constructed between 688 and 692 under the rule of Abd al-Malik, whom Yitzchak introduced in the previous post, the Dome of the Rock is one of the most emblematic architectural landmarks in the history of Islamic culture. On the one hand, the monument carries a unique and unifying significance for Islamic religious communities over broad temporal and geographic scopes; on the other hand, it reflects the far-reaching extent of intercultural contacts and dialogues that have shaped such Islamic communities over time, on a local level.
Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2012
Born in Mecca and raised in Medina, the two most holy sites of Islam, the fifth caliph, Abd Al Malik Ibn Marwan, spearheaded the creation of many of the institutions that centralized the Islamic empire around his capital in Damascus and asserted its independence from Byzantine traditions.
Posted: Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Although al-Walid ibn Yazid, known as al-Walid II (r. 743–744), ruled for only a year, he is nonetheless one of the most colorful Umayyad caliphs. A grandson of Abd al-Malik, builder of the Dome of the Rock, he is recorded in historical sources as a proverbial man about town. His behavior was considered so profligate that he was passed over in succession to grandfather's throne. Instead, his uncle Hisham became caliph and al-Walid retired to his desert qasr to pass his time in song and pleasure among a retinue of his favorite drinking companions.
Posted: Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Look closely at the carved stonework from the facade of Qasr al-Mshatta, and you will spot a world of griffins, peacocks, lions, and pheasants hiding in the shade of delicately rendered grape leafs. The refinement of the representations here has captivated scholars and public alike for a century, ever since it arrived in Berlin as a gift from the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid to Kaiser Wilhelm I shortly before World War I.
Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2012
Although the Sasanian (Sasanid) empire was centered in Mesopotamia, it played a major role in religious, political, and visual culture in the Byzantine and early Islamic eastern Mediterranean. The dynasty's founding can be traced to Ardashir I (r. 224–241), who established his authority following the defeat of the Parthians. The empire's early years were marked by the emergence of key institutions and cultural developments that would shape Sasanian culture for several centuries.
Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2012
One of the core themes of the exhibition Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition and its catalogue is the close relationship between commercial activity and cultural exchange.1 The movement of goods and people along trade networks often superseded political impasses between dynasties and empires.
Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2012
In an address to the citizens of Damascus, the Umayyad caliph al-Walid I (r. 705–715) proclaimed: "Inhabitants of Damascus, four things give you a marked superiority over the rest of the world: your climate, your water, your fruits, and your baths. To these I wanted to add a fifth: this mosque."
Posted: Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Although the Qur'an shares much with the Judeo-Christian traditions of the Torah and the Old and New Testaments, it is often difficult for non-Muslim readers to understand the text's repeated formulations and unique approach to narrative. Michael Sells's book Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations seeks to assist the unfamiliar by emphasizing the Qur'an's literary qualities.
Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Few surviving Umayyad palaces present as much evidence for the types of decoration popular among the period's elite as does Khirbat al-Mafjar, a desert qusur, or fortified palace complex.
Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Most surveys of Islamic art proceed chronologically or geographically to synthesize several centuries of material covering a region stretching from Spain to Afghanistan. Oleg Grabar's book, The Formation of Islamic Art, instead focuses thematically on the earliest centuries of Islam.