Looking Widely, Looking Closely—Umar's Bargain: Skirting Litholatry at the Dome of the Rock

Historians of Islamic Art Third Biennial Symposium: Looking Widely, Looking Closely

Recorded October 18–20, 2012

Part Five of Twenty-Six

The title of this paper, presented by Theodore Van Loan, Graduate Student/Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, refers to a tradition in the Ṣaḥīḥ of Bukhārī, which tells of a bargain made between the caliph ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb and the Black Stone of the Ka’ba. Addressing the stone directly, ‘Umar denies it supernatural powers, yet calls for his followers to revere it. ‘Umar skirts the charge of litholatry by exorcising sacrality from the visible object and transferring it to the abstract act of prophetic veneration. These dictates demand a sacred gaze that denies the efficacy of contemplating the physical object before the viewer's eyes. Van Loan contends that this denial is articulated by a repeated motif within in the Dome of the Rock's mosaic program.

Related Videos