In his piece, “The Symbolic Appropriation of the Land,” Grabar makes the argument that early Islamic culture attempts to relate to the conquered world by Islamizing forms and ideas of the old. He ultimately suggests that Muslim forces do this in the form of monumental testimonies to their presence and victories on foreign soil. Essentially, this suggests that Islamic art tends to overwhelmingly incorporate motifs and symbolic aspects of the culture of conquered lands. Grabar specifically points to the painting of the kings in the bath at Quasayr Amrah, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and the city of Baghdad as quintessential demonstrations of adopted Islamic imagery.
Ultimately, I agree with Grabar’s main argument suggesting that Islamic culture tends to absorb and adopt the ideas of its predecessors. I think that Grabar’s argument is grounded in convincing evidence in the three, discussed monuments, exemplifying the visual symbolization consistent throughout history. For example, Graber identifies that the painting of the kings in the bath at Quasayr Amrah includes Greek inscriptions alluding to prominent, former kings and rulers. In this example, Greek history is adopted into the depiction of Islamic art. Additionally, the Dome of the Rock has notable mosaic decorations that are illuminated by various crowns and jewels. These crowns and jewels are meant to imply a sense of royalty originating in Byzantine traditions and, therefore, connecting the Muslim entity to Byzantine legacy. Finally, the circular plan and perfect composition of the city of Baghdad are meant to symbolize the totality of Muslim rule in a palatial sense. This systematic idea is one adopted from a number of Sassanian sites, like Shiz or Darabgird, further relating Islamic culture to the historical traditions of the Near East. Ultimately, these three monuments support Grabar’s implication about the physical and symbolic appropriation of the past. These monuments essentially incorporate and, further, build on ideas and traditions of various legacies that predate them.