In Oleg Grabar’s The Formation of Islamic Art he argues that after a region goes through an exchange of power a landmark or some type of visual symbolization is usually erected in order to announce this new presence. Grabar provides evidence and theories of how Muslims created monuments after Islam had successfully spread to a new region. He states “This point is important in defining an essential aspect of early Islamic culture, the conscious attempt to relate meaningfully to the conquered world, by Islamizing forms and ideas of old.” I partially support Grabar’s statement, as Qusayr Amrah’s fresco seems to effectively prove the idea that early Islamic culture took aspects of the conquered world and referenced them in unique ways, while The Dome of the Rock seems to suggest otherwise.
In Qusayr Amrah’s fresco, the use of non-Muslim royal figures in an Islamic piece of art almost conveys this sense of ownership over (at least some) of the royal leaders. The images of these rulers within the fresco is symbolic of how these kingdoms were within the scope of Islam. The location of the fresco only helps to further prove this point, “…hidden away in the forlorn steppe of Transjordan.” It’s ironic how the Muslims chose to hide away these powerful figures; it could be suggesting that these royal figures no longer deserve the attention they once had. The Muslims believed they should be the main focus as they were part of the rising Islamic culture. Grabar explains how the main purpose of the piece is to place the Islamic faith on the same level as these other major figures as well as the kingdoms or regions they stand for.
The Dome of the Rock contains similar motifs and symbols within the mosaic decorations. The use of Persian and Byzantine royal symbols within the building might initially seem to serve as a sign of victory for the Muslims, however, close inspection of the building as well as of its history suggests that the building’s primary purpose was for those of non-Islamic faith. Grabar successfully shows how the Dome of the Rock wasn’t a landmark symbolizing the spread of Islam, but rather a place which served contemporary needs for a largely Christian population.