Paradise or empire? On a paradox of Umayyad art

Alain George

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

This essay revolves around a paradox of Umayyad art: the tendency for the same decorative schemes to yield apparently contradictory, yet internally coherent interpretations, mostly to do with paradise or empire. Through a discussion of the Dome of the Rock, the Great Mosque of Damascus, and two key Umayyad Qurʾan manuscripts, it investigates whether this ambiguity should in fact be understood as a consciously crafted polysemy. This reflection is set within a broader cultural context that involves, first of all, the inherent ambiguity of the Qurʾan as a text and related literary values; second, an ideology of the early caliphate in which the sacral and political dimensions of rulership were seen as inextricably linked; and third, a worldview in which physical space, especially sacred space, was perceived as being conjoined with the spiritual realm.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPower, Patronage and Memory in Early Islam
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives on Umayyad Elites
EditorsAlain George, Andrew Marsham
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780190498931
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • early mosque architecture
  • early Qur’ans
  • Islamic aesthetics
  • polysemy
  • Dome of the Rock
  • Great Mosque of Damascus
  • Jerusalem
  • Damascus


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