Read The Rock Online

Authors: Kanan Makiya

The Rock

Kanan Makiya’

“Beautifully crafted.… Important.…
The Rock
is a compendium of the monotheistic myths, the ultimate guide to the city of Jerusalem and a narrative history of the Muslim conquest as factually correct … as any we might expect. But it is also a profoundly sensitive proposal for the basis of a new Islamic theology.”

The Nation

“A perfect vehicle for exploring the origins of Arab-Jewish-Christian hostility.”

New York
, A Best Book of 2001


The New Republic

“An adventure of historical inquiry informed by the eye of a professional architect and the worldliness of a contemporary writer who has seen through more than one doctrine claiming total truth.… Makiya’s original work of fiction … imagines a founding moment of history [and] draw[s] on a wealth of visual and textual sources.”

The Boston Globe

The Rock
provides illumination.”

—Noah Richler,
National Post

“Makiya triumphs in this inspired and lyrical book that is equal parts history and novel.… Pure magic.”

Publishers Weekly
, starred review

“At this time—when so much blood is again shed over the famous, or infamous, Rock in the heart of Jerusalem, and ‘History’ and ‘Religion’ are relentlessly and superstitiously evoked there, and the wars of religion go on under a different name—Kanan Makiya’s historical novel is an important contribution. Let us hope its message does not remain encapsulated in a work of fiction.”

—Amos Elon, author of
Jerusalem: City of Mirrors

“A fictionalized narrative solidly rooted in Muslim, Jewish and Christian sources.… Illuminates a world in which Muslim and Jewish traditions were deeply intertwined.”

The Jerusalem Report

“This is historical fiction at its most ambitious and successful. It fully immerses the reader in the world of seventh-century Jerusalem, exploring historical relationships and events with a sensitivity that nonfiction couldn’t hope to conjure. Anyone seeking an engaging introduction to early Islamic history would be hard-pressed to make a more compelling and accurate choice.”

, starred review

“Illuminating.… Fascinating.… Makiya meticulously deploys a range of historical detail, scholarly sources, photographs, and art.”

The New Leader


2001 by Kanan Makiya

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, in 2001.

Vintage is a registered trademark and Vintage International and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the Pantheon edition as follows:
Makiya, Kanan.
The rock : a tale of seventh-century Jerusalem / Kanan Makiya.
p. cm.
eISBN: 978-0-307-77280-0
1. Qubbat al òakhrah (Mosque : Jerusalem)—Fiction. 2. Islam—Relations—Christianity—Fiction. 3. Islam—Relations—Judaism—Fiction.
4. Jerusalem—Fiction. I. Title.
PR6113.A58R64 2001     823′.92—dc21     2001031400

Author photograph © Paula Hajar


for Sara, Naseem, and Bushra

(photo credit 1.2)

Now this religion happens to prevail

Until by that one it is overthrown

Because men dare not live with men alone

But always with another fairy tale

Abu al-’Alaa al-Ma’arri

Born in Syria. Died 1057

In the Name of God the Merciful
the Compassionate

raise be to Him, before Whom bow all who are in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly, as do their shadows in the mornings and the evenings. There is no God but He whose subtle proofs triumph in disputes created by anxious minds, whose work, which is creation in all its splendor, reduces to nothing the justifications put forward by the tongues of Unbelievers

In the Book whose every word bears witness to Him, the story is told of the creation of the waters and the mountains, the heavens and the earth, truth and falsehood. Things sensible and insensible were created out of nothing to look and sound the way they do for no other reason than to serve as proof of Him. Their every shade of color was painted with a single hair. The nymphs and satyrs of the desert were created from smokeless fire; man, from a single drop of sperm. Every separate thing, heartless or otherwise, found its place in the scheme of God

Surely in that are signs for a people who consider

he Rock was the first sign. From its surface, God issued the first ray of light. The ray pierced the darkness to fill His chosen land. Then the light spread, to cover the rest of the world without discrimination

On the third hour of the sixth day of creation, the Lord of Creation gathered dry black clay with which to make the body of the first man. He gathered it from the Rock for the head, from the site of the Ka’ba for the breast and back, and from the land of the Yemen for the limbs. He worked and kneaded the clay with water until it became sticky and slimy

By the fourth hour of the sixth day of creation, a body had been formed. It was hairy, as tall as a palm tree, and was given the name Adam, because, like Allah, the Arabic name for God, it begins with the first letter of the alphabet

In the seventh hour, the angel Iblis was ordered to enter Adam’s mouth and emerge from his anus, following which he was obliged to retrace his steps and emerge from his mouth. Then God blew a spirit into the body of His Prince. It entered Adam’s brain through his mouth, from which it went to his eyes and nose and further through the whole body, whereafter the body turned into flesh, blood, bone, veins, and sinews. And the first man was clothed in a fiery Garment of Light

The dimensions and splendor of our angel ancestor awed and frightened the other angels

“Bow yourselves to Adam,” God said to the angels

And they fell down, bowing all together, save Iblis. He was not among the bowing, which angered God

“Go forth! Thou art henceforth the Accursed One,” God said to Iblis

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