The Rock

Written by Kanan Makiya
Review by Ilysa Magnus

In seventh century Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock, the first monument to Islam, is conceived and built. The Rock’s history from the beginning of time is the focus of this fascinating and brilliantly imagined novel. It is the place that Adam landed when he fell from grace out of the Garden of Eden, where Abraham attempted to sacrifice Isaac, where Solomon’s Temple stood and where Jesus preached. It is also the rock from which Muhammad ascended to heaven. It is the place where three great religions converge.

The story is narrated by Ishaq, the son of K’ab, a Jewish convert of great learning and wisdom. While the political and religious upheaval of the era forms the glue of this novel, stories of Creation and of virtually every great personage who brought Jerusalem to that place in time are peppered liberally throughout. Through the ancient tales, the Rock’s symbolism to all people is the common thread that binds us, despite our differences.

Black and white photographs and illustrations appear interspersed within the text to illuminate a particular story being told. Also, the last eighty pages of this novel include historical notes and extensive discussions of source material. Makiya is not only comfortable and familiar with his material; he has done extraordinary research on the Rock and on the convergence of Christianity, Judaism and Islam in seventh century Jerusalem.

Admittedly, I found the going slow at times: there is almost too much information. Arab place and other names are difficult to read without some background. But this is still well worth the read and an important book for our times.