Marble inscription panel
Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / Al-Haram al-Sharif
Hegira 587 / AD 1191
White marble with inscription.
Length 190 cm, width 100 cm, depth 6 cm
A large, marble inscription panel produced to mark the foundation of the trench around the fortification wall of the old city of Jerusalem during the Ayyubid period. Produced four years after the Battle of Hattin, the panel was made with the aim that it would protect the city from new incursions launched by the Crusaders. Al-Asfahsalar Ali bin Ahmad al-Hikkari (d. AH 588 / AD 1192) supervised the digging of the trench.
It is probable that the inscription panel was taken to the Haram al-Sharif while repairs to the city walls were being carried out during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan, Sulayman al-Qanuni (known in the West as Sulayman the Magnificent; r. AH 926–74 / AD 1520–66). The inscription is laid out in six lines of cursive Ayyubid naskhi script carved in high relief. The text offers an insight into the period of Salah al-Din Ayyubi (Saladin), founder of the Ayyubid Dynasty, and the defensive techniques employed in order to protect the city from the Crusaders, such as the ditch that was excavated around the citadel following the successful liberation of the city. The inscription reads as follows:
“In the Name of God the most Beneficent, the most Merciful
And Blessings be upon Muhammad, the Prophet and his household.
The order to build this and to dig the trench was given by our master, the Victorious Sovereign, the Salvation of this world and religion, Sultan of Islam and the Muslims,
Servant of the two holy sanctuaries and this holy abode, Abu al-Muzaffar Yusuf bin Ayyub,
Reviver of the State, Commander of the Faithful, May God lengthen his days and support his star in the days of the great Amir, al-Asfahasalar Sayf al-Din Ali bin Ahmad, may God strengthen him in AH 587 [c. 1191]”.
After Salah al-Din Ayyubi (Saladin) reconquered Jerusalem from the Crusaders, he renovated its citadel and dug a trench to improve the city’s defences against fresh attack from the Crusaders. This inscription affirms these works and mentions the sultan and a commander of his troops. The panel is now in the plaza of the Dome of the Rock.
Sultan Salah al-Din Ayyubi (r. AH 564–89 / AD 1169–93)
The panel bears a reliable date.
The piece was found at the Dome of Yusuf Agha on southern side of the plaza of the Dome of the Rock, and then transferred to the Islamic Museum.
Jerusalem was narrowed down as the place of production supported by the inscription on the panel.
Abu Shama, Abd al-Rahman bin Ismail (d. 665 / 1267), Ar-Rowdatain fi Akhbar al-Dawlatain [Two Gardens in the History of Two States], Cairo, 1870.
Berchem, M., van, Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum, Vol. III, 40,Cairo, 1925.
Al-Isfahani, 'Imad al-Din Muhammad bin Muhammad (d. 597 / 1201), Al-Fath al-Qasi fi al-Fath al-Qudsi [the Conquest of Jerusalem], Cairo, 1903.
Al-Zarkali, Khayr al-Din, Al-A'lam [Famous Personalities], Vol. 4, Beirut, 1980.
Khader Salameh "Marble inscription panel" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;pa;Mus01;2;en
Prepared by: Khader SalamehKhader Salameh
Khader Salameh has been the Director of the Islamic Museum and Al-Aqsa Library in Jerusalem for more than two decades. He was previously employed in the Hebrew University Library and worked as a librarian in Saudi Arabia and as a teacher in Libya. He is a Ph.D. Candidate in Ottoman History. He received a Certificate of Librarianship in 1986 from the Hebrew University. He obtained his BA degree from Beirut University in 1980. He catalogued the Manuscripts Collections of the Haram al-Sharif, which was published in six parts in several countries. His publications include many articles on different subjects and a recent publication in English and Arabic on the Qur'an manuscripts in the Islamic Museum.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PA 02
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
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