It is certainly one of the most magnificent buildings on this planet, absolutely striking in beauty and elegance, causing the spectator to stand awestruck, silent, feeling the significance of the place gradually creeping into every cell of the body! The “Dome of the Rock” or “Qubbat al Sakhrah” on Jerusalem’s “Temple Mount” as Jews and Christians call it or in Hebrew “Har ha-Bayt”.

It was built between 687 and 691 by the ninth Caliph Abd e-Malik. Occasionally it is called the “Mosque of Omar” after the second Caliph who used to pray at the very site right after the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in 637.
The rock in the center of the dome is believed by Muslims to be the spot from which Muhammad ascended through the heavens to God accompanied by the angel Gabriel, where he consulted with Moses and was given the (now obligatory) Islamic prayers before returning to earth. Though the location is not historically certain, a Qur’anic verse says that Muhammad took a night journey on a winged horse from a sacred mosque (probably Mecca) to the farthest mosque (al-Masjid al-Aqsa), which later came to be associated with Dome of the Rock, which might be initially associated with Temple of Solomon.

Since Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Qur’an, many neutral historians point to the concept that the caliph decided on the location of the mosque – which started out as a tiny wooden shrine – to show what he perceived to be Islam’s superiority over Judaism. Building a shrine on top of Judaism’s holiest site – the Temple Mount – would seem to point to the caliph’s belief in this idea, although many, if not most Muslims, disagree on the grounds of their religious traditions in the ensuing centuries.

Jews are sure this to be the site where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac. Muslims, however, believe that this event occurred in Mecca where millions of muslims offer pilgrimage every year and that it was Abraham’s elder son Ishmael and not Isaac who was offered for sacrifice.

Haj Amin Al-Husseini, appointed Grand Mufti by the British, along with Yacoub Al Ghussein implement restoration of Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. He has the Dome gold-plated for the first time. Thereafter, Jerusalem takes on more importance as Holy Muslim site in the eyes of the Arab World.

Essentially unchanged for more than thirteen centuries, the octagonally-shaped Dome of the Rock remains one of the world’s most enduring architectural treasures. The gold foil covered dome stretches 20 metres across the Noble Rock, rising to an apex more than 35 metres above it. The facade is made of porcelain The Qur’anic sura, or chapter, “Ya Sin” is inscribed across the top in the tile work commissioned in the 16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent. The sura al-Isra (The Night Journey), is inscribed above.

‘Ya Sin.
By the wise Qur’an.
Surely you are among those sent on a straight path.
A revelation of the Mighty, the Compassionate.
That you might warn a people whose fathers were never warned, so they are heedless.’
Qur’an, 36:1-6

Crusader Period

During the Crusades the Dome of the Rock was given to the Augustinians, who made it into a church, while the Al-Aqsa Mosque was turned into a royal palace by Baldwin I in 1104. The Knights Templar, who believed the Dome of the Rock to be near the ruins of the Temple of Solomon, made their headquarters in the Al-Aqsa Mosque adjacent to the Dome for much of the 12th century. They called it the “Templum Domini”, and it was the location from which they took their name “Templar”. It appeared in some of the seals of the Order’s Grand Masters (such as Evrard de Barres and Regnaud de Vichier), and its architecture was a model for Templar churches across Europe.

Ayyubid and Mamluk period

Jerusalem was re-captured by Salah al-Din on Friday, 2 October, 1187 and the Haram was reconsecrated as a Muslim sanctuary. The cross on top of the Dome of the Rock was replaced by a golden crescent and a wooden screen was placed around the rock below. Salah al-Din’s nephew al-Malik al-Mu’azzam Isa (1218-27) carried out other restorations within the Haram and added the porch to the Aqsa mosque.

The Haram was the focus of extensive royal patronage by the sultans during the Mamluk period, which lasted from 1250 untl 1510.

Ottoman Period

During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent the exterior of the Dome of the Rock was covered with Iznik tiles. The work took seven years.
Large-scale renovation was undertaken during the reign of Mahmud II in 1817.

Mandate for Palestine

The Dome of the Rock was badly shaken during an earthquake in Palestine on Monday, 11 July, 1927 rendering useless many of the repairs that had taken place over previous years.

Modern Period

In 1955 an extensive programme of renovation was begun by the government of Jordan, with funds supplied by the Arab governments and Turkey. The work included replacement of large numbers of tiles dating back to the reign of Suleiman, which had become dislodged by heavy rain. In 1960, as part of this restoration, the dome was covered with a durable aluminium and bronze alloy made in Italy. The restoration was completed in August 1964.

Extremist groups such as the Temple Mount and Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement wish to relocate the Dome to Mecca and replace it with a Third Temple. Since Muslims consider the ground under the Dome to be sacred this would be a highly contentious move. The majority of Israelis also do not share the movement’s wishes. Most religious Jews feel that the Temple should only be rebuilt in the messianic era, and it is their belief that it would be presumptuous of people to force God’s hand. However, some Christians would consider this a prequisite to Armageddon and the Second Coming.

In 1998, the golden dome covering was refurbished following a donation of $8.2 million by King Hussein of Jordan.

It is no longer allowed for non-muslims to enter either the Dome of the Rock or the al-Aqsa mosque


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