Dome of the Rock is a shrine located on the Noble Sanctuary in the Old City of Jerusalem. The structure has been refurbished many times since its initial completion in 691 CE at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik. The site's significance stems from religious traditions regarding the rock, known as the Foundation Stone, at its heart.
Location, construction and dimensions:
The Dome of the Rock is in the centre of a greater Muslim shrine, known as the Haram ash Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), which Muslims believe commemorates Muhammad's miraculous Night Journey into heaven. Later commentary by Muhammad, known as the hadith, have him name Jerusalem as the site of the Night Journey:
"When the people of Quraish did not believe me (i.e. the story of my Night Journey), I stood up in Al-Hijr and Allah displayed Jerusalem in front of me, and I began describing Jerusalem to them while I was looking at it." Sahih Bukhari Volume 5, Book 58, Number 226. The Dome of the Rock is located at the visual center of a platform known as the Temple Mount. It was constructed on the site of the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. In 637 CE, Jerusalem surrendered to the Rashidun Caliphate army during the Muslim conquest of Syria.
The location of the Dome of the Rock was established as the site of the Islamic miracle of the Isra and Miraj by Caliph Omar ibn al Khattab, who was advised by his associate,Ka'ab al-Ahbar, a former Jewish rabbi who had converted to Islam, that the Night Journey (Isra and Mi'raj), which is mentioned in the Quran and specified by the hadiths of being located in Jerusalem, took place at the site of the former Jewish Temples. The Dome of the Rock was erected between 689 and 691 CE. The names of the two engineers in charge of the project are given as Yazid Ibn Salam from Jerusalem and Raja Ibn Haywah from Baysan. Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan who initiated construction of the Dome, hoped that it would “house the Muslims from cold and heat” and intended the building to serve as a shrine for pilgrims and not as a mosque for public worship. Architect Frederick Catherwood was the first westerner known to have made detailed drawings of the Dome, which he accomplished during a six-week period in 1833. Shlomo Dov Goitein of the Hebrew University states that the Dome of the Rock was intended to compete with the many fine buildings of worship of other religions. Goitein said: The very form of a rotunda, given to the Qubbat as-Sakhra, although it was foreign to Islam, attempted to rival the many Christian domes of its time.
A.C. Cresswell in his book Origin of the plan of the Dome of the Rock notes that those who built the shrine used the measurements of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The diameter of the dome of the shrine is 20.20m and its height 20.48m, while the diameter of the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is 20.90m and its height 21.05m.
The structure is basically octagonal. It comprises a wooden dome, approximately 20 m in diameter, which is mounted on an elevated drum consisting of a circle of 16 piers and columns. Surrounding this circle is an octagonal arcade of 24 piers and columns. During his travels in Jerusalem, American writer Mark Twain wrote that:
Every where about the Mosque of Omar are portions of pillars, curiously wrought altars, and fragments of elegantly carvedmarble – precious remains of Solomon's Temple. These have been dug from all depths in the soil and rubbish of Mount Moriah, and the Muslims have always shown a disposition to preserve them with the utmost care.
The outer side walls are made of porcelain and mirror the octagonal design. They each measure approximately 60 feet (18 m) wide and 36 feet (11 m) high. Both the dome and the exterior walls contain many windows.
The Dome is in the shape of a Byzantine martyrdom, a structure intended for the housing and veneration of saintly relics, and is an excellent example of middle Byzantine art. 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. Haj Amin Al-Husseini, appointed Grand Mufti by the British, along with Yaqub al-Ghusayn implemented the restoration of Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
In 1955, an extensive program 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 the Magnificent, which had become dislodged by heavy rain. In 1965, as part of this restoration, the dome was covered with a durable aluminum bronze alloy made in Italy, that replaced the lead exterior. The restoration was completed in August 1964. In 1993, the golden dome covering was refurbished following a donation of $8.2 million by King Hussein of Jordan who sold one of his houses in London to fund the 80 kilograms of gold required.
The interior of the dome is lavishly decorated with mosaic, faience and marble, much of which was added several centuries after its completion. It also contains Qur'anic inscriptions. Sura Ya-Seen is inscribed across the top of the tile work and was commissioned in the 16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent. Al-Isra is inscribed above this.
According to Goitein, the inscriptions decorating the interior clearly display a spirit of polemic against Christianity, whilst stressing at the same time the Qur'anic doctrine that Jesus was a true prophet. The formula la sharika lahu 'God has no companion' is repeated five times, the verses from Sura Maryam 19:35–37, which strongly reaffirm Jesus' prophethood to God, are quoted together with the prayer:Allahumma salli ala rasulika wa'abdika 'Isa bin Maryam – "In the name of the One God (Allah) Pray for your Prophet and Servant Jesus son of Mary". He believes that this shows that rivalry with Christendom, together with the spirit of Muslim mission to the Christians, was at work at the time of construction.
During the Crusades the Dome of the Rock was given to the Augustinians, who turned it into a church while the Al-Aqsa Mosque became a royal palace. The Knights Templar, who believed the Dome of the Rock was the site of the Temple of Solomon, later set up their headquarters in the Al-Aqsa Mosque adjacent to the Dome for much of the 12th century. But it was not the "Templum Domini", as they called the Dome of the Rock, which featured on the official seals of the Order's Grand Masters (such as Everard des Barres and Renaud de Vichiers), rather the Rotunda of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and it was the Rotunda that became the architectural model for Templar churches across Europe.
Ayyubids and Mamluks-
Jerusalem was recaptured by Saladin on 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. Saladin's nephew al-Malik al-Mu'azzam Isa 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 until 1510.
Ottoman Empire 1517–1917-
Large-scale renovation was undertaken during the reign of Mahmud II in 1817. Adjacent to the Dome of the Rock, the Ottomans built the free-standing Dome of the Prophet in 1620.
From British Mandate to present-
The Dome of the Rock was badly shaken during an earthquake in Palestine on 11 July 1927, rendering useless many of the repairs that had taken place over previous years.
Israel took control of the Dome of the Rock during its victory in the Six-Day War in 1967. Shlomo Goren also entered the Dome of the Rock with a Torah book and a shofar.
A few hours after the Israeli flag was hoisted over the Dome of the Rock in 1967 during the Six-Day War, Israelis lowered it on the orders of Moshe Dayan and invested the Muslim waqf (religious trust) with the authority to manage the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif, in order to "keep the peace".
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 Muslim religious foundations own the Dome and consider it particularly sacred such actions would inevitably lead to violence. Many Israelis are ambivalent about the Movement's wishes. Some religious Jews, following a rabbinic dictum, feel that the Temple should only be rebuilt in the messianic era, and that it would be presumptuous of people to force God's hand. However, some Evangelical Christians consider this a prerequisite to Armageddon and the Second Coming. This view is steeped in the belief that there will be a prophetic rebuilding of the Temple in place of the Dome of the Rock.
The Dome of the Rock is depicted on the reverse of the Iranian 1000 rials banknote.
The Dome is maintained by the Ministry of Awqaf in Amman, Jordan.
Until the mid-nineteenth century, non-Muslims were not permitted in the area. Since 1967, non-Muslims have been permitted limited access, however non-Muslims are not permitted to pray on the Temple Mount, or carry any form of religious artifact or anything with Hebrew letters. The Israeli police help enforce this. Due to security concerns, Israel restricts access of Palestinian residents of the West Bank to Jerusalem on Muslim holidays only with an age restriction on West Bank Palestinian men over 35 being eligible for a permit. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, who hold Israeli residency cards, and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are permitted unrestricted access.
In 2006, the Temple Mount was reopened to non-Muslim visitors between the hours of 7:30–11:30 am and 1:30–2:30 pm during summer and 7:30–10:30 am and 1:30–2:30 pm during winter. Non-Muslims are prohibited from entering after 2:30 pm and may not enter on Fridays, Saturdays, or Muslim holidays. Entry is through a wooden walkway next to the entrance to the Western Wall. Non-Muslims are prohibited from entering the mosques and accessing the Temple Mount through the Cotton Market. Visitors are subject to strict security screening, and items such as Jewish prayer books are prohibited.
Many Orthodox rabbis regard entry to the compound to be a violation of Jewish law. This is based on the belief that since the time the Temple was destroyed during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the precise location of the Holy one, the sanctuary entered only by the High Priest, is not known. Hence a restriction applies to the entire compound. However, other rabbis believe that modern archaeological and other evidence has enabled them to identify areas that can be safely entered without violating Jewish law; but even those opinions forbid Jews from entering the Dome of the Rock.
According to some Islamic scholars, the rock is the spot from which Muhammad ascended to Heaven accompanied by the angel Gabriel. Further, Muhammad was taken here by Gabriel to pray with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. After Muhammad's return, he called all who would believe him to join with him and be Muslim. Other Islamic scholars believe that the Prophet ascended to the Heaven from Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Foundation Stone and its surroundings is the holiest site in Judaism. Just as Muslims pray towards the Kaaba at Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, Jews pray towards the raised platform on which the Dome of the Rock stands. Jews have traditionally regarded the location of the stone as the holiest spot on Earth, the site of the Holy of Holies during the Temple Period.
The most propitious site for Jewish prayer is the spot that is nearest the Foundation Stone. Because Muslim authorities refused to permit Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, the custom developed of praying near the Western Wall, since it was the site nearest to the Foundation Stone, or on the Mount of Olives facing the site of the Temple. Between 1948 and 1967, when Jordanian authorities refused permission to Jews to enter the Old City of Jerusalem, Jews made pilgrimages to rooftops on Mount Zion and prayed towards the site of the ancient Holy of Holies.
According to Jewish tradition, the stone is the site where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac; Muslims believe it was Ishmael, not Isaac, who was to be sacrificed.
In Christianity it is believed that during the time of the Byzantine Empire, near the spot where the Dome was later constructed was where Constantine's mother built a small church, calling it the Church of St. Cyrus and St. John, later on enlarged and called the Church of the Holy Wisdom. On the walls of the Dome of the Rock is an inscription in a mosaicfrieze that includes the following words from Quran (19:33–35), which are considered blasphemy to Christianity:
33. "So peace is upon me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!" 34. Such is Jesus, son of Mary. It is a statement of truth, about which they doubt. 35. It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He determines a matter, He only says to it, "Be", and it is.
The date recorded as 72 after the Hijra (or 691–692 CE), which historians view as the year of the Dome's construction.