Dome of the Rock

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Not to be confused with Al-Aqsa Mosque or Mosque of Omar (Jerusalem).
Dome of the Rock
Qubbat As-Sakhrah
Dome of the Rock is located in Jerusalem
Dome of the Rock
Dome of the Rock
Location within the Old City of Jerusalem
Coordinates: 31°46′41″N 35°14′07″E / 31.7780°N 35.2354°E / 31.7780; 35.2354Coordinates: 31°46′41″N 35°14′07″E / 31.7780°N 35.2354°E / 31.7780; 35.2354
Location Jerusalem
Established Built 685-691
Administration Ministry of Awqaf
Architectural information
Style Umayyad
Dome(s) 1
Minaret(s) 0
Dome of the Rock as viewed from the Mount of Olives and showing the walls of the Old City
Dome of the Rock at night viewed from the Austrian Hospice

The Dome of the Rock (Arabic: قبة الصخرة‎, translit.: Qubbat As-Sakhrah, Hebrew: כיפת הסלע‎, translit.: Kipat Hasela) is a shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was initially completed in 691 CE at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik during the Second Fitna. The Dome of the Rock is now one of the oldest works of Islamic architecture.[1] It has been called 'Jerusalem's most recognizable landmark'.[2] The octagonal plan of the structure may have been influenced by the Byzantine Chapel of St Mary (also known as Kathisma and al-Qadismu) built between 451 and 458 on the road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.[3]

The site's significance stems from religious traditions regarding the rock, known as the Foundation Stone, at its heart, which bears great significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Location[edit]

The Dome of the Rock is located at the visual center of a platform known as the Temple Mount. It is believed, or assumed by tradition, to have been constructed on the site of the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

Muslims believe the location of the Dome of the Rock to be the site of the Islamic miracle of the Isra and Miraj. Caliph Omar ibn al Khattab (579-644) was advised by his associate, Ka'ab al-Ahbar, a Jewish rabbi who converted to Islam,[4] 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.

History[edit]

Pre-Islam[edit]

The Dome of the Rock is situated in the center of the Temple Mount, the site where once the Jewish Second Temple had stood. The Temple was destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans, who built a temple to Jupiter on the site. During the Byzantine era, Jerusalem was primarily Christian, and pilgrims came by the tens of thousands to experience the places where Jesus walked.[5]

Construction and dimensions[edit]

With the Persian invasion in 614, followed by the Muslim Siege of Jerusalem in 637, the Dome of the Rock was constructed by the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik between 689 and 691 CE. The Temple Mount had by then been left undeveloped for centuries after another Jewish revolt against Roman rule in the fourth century CE.

Its architecture and mosaics were patterned after nearby Byzantine churches and palaces.[6] The two engineers in charge of the project were Raja Ibn Haywah, a Muslim theologian from Baysan and Yazid Ibn Salam, a Christian slave of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan and a native of Jerusalem.[7]

Print from 1887. 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.[8]

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.[9][10]

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 20.20 m and its height 20.48 m, while the diameter of the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is 20.90 m and its height 21.05 m.

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.[11] Surrounding this circle is an octagonal arcade of 24 piers and columns. The outer facade is made of porcelain[12] and mirrors 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.[11]

Crusaders[edit]

For centuries Christian pilgrims still were able to come and experience the Temple Mount but escalating violence against pilgrims to Jerusalem (see Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah) instigated the Crusades.[13] The Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099 and 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. The "Templum Domini", as they called the Dome of the Rock, modeled on the Rotunda of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and which featured on the official seals of the Order's Grand Masters (such as Everard des Barres and Renaud de Vichiers), became the architectural model for Round Templar churches across Europe.

Ayyubids and Mamluks[edit]

Jerusalem was recaptured by Saladin on 2 October 1187, and the Dome of the Rock was reconsecrated as a Muslim shrine. The cross on top of the dome was replaced by the Islamic 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 building, and added the porch to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

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

Ottoman Empire (1517–1917)[edit]

Tiled Facade

During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent the exterior of the Dome of the Rock was covered with tiles. This work took seven years.

Interior of the Dome of the Rock (1914)

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.

Adjacent to the Dome of the Rock, the Ottomans built the free-standing Dome of the Prophet in 1620. Large-scale renovation was undertaken during the reign of Mahmud II in 1817.

From British Mandate to present[edit]

Haj Amin Al-Husseini, appointed Grand Mufti by the British during the 1917 mandate of Palestine, along with Yaqub al-Ghusayn, implemented the restoration of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Dome of the Rock interior, 1915

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

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.[14] The restoration was completed in August 1964.

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".[15]

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 Dome of the Rock is depicted on the reverse of the Iranian 1000 rials banknote.[16]

Accessibility[edit]

Sign at visitors entrance to Temple Mount

The Dome is maintained by the Ministry of Awqaf in Amman, Jordan.[17]

Until the mid-twentieth 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.[18] Due to security concerns, Israel restricts access of Palestinian residents of the West Bank to Jerusalem on Muslim holidays only. West Bank Palestinian men must be over 35 to be eligible for a permit.[19] 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 during 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, entering the Dome of the Rock, 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 of Holies, 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.[20]

The Foundation Stone viewed from the dome

Religious significance[edit]

The Temple in Jerusalem depicted as the Dome of the Rock on the printer's mark of Marco Antonio Giustiniani, Venice 1545–52

According to some Islamic scholars, the rock is the spot[21] from which Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven accompanied by the angel Gabriel. Further, Muhammad was taken here by Gabriel to pray with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.[22] Other Islamic scholars believe that the Prophet ascended to Heaven from the Al-Aqsa Mosque.[23][24]

The Foundation Stone and its surroundings is the holiest site in Judaism. Though Muslims now pray towards the Kaaba at Mecca, they once faced the Temple Mount as the Jews do. Muhammad changed the direction of prayer for Muslims after a revelation from Allah. Jews 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.[25]

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.

On the walls of the Dome of the Rock is an inscription in a mosaic frieze 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.

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 – "O Lord, send your blessings to 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.[9]


The date recorded as 72 after the Hijra (or 691–692 CE), is the year historians believe the Dome was constructed.[26]

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 rabbinic teaching, believe 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 rebuilding of the Temple to be a prerequisite to Armageddon and the Second Coming.[27] Jeremy Gimpel, a U.S.-born candidate for Habayit Hayehudi in the 2013 Israeli elections, caused a controversy when he was recorded telling a Fellowship Church evangelical group in Florida in 2011 to imagine the incredible experience that would follow were the Dome to be blown up. All Christians would be immediately transported to Israel, he opined, perhaps whimsically.[28] 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.

Architectural homages[edit]

The Dome of the Rock has inspired the architecture of a number of buildings. These include the octagonal Church of St. Giacomo in Italy, the Mausoleum of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in Istanbul, and the octagonal Moorish Revival style Rumbach Street synagogue in Budapest. It was long believed by Christians that the Dome of the Rock echoed the architecture of the Temple in Jerusalem, as can be seen in Raphael's The Marriage of the Virgin and in Perugino's Marriage of the Virgin.[29]

Gallery[edit]

Panorama of the Temple Mount, including Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, from the Mount of Olives

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Slavik, Diane (2001). Cities through Time: Daily Life in Ancient and Modern Jerusalem. Geneva, Illinois: Runestone Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-8225-3218-7. 
  2. ^ The New Yorker. F-R Publishing Corporation. 2001. p. 154. 
  3. ^ Avner, Rina "The Dome of the Rock in Light of the development of Concentric Martyria in Jerusalem" article in Muqarnas: An annual on the visual cultures of the Islamic World Vol 27, Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2010, p. 43-44
  4. ^ Yakub of Syria (Ka'b al-Ahbar) Last Jewish Attempt at Islamic Leadership Committee for Historical Research in Islam and Judaism, © 2004-2012, accessed July 2013. "He continued to follow Rabbinic tradition such that later Islamic historians questioned whether he ever 'converted' to Islam."
  5. ^ Davidson, Linda Kay and David Martin Gitlitz Pilgrimage: From the Ganges to Graceland : an Encyclopedia Volume 1, ABC-CLIO, Inc, Santa Barbara, CA 2002, p. 274.
  6. ^ p. 43-44.
  7. ^ Ibid. Avner, Visual Cultures, p. 43-44
  8. ^ "Drawings of Islamic Buildings: Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem.". Victoria and Albert Museum. "Until 1833 the Dome of the Rock had not been measured or drawn; according to Victor von Hagen, 'no architect had ever sketched its architecture, no antiquarian had traced its interior design....' On 13 November in that year, however, Frederick Catherwood dressed up as an Egyptian officer and accompanied by an Egyptian servant 'of great courage and assurance', entered the buildings of the mosque with his drawing materials ... 'During six weeks, I continued to investigate every part of the mosque and its precincts.' Thus, Catherwood made the first complete survey of the Dome of the Rock, and paved the way for many other artists in subsequent years, such as William Harvey, Ernest Richmond and Carl Friedrich Heinrich Werner." 
  9. ^ a b Goitein, Shlomo Dov; The Historication background of the erection of the Dome of the Rock, Journal of American Oriental Society, Vol. 70, No. 2, 1950
  10. ^ Th. A. Busink (1980). Der Tempel von Jerusalem: Von Ezechiel bis Middot. BRILL. pp. 917–918. ISBN 978-90-04-06047-0. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  11. ^ a b "Encyclopædia Britannica: Dome of the Rock". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  12. ^ The Dome of the Rock. Glass Steel and Stone.
  13. ^ Stark, Rodney. God's Battalions; a Case for the Crusades. Harper Collins, NY, 2009, p. 84-85.
  14. ^ "Dome of the Rock". BiblePlaces.com. Retrieved 2 January 2011. 
  15. ^ "Letter from Jerusalem: A Fight Over Sacred Turf by Sandra Scham". Archaeology.org. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  16. ^ Central Bank of Iran. Banknotes & Coins: 1000 Rials. – Retrieved on 24 March 2009.
  17. ^ Business Optimization Consultants B.O.C. "Hashemite Restorations of the Islamic Holy Places in Jerusalem – kinghussein.gov.jo – Retrieved 21 January 2008". Kinghussein.gov.jo. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  18. ^ Jerusalem's Holy Places and the Peace Process Marshall J. Breger and Thomas A. Idinopulos, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1998.
  19. ^ Browning, Noah (2012-08-15). "Palestinians flock to Jerusalem as Israeli restrictions eased - Yahoo! News". News.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  20. ^ "Israel Streams: The State of the Jews, Right Now". Web.israelinsider.com. Retrieved 2 January 2011. 
  21. ^ Braswell, G. Islam – Its Prophets, People, Politics and Power. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers. 1996. p. 14
  22. ^ Ali, A. The Holy Qur'an – Translation and Commentary. Bronx, NY: Islamic Propagation Centre International. 1946. pp. 1625–31
  23. ^ "Me'raj – The Night Ascension". Al-islam.org. Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  24. ^ "Meraj Article". Duas.org. Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  25. ^ Jerusalem Divided: The Armistice Regime, 1947–1967, Raphael Israeli, Routledge, 2002, p. 6
  26. ^ Rizwi Faizer (1998). "The Shape of the Holy: Early Islamic Jerusalem". Rizwi's Bibliography for Medieval Islam. Archived from the original on 10 February 2002. 
  27. ^ Stephen Spector, Evangelicals and Israel:The Story of American Christian Zionism, Oxford University Press, 2008 p.202.
  28. ^ Andrew Esensten U.S.-born Knesset candidate, Jeremy Gimpel, and his Dome of the Rock 'joke', Haaretz 20 January 2013.
  29. ^ Burckhardt, Jacob; Peter Murray; James C. Palmes (1986). The Architecture of the Italian Renaissance. University of Chicago Press. p. 81. 

References[edit]

  • Creswell, K. A. C., The Origin of the Plan of the Dome of the Rock (Jerusalem, British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, 1924).
  • Peterson, Andrew (1994). Dictionary of Islamic Architecture. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-06084-2
  • Braswell, G. (1996). Islam – Its Prophets, People, Politics and Power. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers.
  • Ali, A. (1946). The Holy Qur’an – Translation and Commentary. Bronx, NY: Islamic Propagation Centre International.
  • Islam, M. Anwarul; Al-Hamad, Zaid, "The Dome of the Rock: Origin of its Octagonal Plan", Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 139,2 (2007), pp. 109–28.
  • Christoph Luxenberg: Neudeutung der arabischen Inschrift im Felsendom zu Jerusalem. In: Karl-Heinz Ohlig / Gerd-R. Puin (Hg.): Die dunklen Anfänge. Neue Forschungen zur Entstehung und frühen Geschichte des Islam, Berlin (Verlag Hans Schiler) 2005, S. 124-147. English version: "A New Interpretation of the Arabic Inscription in Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock". In: Karl-Heinz Ohlig / Gerd-R. Puin (eds.): The Hidden Origins of Islam: New Research into Its Early History, Amherst, N.Y. (Prometheus Books) 2010

External links[edit]