Essential Architecture-  Israel

Dome of the Rock


Abd al-Malik








stone, ceramic tile. Mr A.C. Cresswell in his book Origin of the plan of the Dome of the Rock writes that those who built the mosque made use of the measurements of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The diameter of the dome of the mosque is 20m by 20cm and its height 20m by 48cm, while the diameter of the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is 20m by 90cm and its’ height 21m by 5cm.


  Interior view
  Detail of mosaics
The Dome of the Rock (Arabic:, translit.: Qubbat As-Sakhrah, translit.: Kipat Hasela, Turkish: Kubbetüs Sahra) is a notable Islamic shrine for pilgrimage in what Muslims call masjid al-Aqsa or the Noble Sanctuary (al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif) — which Jews and Christians call Har ha-Bayit  or the Temple Mount — it remains one of the best known landmarks of Jerusalem. It was built between 687 and 691 by the 9th Caliph, Abd al-Malik. It is often mistakingly referred to as Mosque of Umar, the actual mosque of Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab residing next to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Religious significance
The rock in the center of the dome it 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 (see Isra and Mi'raj.) A Qur'anic verse says that Muhammad took a night journey on Buraq from the "sacred mosque" (al-Masjid al-Haram) (Mecca) to the "farthest mosque" (al-Masjid al-Aqsa) (interpreted in Islam to be in Jerusalem[4]) instantaneously.

Since Jerusalem is not mentioned by name in the Koran, many non-Muslim historians point to the concept that Umar reinterpreted the Koran to exalt his mosque in Jerusalem — which started out as a tiny wooden shrine — to show what he perceived to be Islam's superiority over Judaism. Most Muslims argue[citation needed] that since Islam is a continuation of the God's revelations to the Jews (and Christianity as well, see Jesus in Islam), therefore it is not a sign of superiority, but of the evolution of revealed doctrine. Such claims are often challenged in the light of restrictions imposed on non-Muslims.[5] [6]

In Judaism, the stone is the site where Abraham fulfilled God's test to see if he would be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac. Muslims believe that this event occurred in the desert of Mina 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. There is some controversy among secular scholars about equating Mount Moriah (where Isaac's binding occurred according to the Biblical narrative), the Temple Mount and the location where Jacob saw the ladder to heaven; but for orthodox Jews at least, there is no doubt that all these events occurred on this spot. It is also identified as the rock upon which Jacob dreamt about angels ascending and descending on a ladder and consequently offing a sacrifice upon. Situated inside the Holy of Holies, this was the rock upon which the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the First Temple[7]. During the Second Temple, the stone was used by High Priest who offered up the incense and sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices on it during the Yom Kippur Service.

In 630, long before the Dome of the Rock was erected, `Umar ibn al-Khattab helped by Kaab al-Ahbar and other Muslims recovered the Rock and dug it out of the dust and cleansed the area which had been abandoned for hundreds of years since the Roman destruction. Ibn Asakir [8] mentions that Umar never built any Muslim house of worship on that spot but rather chose to erect a mosque in the southern area of the Haram es Sharif with the Rock behind to the north. He did this to make clear that the qibla of prayer was south, towards the Kaabah in Mecca and that Muslims never dispute the correct direction of pray, resulting in them possibly praying towards the Rock as the Jews were doing. The Rock area remained uncovered until the time of Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan who started construction in 685, completing it in 691. The Muslim scholar al-Wasiti reports this incidence:

When Abd al-Malik intended to construct the Dome of the Rock, he came from Damascus to Jerusalem. He wrote, "Abd al-Malik intends to build a dome (qubba) over the Rock to house the Muslims from cold and heat, and to construct the masjid. But before he starts he wants to know his subjects' opinion." With their approval, the deputies wrote back, "May Allah permit the completion of this enterprise, and may He count the building of the dome and the masjid a good deed for Abd al-Malik and his predecessors." He then gathered craftsmen from all his dominions and asked them to provide him with the description and form of the planned dome before he engaged in its construction. So, it was marked for him in the sahn of the masjid. He then ordered the building of the treasury (bayt al-mal) to the east of the Rock, which is on the edge of the Rock, and filled it with money. He then appointed Raja' ibn Hayweh and Yazid ibn Salam to supervise the construction and ordered them to spend generously on its construction. He then returned to Damascus. When the two men satisfactorily completed the house, they wrote to Abd al-Malik to inform him that they had completed the construction of the dome and al-Masjid al-Aqsa. They said to him "There is nothing in the building that leaves room for criticism." They wrote him that a hundred thousand dinars was left from the budget he allocated. He offered the money to them as a reward, but they declined, indicating that they had already been generously compensated. Abd al-Malik orders the gold coins to be melted and cast on the Dome's exterior, which at the time had a strong glitter that no eye could look straight at it. [9][10]

The two engineers Yazid ibn Salam, a Jerusalemite, and Raja' ibn Hayweh, from Baysan, were ordered to spend generously on the construction. In his Book of the Geography, al-Maqdisi reported that seven times the revenue of Egypt was used to build the Dome. During a discussion with his uncle on why the Caliph spent lavishly on building the mosques in Jerusalem and Damascus, al-Maqdisi writes:

 O my little son, thou has no understanding. Verily he was right, and he was prompted to a worthy work. For he beheld Syria to be a country that had long been occupied by the Christians, and he noted there are beautiful churches still belonging to them, so enchantingly fair, and so renowned for their splendour, as are the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the churches of Lydda and Edessa. So he sought to build for the Muslims a mosque that should be unique and a wonder to the world. And in like manner is it not evident that Caliph Abd al-Malik, seeing the greatness of the martyrium of the Holy Sepulchre and its magnificence was moved lest it should dazzle the minds of Muslims and hence erected above the Rock the dome which is now seen there. [11]

Mr A.C. Cresswell in his book Origin of the plan of the Dome of the Rock writes that those who built the mosque made use of the measurements of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The diameter of the dome of the mosque is 20m by 20cm and its height 20m by 48cm, while the diameter of the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is 20m by 90cm and its’ height 21m by 5cm.

In his study The Historication background of the erection of the Dome of the Rock, Prof. Shlomo Dov Goitein of the Hebrew University mentions:

In a well-known passage of his Book of Geography [12], al-Maqdisi tells us how his uncle excused Abd al-Malik and Al-Walid I for spending so much good Muslims money on buildings: They intended to remove the fitna, the 'annoyance,' constituted by the existence of the many fine buildings of worship of other religions. The very form of a rotunda, given to the Qubbat as-Sakhra, although it was foreign to Islam, was destined to rival the many Christians domes. The inscriptions decorating the interior clearly display a spirit of polemic against Christianity, while stressing at the same time the Koranic doctrine that Jesus Christ was a true prophet. The formula la sharika lahu 'god has no companion' is repeated five times, the verses from sura Maryam 16:34-37, which strongly deny Jesus' sonship to God, are quoted together with the remarkable prayer:
Allahumma salli (with ya; read salli without ya) ala rasulika wa'abdika 'Isa bin Maryam - "Pray for your Prophet and Servant (not Son, of course) Jesus".

All this shows that rivalry with Christendom, together with the spirit of Islamic mission to the Christians, was at the work at the creation of the famous Dome [13].

The Dome is in the shape of a Byzantine martyrium, a structure intended for the housing and veneration of saintly relics and is an excellent example of middle Byzantine art. Haj Amin Al-Husseini, appointed Grand Mufti by the British, along with Yacoub Al Ghussein implemented restoration of Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. He had the Dome gold-plated for the first time.[citation needed]

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 [1] The Koranic sura, or chapter, "Ya-Seen" 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-Seen.

During his travels in Jerusalem, Mark Twain wrote that parts of the Dome of the Rock used stones excavated from the Temple Mount and which were a part of the Jewish Temple that was destroyed by the Romans in 70CE:

Every where about the Mosque of Omar are portions of pillars, curiously wrought altars, and fragments of elegantly carved marble - precious remains of Solomon's Temple. These have been dug from all depths in the soil and rubbish of Mount Moriah, and the Moslems have always shown a disposition to preserve them with the utmost care [14]

Jews used to pray in the Dome of the Rock until around 1000 CE when the Egyptian caliphs destroyed all synagogues. Shortly afterwards the Seljuk Turks took control of the city and closed Jersualem as a route of Christian pilgrimage, which contributed to the Crusades and the Christian capture of the city.[2]

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 (615-24/1218-27) 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.

In 1267 the Jewish sage Nahmanides wrote to a letter to his son.[3] It contained the following references to the land and the Temple:

What shall I say of this land . . . The more holy the place the greater the desolation. Jerusalem is the most desolate of all . . . There are about 2,000 inhabitants . . . but there are no Jews, for after the arrival of the Tartars, the Jews fled, and some were killed by the sword. There are now only two brothers, dyers, who buy their dyes from the government. At their place a quorum of worshippers meets on the Sabbath, and we encourage them, and found a ruined house, built on pillars, with a beautiful dome, and made it into a synagogue . . . People regularly come to Jerusalem, men and women from Damascus and from Aleppo and from all parts of the country, to see the Temple and weep over it. And may He who deemed us worthy to see Jerusalem in her ruins, grant us to see her rebuilt and restored, and the honor of the Divine Presence returned

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.

Moor's Gate
Moors Gate, (Bab El Magharbeh), is one of four entrances to the Dome of the Rock at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and is the only city gate entrance to the Jewish Quarter. The Moors Gate engraved Moors into Judaic religious history due to the fact that the Moors were part and parcel to those “Holy” territories, Jerusalem and Palestine.

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 the Magnificent, 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 prerequisite to Armageddon and the Second Coming.

Under Jordanian rule of Jerusalem, Jews were forbidden from entering the Old City. Currently, as territory of Israel, the Israeli government has granted a Muslim Council full administration of the site. Jews and Christians are barred from conducting services there.

In 1998 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 kilos of gold required.

Restrictions on the Entrance to the Dome of the Rock
Until the mid-nineteenth century, non-Muslims were barred from the area. Since 1967, non-Muslims have been allowed some entry, but non Muslim prayers on the Temple Mount aren't allowed.

As of October 2006, only Muslims are permitted to enter the Dome of the Rock. After Ariel Sharon made his famous visit to the Temple Mount in 2000, Non-Muslims have been forbidden to enter either the Dome of the Rock or the Al-Aqsa mosque completely.