Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount), Jerusalem
Before the Muslims took over Jerusalem was held by Christians. In the fourth century Constantine the Great built churches over the Holy Sepulcher and on the Mount of Olives, and in the sixth century Justinian dedicated a church to the Mother of God. Justinian's church had a roof structure of large cedar beams; according to Procopius (De Aedificiis, V,6) it stood on the Temple platform.After the Muslim armies conquered Jerusalem in 638 Omar - originally a bitter opponent of Mohammed and later his second successor (Caliph = "Successor") - visited the city. Simply dressed, and accompanied by Archbishop Sophronius, he entered the Temple precinct and said a prayer on Abraham's rock. This to the Muslims was sacred, for the 17th sura of the Koran tells of the Prophet's miraculous night journey "from the holy temple in Mecca to the distant temple" in Jerusalem; from the rock of Moriah Mohammed ascended to the seven heavens, and from there returned to Mecca.To the Muslims, therefore, the Haram esh-Sharif is a place of great significance. It has acquired further associations in the present century, for King Hussein I (1853-1931), a pioneer of the contemporary Arab movement, was buried here and in 1951 his successor Abdullah was murdered here.The brilliant period of the Omayyad Caliphs, whose capital was in Damascus, saw the erection on the Temple platform of the two buildings which have become the landmarks and emblems of Jerusalem - the Dome of the Rock, built over the rock of Moriah by Abd el-Malik in 687-691, and the El-Aqsa Mosque, converted by his son El-Walid I (705-715) from Justinian's church dedicated to the Mother of God.The period of Muslim rule on the Temple Mount was interrupted by the coming of the Crusaders, who held Jerusalem from 1099 to 1187 and plundered the Dome of the Rock and the El-Aqsa Mosque (less generous than Caliph Omar, who had spared the church of the Holy Sepulcher). The first kings of Jerusalem resided in the El-Aqsa Mosque, but later made it over to the Order of the Temple (founded 1149), which took its name from the Templum Salomonis (El-Aqsa) and Templum Domini (Dome of the Rock).After Jerusalem was recaptured for Islam by Saladin in 1187 there was much further building on the Temple platform, particularly by the Mamelukes. The Dome of the Rock was damaged by grenades during the fighting between Israelis and Arabs in 1948 but was restored, with a new golden dome, by Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia between 1958 and 1964. During the Six Day War Israeli troops reached the Wailing Wall on June seventh 1967, since when it has been freely accessible again to Jews.The wallsThe walls enclosing the Temple Mount reach their highest point (65m/213ft) at the southeast corner, where there is a clear view of the massive blocks of dressed stone of the Herodian walls and the overlying courses of smaller stones of later restorations and rebuildings. The entrances to the Temple Mount for non-Muslims are on the west side, in the 490m/535yd long stretch of wall extending southward from the Antonia fortress. In addition to Bab el- Magharibeh there are six other gates, the most important of which are the Chain Gate (Bab es- Silsileh), the Cotton-Merchants' Gate (Bab el-Qattanin) with its stalactitic corbelling, the Iron Gate (Bab el-Hadid) and the Watchman's Gate (Bab en-Nazir), the entrance for visitors coming from the Damascus Gate by way of King Solomon Street and Ala-ud-Din Street. On the western and northern walls of the Haram esh-Sharif are four minarets, at the southwest corner (1278, altered 1622), above Bab es-Silsileh (1329), at the northwest corner (1297) and - the youngest of the four - on the north wall (1937).Temple platformEntering the Haram esh-Sharif by the Moroccans' Gate (Bab el-Magharibeh), we find ourselves in a spacious square. On the west side of the square are arcaded buildings of the Mameluke period occupied by various Muslim institutions. In the building between Bab el-Qattanin and Bab el-Hadid are a number of tombs, including that of King Hussein I Ibn Ali (1853-1931). Hussein was a member of the Hashemite family, descended from Mohammed's grandfather Hashem, which ruled in Mecca from the 10th century. In 1916 he declared his independence from the Ottoman Empire, calling himself king of Arabia (though he was recognized only as king of the Hejaz), and in 1924 took the style of Caliph. In October 1924 he gave up both dignities in favor of his son Ali, who at the end of 1925 was compelled to resign authority over Arabia to Ibn Saud of the Wahabite tribe. Hussein's second son Abdullah (b. 1882), ruler of Transjordan from 1921 and king of Jordan from 1948, was assassinated in 1951 when entering the El-Aqsa Mosque with his grandson Hussein, the present king of Jordan. His younger brother Feisal (1883- 1933) became king of Syria in 1920 and king of Iraq in 1921. The principal buildings on the Temple platform are the El-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
Address: Temple Mount, Entrance near Western Wall, Israel
North of El-Aqsa in Jerusalem, we pass the large circular ablutions fountain (El-Kas) and climb a broad flight of steps leading to the upper platform.
The steps at the Ablutions fountain in Jerusalem, like those on the other sides of the platform, are spanned by handsome pointed arches of the Mameluke period. They are known to Muslims as the "Scales", since it is believed that on the day of judgment the scales in which the souls of men will be weighed will be set up here. At the top of the steps, on left, is a marble summer pulpit constructed during the Mameluke period, using colonnettes from a Crusader building.
Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock is one of the most famous Muslim monuments. Muslim belief states that Mohammed ascended to heaven from this spot, while the Jewish belief suggests it is where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac.
Other buildings round the Dome of the Rock
At the northwest corner of the raised platform on which the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem stands are a number of monuments: the Prayer Niche of the Prophet (Mihrab el-Nebi, 1538); the Dome of Hebron (Qubbet el-Khalil), a prayer hall built by the Sheikh of Hebron in the 19th century; and the Dome of the Ascension of the Prophet (Qubbet el-Miraj), built on the spot where, in Muslim tradition, Mohammed prayed before his ascent to heaven. In front of the arcading of the staircase at the northwest corner are the Dome of St George (Qubbet el-Khadir) and the Dome of the Spirits (Qubbet el-Arwah), which dates from the 15th century. The El-Kas fountain on the west side of the Dome of the Rock, below the broad flight of steps, was erected by the Mameluke Sultan Qaitbay in 1455.
Dome of the Chain
Immediately east of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is a small circular domed building known as David's Place of Judgment (Mehkemet Da'ud) or the Dome of the Chain (Qubbet es-Silsileh): so called because Solomon is said to have hung a chain over his father's place of judgment, from which a link would fall if any man appearing for judgment swore a false oath. The large mihrab (prayer niche) marking the direction of Mecca dates from the 13th century.
At the southeast corner of the sacred precinct is a flight of steps leading down to "Solomon's Stables" (usually closed), the substructures built by Herod to enlarge the Temple platform. Here 88 massive piers linked by arches form twelve parallel passages, which, as can be seen from the rings for tethering animals on many of the piers, were used by the Crusaders for stabling their horses.
More on PlanetWare