The Dome of the Rock (Qubbatus Saqqara) is often mistakenly referred to as the al-Aqsa mosque. This structure was built by Caliph Abd al-Malik from 688 to 691 CE and houses the sacred rock from which the Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) ascended to heaven (Mi’raj) after the night journey to Jerusalem (Isra’).
- The Dome of the Rock was built by Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn al-Marwan, it took six years to build and was inaugurated in 691 CE.
- The octagon shaped building was the cutting edge of design at the time, built on a marble base with the remainder being made out of wood rather than stone. Four of the eight sides have doors and there are seven windows. The dome itself is 25 meters high and covered with gold. The interior is decorated with mosaic, marble and verses from the Quran. Being unchanged for 13 centuries, it is one of the oldest existing Islamic monuments in the world and for many it is still regarded as the greatest in terms of building, structure and design.
- When the Crusaders took over Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock mosque was re-named Templum Domini and had a cross placed on top of the golden dome. The Qibly mosque was re-named Templum Solomonis. This Kingdom was to last 87 years, during which time neither Jew nor Muslim was allowed to dwell within the walls of the city.
- Ibn Kathir (Allah show mercy on him) writes in his book Kamil at-Tawarikh (The Perfect History) of the scene when the Muslims recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders:“…At the top of the cupola of the Dome of the Rock there was a great gilded cross. When the Muslims entered the city on the Friday, some of them climbed the top of the cupola to take down the cross……a great cry went up from the city and from outside the walls, the Muslims crying ‘Allahu-akbar’ in their joy, the Franks groaning in consternation and grief. So loud and piercing was the cry that the earth shook. …Salahuddin ordered that the shrines should be restored to their original state. The Templars had built their living quarters against al-Aqsa, with storerooms and latrines…This was all restored to its former state. The Sultan ordered that the Dome of the Rock should be cleansed of all pollution, and this was done…”
- The beautiful external tile work which can be seen today was commissioned by Sulayman II Qanuni (the Lawgiver), known throughout Europe as Sulayman the Magnificent. With the incomparable skills of Persian master ceramicists, 40,000 tiles were fired and put into place, crowned by the inscription of Surah Yasin, the 36th chapter and regarded as the heart of the Quran.
- Orthodox Jews believe the Dome of the Rock to be the centre of the world.
References: Palestine: Beginner’s guide – Ismail Adam Patel, Al-Quds – Mohammed Abdul Hameed Al-Khateeb, The Crusades – Christine Hatt, HUMA’S travel guide to Palestine.