Dome of the Rock

Also known as Kubbat as-Sakhra, Kubbet es Sakhra, “Mosque of Omar,” Qubbet el-Sakhra, Templum Domini

Aerial from East

Built atop the earlier location of the Temple, the Dome of the Rock was erected by the Muslim ruler Abd el-Malik in 688–691. Because of its situation on bedrock, the numerous earthquakes over the centuries have not caused significant damage to the structure (unlike its neighbor, the Al Aqsa mosque). This shrine was covered by a lead dome from 691 until it was replaced with a gold-colored covering in the early 1960s. Because of rust, the anodized aluminum cover was again replaced in 1993 with a gold covering.

Dome with Mount of Olives

The Mount of Olives overlooks the Temple Mount from the east and gives a picture of Jesus’s weeping over the city from the Mt. of Olives (Luke 19:41). From the Temple Mount, Jesus delivered the famous “7 Woes” against the Pharisees (Matt 23), probably pointing at tombs on the Mount of Olives in his discourse (v. 27). Jesus’s ascension probably took place some distance behind the tower of the Russian Orthodox Church.

View from Southwest

Sometimes referred to as the “Mosque of Omar,” actually the Dome of the Rock is neither. Omar built an earlier structure, but not the Dome of the Rock; additionally, this building is considered a shrine and not a mosque. Men pray instead at the Al Aqsa Mosque located 650 feet (200 m) to the south. Muslims believe that this is the place where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Ishmael.

Founding Inscription

Inside the building in classical Arabic is inscribed, “O you People of the Book, overstep not bounds in your religion, and of God speak only the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is only an apostle of God, and his Word which he conveyed unto Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from him. Believe therefore in God and his apostles, and say not Three. It will be better for you. God is only one God. Far be it from his glory that he should have a son.”

Al Aqsa Mosque

More important to the Muslims than the Dome of the Rock is Al Aqsa Mosque. Believing that this is the place referred to in the Koran as “al aqsa” (the furthermost), Muslims have sanctified this as the third most holy place in the Muslim world (after shrines in Mecca and Medina, both in Saudi Arabia). The original mosque was built in 715 but it has been destroyed numerous times by earthquakes.

Al Aqsa from north

The mosque witnessed a turbulent 20th century. King Abdullah of Jordan was assassinated in front of Al Aqsa in 1951. A deranged Australian tourist set fire to the mosque in 1969, destroying the beautiful 12th-century wooden pulpit. Controversy now rages over the building activity on a larger mosque constructed underneath this one.

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Related Websites

For historical images of the Dome of the Rock, see Life in the Holy Land.

The Dome of the Rock

The Noble Sanctuary (online guide) A well-done site from a Muslim perspective that doesn’t deny the existence of the earlier Jewish temples.

Dome of the Rock (personal page, Martin Gray) Authored by an anthropologist/photographer, this lengthy article is accompanied by some nice photos.

Dome of the Rock (Lonely Planet) A readable history of the Dome.

Dome of the Rock (Britannica) An encyclopedia entry about the site, with a lot of detail and several photos and videos.

Dome of the Rock: An Architecture Landmark to Visit in Jerusalem (Architecture Lab) Featuring high-quality photos of the Dome of the Rock, including an interior one of the dome, this article is a fascinating read.

Dome of the Rock (The Israel Blog) Included here for a nice interior photo of the Dome of the Rock.

For further study, we recommend the following books by Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer.

  • The Quest (progresses around Temple Mount, full of information about the walls, reservoirs/cisterns, and history; an excellent volume for research and study)
  • Jerusalem—The Temple Mount (focuses more on modern sites: what you will see if you tour Temple Mount today and what to look for; an excellent book to carry with you on a tour)

Al Aqsa Mosque

Al-Aqsa Mosque (See the Holy Land) A basic introduction to this mosque, accompanied by several photos.

Al-Aqsa Mosque (Britannica) An encyclopedia article, fairly short, that can introduce one to the site.

Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque (AKDN) Some technical architectural details about the mosque.

Al Aqsa Mosque (Sacred Destinations) The website isn’t great, but the information is helpful.

Jerusalem: History Lessons (Aqsa) (Albalagh) Provides eye-opening insight into Muslim thought on their history, religion, and responsibility to Jihad.