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Jerusalem - Haram Ash-Sharif

The 14.4 hectare (35 -acre) Haram Ash-Sharif or "Noble Sancturary", the third holiest site in Islam, encloses nearly one-sixth of the Old City of Jerusalem with foutains, gardens, mosques, buildings and other structures.

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where the Jewish Temple was located, is the holiest site in Judaism. Called Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) by Muslims, the site contains the al-Aqsa Mosque, which is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam, the iconic Dome of the Rock (which is not a mosque) and many other small structures.

A considerable confusion has arisen in the nomenclature of the Haram, and that the Dome of the Rock is commonly called the "Mosque of Omar," a title properly belonging to part of the Aksah. The Haram es Sherif, or "High Sanctuary," also called Masjid el Aksa, or "remote praying place" (remote that is from Mecca), contains only one mosque, the Jdmia el Aksa, or " meeting house of el Aksa," on the south wall. It contains also many Kubbehs or "Domes," of which the Kubbet es Sakhrah is one. They are not mosques and no regular service is held in them; they are shrines built over sacred spots, and as at Damascus and in Egypt, so here, a round or polygonal building with a dome above is employed to shield the sacred locality. The Dome of the Rock may be compared to the " Dome of the Books" in the Damascus mosque, and the fountain in the Mosque of 'Amru at Cairo is covered with a similar polygonal domed building. There is no building in the Haram really built for a mosque.

In the fourth and fifth centuries the Haram area is described as lying waste, with the Twin Pools on the north and, on the south, a "pinnacle" which appears to have been that part of the old wall at the south-east corner where the ancient masonry still reaches up some forty feet above the ground, and which before the walls were rebuilt must have stood up alone—a conspicuous object. In the sixth century, however, a basilica erected by Justinian is mentioned by one chronicler, and Procopius relates that this church, built in 527 AD, was founded partly on the ground and partly on vaults, and that the masonry was only inferior in size to the ancient Jewish masonry. The basilica had three aisles, and each aisle had a door. In the Aksah Mosque the remains of such a three-aisled basilica have been traced.

Moslems connect the "furthest mosque" of the Quran's Sura 17:1 with Jerusalem. The Masjid Al-Aqsa (or farthest Mosque) is the site where, it is said, Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven, and for the first 16 months of Islam was the Qibleh (the director Moslems face during prayers) until God commanded that Mecca be the Qibleh.

The “vision” of Muhammad’s ascent to heaven, called the “Night Journey”, its story is told in Surah 17:1 of the Qur’an. Surah 17:1 does not say that Muhammad’s “Night Journey” went to, through or anywhere near Jerusalem, only that it went to “the farthest mosque.” The tradition that Muhammad went through Jerusalem on his way to heaven during the “Night Journey” originated more than fifty years after Muhammad’s death.

Jerusalem is not the third of the three holy cities but, according to the Qur'an, it is the only holy city (see verse 5:21). Allah or His Messenger never called "holy" either Makkah or Madinah. Muslims make their case weaker by saying that they have three holy places, which is false. "Holy" is the translation of the Arabic words derived from the root qaaf daal seen represented by the English letters "QDS". Derived words from the root QDS may be Quds, Al-Quddus, Muqaddas and Muqaddasah.

The Dome of the Rock (incorrectly known as the mosque of Omar), the magnificent octagon that dominates the Old City, is at Islam’s third most holy site. The piece of black stone it covers is the mountain where Abraham tried to sacrifice Ishmael (or Isaac, as Jews and Christians believe), the site of the temple of Solomon, and the place from whence Mohammed departed skywards for his famous encounter with the heavenly — "The Night Journey".

The building took three years to complete, from 688 to 691, and was erected as a deliberate snub to Christians and Jews, whose faith Islam was supposed to supersede. The location had borrowed Judaism's heritage and most holy sight—the Temple Mount— the building was constructed to have a larger dome than that of the Holy Sepulchre's, and Syrian Christians were forced to Lay mosaics inside containing verses taken from the Koran about Christian misguided belief in the Trinity.

The Dome of the Rock has a circular drum rising from 12 pillars and 4 piers, while a screen outside this circle springs from 16 pillars and 8 piers arranged in an octagon. The outer wall has also the octagonal form, and the measurement from angle to angle through the centre of the building is 176 feet from outside to outside. The Dome of the Chain has an octagonal drum supported on 6 pillars and a screen supported on 10 pillars. A Cufic inscription within the present Dome of the Rock gives the date 688 AD, as that of the erection of the building.

At the West Wall [once called the 'Wailing Wall'] the masonry is well seen, the wall reaching up forty feet above the present surface outside. Immediately south of this place is an ancient gateway spanned by a magnificent lintel, 6 ft. 10 in. high and about 25 ft. long. This gateway, known as "the Prophet's Gate," leads to a vault which runs in eastwards, and which communicates with the interior surface of the Haram by steps.

The total length of the west wall is 1600 feet. The south wall is at right angles to it, and measures 922 feet outside. The rough masonry is found for about 200 feet from the south-west angle to a point where the rock rises above the level of the pavement found under the great bridge. The south wall is, roughly speaking, trisected by the two famous passages leading to the Double and Triple Gates, which have their sills on the same level with the Prophet's Gate, 60 feet below the top of the wall. At the south-east corner of the Haram, the ancient masonry extends nearly to the top of the wall, and the total height is 160 feet; of which height only half is now visible above the surface. Captain Warren discovered, on the south wall, a course of stones extending westwards for about 600 feet from the corner, and having a height of no less than 6 feet.

In 1969 damage due to arson attack by a Zionist zealot took twenty years to repair. Zionist organisations, seventeen in all, including 'The Temple Mount Fund' 'The Temple Institute' and 'The Research Institute for the Temple' have openly declared to demolish the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock and replace it with a Jewish Temple. In January 1983 the Temple Mount Foundation [Fund] was established in Israel, Europe and America to raise funds for rebuilding the Jewish Temple on the site of Masjid al Aqsa.

Many Jewish leaders continued to promote the view that Jewish law prohibited Jews from entering the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, a view strongly supported by the ultra-Orthodox or Haredi community. Increasing numbers of the “national religious” community, however, supported ascending to the site. Some prominent members of the ruling coalition in the Knesset called for reversing the policy of banning non-Muslim prayer at the site, and the Knesset’s Interior Committee held hearings to discuss the issue and press the INP to allow Jewish visitors to pray there.

These discussions intensified following the 29 October 2014 attack on a Jewish activist (and US citizen) well known for advocating Jewish prayer at the site. Some Israeli officials, including cabinet members, visited the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and issued statements asserting Israeli control over it. For example, on 24 September 2014, Minister of Housing and Construction Uri Ariel visited the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and stated, “the sovereignty over the Temple Mount is in our hands and we must strengthen it.”

Some coalition members of the Knesset (MKs) and Israeli NGOs, such as the Temple Institute and Temple Mount Faithful, called on the Israeli government to implement a time-sharing plan at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif that would set aside certain hours for Jewish worship, similar to one used at the Ibrahimi Mosque/Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The Ministry of Tourism also reportedly was considering a plan to open another gate to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif to non-Muslims – a move condemned by Muslim leaders as a change from the status quo at the site.

Despite an Israeli High Court ruling stating that “Jews, even though their right to the Temple Mount exists and stands historically, are not permitted to currently actualize their right to perform public prayer on the Temple Mount,” the government considered international agreements with Jordan restricting Jewish prayer at the site to remain authoritative. The prime minister reiterated repeatedly his support for maintaining the status quo arrangement at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif – as did Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino – and following the October attack on a Jewish activist, specifically called on Knesset members and Israeli officials to avoid inflaming tensions through provocative actions such as visits to the site.

In 2015 a UNESCO draft resolution proposed by Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, on behalf of the Palestinians, sanctioned the Western Wall as part of the al-Aksa Mosque compound. The draft resolution sought to confirm an earlier UNESCO decision that the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb, two West Bank sites holy to both Jews and Muslims, are part of a Palestinian state.” On 21 October 2015 the Palestinians withdrew their demand that the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization declare the Western Wall an “integral part” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

The Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, a political and religious group opposed to participation in local or national governance, frequently called on members to “defend” al-Aqsa mosque and spoke of the religious site as “under attack.” Multiple reports indicated tens of members of the movement may have received funding to remain present at the site to counter violations of the status quo.

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Page last modified: 13-12-2015 20:31:50 ZULU