The Dome of the Rock is known to be the most famous Islamic site in Jerusalem. It is believed to have been built over the sacred rock from which the Prophet Mohammed ascended into heaven. The Dome of the Rock is part of a large Muslim shrine known as the “Noble Sanctuary”, which commemorates the “Isra and Mi’raj”, or the two part journey of the Prophet’s “Night Journey” in 621.
Before it became a Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock was a place of worship for Jews. According to the Book of Genesis of the Old Testament of the Bible, Abraham (also known as “Father of Many Nations” and “Father of Faith”) was commanded by God to offer up his second son Isaac as a sacrifice to Him. The Bible states that just as Abraham was about to carry out the sacrificial rituals, God was pleased with his obedience, and sent a lamb to be used in place of Isaac. According to Jewish belief, this incident took place on the slab of stone over which the Dome of the Rock was later built.
Construction on the Dome of the Rock was initiated by Umayyad Caliph Abd Al-Malik Ibn Marwan in 689. Two engineers named Yazid Ibn Salam and Raja Ibn Haywah from Jerusalem and Baysan were in charge of the construction. It was discovered later that the measurements for the Dome of the Rock correspond with those of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (in Calvary, Jerusalem). The engineers are expected to have built the Dome according to the measurements taken from the plans for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Construction work was completed in the latter half of 601.
The Dome of the Rock is currently being maintained by the Ministry of Awqaf in Jordan. The Dome has been open to non-Muslim visitors since 1967, although some consider it a violation of Jewish law to enter the premises, due to its being prohibited in the Torah.
The “Dome” structure was originally made from solid gold. However, due to erosion and decay, it has been replaced by a mixture of aluminum and copper, and coated with gold leaf. It is topped by a full moon which is aligned in such a way that it is in line with Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed, and the holiest Islam site in the world. The full moon is in reference to the crescent moon shape which symbolizes Islamism. The “Rock” for which the Dome of the Rock is named is supposed to have once stood at the center of Solomon’s Temple. Next to the sacred Rock, is a reliquary which is worshiped by Muslims as it is believed to enshrine a hair from the beard of the Prophet Mohammed. The interior of the Dome of the Rock is decorated with intricate mosaic and tile designs and flowing phrases of Arabic script from the Quran that are well worth seeing.