Dome of the Rock

History of the Dome


Cal Poulsen

Scripture Insights



The most famous Islamic site in Jerusalem is the “Dome of the Rock.” It is an impressive and beautiful edifice. The Dome can be seen from all over Jerusalem. The “Dome of the Rock” is constructed on the “Temple Mount” and is considered to be the holiest place in Judaism. It is also the place where Jews and some Christians believe that the third and final temple will be built. Some believe the primary reason the Dome was built was to celebrate the Islamic victory over Christians and Jews at Jerusalem.

Brief History:

The Dome of the Rock is constructed on the site of the (Herrod’s) Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed during the Roman “Siege of Jerusalem” in 70 AD. Muslims took control of Jerusalem with the Persian invasion in 614 AD, followed by the Muslim “Siege of Jerusalem” in 637 AD. The Dome of the Rock was constructed by the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik, between 689–691 AD.

The Dome of the Rock is a Muslim shrine that was built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The “Dome of the Rock” is part of a larger Muslim holy area that takes up a significant (35 acres), portion of what is also known as Mount Moriah in the heart of Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock gets its name from the fact that it is built over the highest part (the dome) of Mount Moriah which is where Jews and Christians believe Abraham was prepared to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God (Genesis 22:1-14).

The Dome of the Rock is not a mosque, but a Muslim shrine. Like the Ka'ba in Mecca, it is built over a sacred stone. This stone is believed to be the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven during his “Night Journey” to heaven. It is said that this is the rock from which Muhammad's winged horse leapt into the sky, accompanied by the Archangel Gabriel, on the "Night Journey" into heaven (Qur'an 17). The rock is said to bear the horse's imprint. Muslim tradition holds that an angel will come to the rock to sound the trumpet call of the Last Judgment at the end of the world.

The cavity beneath the rock, accessible by a staircase near the south entrance, is known as the “Well of Souls.” It is said that here the voices of the dead mingle with the falling waters of the lower rivers of paradise as they drop into eternity. Another legend says that the dead meet here twice a month to pray. In earlier days, those who prayed here after having walked around the rock were given a certificate entitling them admission to paradise. This certificate was to be buried with them.

The Dome of the Rock is the oldest Islamic monument that stands today and certainly one of the most beautiful. It also boasts the oldest surviving “Mihrab,” (niche indicating the direction of Mecca) in the world. Actually, according to the “Oxford Archaeological Guide to the Holy Land,” “Abd al-Malik's purpose was more complex and subtle.” He wished to erect a beautiful Muslim building that could compete with the majestic churches of Christendom and would be a symbolic statement to both Jews and Christians of the superiority of the new faith of Islam.

In the “Middle Ages,” Christians and Muslims both believed the dome to be the biblical “Temple of Solomon.” The Knights Templar made their headquarters there during the Crusades and later patterned their churches after its design. The great golden dome that crowns the Dome of the Rock was originally made of gold, but was replaced with copper and then aluminum. The aluminum is now covered with gold leaf, a donation from the late King Hussein of Jordan. The dome is topped by a full moon decoration which evokes the familiar crescent moon symbol of Islam. It is aligned so that if you could look through it, you would be looking straight towards Mecca. On the outer side of the arcade, there are inscriptions that quote Quranic verses glorifying God. Much of the inscription on the inner side of the octagonal arcade exhorts Christians to depart from the error of the Trinity and recognize the truth of Islam.

This article is historic in nature. Biblical roots are highlighted in yellow.


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Scripture Insights

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