In the first half of the seventh century new rulers came to the Holy Land, the Arab Muslims. But though the Holy Land and indeed greater Syria was to fall under Muslim rule, the Christian presence and dominance did not disappear. In the following generations the Christian Byzantium would even reconquer some of its lost territories, and in Jerusalem the Holy Sepulcher would still be the dominating building, being the center of the city and witnessing of the Christian message of the salvation of Christ. But this was not to continue.
A mosaic of a vase in the Dome of Rock.
In the year 688 Abd al-Malik, the Umayyad Caliph, ordered two engineers, Raja ibn Haywah and Yazid ibn Salm, to build a shrine on the Temple Mount, a shrine which would be known as the Dome of the Rock. Exactly why the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik chose to build a shrine at the site, where the Temple was believed (and still is believed) to have been, is not sure. We can make qualified guesses from a number of hints though, the place it was constructed, the Maliki inscription on the octagon gallery inside the dome being of a polemical nature directed against the Christians, and the mosaics relating to a Solomonic theme, which point to the possible conception of the shrine as being intended as a fitting answer to the Holy Sepulcher and the Christians, as well as being perceived as taking the role of the Third Temple, which the Jews expected, and still do expect, to be built on the site.
The Dome of the Rock was done in the Muslim year of 72 AH, ca. 691 CE, overlooking Jerusalem, and forming a new axis on the Mount in connection with the Aqsa Mosque, which he also had ordered reconstructed and expanded at the same time. It would seem that the intent was to involve all of the Temple Mount into a Haram, a holy place, being focused towards Mecca, not as a substitution to Mecca (as some scholars have hinted at), but rather in order to connect the two places, as well as the mosque of Muhammad in Medinah, al-Masjid an-Nabi, in order to establish the holy triangle between the three sacred mosques.
While the Aqsa Mosque has experienced several damages and reconstructions, the Dome of the Rock stands more or less as it was constructed originally. The difference between the two constructions is caused by the construction of the Mount itself, having the southern end cover a slope, and thus being less stable than the center of the Mount, which is pure rock. There have been some changes on the Dome of the Rock through the time though.
The Dome of the Rock as it looked like in the 19th century.
Under the Crusades the Dome of the Rock was made into a church, known as the Templum Domini, run by the Augustinians a group of friars following the teachings and rules of St. Augustine, adding a cross on the top of the dome. After Saladin reconquered Jerusalem the cross was taken down and a crescent was put up instead, which is still there today. He also added a tree fence around the rock, which gave the name to the shrine. In 1927 an earthquake made major damages to the shrine, but was since repaired and reconstructed.
When Israel conquered the Old City together with the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, the Israeli soldiers, naturally excited about the victory, raised an Israeli flag over the Dome of the Rock, but it was soon moved by order of Moshe Dayan, who transferred the site to the Muslim Waqf, the Islamic trust, who still oversees the management of the Temple Mount today.
Due the importance and significance of the site in the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, there is much controversy over the place. Some Jewish religious groups wish to remove the Dome of the Rock from the Temple Mount (though not the Aqsa Mosque as is widely believed, having people mixing the two monuments with each other) and build the Third Temple in its place instead. Some Christian groups see this as being the preliminary actions heralding the return of Jesus. And Muslim groups and leaders all over the world use the Dome of the Rock as a symbol on the Palestinian struggle.
The inner side of the dome itself in the Dome of the Rock.
Because of the sensitive nature of the site, a number of measures have been taken, both from religious and political sides.
Since the place is considered to be the most holy of all places in Judaism, rabbis have ruled that Jews are not allowed to enter the area around the Dome of the Rock, since all Jews find themselves in a state of ritual impurity, which can only be removed by certain actions, not possible to do as for present time.
Until 1967 non-Muslims were banned from entering the Mount, the Haram al-Sharif as it is called in Arabic, but after the 6-Day War the Mount has been opened to non-Muslim visitors in certain hours every day. Some cautions have been taken though; they are to enter from the Western Wall plaza, just outside the entrance, and are not allowed to pray on the Mount itself, nor bring any text with Hebrew writing on it, since there is a fear that Muslims will be provoked by this, causing riots.
If you want to visit the Dome of the Rock, you are welcome to check opening hours and directions on how to get there in our Index Map.