The Dome of the Rock and the Solomonic Temple

The shaping of the holiness of Jerusalem, and particularly the shaping of the holiness of the Temple Mount in the Islamic religious consciousness, was influenced by the Jewish and Christian traditions encountered by Muslims after their swift conquest of the Syrian provinces of the Byzantine empire. The Koran does not mention Jerusalem, and the Arabs who conquered it came to learn about its spiritual importance only after more intimate contact with Jews and Christians; they were then exposed to the Biblical accounts of the city and to the many traditions regarding Solomon’s Temple. Solomon is mentioned in the Koran; he is venerated as the wisest prophet of God. In that period of early Islam, however, Muslims knew little about the major Biblical figures who appear in the Koran, and they needed Jewish and Christian assistance to learn more about them.

The Jews contributed to the deep messianic feelings and expectations that had already existed among the Muslims—especially by encouraging the new conquerors, who had been regarded as heralding the final redemption of Israel, to renew worship on the Temple Mount. When the Dome of the Rock was built, the rituals performed in it were reminiscent of the rituals that had been performed in the Solomonic Temple: the anointing of the Rock, the burning of incense and the lighting of oil lamps on Monday and Thursday. These actions clearly indicate that the Muslims wanted to link themselves historically with Solomon, the great prophet-king. In doing so, they leapt back past Christianity—then their main enemy—and challenged the Christian idea that the Temple would remain desolate until Jesus’ Second Coming.

From “Islam on the Temple Mount,” Moshe Sharon, BAR 32:04, Jul/Aug 2006.

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