The Dome of the Rock is a shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. The structure has been refurbished many times since its initial completion in 691 AD. The site’s significance stems from religious traditions regarding the rock, known as the Foundation Stone, at its heart.
The Dome of the Rock is in the centre of a greater Muslim shrine, known as the Haram ash Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), which Muslims believe commemorates Muhammad’s miraculous Night Journey into heaven.
The Dome of the Rock is located at the visual center of a platform known as the Temple Mount. It was constructed on the site of the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. In 637 AD, Jerusalem surrendered to the Rashidun Caliphate army during the Muslim conquest of Syria.
According to some Islamic scholars, the rock is the spot from which Muhammad ascended to Heaven accompanied by the angel Gabriel. Further, Muhammad was taken here by Gabriel to pray with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.
The Foundation Stone and its surroundings is the holiest site in Judaism. Though Muslims now pray towards the Kaaba at Mecca, they once prayed with the Jews towards the raised platform on which the Dome of the Rock stands. Though Muhammad changed the direction of prayer for Muslims after a spat with a Jewish tribe, both groups traditionally regarded the location of the stone as the holiest spot on Earth, the site of the Holy of Holies during the Temple Period.
The most propitious site for Jewish prayer is the spot that is nearest the Foundation Stone. Because Muslim authorities refused to permit Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, the custom developed of praying near the Western Wall, since it was the site nearest to the Foundation Stone, or on the Mount of Olives facing the site of the Temple. According to Jewish tradition, the stone is the site where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac; most Muslims believe it was Ishmael, not Isaac, who was to be sacrificed.
In Christianity it is believed that during the time of the Byzantine Empire, near the spot where the Dome was later constructed was where Constantine’s mother built a small church, calling it the Church of St. Cyrus and St. John, later on enlarged and called the Church of the Holy Wisdom.
A number of buildings have been designed as copies of the Dome of the Rock. These include the octagonal Church of St. Giacomo in Italy, and the octagonal Moorish Revival style Rumbach Street synagogue in Budapest.
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