Temple Mount Part 4 - The Arab Conquest
In Part 3 of my Blog about Temple Mount I ended with the destruction of the second Jewish temple by the Romans in the year 70 CE. History moved on but for over 500 years Temple Mount laid in ruins.
A lot happened in those 500 years in Judea and Jerusalem: The Bar Kochba Rebellion sees Rome exile all Jews from Jerusalem in the 130s and Rome officially becomes Christian under Emperor Constantine. He also divides the empire, giving Jerusalem over to Byzantine rule in the 300s. The Persians invade in 614, massacring tens of thousands of Christians. The Byzantines return in 628 ridding the land of pagan Persians. In all these years nothing happened on Temple Mount itself although some historians believe a small Byzantine church may have been placed there, but this is disputed.
Then something major occurs in the Middle East, including Jerusalem and Temple Mount – The Arab invasion. In the year 632, Mohammed, the founder of Islam dies. His successor, Abu Bakr consolidates rule in the Arabian Peninsula and then starts conquering Persian and Byzantine areas. In 636 the Muslims put a siege on Jerusalem, then a completely Christian city. In 637 the Patriarch Sophronius surrenders the city to Caliph Umar thus ending Roman/Byzantine rule. Jews were once again allowed to live in Jerusalem.
So, what happens to Temple Mount? Apparently, Umar was taken to the Temple Mount ruins by Sophronius. Seeing the site, he ordered the area to be cleared of rubble. He then had a wooden mosque built which could fit 3000 worshipers.
Only in the year 691 was the Dome of the Rock built. The structure was built over a large outcropping of Mount Moriah by Caliph Abd al-Malik. The building was large and beautiful. It is said that the reason it was built with such grandeur was to overshadow the Christian churches in general, and the Holy Sepulcher in particular. This would indicate the superiority of Islam over Christianity in a city which still had a very large Christian population.
Al-Malik’s son Al-Walid built the Al Aqsa Mosque on the southern end of Temple Mount in the year 705. The Muslims refer to Temple Mount as Haram esh-Sharif; The Holy Sanctuary. Al-Aqsa means the furthest Mosque which is the third holiest site in Islam. Muslims believe that Muhammad was transported from Mecca to the al-Aqsa Mosque during the Night Journey. According to Islam this journey took place in 621 when Mohammad went to heaven and was instructed by God.
The Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque are still sitting on Temple Mount today but not in their original forms. More about these amazing structures and the history of Temple Mount in Part 5.