Haram al-Sharif (al-Quds)

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The al-Ḥaram al-Šarīf (الحرم الشريف‎), literally meaning "the Noble Sanctuary", or al-Ḥaram al-Qudsī al-Šarīf (الحرم القدسي الشريف) meaning "the Noble Sanctuary of Jerusalem"), is one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. It has been used as a religious site for thousands of years. At least four religious traditions are known to have made use of the Temple Mount: Judaism, Christianity, Roman religion, and Islam.


The Haram esh-Sharif [see N1] holds immense Islamic significance and is one of the holiest sites in Islam revered for its association with several key events in Islamic tradition and history.

The Dome of the Rock is one of the most iconic Islamic structures. It was built by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik in the late seventh century CE. The dome enshrines the sacred rock (known as the Foundation Stone in the Bblical tradition) beneath it. Islamic tradition holds that this rock is the spot from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the heavens during the Night Journey (Isra and Mi'raj). This event is described in the chapter 17 (Surah al-Isra') Quran.

An ariel view of the Temple Mount.

Notable Islamic Structures

circa 690 CE

Northeast exposure of al-Aqsa Mosque

Jameh al-Aqṣā
Northeast exposure of al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, in the Old City of Jerusalem. Originally built by order of the Umayyad caliph al-Walid (reigned 705–15 CE), al-Aqsa stands on what the Crusaders thought to be the site of the First Temple and what others believe was a marketplace on the edge of the Temple. Located on the southern side of the Haram al-Sharif, it is the 3rd most holiest site in Islam. Originally built in circa 700 CE, it is named after the Muslim's account of the night travel of prophet Muhammad, who according to Islamic tradition was transported from Mecca to Jerusalem.

circa 690 CE

Masjid al-Marwani
The al-Marwani Mosque, historically known as the "Solomon's Stables", is a massive subterranean hall located in the south-eastern corner of the al-Aqsa mosque complex. It extends over four and a half acres of land and can cater for approximately 6000 worshippers at once. It can be accessed using a stone staircase that is connected to two huge gates, which is situated to the northeast of the al-Qibli Masjid.

When the renovation and rehabilitation of these large halls started in 1996, it was named “al-Musalla al-Marwani” in honor of the Umayyads who descended from Marwan bin al-Hakam, including Abd al-Malik, Suleiman, Hisham, and al-Walid who built most of the essential structures of Haram as-Sharif complex.

circa 690 CE

Northeast exposure of al-Aqsa Mosque

Qubbet al-Sakhara
Built in the last decade of the seventh century the Dome of Rock is the most iconic structure on the Haram al-Sharif mount. The rock over which the shrine was built is sacred to both Muslims and Jews. The Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, is traditionally believed to have ascended into heaven from the site. In Jewish tradition it is here that Abraham, the progenitor and first patriarch of the Hebrew people, is said to have prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. Dome of the Chain is also partially visible to the right. The large golden dome and an octagon structure, was built by the Umayyad Khalif Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan in 691 CE and named it after Omar.

circa 970-930 BCE

Muqam Suleiman
The Maqam of Suleiman (Station of Solomon) at Temple Mount compound in the old city of Jerusalem. It is located on the eastern flank close to the Golden Gate (Bab al-Rahmah). Currently it is under the use of al-Aqsa waqf as a school of Arabic learning for young children. According to a local Muslim tradition, this is the site where prophet Solomon died while having the temple built by djinns.


The Haram as-Sharif complex has total four minarets, three (al-Fakhariyya minaret, Chain Gate Minaret and al-Ghawanimah Minaret) of these are located on the western side and one (al-Asbat Minaret) is located on the northern side. In 2006, King Abdullah II of Jordan announced his intention to build a fifth minaret overlooking the Mount of Olives. The King Hussein Minaret is planned to be the tallest structure in the Old City of Jerusalem. However, there has been no progress on this fifth minaret till date.


Sabils (Fountains)
The Temple Mount plateau has a number of Sabils, fountains built as Waqf (Islamic charaties) to supply water to the people. Over the centuries, these were built by Muslim rulers and other notable people, and most of these structures still bear the names of their builders. The fountain known as the "al-Kas", meaning the bowl, is probably the oldest of these and most likely dates back to the early eighth century CE. Over time, these Sabils were renovated as well, altering the structures for some.

circa 1336 CE

Gates of Haram al-Sharif
Today twelve gates provide entry in to the entire complex of the Temple Mount. There are also six sealed gates. Historically the number and location of the gate to the Temple Mount (Haram as-Sharif) varied significantly. During the Biblical era, in each wall of the Temple Mount were one or more gateways, all of which conformed to a standard size of 10 cubits wide by 20 cubits tall (15 feet by 30 feet). Instead of a traditional frame consisting of three parts (i.e., two doorposts and a lintel) the Temple gates had additional diagonal elements connecting the doorposts and lintel, resulting in a frame of five parts. Currently eleven gates are open to the Muslim public. Non-Muslims are permitted to enter only through the Moroccan (or Mughrabi) gate. The keys to all the gates, with the exception of the Moroccan gate are held by the Islamic Waqf; but they can only open or close gates with the permission of the Israeli police.

The Cotton Merchant's Gate (باب القطانين), pictured here, is one of the most beautiful gates of Haram al-Sharif. In total Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) has 20 gates, out of which only 12 are open and functional today, remaining 8 have been either sealed-up or lost. Currently eleven gates are open to the Muslim public. Non-Muslims and tourists are only permitted to enter through the Mughrabi gate.

A number of arched passageways called qanatir are situated on the boundaries of the upper platform.


See Also


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