Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif)

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Noble Sanctuary (Arabic: الحرم الشريف‎, al-Ḥaram al-Šarīf, "the Noble Sanctuary", or الحرم القدسي الشريف, al-Ḥaram al-Qudsī al-Šarīf, "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.


An ariel view of the Temple Mount, with al-Aqsa to the left, Dome of Rock in the center. Bab al-Rahmah Cemetery can be seen along the eastern wall of the Haram al-Sharif. The present site is a flat plaza surrounded by retaining walls (including the Western Wall) which was built during the reign of Herod the Great for an expansion of the temple. The plaza is dominated by three monumental structures from the early Umayyad period: the al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain, as well as four minarets.

According to Jewish tradition and scripture, the First Temple was built by King Solomon on the site. Among Muslims, the Mount is the site of one of the three Sacred Mosques, the holiest sites in Islam. The Temple Mount forms the northern portion of a very narrow spur of hill that slopes sharply downward from north to south. Rising above the Kidron Valley to the east and Tyropoeon Valley to the west, its peak reaches a height of 740 meters (2,428 ft) above sea level.

An ariel view of the Temple Mount.

circa 1500-1700 CE

Temple Mount during Ottoman era

David Robert's impression of life in Jerusalem during Ottoman era (circa 1840 CE), with Dome of Rock in background. The Temple Mount has historical and religious significance for all three of the major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It has particular religious significance for Judaism and Islam, and the competing claims of these faith communities has made it one of the most contested religious sites in the world. The historic city remained under Ottoman control for about 400 years, from 1500-1900 CE.

Brief History

circa 950 CE

Bible recounts that King David (Prophet Dawood in Islam) purchased a threshing floor owned by Araunah the Jebusite, and the tradition locates it as being on this mount. According to Jewish tradition the First Temple was built here by King Solomon the son of King David in 957 BCE, which was later destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The second was constructed under the auspices of Zerubbabel in 516 BCE and later extensively renovated and expanded by the Arab king of Israel, Herod the Great. This construction was destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 CE.

During the Roman period, Aelia Capitolina,

Notable Structures

circa 690 CE

Northeast exposure of al-Aqsa Mosque

al-Aqṣā Mosque
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

Dome of the Rock
Built in the last decade of the seventh century the Dome of the 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

Station of Solomon
The Mausoleum 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.

circa 100 CE

Wailing Wall
The Wailing Wall is a section of Western Wall and is the holiest site in Judaism. Wailing Wall and the Western Wall plaza as seen from Moroccans' Gate access tunnel. The wall was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple begun by Herod the Great, which resulted in the encasement of the natural, steep hill known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount. For Muslims, it is the site where the Islamic Prophet Muhammad tied his steed, al-Buraq, on his night journey to Jerusalem.

circa 1336 CE

Gates of the Temple Mount
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 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.


Fountains (Sabils)
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.


See Also


Points of Interest

Fountains (Sebils and Cisterns)




Grave of Qadir al-Husseini · Grave of Musa Kazim · Grave of Emir Mohamed Ali · Grave of King Hussein


Mehrab e Daood · Mehrab e Daud · Mehrab e Suleiman