“The Rock.” The sacred rock at Jerusalem on which the Temple was erected, and on which now stands the Qubbata ‘s-Sakhrah, the “Dome of the Rock,” known to English readers as the Mosque of ‘Umar. This rock is said to have come from Paradise, and to be the foundation stone of the world, to have been the place of prayer of all prophets, and, next to the Ka’bah, the most sacred spot in the universe. Imam Jalalu ‘d-din as Suyuti, in his history of the Temple of Jerusalem (Reynold’s edition, p. 44), gives the following traditional account of the glorious Sakhrah.
“We are informed by lbn al-Mansar that the Rock of the Baitu ‘l-Muqaddas, in the days of Solomon, was of the height. of twelve thousand cubits; each cubit at that time being the full cubit, viz, one modern cubit, one span and one hand-breadth. Upon it also was a chapel, formed of aloes (or sandal) wood, in height twelve miles (sic); also above this was a network of gold, between two eyelet-beads of pearl and ruby, netted by the women of Balka in the night, which net was to serve for three days; also the people of Emmaus were under the shadow of’ the chapel when the sun rose and the people of
Baitu ‘r-Rahmah when it set, and even others of the valleys were under its shadow; also upon it was a jacinth (or ruby), which shone in the night like the light of the sun ; but when the light began to dawn its brilliancy was obscured; nor did all these cease until Nebuchadnezzar laid all waste, and seized whatever he found there, and carried it into Greece.
“Again, by a tradition we learn that the Sakhrah of Baitu ‘l-Muqaddas was raised aloft into the sky, to the height of twelve miles, and. the space between it and heaven was no more than twelve miles. All this remained in the same state until Greece (or Rome) obtained the mastery over it, subsequent to its devastation by Nebuchadnezzar. But when the Greeks obtained possession of it, they said, “Let us build thereupon a building far excelling that which was there before.” Therefore they built upon it a building as- broad at the base as it was high in the sky, and gilded it with gold and silvered it with silver. Then, entering therein, they began to practise their associating paganism, upon which it turned upside-down over them, so that not one of them came out.
“Therefore, when the Grecian (king) saw this, be summoned the Patriarch and his ministers (deacons), and the chiefs of Greece, and said, ‘What think ye?’ who replied, ‘we are of opinion that our idol-gods are not well pleased, and therefore will not receive us favourably.’ Hereupon he commanded a second temple to be built, which they did, spending a great sum thereon, and having finished the second building, seventy-thousand entered it as they had entered the first. But it happened to them as it had happened to the first; when they began their Paganism it turned over upon them.’ Now their king was not with them. Therefore, when he saw this, he assembled them a third time, and said unto them, “What think ye?’ who said, ‘We think that our Lord is not well pleased with us, because we have not offered unto him abundantly; therefore he has destroyed what we have done, therefore we should greatly wish to build a third.’ They then built a. third, until they thought they had carried it to the greatest possible height, which having done, he assembled the Christians, and said unto them, ‘Do ye observe any defect?’ who said, ‘None, except that we must surround it with crosses of gold and silver.’ Then all the people entered it, to read and cite (sacred things) having bathed and perfumed themselves, and having entered it, they began to practise their associating Paganism, as the others had done before them;- whereupon down fell the third building upon them. Hereupon the king again summoned them together, and asked their counsel about what he should do. But their dread was very great; and whilst they were deliberating, there came up to them a very old man, in a white robe and a black turban; his back was bent double and he was leaning upon a staff. So he said, ‘O, Christian people, listen to me! listen to me! for I am – the oldest of any of you in years, and have now come forth from among the retired votaries of religion, in order to inform you that, with respect to this place, all its possessors are accursed, and all holiness hath departed from it, and hath been transferred to this (other) place. I will therefore point out this as the place wherein to build the Church of the Resurrection. I will show you the spot, but you will never see me after this day, for ever. Do, therefore, with a good will that which I shall tell you.’ Thus he cheated them, and augmented their accursed state, and commanded them to cut up the rock, and to build with its stones upon the place which he commended them.
” So whilst he was talking with them he became concealed; and they saw him no more. Thereupon they increased in their infidelity, and said, ‘This is the Great Word. Then they demolished the Mosques, and carried away the columns and the stones, and all the rest, and built therewith the Church of the Resurrection, and the church which is in the valley of Hinnon. Moreover, this cursed old man commanded them, ‘When ye have finished their building upon this place, then, take that place whose owners are accursed, and, whence all holiness hath departed, to be a common sewer to receive your dung.’ By this they gratified their Lord. Also they did this, as follows: At certain seasons, all the filth and excrement was sent in vessels – from Constantinople, and was at a certain time all thrown upon the Rock, until God awoke our Prophet Muhammad (the peace and blessing of God be with him!), and, brought him by night thereunto; which he did on account of its peculiar consecration, and on account of the greatness of its super-excellence. We learn, also, that God, on the Day of Judgment, will change the Sakrah into white coral, enlarging it to extend over heaven and earth. Then shall men go from that Rook to heaven or hell, according to that great word, ‘There shall be a time when this earth shall change into another earth, and the heaven shall turn white; the soil shall be of silver; no pollution shall ever dwell thereon.’ – Now from ‘A’ish (may the satisfying favour of God rest upon him!), I said, ‘O apostle of God, on that day when this earth shall become another earth, and this sky shall change, where shall men be on that day?’ He replied, ‘Upon the bridge as-Sirat.’ Again, a certain divine says, ‘that in the Law, God says to the Rock of the Holy Abode, “Thou art my seat; thou art near to me; from thy foundation have I raised up the heavens, and from beneath thee have I stretched forth the earth and all the distant inaccessible mountains are beneath thee. Who dies with thee is as if he died within the world of heaven, and who dies around thee is as if he died within thee. Days and nights shall not cease to succeed, until I send down upon thee a Light of Heaven, which shall obliterate all the (traces) of the infidels of the sons of Adam, and all their footsteps. Also I will send upon thee the hierarchy of angels and prophets; and I will wash thee until I leave thee like milk; and I will fix upon thee a wall – twelve miles above the thick-gathering clouds of earth, and also a hedge, of light. By my hand will I insure to thee thy support and thy virtue; upon thee will I cause to descend my spirits and my angels, to worship within thee; nor shall any one of the sons of Adam enter within thee until the Day of Judgment. And whosoever shall look upon this chapel from afar shall say, ‘Blessed be the face of him who devoutly worships and adores in thee!’ Upon thee will I place walls of light and a hedge of thick clouds — five walls of ruby and pearl.” Also from the Book of Psalms, ‘Great and glorious art thou, thou threshing-floor! Unto thee shall be the general assemblage: from thee shall all men rise from death.’ Moreover, from the same author, God says to the Rock of Holy Abode, ‘who loveth thee, him will I love; who loveth thee, loveth me, who hateth thee, him will I hate. From year to year my eyes are upon thee, nor will I forget thee until I forget my eyes. Whoso prayeth within thee two rak’ahs, him will I cause to cast off all his sins, and to be as guiltless as I brought him from his mother’s womb, unless he return to his sins, beginning them, afresh.’ This is also a tradition of old standing: I solemnly engage and promise to everyone who dwells therein, that: all the days of his life the bread of corn and olive-oil never shall fail him; nor shall the days and the nights fail to bring that time, when, out of the supremacy of my bounty, I will cause to descend upon thee the assemblage of man for judgment — the whole company of then mortals.’ There is a tradition that ‘Muqatil ibn Sulaiman came to this Temple to pray, and sat by the gate looking towards the Rock; and we had assembled there in great numbers; he was reading and we were listening. Then came forward ‘Ali ibn al-Baidawi, stamping terribly with his slippers upon the pavement. This greatly afflicted him, and he said to those around him, “Make an opening for me.” Then the people opened on each side, and be made a threatening motion with his hand to warn him and prevent this stamping, saying,, “Tread more gently! That place at which Muqatil is “—pointing with his hand —”and on which thou art stamping, is the very place redolent of heaven’s breezes; and there is not a spot all around it — not a spot within its precincts a hand’s-breadth square — “wherein some commissioned prophet, some near angel, hath not prayed.” Now from the mother of ‘Abdu ‘llah, daughter of Khalid, from her mother, ‘the moment is surely fixed, when the Ka’bah shall be led as a bride to the Sakhrah, and shall hang upon her all her pilgrimage merits, and become her turban.’ Also it is said that the Sakhrah is the middle of the Mosque; it is cut off from every touching substance on all sides. No one supports it but He who supports and holds up the sky; so that nothing falls thence but by His good permission ; also upon the upper part of the west side stood the Prophet (the blessing and peace of God be with him!) on the night when he rode al-Baraq. This side began to shake about, from veneration of him; and upon the other side are the marks of the angels’ fingers, who held it up when it shook; beneath it is a deep hole cut out on each side, over which is the gate opened to men for prayer and devotion ‘I resolved,’ says a certain author, ‘ one day to enter, it, in great fear lest I should fall upon me, on account of the sins I had contracted; Then however, looked, and saw its darkness, and some holy pilgrims entering it at the darkest part, who came forth therefrom quite free from sin. Then I began to reflect upon entering. Then I said, “Perhaps they entered very slowly and leisurely, and I was too much in a hurry, a little delay may facilitate the matter.” So I made up my mind to enter, and entering, I saw the Wonder of Wonders, the Rock supported in its position or course on every sides for I saw it separated from the earth, so that no point of the earth touched it. Some of the sides were separated by a wider interval than others; also, the mark of the glorious Foot is at present in a stone divided from the Rock, right over against it, on the other side, west of the Qiblah, it is upon a pillar. Also the Rock is now almost abutting upon the side of the crypt, only divided from it by that space which allows room for the gate of the crypt on the side of the Qiblah. This gate, also, is disjointed from the base of the Qiblah; it is between the two. Below the gate of the crypt is stone staircase, whereby one may descend into the crypt In the midst of this crypt Is a dark-brown loather carpet, upon which pilgrims stand when they visit the foundation of the Rock, it is upon the eastern side. There are also columns of marble abutting on the lower side upon the path of the rows of trees upon the side of the Qiblah, and on the other side forming buttresses to the extremity of the Rock; these are to hinder it from shaking on the side of the Qiblah. There are buildings besides these. There is a buiding in the Chapel of the Rock. Beneath the chapel, the spot marked by the angels’ fingers is in the Rook, on the western side, divided from the print of the glorious Foot above mentioned, very near to it, over against the western gate, at the end.’ (Hist Jerusalem, from the Arabic MS. of Jalalu ‘d-din as-Suyuti, Reynolds’ ed. 1885)
Dr Robinson (Biblical Researches, vol. 1 p. 297) says the followers of Muhammad under ‘Umar took possession of the Holy City in 636, and the Khalifah determined to erect a mosque upon the site of the Jewish Temple. An account of this undertaking, as given by Muslim historians, will be found in the article on JERUSALEM. The historians of the crusades all speak of this great Sakhrab as the Templum Domini, and describe its form and the rook within it (Will. Ttyr, 8,2tb 12,7 Jac.deVitriac,c 82.)
We are indebted to this writer for the following account of the gradual growth of the present budding (Tent Work in Palestine, vol ii p. 820):-
“In A.D. 881 the Caliph El Mamun restored the Dome of the Rock, and, if I am correct, enclosed it with an outer wall, and gave it its present appearance. The beams in the roof of the arcade bear, as above stated, the date 913 A.D. a well-carved wooden cornice, hidden by the present ceiling, must then have be invisible beneath them.
“In 1016 A.D. the building was partly destroyed by earthquake. To this date belong restorations of the original mosaics in the dome, as evidenced by inscriptions. The present wood-work of the cupola was erected by Husein, son of the Sultan Hakem, as shown by an inscription, dated 1022 A.D.
“The place next fell into the hands of the Crusaders, who christened it Templum Domini, and established in 1112 AD. a chapter of Canons.
“The Holy Rock was, then cut into its present shape and covered with marble slabs, an altar being erected on it. The works were carried on from 1115 A.D. to I 1136 A. D. The beautiful iron grille between the pillars of the dome and various fragments of carved work are of this date, including small altars with sculptured capitals, having heads upon them – abominations to the Moslem, yet still preserved within its’ precincts. The interior of the outer wall was decorated in the twelfth century with frescoes, traces of which still remain. The exterior of the same wall is surmounted by a parapet, with dwarf pillars and arches, which is first mentioned by John of Wurtzburg, but must he as old as the round arches of the windows below. The Crusaders would seem to have filled up the parapet arches, and to have ornamented the whole with glass mosaic, as at Bethlehem.
“In 1187 A.D. Saladin won the city, tore up the altar, and once more exposed the bare rock covered up the frescoes with marble slabs and restored and regilded the dome, as evidenced by an inscription in it dating 1189 A.D.
“In 1318 A.D.. the lead outside and the gilding within were restored by Nakr ed Din, as evidenced by an inscription.
“In I520 A.D. the Sultan Soliman cased the bases and upper blocks of the columns with marble. The wooden cornice, attached to the beam between the pillars, seems to be of this period, and the slightly-pointed marble casing of the arches under the dome is probably of the same date. The windows bear inscriptions of 1528 A.D.. The whole exterior was at this time covered with Eishani tiles, attached by copper hooks, as evidenced by inscriptions dated 1561 A.D. The doors were restored in 1564 A.D,, as also shown by inscriptions.
“The date of the beautiful wooden ceding of the cloisters is not known but it partly covers the Cufic inscription, and this dates 72 A.H. (688 A.D.), and it hides the wooden Cornice, dating probably 913 A.D. The ceiling is therefore probably of the time of Soilman.
“In 1830 A.D. the Sultan Mahmud, and in 1873-75 A.D. the late Abdu ‘I Aziz, repaired the Dome, and the latter period was one specially valuable for those who wished to Study the history of the place.
“Such is a plain statement of the gradual growth of the building. The dates of the various inscriptions on the walls fully agree with the circumstantial accounts of the Arab writers who describe the Dome of the Rock.” [JERUSALEM.]
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam