December 14, 2019

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Early sources prove that Muslims chose to build the Dome of the Rock on the site of the Jewish Temples

Arab and Muslim media, especially Palestinian media, routinely deny that there were ever any Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount.

This academic paper by  Milka Levy-Rubin about why the Dome of the Rock was built to begin with gives copious amounts of proof that show that the Muslims who built the Dome chose the site precisely because of its association with the two Temples.

The main point of the paper, published by the Bulletin of SOAS at the University of London in 2017, is that the Dome of the Rock was meant to be a rebuilding of the Temple of Solomon which would fulfill the need by Muslims to have their own significant holy  place in their conquered lands that could compete with the Hagia Sophia church in Constantinople which claimed to have surpassed in beauty of Solomon’s temple.

Whether she proves this or not is not the point here. She does bring lots of proof from early Muslim literature on the Dome of the Rock that leaves no doubt that Muslims understood the importance of the site and chose it because of its history and holiness to Jews.

Most scholars now agree that the initial motivation behind the Muslim sanctification of the Temple Mount and the building of the Muslim religious monuments on it was the return to the sanctified place of the Jewish Temple. Hence the use of terms such as Bayt al-Maqdis (Hebrew Beit Ha-Miqdash), a term used for both the temple itself and the city of Jerusalem, and Haykal (Hebrew – Heykhal), the search for the Rock of Bayt al-Maqdis and its sanctification and the Muslim tradition regarding the active participation of the Jewish convert Kaʿb al-Ahḅ ār, or, in a later Jewish tradition, the Jews themselves, in locating the sacred spot. The fact that they were building “The Temple of God” (naos Theou) is mentioned also by Anastasius the Sinaite, a contemporary Christian source writing at the time of the building of the Dome.

More importantly, in ʿAbd al-Malik’s Dome of the Rock the rituals themselves seem initially to have been related to Jewish Temple rituals, including the special attire worn by the performers of the ceremonies, the assignment of a special status to Mondays and Thursdays, days of special importance in Jewish liturgy, purification before the rituals, the mode in which incense was used, the call for prayer and more.  Although this was short-lived, it was nonetheless the obvious reason for choosing this site. Based on artistic features corroborated by Islamic sources, some scholars, such as Soucek and Shani, claim in fact that it is specifically the Solomonic temple that was being reconstructed in the building of the Dome of the Rock.

As noted by Livne-Kafri, Muslim sources convey the pain of the Jews over the destruction of the Temple and hopes for its resurrection by Muslims. Many of these are found especially in the Fadạ̄ ʾīl Bayt al-Maqdis (Praises of Jerusalem) literature, now recognized as representing early traditions from the second half of the seventh and the eighth century CE. While these traditions have been preserved only in the compilations of al-Wāsiti (d. 1019) and ̣ al-Musharraf b. al-Murajjā (d. c. 1055), Kister discovered that many of them are found in the commentary on the Quran by Muqātil b. Sulaymān (d. 768).

Moreover, both were careful to note the chain of transmission of the traditions, choosing also to include in their collections Isrāʾīliyyāt, i.e. traditions received from Jews and converts, which were often criticized and omitted in other sources.

Muslim identification with the Jews regarding the Temple Mount is manifest in a rare tradition, which divulges the initial ties to Jewish sentiment, before its dissociation:

From Kaʿb al-Ahḅ ār, it is written in one of the holy books: “Ayrūshalāyim, which means Jerusalem (Bayt al-Maqdis), and the Rock which is called the Temple (al-haykal). I shall send to you my servant ʿAbd al-Malik, who will build you and adorn you. I shall surely restore to Bayt al-Maqdis its first kingdom, and I shall crown it with gold and silver and gems. And I shall surely send to you my creatures. And I shall surely place my throne of glory on the Rock, since I am the sovereign God, and David is the King of the Children of Israel”.  

Note the use of the name Ayrūshalayim in its Biblical form, with a translation of the name, and the lām and nūn al-taʾākīd, laying stress on the verbs, and giving it a prophetic aura. The last sentence has clear Jewish connotations. In fact, according to this tradition the temple will be reinstated by ʿAbd al-Malik after which God will once again place his throne of glory there.

The mention of David, the king of the children of Israel here, leaves no doubt that the aim is to restore the ancient Jewish Temple.

This rare tradition exposing the initial connection to Jewish tradition, which was identified as one of the Isrāʾīliyyāt, was later adapted and censured, leaving out David and the Children of Israel.

The idea that God’s throne was located on the rock is an ancient Jewish idea. The Ark of the Covenant was conceived as God’s throne or footstool and Jeremiah prophesies that the whole of Jerusalem will replace the ark as God’s throne (Jer. 3: 16–7). Jewish legend speaks about the “lower throne” which is found underneath the “heavenly throne” and in fact reaches all the way up to it.81 This tradition resonates in Muslim literature as well. Ibn al-Murajjā cites the convert Kaʿb al-Ahḅ ār: “It is said in the Torah that [Allah] said to the Rock of Bayt al-Maqdis: you are my lowest throne and from you I ascended to heaven…”.  Rosen-Ayalon and Shani claim that the inside of the Dome itself in fact attempts to portray the setting of God’s throne. This idea goes hand-in-hand with many other features attributed to the sakhra ̣ or to bayt al-maqdis in Muslim tradition which originate in Jewish tradition.

Muslims have always known that the Temple Mount is the site of the Jewish Temples. The Arabic words to refer to the area – Bayt al-Maqdis and Haykal – are directly taken from the Hebrew descriptions of the Temple.

Only in this generation are Muslims being taught otherwise – for purely political and antisemitic reasons.

(h//t Yoel)

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