Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Built about 690 CE, the Dome of the Rock is a shrine holy to both Muslims and Jews
It was built between 687 and 691 by the 9th Caliph, Abd al-Malik, making it the oldest extant Islamic building in the world.
The rock in the center of the dome is the spot from which Muhammad ascended for a night-long journey to Heaven in AD 621, accompanied by the angel Gabriel. There he met many prophets like Abraham and Moses and was given the (now obligatory) Islamic prayers before returning to Earth (See Isra and Mi'raj). A Qur'anic verse says that Muhammad took an instantaneous night journey on Buraq from al-Masjid al-Haram ("the sacred mosque", interpreted as being in Mecca) to al-Masjid al-Aqsa ("the farthest mosque", interpreted as being in Jerusalem).
In Judaism the stone is the site where Abraham fulfilled God's test to see if he would be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac (See Genesis 22:1-19). (Muslims believe that this event involved Abraham's other son Ishmael and occurred in the desert of Mina where millions of Muslims offer pilgrimage every year).
Situated inside the Holy of Holies, this was the rock upon which the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the First Temple. During the Second Temple, the stone was used by High Priest who offered up the incense and sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices on it during the Yom Kippur Service. Rabbinic legend also alleges that the entire world was created from this stone, hence the name Foundation Stone.