Shortly after Caliph ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab’s (579-644, caliph 634-644) arrival in Jerusalem in 638, he is said to have constructed a rudimentary mosque or prayer space south of the historical Rock now contained within the Dome of the Rock (completed 691) on the former Temple Mount or Bayt al-Maqdis known popularly since Mamluk and Ottoman times as the Haram al-Sharif. Though later textual evidence indicates that ‘Umar prayed somewhere south of the “rock” and later scholars suggest that he constructed a rudimentary prayer space on the site, there is no surviving physical evidence of that initial structure. After his appointment as Governor of Syria (bilad al-sham) by ‘Umar in 639/40, Mu‘awiya ibn Abi Sufyan (602-680, caliph 660-680) either expanded upon the Mosque of ‘Umar or constructed an entirely new mosque in Jerusalem between 640 and 660. This mosque was completed in time for his investiture in that mosque in 660 as the first Umayyad caliph.
This article proposes that the seventh-century mosque of Jerusalem constructed between 640-660 has survived to today and that the official entrance to that mosque and the Bayt al-Maqdis precinct was the centrally placed eastern gate. Further, it will be demonstrated that there were four entrances to this mosque, one ceremonial and public from the east, leading to a northern entrance to the prayer space, a second public entrance and a third private entrance, both from south of the city. The physical evidence from the site itself, the newly established presence of Islamic rule in Jerusalem, and the persistence of religious memory of the earlier significance of the site contributed to the location of this mosque in the southeastern quadrant of the sanctuary. The building is variously known historically as masjid qadim, aqsa, Solomon’s Stables and is today the Marwani Musalla (prayer space).
St. Laurent, B. & Awwad, I. (2013). The Marwani Musalla in Jerusalem: New Findings. Jerusalem Quarterly, 54, 7-30.
Virtual Commons Citation
St. Laurent, Beatrice and Awwad, Isam (2013). The Marwani Musalla in Jerusalem: New Findings. In Art and Art History Faculty Publications. Paper 8.
Available at: http://vc.bridgew.edu/art_fac/8