The Arab Period The Crusader Period The Ayyubid Period The Ottoman Period
In the first part of the Arab Period, the majority of the population was Christian. The construction of the Dome of the Rock in 691 - the first Muslim shrine and the first major Islamic public building - was meant to counterbalance the Church of the Holy Sepulcre. Both the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulcre have concentric plans, and their diameters are identical, but the Dome of the Rock is decorated with antitinitarian Quranic quotations. Initially, Muslims like Jews of Arabia, faced Jerusalem to pray. However, when the Jews who lived in Medina at the time resisted both religious and political cooperation with the Muslims and did not accept Muhammadís prophetic claims, a new revelation from Allah directed Muhammad to shift the center of prayer to Mecca.(2)
The Dome of the Rock was built near the area formerly occupied by Herodís Temple and close by the Wailing Wall, the last remnant of Solomonís temple. The Dome of the Rock was constructed over the outcropping of limestone rock which Jewish tradition held to be the place of Abrahamís intended sacrifice of Isaac. Islamic tradition points to the sacred rock as the place from which Muhammad began his Ascent to Heaven to receive Allahís (God in Arabic) final revelation. In building the Dome of the Rock, the earliest Arab rulers of Palestine expressed their reverence for Jerusalem, city of the prophets from Abraham and Moses to Jesus, culminating with Muhammad, ďthe seal of the prophets.Ē The Dome of the Rock is the oldest existing Islamic monument in the world and for most still the greatest. The building of the Dome was a symbol of Islamic inheritance from the triumph over the religions of Jews and Christians, and equally an expression of the insecurity of Muslims in a city dominated by Christians from the initial Arab conquest in 638 until Salah al-Din drove out the Crusaders in 1187. In making the Dome a taller, more imposing copy of the Holy Sepulcre, the architects were making visible to all Jerusalemís Christians the power and permanence of Islam in the Holy City.(3)
In 638, when Jerusalem was surrendered to the Muslims, Umar (the first caliph), requested to be led to the Temple Mount, an acknowledgment of Islamís acceptance of the Hebraic prophetic tradition. After reaching the Temple Mount, the caliph found himself disgusted on seeing that Christians had heaped garbage in the sacred enclosure to express their contempt for the Judaic faith. Umar, out of respect for the Jews, ordered the area to be cleansed, an act which also prepared the sacred Jewish site for Muslim worship. Umar fulfilled the hopes of Jews by refusing the churchís request to continue the ban against Jewish residence and inviting them back into the city. In the seventh century, as Jerusalem came into Muslim hands, the ban on Jewish residence was lifted. After approximately 500 years of being Judenrein, Jerusalem again included a Jewish community. Jews long banned from living in Jerusalem by Christian rulers, were permitted to return, live, and worship in the city of Solomon and David.(4)
Most of the Crusader construction activity was concerned with religious edifices such as churches, monasteries, pilgrimís hostels, and a variety of other buildings which included various structures for the use of the religious orders. All through the Crusader Period, neither Muslims nor Jews were allowed to dwell in Jerusalem. The Noble Sanctuary, the Haram al-Sharif, was desecrated as the Dome of the Rock was converted into a church and the al-Aqsa mosque, renamed the Temple of Solomon, became the residence of the king. However, the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem lasted only eighty-eight years.(6)
A result of the Crusades was the deterioration of the positions of Christian minorities in the Holy Land. Formerly, Christian minorities had been accorded rights and privileges under Muslim rule, after the establishment of the Latin Kingdom, they found themselves with less rights. In an effort to obtain relief from persecution by their fellow Christians, many abandoned their Nestorian beliefs, and adopted either Roman Catholicism, or Islam.(8)
Under threat of the Third Crusade, Salah al-Din and his successors reconstructed the walls of Jerusalem. Hardly had the reconstruction of the cityís defenses been completed in 1219 C.E. when Salah al-Dinís nephew, al-Malik al Muíazzam ĎIsa, who had carried out most of the building operations, gave the order to dismantle the walls. Most of the population of Jerusalem left the unwalled, ill-defended city. From that point until the Ottoman reconstruction 320 years later, the city remained unwalled. During the ineffective rule of Jerusalem by the Hohenstaufen emperor Frederick II (1229-1244), a second exodus followed. The Turkish Khawarism conquest exterminated the entire Christian population of Jerusalem of 7,000, except for 300 who survived by fleeing to Jafa. Additional attacks, this time by Mongols, further decimated the population, and the survivors fled to safe places.(9)
In 1260 the Mamluks, Turkish slave soldiers who served as a sort of praetorian guard, defeated the Mongols in the Battle of Ein Jalut in the Jezreel Valley. After the massacre perpetrated by the Khawarism hordes and the Mongol onslaughts, Jerusalem was virtually empty, but when the Mamluks established law and order, the city was gradually inhabited again. Law and order prevailed throughout most of the Mamluk sultanate period, a state which enabled the city to function without defensive walls. The Mamluk authorities did little to develop Jerusalemís economy or to enhance it in order to attract new citizens. However, substantial contributions were made toward the erection and maintenance of religious institutions - mosques, madrasas (religious schools), zawias (convents), khanakahs (Sufi mysticsí centers), hospitals, and hospices. On the eve of the Ottoman conquest, the city numbered forty-four madrasas and twenty zawias.(10)
The one certain Ottoman accomplishment in Jerusalem was the rebuilding in 1537-1541 of the great defensive walls under Suleiman I (above). The Turks feared the Mamluks would try to regain control of Jerusalem. In addition to the new wall, the sultan had the facade of the Dome of the Rock redecorated with lovely green and blue Persian tiles. Even up until the decisive end of the Empire following the events of WW I, the Ottoman's continued to emphasize the splendor and richness of their Islamic heritage. (12)
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(1) Edited by Nitza Rosovsky; City of the Great King: Jerusalem from David to the Present;
Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1996; pg. 18-19.
(2) John L. Esposito; Islam: the Straight Path; Oxford University Press: New York, 1991; pg. 16.
(3) Idinopulos, Thomas A.; Jerusalem Blessed, Jerusalem Cursed; Ivan R. Dee: Chicago; 1991; pg. 207.
(4) Ibid; pg. 214.
(5) Edited by Nitza Rosovsky; City of the Great King: Jerusalem from David to the Present; Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1996; pg. 18-19.
(6) Idinopulos, Thomas A.; Jerusalem Blessed, Jerusalem Cursed; Ivan R. Dee: Chicago; 1991; pg. 249.
(7) Ibid; pg. 250-251.
(9) Ibid; pg. 255-256.
(10) Edited by Nitza Rosovsky; City of the Great King: Jerusalem from David to the Present; Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1996; pg. 23-24.
(11) Ibid; pg. 25.
(12) Idinopulos, Thomas A.; Jerusalem Blessed, Jerusalem Cursed; Ivan R. Dee: Chicago; 1991; pg. 2265-266.
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