Jerusalem Archaeological Park
The Temple Mount in the Early Islamic Period

After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the Temple Mount precinct was no longer the focus of religious worship in Jerusalem. In the Byzantine period it was deliberately left in ruins, and the religious center of the city shifted to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its neighborhood. This change was also meant to convey the ideological message of the ruling faith, demonstrating the superiority of Christianity over Judaism by stressing the new, Christian cult site and neglecting the site of the ruined Jewish temple. The Temple Mount became the city's refuse dump, as if to emphasize the fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy: "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" (Matthew 23:38).

The significance of the Temple Mount as a central place of worship was revived after the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in 638 CE. According to Muslim tradition, caliph 'Umar, the conqueror of Jerusalem, ordered clearance of the refuse and the building of a small Mosque, probably in the south part of the enclosure, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque now stands.
The main buildings on the Temple Mount enclosure, now known in Arabic as Al-Haram ash-Sharif (meaning: the Noble Sanctuary), were erected in the late seventh century CE, probably at the initiative of caliph 'Abd al-Malik. In this period the Dome of the Rock was built over the site, on which, according to Muslim tradition, Abraham bound his son for sacrifice and from which Muhammad ascended to heaven (Mi'raj) after his miraculous night journey (Al-Isra'). Still preserved today in its original form, the Dome of the Rock is one of the most impressive ancient monuments in Jerusalem.

Some scholars hold that the Dome of the Rock was erected to emphasize the superiority of Islam over Christianity; the impressive building standing out above all other buildings in the city and, in particular, overshadowing the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Another opinion attributes the large-scale construction in Jerusalem at this time to internal rivalries among Muslim factions and the desire of the Umayyad rulers to establish a new political and religious center.
The city's main Mosque, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, also built in this period, south of the Dome of the Rock, was - and still is - a central place of worship. This Mosque is identified in Muslim tradition as 'the farthest Mosque', mentioned in the Qur'an as the destination of Muhammad's night journey (Sura 17:1). Due to this identification, which appears mainly in medieval Muslim traditions, Jerusalem has become the third most sacred site in Islam, after the cities of Mecca and Medina.

In the early eighth century CE, under the reign of caliph Al-Walid, son of 'Abd al-Malik, various construction projects on the Temple Mount were completed and the large buildings, known as the Umayyad 'palaces', to the south and west were erected.

In the centuries following the Muslim conquest, some one hundred structures were erected in the Temple Mount precinct, including small chapels, open prayer platforms (mastabas), public drinking fountains (sabils) and religious schools (madrasas).
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