Haram al-Sharif

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Third holiest site in Islam.

Al-Haram al-Sharif (the noble sanctuary), also known as the Temple Mount, is the third holiest site in Islam. It is located in the southeastern part of the Old City of Jerusalem. Built between 685 and 709 c.e., it is an enclosure on a raised platform that includes two renowned holy sites: the Qubbat al-Sakhra (the Dome of the Rock) and al-Aqsa mosque. The Dome of the Rock is where Jews believe that Abraham attempted to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to God, and where Muslims believe that the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. He is believed to have tethered his "fabulous steed," al-Buraq, in an area located in the interior portion of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Close by is al-Aqsa mosque, which is regarded as the place in the Qurʾan where Muhammad prayed following his "night journey," and it was the direction for prayer (qibla) for Muslims before it was changed to Mecca. The subterranean areas of the Haram include a large vault, known as Solomon's Stables, now a mosque. Although

much repaired and restored by the Romans and in the Middle Ages, the vault is a Herodian creation and is thought to be part of the original Jewish Temple, built in 970 b.c.e. The exterior wall of the enclosure to the west, the Western or Wailing Wall (in Hebrew, ha-Kotel ha-Maʿaravi ), is the holiest site in Judaism.

The Haram played a significant role in the history of Jerusalem. As a site of veneration it attracted pilgrims, scholars, and benefactors from all parts of the Islamic world. Much real estate and arable land was endowed for the upkeep of schools, orphanages, mosques, prayer-rooms, and hostels, either inside the enclosure itself or nearby, creating an Islamic center for learning, ritual devotions, and good works. During the early twentieth century, tensions in the city between the predominantly Muslim and growing Jewish populations erupted into rioting over access and use of these holy places; the most notorious were the Western Wall Disturbances in 1929. Since the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, activities emanating from the Haram have played a pivotal role in preserving an Islamic and Palestinian presence in the Old City in the face of attempts by Israeli settler groups and government agencies to transfer ownership of the site to Israel. During the negotiations that followed the 1993 Oslo Accords, the future of the Haram was left unresolved. In September 2000 a visit to the Haram by the Likud Party leader, Ariel Sharon, provoked a violent clash that led to an uprising, since dubbed the al-Aqsa Intifada, that contributed to the collapse of negotiations.

See also aqsa intifada, al-; jerusalem; western wall; western wall disturbances.


Arif, Arif al-. A Brief Guide to the Dome of the Rock and al-Haram al-Sharif. Jerusalem: Industrial Islamic Orphanage Press, 1964.

Dumper, Michael. The Politics of Sacred Space: The Old City of Jerusalem in the Middle East Conflict. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002.

Duncan, Alistair. The Noble Sanctuary: Portrait of a Holy Place in Arab Jerusalem. London: Middle East Archive, 1981.

Peters, Francis.Jerusalem. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.

Wasserstein, Bernard. The British in Palestine: The Mandatory Government and the ArabJewish Conflict, 19171929. Oxford, U.K.: Basil Blackwell, 1991.

michael dumper