The Dome of the Rock (Qubbah al-Sakhrah) in Jerusalem built, as commonly perceived, between 65 H/684 CA and 72 H/691 CA within the precincts of the original al-Aqsa Mosque (al-Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary) is one of the earliest existing monuments of Islamic art and architecture. Its significance lies in its religious, civilizational, geographical and historical contexts.
The Dome of the Rock is located on an artificial platform, approximately in the center of the al-Haram al-Sharif or the original al-Aqsa Mosque.
According to Creswell, it is “an annular building and consists in its ultimate analysis of a wooden dome 20.44 m. in diameter, set on a high drum, pierced with sixteen windows and resting on four piers and twelve columns, placed in a circle just large enough to surround the Rock, and so arranged that three columns alternate with each pier.
A central cylinder is thus formed, of height about equal to its diameter. This circle of supports is placed in the center of a large octagon averaging about 20.59 m. a side, formed by eight walls 9.50 in height (excluding the parapet, which measures 2.60 m.).
Externally there are seven bays in each side, but those next the corners – that is to say the bay at each end of each side, or sixteen in all – are treated as blind panels. The remainder are each pierced in their upper part by a window.”
The Rock (Sakhrah), which the domed edifice (the Dome of the Rock) shelters, is the highest point in the al-Haram or the Al-Aqsa Noble Sanctuary.
It is a bluish rock. It stands about one and a half meters above the floor – or about the height of an average man – at its highest part and is approximately eighteen by thirteen meters in area. Beneath it is a cave about four and a half meters square, in the roof of which there is a hole about a meter in diameter.
Much extraordinary reverence is attached to the Rock, which, nevertheless, is rooted in little or no truth.
In the main, such reverence is based on copious groundless legends and myths that are either work of some Muslims who have been contriving and propagating them in different ages, under different circumstances and for different purposes, or are no more than the re-creation or even re-telling of the same as found in the Jewish tradition.
Indeed, the Rock bears no special importance in Islam. It is significant in as much as it constitutes a part of the original Al-Aqsa Mosque or Noble Sanctuary, the second mosque on earth established forty years after the construction of the Ka’bah or Al-Masjid al-Haram.
In no way can the Rock be more important and as such more revered than the other parts of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
By the same token, everything that the Holy Quran and the Prophet (peace be upon him) have said about Al-Aqsa Mosque applied as much to the Rock as to the rest of the sections of the Mosque.