Latest update: March 14th, 2013
The Temple as seen in the Holyland Model of Jerusalem, a 21,520 sq. ft.,
The unique importance of the Temple Mount to Judaism and to Islam makes the location vulnerable to tensions and conflicts between Jews and Muslims. Usually, these incidents originate in rumors such as: “The Jews are coming today to bomb the mosques and build their Third Temple.” Obviously, false accusations and baseless suspicions like these turn the site from a holy place of prayer and love into a site of violent political demonstrations. And, consequently, potential escalation of tension brings more restrictions and discomfort to all. Who benefits from this? Surely not the believers.
While the Israeli government ensures limited public access to the Temple Mount regardless of religious beliefs, only Muslims are allowed to pray at the place, which is known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. Otherwise, the government has prohibited everyone except Muslims from worshipping there since 1967, due to security concerns. Nevertheless, Muslims, too, are occasionally restricted. The Jordanian Waqf which administers the site has restricted non-Muslims from entering the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque since the year 2000. What’s more, non-Muslim religious symbols are not allowed to be worn while entering the site.
Freedom of worship is an essential issue. The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples stood, is the holiest place to the people of Israel. However, it is no less holy to both Muslims and Christians. Since this is a location that God has announced to be a “house of prayer for all nations,” it should be a place of festivity for all believers. As all who call on the God of Abraham are brothers, Jews and Christians should be able to offer prayers there in dignity and peace along with Muslims. To cast believers out from such a place, to prevent worship there, is a heinous and, quite frankly, cruel policy, which is an offense not only to men, but to Islam. God Himself condemns anyone who forbids worship:
“And who is more unjust than he who forbids that in places for the worship of God, God’s name should be celebrated?-whose zeal is (in fact) to ruin them? It was not fitting that such should themselves enter them except in fear. For them there is nothing but disgrace in this world, and in the world to come, an exceeding torment.” (Koran 2:214)
Likewise, the Tanakh declares the will of God to make this unique spot a common sanctuary where all people learn to coexist and pray together:
“For then will I turn clear language to the Nations, that they may all call upon the name of God, to serve Him shoulder to shoulder.” (Zephaniah 3:9)
Anywhere one prays to the One and Only Almighty God is a house of prayer. Therefore, it is an atrocious thing to forbid anyone from praying at the Temple Mount. The longings of Bnei Israel to pray in that place can never be an offense to a Muslim. On the contrary, it is very pleasant to see Jewish people praying at the Temple Mount. Indeed, all the faithful people should be able to pray there. As a matter of fact, in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and others houses of worship, foreign tourists often come and pray. Some perform their religious obligations according to their own faith, and it is something quite beautiful to see.
As a devout Muslim, I take pleasure when Jews pray to Almighty God, and their praying anywhere in the world, including at the Temple Mount, would be a glad tiding for me as well.
As a devout Muslim, it would be a joy for me to see Prophet Solomon’s Temple rebuilt as well. No, you did not hear me wrong. Prophet Solomon’s Temple being rebuilt in all its magnificence and glory would be a great delight for me, as it would be to any Muslim. Under different circumstances, in an atmosphere of trust, love and brotherhood, Muslims would welcome this with enthusiasm. The Temple of Solomon is also a historically important place, and rebuilding it would be a wonderful occasion for all believers to contemplate. Every Muslim, every believer, will want to experience the spirit of those days again, and strive to bring the beauty of those days back to life. Actually, it is everyone’s aspiration for that city to be adorned, to be beautified, and to regain the magnificent glory it had in the days of the Prophet Solomon.
Solomon’s Temple being rebuilt does not entail any harm to these shrines. So I beg my Muslim brothers and sisters not to take my words in a direction that I do not intend. They should not feel unease at all, because the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock will stand until the Last Day. Nobody will be able to harm them, because they are under the protection of God.
There is a broad expanse of land around the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. The land there is quite convenient in that respect, and the Temple can be placed just a little way from Qubbat As-Sakhrah, and a little ahead of Masjid el-Aqsa.
The Prophet Solomon—King Solomon as the Jews call him—is a prophet to Muslims too. All Muslims have profound love for him. Prophet Solomon had a superior understanding of beauty and aesthetics, and no doubt, rebuilding of his Temple in its original form would be a splendid undertaking. Decorated exactly as it was, with the same beautiful ornaments, covered in gold, adorned with fruit trees and beautiful gardens, and restored to its former glory, would be splendid!
It is of course very exciting to remember those beautiful days, to rebuild this beautiful compound, and let this beautiful prayer house be open to all. This very much excites me as a Muslim and excites other believers as well. The very thought of Christians, Jews and Muslims cooperating to rebuild this house of worship, together hand in hand, and worshipping there together, is a matter of joy.
Think of the waste of energy and resources consumed all over the world by the contention between Arabs and Jews, which could be used to beautify these holy places, to put them in a brilliant state, instead! There is plenty of space, and there are overwhelmingly sufficient resources for everyone to live there in peace and tranquility and enjoy their freedom of worship.
How have we allowed these unending wars, sporadic clashes, security walls, unnecessary discrimination and restrictions to bar us from being able to embrace each other as brothers? Why do we take it for granted that we are under any obligation to perpetuate these senseless conflicts? Why does everyone simply presume that this is the way things are meant to be? We all want suffering to end and peace to prevail in the region! Obviously we cannot achieve this peace as long as we lack the spirit of unity.
The Jews have the exact same vision, with the Third Temple being a center for all believers, not only for Jews:
“Also the aliens, that join themselves to God, to minister unto Him, and to love the name of God, to be His servants… Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:6-7)
We will rebuild—not only the Temple of Solomon, but those of all the prophets too. As a matter of fact, apart from the Prophet Solomon’s Temple, the other prayer houses of other prophets, the places where they inhabited, should be rebuilt as well. The places where they worshiped should be restored and glorified. Similarly, they should be opened, and Christians, Muslims and Jews should be allowed to visit them at the same time. The places where the Prophets Abraham, Joseph, Isaac, Jacob, Aaron lived should be restored and beautified also.
The main entrance to the Old City is the Jaffa Gate. This gate was built by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1538. The name in Arabic, Bab el-Halil, or Hebron Gate, means “The Beloved,” and refers to Prophet Abraham. In the entrance hall of the Gate, there is a stone on which the following text is engraved: “There is only one God and Abraham is his friend.” It is written this way because Jews and Christians were also using this gate along with Muslims, and the text refers to our common belief in the Prophet Abraham. So this should be the spirit in this site: We all worship the same One God and we are all children of Prophet Abraham!
Let us embrace each other with respect and love! Let us talk together, and envision better days in which we can all pray, and unite in celebration and brotherhood in this Prayer House of our blessed Prophet Solomon, and praise the glory of Almighty God together! Let every Christian, every Muslim, every Jew unite in this one godly desire! Let us endeavor to achieve this together, and let us believe that it is possible for everyone to perform their prayers in joy and peace!
About the Author: Sinem Tezyapar is an executive producer on Turkish Television. She is a political and religious commentator and a peace activist.