Three Religions under One Dome
Dr. Yitzhak Hayut-Ma’n, cyber-architect.
Does the Dome of
the Rock belong only to Islam, as we are used to think? An exciting detective
work done by Yitzhak Hayut-Ma'n reveals another possibility,
which opens an optimistic window to an ancient conflict.
Does the Dome of the Rock belong only to Islam, as we are used to think? An exciting detective work done by Yitzhak Hayut-Ma'n reveals another possibility, which opens an optimistic window to an ancient conflict.
(Article in the Israeli monthly magazine Hayim Aherim, Rosh haShnah 9/00)
When the future of Jerusalem, the city that both Jews and Palestinians regard as their eternal capital, is in focus, and it seems that both parties are bound (Aqudim) to the Temple Mount and cannot separate themselves from each other, it is appropriate to pay attention to the Islamic religious symbol of the city, which Jews and Christians also highlight in the depiction of their Holy City - the Dome of the Rock (in Arabic “Kubat al Sakhara”). The Palestinians have chosen this edifice as their national symbol, and the struggle over it seems to frustrate any chance for a settlement.
Even though this is undoubtedly the most prominent edifice in
Well, the facts
are quite different: The El-Aqsa Mosque is situated south of the
Dome of the Rock; The Mosque of Omar is far removed from there, opposite the
Church of the Holy Sepulcher; and the Dome of the Rock is not a mosque at all -
though it has been converted (rather ineptly) into a place of prayer for
individuals (especially women), it was not designed for and does not include
organized public prayer which is the function of a mosque. Moreover, the almost
automatic assumption of most people, that the Dome is situated where the Holy
of Holies stood in the
The Dome of the
Rock is the first and most splendid monument of Islamic architecture, and it
does not resemble any later structure of Islamic architecture. Even though
Islamic architecture has developed and reached tremendous achievements, it has
never again equaled the quality of the embellishments in this dome shrine. From
afar, the Dome of the Rock stands out from all the buildings of the
So what, indeed, is the Dome of the Rock, why it remains so singular, who built it and for what purpose?
A Golden Riddle
assume, based on the Moslem historian El-Muqadisi (a name with relevance to our
discussion, as it means “of the Temple”), that the Dome of the Rock, built
towards the end of the 7th century CE, was intended as an alternative
pilgrimage site to Mecca and Medina.
who challenge this version assert that even if the Halif Abd El-Malik,
under whose command the Dome was erected, did such a heretical act, then his
successors, especially the devout Halif al-Ma’mun would have destroyed
and eliminated the signs of this heresy. And if not they - then certainly the
Abbasid Halifs, who had no quarrel with
A much more
likely possibility is that the purpose of such a grand and imposing edifice was
to make an anti-Christian declaration: “We, Moslems, are the rulers of
But if the chief
message was anti-Christian, then we touch a new mystery: why, when the
A no less
annoying question is, if the whole objective behind the Dome of the Rock was to
erect a monument to counter the Holy Sepulcher, why was there a need to invest
in the magnificent and complex interior? Even the most sacred site of Islam –
the Ka’aba in
My claim is that the Dome of the Rock contains a clear message that contradicts the basis of Islamic orthodoxy - as well as those of Judaism and Christianity - and aims to change and mend these three religions. One half of the message is conveyed in the secret language of sacred geometry known to Pythagorian-Sufi-Kabbalist esotericists, embedded in the plan of the shrine and its decorations, and identifies the Dome of the Rock as a temple for the Wisdom-Goddess and Her Son.
The second half of the message is hidden inside the Rock itself and in the foundations of the edifice, and only in our generation has there begun an unveiling of its secrets: architect Tuviah Sagiv has shown, from the analysis if infra-red aerial photographs, that the Rock of the Dome of the Rock is only the projecting tip of a large pentagonal rock, which constitutes a characteristic ancient Pagan shrine of a god, whose tip-phalus is generally inside temples dedicated to the cult of the Great Goddess. From the comparison of the bases of the outer circle of pillars within the Dome of the Rock to those of the dome of the Pantheon built by Hadrian in Rome, and comparing the set of the El-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock with the temples of Jupiter at Baa'bek, which were also built by Hadrian, Sagiv reached the conclusion that the Dome of the Rock is based over the remnants of the temple of the goddess in the temple complex of Aelia Capitolina built by Hadrian over the ruins of the Second Temple.
The Center of the World
motif is the Rock, and the design of the structure issues directly from it.
Jewish and Moslem traditions regard this rock as the Foundation Rock (Even
haShetiyah), the basis of the world and the place of formation of the
first Adam. Islamic exegesis also relates to a verse in the Koran that mentions
“the Night Journey” of the prophet Mohammed: “Glorified be He Who carried His
servant by night from the
The Rock is surrounded by a circle of 12 decorative pillars and four massive piers that support the Dome over them. This is the Dome whose golden exterior we know so well. The octagonal structure is formed by the intersections of two pairs of rectangles, whose width is that of the inner circle, and which make a sort of cross around the circle, and these pairs are in 450 degrees to each other.
The geometry of this shrine thus forms a symbolic "Mandala", with the sacred center inside. Four identical entrances lead to the center, representing the four cardinal directions. Unlike mosques that are directed towards Mecca, churches that are generally oriented to the East and synagogues that turn towards the Temple Mount, the structure of the Dome of the Rock is orientated inside itself, towards the Rock.
Inside the shrine there is an additional circle, wider, in which there are 16 pillars and 8 piers. Precise investigation shows that, even though the structure is measured and built in a very precise way, the two circles do not fit but are off by a few degrees. Moreover, the whole weight of the dome is supported on the inner circle, and the outer circle is not required at all for structural reasons. Its role is mainly ritualistic: the two circles mark the inner space for circumambulating (walking around in a circle - a form of ritual known well both in Judaism and Islam).
The windows are relatively small and this creates inside the shrine a pleasantly dark atmosphere of mystery. In the outer envelope of the building there are 36 splendid stained glass windows which illuminate the low space, and sixteen windows are pierced above, in the drum that supports the Dome, and illuminate the tall inner space between the Dome and the Rock.
All the walls of the building, both inside and out are covered with decorations. The lower parts of the inner walls are covered with marble, and the parts above as well as the soffits of the pillars are covered with colored mosaics of rich vegetal motifs, considered the most magnificent mosaics in the world.
But it is the picture or pattern upon the inner surface of the Dome that is the jewel of the crown. It would seem evident that the Dome of the Rock was built the way it was in order to provide a proper place for this pattern, and that if it carries a message, it would be encoded in this pattern. It is therefore necessary to lift one's eyes to the inside of the Dome, in order to behold how the Dome of the Rock fits in with the universal mystical teachings.
The Image of the Soul (Nefesh) and its Likeness (Tselem)
What does one see in it? At the center of the Dome are connected and tied together all the forms that we shall examine separately below. These forms may be likened to what is called in the late Lurianic Kabbalah Olam ha’Aqudim, the world of all those bound-together. Around this center there is a ring of Arabesques-text of verse 226 of the Sura of the Cow: “There is no God but Allah, the Living… His throne fills the heavens and the earth...“ Namely – the principle of unity and a visual description of the divine Throne of Glory.
The ceiling of the Dome is also decorated by seemingly vegetal motifs, as it is well known that there is a ban on figurative art in Islam, even stronger than in Judaism. All the same, it is possible to use the word “figures” for these abstract forms. They are characterized by a 32-fold radial symmetry that creates distinctive forms of "head, chest and belly", which are almost unique in Islamic architecture. There is something anthropomorphic about them, but if so, these are not figures of the body but sort of a diagram of the soul.
These “figures” have geometrical distinction. They are derived from a repetitive grid of waves. The modern awareness of the whole universe being an interweaving of waves has already found expression in the pattern of the Dome of the Rock. Were it a flat surface there would have derived a grid of infinite parallel waves, but when this grid is fitted to the curving dome it shows that all these waves derive from one center, from which evolves all the plurality and diversity in the world.
No less distinctive from the figures themselves is the relationship between the figures and the spaces between them. The spaces between the figures have exactly the same form as the central section of the figures. The spherical surface of the dome ceiling forms a circle of the figures, where their “head” is smaller than the “chest” or the “belly”, which amplifies the anthropomorphic effect. The 32 figures of three units each plus the two units between each two figures form together 160 units, which is the gematrical value of the Hebrew word Tselem "Likeness" (Gen. 1:26-27).
Detail - the Leaf
The basic form is leaf-shaped. We shall regard it as the “Leaf of the Tree of Life”. This leaf form is found both in the central circle of the Figures and in (the intermediary) spaces between the figures. Those who are familiar with the Kabbalah will have no difficulty in identifying in the Leaf-shape the form of the letter Y’ud, which is - according to the Kabbalah (e.g. in the Idra Zuta of the Zohar) - the starting-point for every thing that is. The Y’ud is the beginning of the four-lettered Holy Name (YHWH, the Tetragramaton), the other letters of which are extensions of the Y’ud in width and height. As our sages said - the World To Come is created in Y’ud (Talmud Bavly, Tractate Menahot 29, 10).
Christian Art often employs a different leaf-form – the “Vesica Piscis” in which two circles intersect each other at their centers – which is used as a frame for the figure of the Virgin and of Jesus. We may also note that these two “Leaf-shapes”, and especially the one at the Dome of the Rock, can be seen as a symbol for the female sexual organ, a claim relevant for the context of the cult of the goddess .
Leaf-shape of the Dome of the Rock appears also as a frame for the figure of
the Buddha in the sacred art of the
The fact that it is difficult to distinguish between the figures and the background, or rather the spaces between them, teaches that Space is not a neutral thing but has qualities and consciousness. Compared with the separate figures, Space is the intermediary – The Maqifim (surrounding lights) in the language of the Kabbalah, which issue from the One and is connected to the One in all its myriad forms. The pattern of the Dome of the Rock is a visual essay on the spiritual-religious issue of “The One and the Many”, and the contemplation of it can serve as a powerful spiritual exercise.
The Heart (LeV) of the Matter
The plurality, as we have shown above, is represented by 32 symmetrical figures. Why 32 of all numbers?
Again we may turn to the Jewish Kabbalah, which also attaches much importance to the 32 (represented also as LaV, while "heart" is in Hebrew Lev) as the number that represents Wisdom. “The 32 Paths of Wonder” are mentioned at the opening of the sefer Yetsirah (the oldest Kabbalah book), and the term “The 32 Paths of Wisdom” is common in the Kabbalah (such as in the Idra Zuta in the Zohar. The significance of the number is that the name “Elohim” (God) is mentioned 32 times in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis). Can the designers of the Dome of the Rock be counted among the Mequbalim (Kabbalists)? Sefer Yetsirah was written before this shrine was built, and was known to the sages (such as Rabbi Se’adiah Ga’on) of the early Moslem period, and it is possible that also the Moslem mystic sages were aware of it.
We can thus continue deciphering the message of the Dome of the Rock, whose
decoration employ a number of elements that represent in the Kabbalah the 32
Paths of Wisdom, pointing that it is possible to associate it with Symbols
of Wisdom. The best domes of the Byzantine architecture of that period,
crowned by the dome of the
Idris Shah, the author "The Sufis" and other books about the Sufis (we may note the similarity of "Sufi" and "Sophia", namely Wisdom) has no doubt that the designers of the Dome of the Rock were members of a mystical brotherhood of what he calls “Sufi Freemasons”, who dwelled in Mecca at the time of Mohammed and who moved to Jerusalem as soon as it was liberated from Byzantine Christianity. The Sufis were familiar with teachings of Pythagoras and the early Kabbalah, and they, like the Mequbalim, adopted Platonic and Neo-Platonist views according to which the soul has three distinct centers (called in the Kabbalah Nefesh, Ru’ah and Neshamah). They embedded in the decorations of the Dome their metaphysical descriptions of human psychology, along with secrets of cosmology, legacy of the esoteric wisdom kernel kept from ancient times.
This knowledge brings us to a further partial answer to the riddle why did the Templars adopt the Dome of the Rock. According to various literary sources (we may mention here Arkon Daraul’s book “Secret Societies”), the Templars received many of their secret teachings from their contemporaries the Assassins. The founder of the Isma'ili Sect of the Assassins was a student of Omar Khayyam, one of the major Sufi teachers.
cultivated a model of the Moslem paradise in their stronghold in
The Koranic paradise, even though designed for life after death, is very material: [use an accepted translation] “This is the garden that was set for the…” (Mohammed Sura, 16-17).
But the paradise depicted in the Dome of the Rock is the Heavenly Paradise. The ascent of Mohammad through the seven heavens opened the way for others who desire to follow him. The decorations in the Dome of the Rock give a map for the seven heavens.
Grabbar, in his book "The Dome of the Rock", questions the meaning of the shrine and interprets
the decorations as a representation of the Garden of Eden, with motifs from the
The designers of
the Dome of the Rock built thus a visual-architectural Midrash of
paradise and the return to it, while achieving a more explicit goal – a visual Midrash
of “The Night Journey” of the Prophet Mohammed from
ascent of the prophet Mohammed and of the Sufi mystics after him was apparently
through the secret methods of the Jewish sages, in which the “elevator” to the
heavenly paradise was at the
It is written “And the Tree of Life is also in the midst of the garden”. As I understand it, this does not refer to a specific tree, but to the essence of the whole garden. “The midst of the garden” is "the Tree of Life”. By rearranging the letters of “GaN EdeN” (Hebrew for “Garden of Eden”) we get “DNA GeNe”, which is the secret of life. Likewise the decorations in the shrine of the Dome - which in terms of current geometry we might term “fractal” - is all vegetal and contains innumerable variants of vegetation. There is no form that resembles another.
So how does this “map” guide us to the worlds of the seven heavens? Let us then re-examine the pattern in the dome. At the base is a bounded stripe of calligraphy. That is the first firmament, above the physical world. From here upward there are delineated five more levels of steps, represented by the border of each of the “figures” and the spaces between them. “belly”, lower background, “chest”, higher background and “head”. Over the heads of these figures there is a seventh calligraphic “firmament” strip before the top of the Dome as the seventh heaven, the transpersonal, all-inclusive divine world (which we called Olam ha’Aqudim).
Further meditations would show us how these Sufi patterns also give rise to the Tree of the Sephirot of the Kabbalah and the Christian Descent from the Cross. In other words, the Dome of the Rock could serve all true believers of the inner teachings of the three religions and gives them means for deep mystical rituals and perhaps a stage for a joint redemptive spectacle.
At bottom, the
desire is to return the Shekhinah (God's feminine Presence) to
Comments and References
 George Feurstein: “Spirituality by the Numbers”,
 Today also there are prevalent tripartite descriptions of the psyche. For example, Freud distinguishes the “Id”, "Ego” and “Superego”; Eric Berne’s “Transactional Analysis” (TA) describes “Child, Adult and Parent”, and Gordon Pask's cybernetic "Conversation Theory" characterises the psyche to 3 levels of "Concepts", "Memories" and "Psychological Individual" (a coherent system of Beliefs). The figures in the Dome of the Rock thus allow us to graphically visualize and analyze the majority of the psychological processes, personal and interpersonal, to depict an “Ecology of Souls”, in contemporary psychological terms.
 Arkon Daraul (1989): “A History of Secret Societies” Citadel Press, NY 1995.
 Oleg Grabar and Sa’id Nuseibe: "The Dome of the Rock". Thames
 Ohad Ezrahi: “Two Cherubs – about the Song of Songs and the Holy
of Holies”, article in Hayut-Ma’n and Ezrahi: haYashan yithadesh
vehaHadash Yitkadesh” (in Hebrew). High-Or Ltd,
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