Are non-Muslims allowed inside the Dome of the Rock?
Greetings from Jerusalem. This morning I took my family to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. The Western Wall was an emotional experience for my wife, as she felt the collective sorrow and yet collective hope in the women singing sanguine songs around her.
Up on the Temple Mount, even as we walked by the Dome of the Rock, a man sitting on a folding chair nearby snapped at my wife to stay away from the building. It’s quite cold in Jerusalem and my wife was dressed modestly; it just seemed to be, to put it politely, the culture. The same thing happened at a grocery store near our apartment when a man just cut in front of my wife and sneered at her, saying something in Arabic to the shopkeeper followed by the two of them sharing a laugh.
But that’s not the point of this post.
Rather, the question is are non-Muslims ever allowed in the Temple Mount?
Google seems to think the answer is no, but that is not my experience.
I had a conversation with another two men on the Temple Mount and asked them if a Kafir (كافر – a term for a non-believer) is ever allowed in? They both said no. One said that non-Muslims had not been allowed in since the Second Intifada in 2002, which happened after then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount. The visit was seen as an incendiary action to many Muslims in Israel and the Palestinian territories and sparked violence.
But when I was on the Temple Mount in 2009, I was invited into the Dome of the Rock.
That seemed to stump them.
Perhaps because I didn’t have a woman with me…
I’m Not Offended…But I Guess I Am Sad?
Having seen the spectacle of what the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other Christian and Jewish sites overrun with tourists have become, part of me certainly respects Muslims for shutting down their holy places from tourists.
Nothing spoils the sacred mood like selfie sticks and flash photography. Sadly, tourists were even snapping away pictures inside the Aedicula at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
But while I bemoan how there is no longer any respect or decorum in houses of worship from faith traditions around the world, part of me is perplexed that the Muslims do not want to welcome in skeptics and try to convert them.
Islam is more like Christianity than Judaism in that there is a proselytizing, missionary element to it, called Da‘wah (دعوة). Over the years and through my travels around the world, many Muslims have tried to convert me. Not as ubiquitous as the Latter Day Saints on bicycles or JWs who always knock on my door at the wrong time, I have engaged in many interesting discussions…including in Kruger National Park in South Africa (of all places…).
Anyway, I’m just bummed that I cannot visit these historical sites like the Dome of the Rock or more poignantly, Mecca. I don’t want to make a spectacle of myself…heck, I would be happy to leave my camera behind. But I do want to see and experience these sites that have such tremendous historic and religious value to so many people. I don’t think that denigrates a house of worship. In fact, if Muslims are trying to convert others, I would think that welcoming them inside their shrines, grand mosques, and other sacred spaces might be an effective tool.
All that to say, is there a way to get inside the Dome of the Rock? My understanding that some aid agencies can arrange access. I’m probably too late for that on this trip, but would have liked to show my wife the rock upon which Muslims believed the prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven.
I’m not upset or offended that Muslims would choose to keep their holy sites from being a circus of tourism. At the same time, I detest the idea that historical artifacts are off-limits to those of the “wrong” faith, especially from visitors who come with respect and a desire to learn.
For more, here’s an interesting take on the subject from The New Yorker.
Any tips for getting into the Dome of the Rock?