The architectural development of Al-Aqsa mosque in Islamic Jerusalem in the early Islamic period : sacred architecture in the shape of "The Holy"
The aim of the research is 1) to introduce a definition of the concept of al-Aqsa Mosque and 2) to understand its architectural development and evolution in the early Islamic period within the cultural context of the site. The initial cause of the study was that almost nothing is known about the Muslim building activities at the enclave and there is very little information about it. The existing interpretations of the early development of al-Aqsa Mosque have been generated either from a typological and formal-aesthetic point of view or are based on interpretation constant with biblical texts. This thesis attempts to expand these interpretations with contributions by additional historical, archaeological and architectural investigations of the early Muslim architecture of the enclave within the Islamic cultural context. In order to achieve these main objectives, a systematic survey of the different parts of al-Aqsa was carried out and archaeological excavations of the site were stu died and both helped determine the significance of the site of al-Aqsa Mosque in each period of development. The thesis also investigated the urban context of al-Aqsa enclave and concluded that the earliest ancient traces in the foundation are mainly Roman and were destroyed in the 1st century AD when the site lost its significance and was situated outside the urban form of Aelia. Muslims reaffirm al-Aqsa Mosque for its religious significance in Islam after their conquest of Jerusalem. The Muslim had complete sovereignty over al-Aqsa Mosque in 638 AD and its initial revitalisation encompassed some building activities including the delineation of a house of prayer. Significant construction activities at al-Aqsa enclave were initiated a few decades after the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem. The surviving early Muslim building types, styles, decorative features and construction type provide evidence to show that they date back to the early Islamic period. Even this time could be narrowed down to the time of the Umayyad caliph 'Abd al-Malik. 'Abd al-Malik saw Jerusalem as a place where he could best proclaim his power and therefore he developed a fully threedimensional Muslim image of Jerusalem. The architecture of the enclave and its syntax presents considered and precise planning, a high quality of building skills and careful attention to the structural problems of its parts. Certain buildings are produced from relics in response to particular functional demands practised at the enclave. In relating the early Muslim buildings of the enclave to its given topography, neither their places nor forms, functions nor meanings are accidental. Each fits into its place within an overall architectural formula of al-Aqsa Mosque. From a comparison and evaluation of building types and architectural configurations, the study concludes that the early Muslim monuments have been built in response to Muslims' religious and cultural requirements. Annular centralised buildings have been c onstructed to fulfil cultural and functional requirements and reflect religious values. As for the broad house type of the Congregation Mosque, it was also created to meet the same purpose of the Muslims' religious functions, and its origin can be found in the plan of the Prophet Mosque in Madīnah. The thesis concludes with a set of recommendations for further research that would attract public awareness towards the cultural heritage of Islamic Jerusalem.