The Islamic Museum is located in the southwest section of the Haram al-Sharif, close to the Bab al-Maghariba (Gate of the Moroccans), one of the entrances to the Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem
The building dates to around AH 590 / AD 1194. Renovations to a section of the building, as well as the addition of the eastern entrance, were completed in AH 1288 / AD 1871
Built in the Ayyubid period; renovated in the Ottoman period
Sultan Salah al-Din Ayyubi (known as Saladin, r. AH 564–89 / AD 1169–93), and then his son al-Afdal Ali (r. AH 589–92 / AD 1193–7), followed by the Ottoman sultan Abd al-Aziz Khan (r. AH 1277–93 / AD 1860–76).
The Islamic Museum, established in 1927, is made up of two historic monument's halls. One of the halls once formed part of the original Umayyad Aqsa Mosque (Jami'), a stone-built edifice with a rectangular ground plan and two façades and two entrances.
The northern façade overlooks Bab al-Maghariba, a gate leading into the Haram al-Sharif, and it opens onto what used to be the main entrance, which faces a tapered arch. Directly above the lintel there is a stone course, above which there are three rectangular windows, the middle one being the largest. Above the two stone courses, at the pinnacle of the arch, there is a stone frame that projects slightly away from the façade. The original entrance, which used to lead to the mosque and to what remains of the glorious khanqah, today forms a section of the Islamic Museum.
The second, eastern façade of the mosque opens on to a courtyard, which overlooks the western wall of al-Aqsa Mosque. In the middle of the façade there is another entrance to the former Maghariba (Moroccan's) Mosque, which today is the entrance to the Islamic Museum. The entrance is rectangular with a central stone that projects above the lintel, and which is carved in the form of an incomplete pyramid. Directly above the lintel, is a panelled inscription, which is toped by the tughra (signature of the Ottoman sultan). The panel includes three lines naming the person who oversaw the renovation of the former mosque: Ottoman sultan, Abd al-Aziz Khan. The inscription is surrounded by a projecting stone frame that takes the form of an arch and extends to encompass the entrance. To the north and the south of the entrance there are two rectangular windows, which date back to the same architectural fabric, and delineate the Ottoman entrance.
The interior of the hall that was once the mosque is on a rectangular ground plan that extends from north to the south. The hall is composed of seven areas of different sizes, all of which are roofed by barrel-shaped domes. The central space following directly from the main entrance has undergone some modification, covered as it is by a central shallow dome in the Ottoman style, which replaced the intersecting vault that once covered this space. On the southern wall, at the end of the hall, a beautiful mihrab was built. The mihrab was removed and was replaced by a doorway that leads to the interior hall of the museum, once the women's mosque.
Although the mihrab was moved from its recess, its frame, the arch that topped it and the two pillars which flanked it on both sides, were preserved and still offer clear evidence of the mihrab and its shape.
The museum is located in the southwest corner of al-Haram al-Sharif in the halls of two historic buildings. The first is al-Maghariba congregational mosque, which is a rectangular building formed from a series of intersecting vaults, in the middle of which is a dome. On the southern wall at the end of the hall was a mihrab. The museum’s principle entrance is on the north façade. The second building most probably dates back to the Crusader or the Ayyubid period or both. The two buildings are connected by a passageway created by the removal of part of the mihrab of the mosque.
The building was dated through analysis of its architectural components; the various renovations were dated by inscriptions.
Berchem, M. van, Materiaux pour un Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum, Vol. II, Cairo, 1920–2.
Burgoyne. M., Mamluk Jerusalem: An Architectural Study, London, 1987.
Al-Hanbali, Mujir al-Din, (d. AH 927 / AD 1520), Al-Uns al-Jalil fi Tarikh al-Quds wa al-Khalil [The Significant Ambiance in the History of Jerusalem and Hebron], Amman, 1973.
Al-'Umari, Ibn Fadl Allah (d. AH 749 / AD 1348), Masalik al-Absar fi Mamalik al-Amsar [Major Roads to Different Lands] Vol. 1, Cairo, 1924.
Pilgrimage, Sciences and Sufism: Islamic Art in the West Bank and Gaza, p. 71.
Yusuf al-Natsheh "Islamic Museum" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;pa;Mon01;2;en
Prepared by: Yusuf Al-NatshehYusuf al-Natsheh
Yusuf Said Natsheh is a Palestinian and since 1997 he has been Director of the Department of Islamic Archaeology in al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem. He is a lecturer at al-Quds University. He was educated in Jerusalem and Cairo and in 1997 obtained his Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Dr Natsheh is a council member of many Palestinian societies for architectural heritage and a consultant for various projects on Jerusalem. He has written books and more than 40 articles about Jerusalem's architectural heritage including the architectural survey of Ottoman architecture in R. Hillenbrand and S. Auld (eds) Ottoman Jerusalem: The Living City 1517–1917 (London: Altajir World of Islam Trust, 2000). He has contributed to many international and national conferences. He supervised the restoration project, sponsored by the Arab League, on Mamluk monuments in and around al-Haram al-Sharif, and was Palestinian expert for the UNESCO mission to Jerusalem in 2004.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PA 02
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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