Sanctuary of Abraham (the Ibrahimi Mosque)
The mosque is located close to the southwest corner of the old city of Hebron, Hebron (al-Khalil), Palestine*
First century BC; AH 492 / AD 1099
From the Roman period to the end of the Ottoman period
A number of rulers, princes and sultans oversaw the construction, renovations and restorations of Haram al-Ibrahimi. Among them were: Herod (r. 37–4 BC) whom it is likely built the enclosure; Badr al-Din Jamali, the amir of the Fatimid armies; the Crusader Kings of Jerusalem, Salah al-Din Ayyubi (known as Saladin, r. AH 564–89 / AD 1169–93), who restored the Islamic identity to the site and completely renovated it; Amir Tankaz al-Nasiri, deputy to the sultanate in Bilad al-Sham during the period AH 712–40 / AD 1312–40; Sultan Zahir Barquq (ruled twice AH 784–91 / AD 1382–9 and AH 792–801 / AD 1390–9) and Amir ‘Alam al-Din Sanjar al-Jawali, overseer of the two harams (al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem and this one in Hebron).
The Haram al-Ibrahimi is associated with the father of the prophets Ibrahim (Abraham), and is considered to be the fourth most important religious site in Islam (after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem), and the second holiest place after the Aqsa Mosque in Palestine. The Haram al-Ibrahimi consists of a large building with a rectangular floor plan of approximately 60 m x 34 m. The building is surrounded by a great wall built from large blocks of fine cut stone. The Haram has two minarets dating to the Mamluk period. The height of each of them is around 15 m from the surface of the building.
The interior of the building includes a congregational mosque and an open courtyard, as well as arcades, rooms, corridors, domes, and a grotto (known as “al-Ghar”), in addition to a series of graves which were designated for the Prophets Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their wives.
The principle prayer hall is rectangular, about 28 m x 21 m. It consists of three aisles, the middle one being the largest and the highest of them. The prayer hall was originally designed as a church, since it was erected by the Franks on a Romanesque model after they destroyed the mosque that was originally on the site in AH 492 / AD 1099. When Salah al-Din Ayyubi (Saladin) reclaimed the city of Hebron in AH 583 / AD 1187, the church was transformed into a mosque and the present mihrab was added to it.
The wooden minbar which stands today to the right of the mihrab, dates to the Fatimid period and was commissioned by Badr al-Din Jamali in AH 484 / AD 1092. It was brought to the Haram by Salah al-Din from Ashqelon (which lies roughly 50 km south of Jaffa). This minbar is considered the oldest Islamic wooden minbar still in use. It is in good condition and considered a masterpiece in both workmanship and design.
The walls of the prayer area are panelled with polychrome marble, one of the works commissioned by Amir Tankaz in AH 733 / AD 1332. On the northern wall of the prayer hall, where the opening of the holy underground grotto “al-Ghar” is, there is a platform (dikkat al-muballigh) from which the prayer leader recites. This was built in AH 732 / AD 1331, and is composed of marble pillars and capitals.
To the north of the mosque lies an open courtyard surrounded by porticoes and rooms. In the northwest corner of the courtyard is the Malikiyya Prayer Hall consisting of an iwan with a rectangular ground plan. In the southern wall of the courtyard, there is a beautiful mihrab commissioned by Sultan Barquq. There is a portico located at the extension of the western wall of the mosque that is known today as the Jami' al-Nisa (The Women's Mosque). This was an addition sponsored by Amir Shihab al-Din al-Yaghmuri in AH 796 / AD 1393–4.
The Masjid al-Jawali is integral to the Haram al-Ibrahimi although it is not possible to see it from the outside. The west wall of the Masjid al-Jawali is in fact the east wall of the enclosure of the Haram, while the east, north and south walls of the Masjid are hewn from the rock. This mosque was built in AH 720 / AD 1320 by order of Amir 'Alam al-Din Sanjar al-Jawali. It is composed of three arched arcades with intersecting vaults that bear great stone piers. In the middle of the mosque there is a fine, stone dome whose corners are characterised by muqarnas decoration. In the qibla wall there is a mihrab which has been hewn from the rock and panelled with polychrome marble. It is provided with a beautiful semi-dome structure which is also decorated in coloured marble.
At over 2000 years old, this may be one of the world’s oldest sacred monuments still standing. It was built in the area believed to contain the graves of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), his sons Isaac and Jacob and their wives. The large rectangular outer building dates to the early Roman period and is enclosed by a wall of stone blocks. The interior is the product of several Islamic periods. The principle prayer hall was built by the Franks in the Romanesque style. The building is crowned by two Mamluk minarets. It contains the decorated rooms of the tombs. The mosque holds the oldest Islamic wooden minbar still in use and dates to the Fatimid period.
The building is dated by inscriptions, which are further supported by historical information.
'Amru, Y., Khalil al-Rahman al-Arabiya [al-Khalil, the Arab City], Hebron, 1985.
Al-Hanbali, Mujir al-Din, (d. 927 / 1520), Al-Uns al-Jalil fi Tarikh al-Quds wa al-Khalil [The Significant Ambiance in the History of Jerusalem and Hebron], Amman, 1973.
Vincent, L. H., and Mackay E. J. H., Hebron – Le Haram El Khalil, Paris, 1923.
Pilgrimage, Sciences and Sufism: Islamic Art in the West Bank and Gaza, pp.202–4.
Yusuf al-Natsheh "Haram al-Ibrahimi" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2022. 2022. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;isl;pa;mon01;13;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 GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: PA 13
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Pilgrimage | The Quest for Baraka – Pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Palestine Al-Franj: the Crusaders in the Levant | Journey of an Islamic Minbar Al-Franj: the Crusaders in the Levant | Saladin in the Holy Land Al-Franj: the Crusaders in the Levant | Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
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