Hashemite Restorations of the Islamic Holy Places in Jerusalem


The Hashemite clan ruled over parts of the Hijaz region of Arabia from 967 CE to 1925 CE in unbroken succession. Moreover, the late King Hussein’s branch of the Hashemite family ruled the holy city of Mecca from 1201 CE until 1925 CE. The history of Hashemite leadership in the Arab and Islamic world finds Jordan's current monarch, King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein, at the head of a family which represents over a thousand years of rule in the region, and with a long history as guardian of the Islamic faith and the holy city of al-Quds al-Sharif (or Jerusalem).



In the center of the Old City of Arab East Jerusalem sits a sprawling compound known as al-Haram al-Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary). The compound, which contains two mosques, many shrines and public fountains, as well as the tombs of Muslim saints, is so holy and dear to Muslims that in the advent of Islam the faithful turned towards Jerusalem, and not, as they later did and continue to do so today, towards Mecca. Al-Haram al-Sharif is described as the first qibla (direction to which Muslims turn in prayer), and the third holiest shrine after Mecca and Medina.


At the visual center of the area lies the golden Dome of the Rock which was completed in 691 CE by Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. The Dome of the Rock was built to commemorate the Prophet Muhammad’s famous night journey (al-Isra’ waal mi’raj). In the year 620 CE he was transported from Mecca to Jerusalem in a mystical flight, and from the rock around which the shrine was later built, he ascended to heaven. Today Muslims celebrate this annually during al-Isra’ waal mi’raj, which this year will be on November 16th.

The second mosque in al-Haram al-Sharif, at the end of a walkway connecting it to the Dome of the Rock, is al-Aqsa Mosque, or “The Farthest Mosque.” It is so named in reference to the Qur’anic verse citing Jerusalem as “The far distant place of worship.” Al-Aqsa Mosque was completed in the year 715 CE, and is distinguished by its silver dome, slightly lower in height than the Dome of the Rock.

The First Hashemite Restoration, 1922-1924

Zionist claims to al-Quds (Jerusalem) at the beginning of the 20th century proved a threat to the city, which is sacred to all members of the three great monotheistic religions. Al-Haram al-Sharif, the primary symbol of the Arab presence in and right to Jerusalem, became a symbolic rallying point of Arab unity. In 1922, a non-governmental Islamic organization, the Islamic Higher Council (IHC) was established to preserve Islamic ideals and sanctuaries alike. The IHC was the institution which took responsibility for raising capital to restore the Dome of the Rock. In harmony with his religious responsibility, Sharif Hussein contributed generously to the restoration and took personal interest in its administration. This first Hashemite restoration was completed in 1924. Sharif Hussein’s tomb is located in the southern corridors of the mosque.

The Contributions of King Abdullah

Sharif Hussein’s son Abdullah, the first ruler and king of Transjordan, took up the responsibilities of his father. During the 1948 war, al-Haram al-Sharif suffered considerable damage. It was King Abdullah who sounded the call for the restoration of Zakaria’s mihrab, as well as the reconstruction of the surrounding buildings which had suffered structural damage. In 1949, King Abdullah personally helped to extinguish a fire which almost destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, located next to al-Haram al-Sharif. He held the role of guardian throughout his reign, maintaining and repairing the holy sites of Jerusalem from the 1920s until the time of his martyrdom in al-Aqsa Mosque during Friday prayers on June 20, 1951.

The Second Hashemite Restoration, 1952-1964

On May 8, 1952, six days after the coronation of the young King Hussein, the Jordanian government again took action towards restoring the Dome of the Rock. The 1920s restoration, a replacement of the outer wooden dome with an aluminum, gold-coated dome, was unsuccessful in stopping water leakage into the interior. The dome was also losing its exterior golden luster. The new king made the maintenance of this symbol of Islamic pride among his primary responsibilities.

In 1959, the second restoration commenced, funded by Jordan (JD 60,000) with some support from other Islamic countries (JD 86,000). The second restoration was completed on August 6, 1964.

The Emergency Restoration, 1969

Salah Eddin’s minbar, in al-Aqsa Mosque suffered great damage when it was set on fire on August 21, 1969, by an Australian Jew, Dennis Rohan. The restoration of this minbar (a stepped platform for preaching brought from Aleppo to Jerusalem by the legendary Muslim leader Salah Eddin, who liberated the city from the Crusaders in 1187 CE) cost the Jordanian treasury JD 6 million (US$ 9 million). Fortunately, the restoration team was able to salvage the original minbar and eradicate 95% of the damage.


Abdullah bin al-Hussein

(translated from Arabic)
Amman on: 11 Thul Hijja 1364
Corresponding to: 16 November 1945

Presidency of the Arab League - Cairo

The best way to save Palestine and maintain it as an Arab country or to save the remaining part of Palestine is through concentration of efforts on the following:

First: Strengthening of the Palestine Nation’s Fund and making it capable of maintaining the lands of the Arabs in the hands of Arabs through buying the land put for sale for urgent conditions and through restoration of lands in need for so.

Second: Taking the necessary arrangements for the entry of Arab immigrants into Palestine on a monthly basis and in numbers equal to the Jewish immigrants, and not to rely on the possibility of persuading the Western democracies; particularly after the recent resolutions.

This is an urgent action. The Arab nation is wailing the urgent magnanimity of the Arab States and there is no time to waste, otherwise the Jews will be able to buy new lands and push new immigrants to Palestine.

This, in my point of view, is the effective step, and after that there is no harm in having the publicity offices and political expectations.

CC: Transjordan’s representative in Cairo.


The Third Hashemite Restoration, 1992-1994

By the late 1980s, the dome was again beginning to dull in brightness, and damage resulting from regional violence could be seen in both the interior and exterior. King Hussein again initiated actions towards preserving the holy sites. Under his instruction, Jordan’s Ministry of Awqaf commissioned the Irish construction firm Mivan for the unprecedented job of guilding the dome with 5000 glittering new gold plates, as well as rebuilding the roof supports, repairing the basic structure of the building and fireproofing the compound. Special attention was also paid to the restoration of the Salah Eddin’s minbar and to the selection of the materials, which most closely resembled those innitially used. The late King Hussein spent more than US$ 8 million of his personal wealth to finance the project, which was widely acclaimed as one of the most ambitious religious restoration jobs in history.