The grand mufti of Jerusalem, the Muslim cleric in charge of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, said Sunday that there has never been a Jewish temple atop the Temple Mount, and that the site has been home to a mosque “since the creation of the world.”
Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein said in an Arabic interview with Israel’s Channel 2 that the site, considered the third holiest in Islam and the holiest to Jews, was a mosque “3,000 years ago, and 30,000 years ago” and has been “since the creation of the world.”
“This is the Al-Aqsa Mosque that Adam, peace be upon him, or during his time, the angels built,” the mufti said of the 8th-century structure commissioned by Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan.
Hussein has held the post of mufti since 2006; he was appointed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He has previously endorsed suicide bombings against Israelis.
He vehemently denied that there has ever been a Jewish shrine atop the Temple Mount, despite rich archaeological and textual evidence to the contrary, including from Muslim sources. The 10th-century Muslim historian Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Shams al-Din al-Muqaddasi wrote in his description of Syria and Palestine that “in Jerusalem is the oratory of David and his gate; here are the wonders of Solomon and his cities,” and that the foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque “were laid by David.”
A guide to the Haram al-Sharif, as the Temple Mount is known in Arabic, published by the Muslim Waqf in 1924 also mentioned the presence of two Jewish temples atop the Jerusalem compound in antiquity.
At least four inscriptions from Herod’s Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, attest to the presence of a Jewish temple atop the 37-acre platform he had engineered over 2,000 years ago.
One of Hussein’s predecessors as chief custodian of the Jerusalem holy site, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, made headlines recently after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged in a speech that the Palestinian Muslim leader inspired Adolf Hitler’s Final Solution of exterminating the Jews. Netanyahu took flak from Holocaust scholars, politicians, and even the German government, who pointed out that the extermination of Europe’s Jews was already in full swing when Husseini met Hitler in 1941, and that there was no concrete evidence to support that charge.
The Jerusalem holy site has been the focus of recent violent clashes between Israeli security officers and Palestinian rioters, and ostensible plans by Israel to change its status, repeatedly denied by the government, have been a catalyst for a wave of Palestinian terror attacks on Israelis.
While Jewish visitors are allowed to enter the site, Jewish worship is banned under arrangements instituted by Israel when it captured the area from Jordan in the 1967 war.
Israel and Jordan agreed Saturday to placing CCTV cameras on the Temple Mount in a bid to calm tensions and monitor possible violations of the status quo, a move rejected by Palestinian leaders.