Did Abd al-Malik Build the Dome of the Rock to Shift the Hajj from Makkah to Jerusalem?

Hesham Azmy1

The Jewish Orientalist Ignaz Goldziher claimed that the Umayyad Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan had built the Dome of the Rock to prevent the people of Syria and Iraq from the Hajj (pilgrimage) to Makkah and in order to religiously justify this act, his friend Al-Zuhri fabricated the hadith of “Do not set out on a journey…” Goldziher’s charge was that:

When the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik wished the stop the pilgrimages to Makkah because he was worried lest his rival Abdullah b. Zubayr should force the Syrians journeying to the holy places in Hij?to pay him homage, he had to recourse to the expedient of the doctrine of the vicarious hajj to the Qubbat al-Sakhra in Jerusalem. He decreed that the obligatory circumambulation (tawaf) could take place at the sacred place in Jerusalem with the same validity as that around the Kacba ordained in Islamic Law. The pious theologian al-Zuhri has given the task of justifying this politically motivated reform of religious life by making up and spreading a saying traced back to the Prophet, according to which there are three mosques to which people may make pilgrimages: those in Makkah, Medina and Jerusalem.2

It does not need to be mentioned that this is indeed one of the wonders of lying, distortion and manipulation of historical facts. Naturally, the Christian missionaries get very excited when they see polemical material like Goldziher’s, and hence dutifully parrot it without checking for clarification. Hence, it is left to the Muslims to fill in the void of scholastic integrity left by the missionaries. We would like to examine the weaknesses of the hypothesis that the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik, by erecting the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, intended to divert the Hajj from Makkah to Jerusalem.

The Weakness of the Hypothesis

The following are the list of our observations regarding the weakness of this hypothesis that the Caliph Abd al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock to divert the Hajj from Makkah to Jerusalem:

First: Trustworthy historians did not disagree concerning the fact that the one who built the Dome of the Rock was al-Walid ibn cAbd al-M?k and this was stated by Ibn ?Asaker, At-Tabari, Ibn-ul-Athir, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Kathir and others. They never mentioned a single report relating its building to cAbd al-M?k. Undoubtedly, its building ? as Goldziher claimed – to be the new Ka`abah would be one of the greatest and most significant events in the history of Islam and Muslims, and it is impossible for such event to pass without documentation, especially since those historians used to document far less significant events like the dates of scholars’ demise, names of official judges, etc. If cAbd al-M?k built it, they would mention it, but they mentioned its building in the biography of Al-Walid, and they were trustworthy historians and well-versed in documenting history. Yes, it was indeed mentioned in the book of “Al-Hayawan” by Al-Dumairy on authority of Ibn Khalakan that Abd al-M?k built the Dome, the text reads as

Abdul-Malik built it and people used to stand at it on the Day of `Arafat

but this is a weak report and contradicts what is agreed upon by masters of history. Moreover, the text does not imply that he built it to divert pilgrimage from Makkah; but people used to stand at it by themselves. This was a common practice in many Islamic cities which scholars repetitively discouraged. There is a big difference between pilgrimage to it and standing in it by simulating the standing of pilgrims at `Arafat, so that those who could not perform pilgrimage may share the pilgrims in heavenly rewards. This practice was not confined to the Dome of the Rock; people of every Islamic city used to gather in the middle of the city and stand as the pilgrims do at `Arafat. Furthermore, it is doubtful that the ambulatories of the Dome of the Rock would have allowed the complex rituals of tawaf and it would be far more simpler to merely to reproduce the Ka`abah instead of designing the elaborate Dome.3

Second: The exact text of the hadith does not include the word “pilgrimage” (Ar. al-Hajj) at all. It actually reads as:

Do not set out on a journey except to three Mosques: Al-Masjid Al-Haram, the Mosque of God?s Apostle and the Mosque of Al-Aqsa (Jerusalem).

It does not invite people to perform “the pilgrimage” to Jerusalem, but Goldziher transmitted the hadith as “three Mosques to which people may make pilgrimage”. This is indeed scientific “honesty” and research exhibited by the Orientalist!

Even if we supposed that Al-Zuhri fabricated this hadith to please Abd al-M?k, then why did he not explicitly invite people to perform the pilgrimage in Jerusalem? This hadith does none but indicate the virtues of Jerusalem, praying and visiting it not limited with a certain time which is already stated by the Qur’an.4 So, how the purpose of Abd al-M?k (of diverting pilgrimage from Makkah to Jerusalem) could be achieved by the aid of this hadith?

Third: The incident as claimed by Goldziher is totally irrational, because establishing a building to make people perform pilgrimage to is an overt act of disbelief and a political suicide for the Caliph. So, how could ‘Abd al-Malik, who used to be called the “Pigeon of the Mosque” for his excessive praying, make such an act?

In addition, his enemies accused him of many awful things, but they neither accused him of disbelief nor slandered him for building the Dome. If this matter were established, they would put it first in the list of accusations.

Fourth: Al-Zuhri was born in either 51 or 58 A.H., while Abdullah Ibn al-Zubayr was killed in 73 A.H. So, Al-Zuhri then would be 22 or 15 years old. Is it possible for him at that age to be so reputable among Muslim nation that they accept from him a fabricated hadith inviting them to pilgrimage in Jerusalem instead of Makkah?

Fifth: Historical reports are clear concerning the fact that Al-Zuhri neither knew nor met ‘Abd al-Malik during Ibn al-Zubayr’s lifetime. Al-Zahabi mentioned that Al-Zuhri visited cAbd al-M?k for the first time in about 80 A.H.5 and he was so young that ‘Abd al-Malik tested him and advised him to seek knowledge in Madinah. So how could anyone claim that Al-Zuhri fulfilled the desire of his friend ‘Abd al-Malik and fabricated a hadith to divert the pilgrimage from Makkah to Jerusalem during the era of Ibn al-Zubayr?

Sixth: The hadith of ?Do not set out on a journey…??? was narrated by all references of Sunnah, and it is reported through isnad (chains of transmitters) other than Al-Zuhri?s. Imam al-Bukhari reported it on authority of Abu Sa’eed Al-Khidri without Al-Zuhri?s chain. Imam Muslim reported it from three different chains of transmitters, only one of them was through Al-Zuhri. So, Al-Zuhri was not the only one who transmitted this hadith as Goldziher claimed, but there were others who transmitted the hadith as well, as shown above.

When Sheikh-ul-Islam Ibn Taimiyyah was asked about the ruling of visiting and praying in Jerusalem, he answered that

It is established in both Sahihs that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘Do not set out on a journey except to three Mosques: Al-Masjid Al-Haram, the Mosque of God?s Apostle and the Mosque of Al-Aqsa (Jerusalem)’. It is stated in both Sahihs on authority of Abu Sa?eed, Abu Hurairah and others. It is an acceptable hadith whom scholars agreed upon its authenticity, acceptance and belief.

Seventh: Al-Zuhri narrated this hadith on authority of his Sheikh Sa?eed Ibn-ul-Musaiyyb, and it is well-known that Ibn-ul-Musaiyyb would never stay silent if Al-Zuhri fabricated this hadith on his authority to please the Umayyads who hurt and persecuted him. Sa?eed Ibn-ul-Musayyib died in 93 A.H., i.e., 20 years after death of Ibn al-Zubayr, so how would he keep silent all this period especially we knew he never feared power or pressure?

Conclusion: The weak assumption of Goldziher collapses before sound historical facts; that the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-M?k did not build Dome of the Rock, the pilgrimage was never shifted to Jerusalem, the hadith related by Al-Zuhri (and others) is authentic and there was no chance for Al-Zuhri to meet Abdul-Malik during Ibn al-Zubayr’s lifetime, let alone fabricating hadith for him.

Position of Al-Zuhri as a Scholar

Ibn Sa’ad, the author of Al-Tabaqat, said, “Al-Zuhri is trustworthy, well-versed in science, Hadith and narration and a collective theologian.”

Imam Ahmad said, “Al-Zuhri is the best man in Hadith and of the best chain of reporters.”

Ibn Abi Hatim said, “Abu Zar?ah was asked, ‘Which chains of reporters are most authentic?’ he answered, ‘Four! The first is that of Al-Zuhri on authority of Salem on authority of his father'”.

Ibn Habban said in his book Ath-Theqat (i.e., The Trustworthy), “Muhammad Ibn Muslim Ibn Shehab Al-Zuhri Al-Qurashi: his nickname is Abu Bakr, he witnessed ten of the Companions and was the best memorizer (of Hadith) in his time and the best narrator of traditions. He was a pious theologian. People used to report on his authority.”

Saleh Ibn Ahmad said, “My father told me,’Al-Zuhri is Madani (i.e., from Madinah), Tab?i (i.e., a disciple of Prophet?s Companions) and trustworthy.”

Az-Zahabi in Tathkerat-ul-Huffaz (i.e., The Reminder of Memorizers) said, “He is the master of memorizers (of Hadith), the Imam, the Rock.”

Ibn Hajar in Tahzib-ul-Tahzib (i.e., Refining of the Refined) said, “He is Abu Bakr, the jurist, the memorizer (of Hadith), the Madani (i.e., from Madinah), one of Imams and masters and the scholar of Hijaz and Sham.”

Ibn Hajar also said in “At-Taqrib” (i.e., The Approximation), “He is the theologian and the memorizer (of Hadith). It is agreed upon his magnificence and excellence.”

Reporters of hadith scholars and critics agreed upon his authenticity and honesty. Many people narrated on his authority e.g., Malek, Abu Hanifah, `Ataa Ibn Abi Rabah, `Umar Ibn Abdul-`Aziz, Ibn `Aiyynah, Al-Laith Ibn Sa’ad, Al-Awza?i, Ibn Guraig, etc. Both Sahihs of Al-Bukhari and Muslim, the four Sunans, Muwatta of Malik, Musnads of Ash-Shaf?i and Ahmad and others included hadiths on his authority.

This is the position of Al-Zuhri as a scholar and this is the attitude of Muslim scholars toward him; none accused him of something that did not happen or doubted his honesty and truthfulness. But the Jewish Orientalist Goldziher was ready to accuse him of fabricating hadith and telling lies just to please the Umayyad Caliph!

The Relationship between Al-Zuhri and The Umayyads

Goldziher has claimed that the relationship between Al-Zuhri and the Umayyad Caliphs gave them the change to use him in fabricating hadiths that serve their desires. We do not see how this relationship could be a sign of using him. We used to see scientists and scholars close to Kings and Caliphs without this affecting their honesty and truthfulness especially a magnificent theologian like Al-Zuhri, there is none that might affect his honesty and piety. On the contrary, we find this relationship was a means to guide the Caliphs whenever they went wrong. For example, it is mentioned in “Al-‘Uqd-ul-Farid”:

Al-Zuhri once visited Al-Walid Ibn Abdul-Malik, so the latter said, “What about this hadith whom people of Syria narrate?”. “Which hadith, O’ Commander of Believers?” Al-Zuhri said. “They narrate that if God gives a servant kingship over his people, He documents for him the good deeds and not the bad deeds!” Al-Walid said “False, O Commander of Believers! A Prophet Caliph or a Caliph not Prophet is more honourable in the sight of God?” Al-Zuhri said “A Prophet Caliph”. Al-Walid said “Well, God (glory be to Him) said to His Prophet David, ‘O David! We did indeed make thee a Caliph on earth: so judge thou between men in truth (and justice): nor follow thou the lusts (of thy heart), for they will mislead thee from the Path of God: for those who wander astray from the Path of God, is a Penalty Grievous, for that they forget the Day of Account.’ (Holy Qur’an 38:26). This is a threat ? O Commander of Believers – to a Prophet Caliph, what about a Caliph not Prophet?” Al-Zuhri said. “People do misguide us away from Faith.” Al-Walid said.6

Look how the relationship between a man like Al-Zuhri and a Caliph like Al-Walid is beneficial to the nation! Is this the position of a man who submits to desires of rulers and Caliphs? On the contrary, he defends the Faith, protects the Sunnah from falsehood of forgers and prevents the Caliph from being misguided by false narratives.

Then look what Ibn `Asaker narrated in his book Tarikh Demashq (i.e., The History of Damascus) on authority of Imam Ash-Shafi’i:

The Caliph Hesham Ibn Abdul-Malik asked Ibn Shehab Al-Zuhri about the exegesis of “…and to him who took on himself the lead among them, will be a Penalty grievous.” (Holy Qur’an 24:11). “Who took on himself the lead among them?” Hesham asked. “He is Abdullah Ibn Saloul.” Al-Zuhri answered. “Liar! Nay, he is Ali Ibn Abi Taleb.” Hesham said, “I’m a liar? No father is yours! I swear by God if a caller from the sky told me that God made lying lawful, I would never lie. Such-and-such persons reported that the one who took on himself the lead among them is Abdullah Ibn Saloul.” Al-Zuhri said while filled with fury.

This is what Ash-Shafi’i documented more than eight centuries ago before Goldziher came to existence and accused Al-Zuhri of forgery due to his relationship with Caliphs. Is not this story enough proof that his relationship with Caliphs was far from affecting his honesty and piety? A man saying to the Caliph “No father is yours!”, which is a very derogatory expression, is certainly not from a man that may fear the power of the Caliphs or submit to their whims and desires to utter falsehood against the Holy Prophet (P).

If Al-Zuhri were really a forger of Hadith, then why did not his contemporaries denounce or criticize him? Why did not Sheikh Sa’eed Ibn-ul-Musayyib — who had never feared the power of the Umayyads — denounce him? On the contrary, all his contemporaries authenticated him. Was that out of fear? If so, then why did not scholars during the era of ‘Abbasids criticize him especially since it was known that he was close to the Umayyads?

Aren’t the silence of his teachers, especially Sa?eed Ibn-ul-Musayyib, towards him, reporting on his authority by all scholars of the time, then his authentication by scholars of the Abbasid era — despite his relationship with the Umayyads — evident proofs that his reputation is above suspicion?

And only God knows best. bismika-tombstone Did Abd al-Malik Build the Dome of the Rock to Shift the Hajj from Makkah to Jerusalem?


  1. Adapted from Prof. Mustafa As-Seba’i, As-Sunnah wa Makanatuha fe At-Tashri’ Al-Islami (The Sunnah and its Position in Islamic Jurisprudence), Dar Al-Salam Printing Publication & Distribution, Cairo. Translated excerpts of this work may be viewed here [*] [*] []
  2. Ignaz Goldziher, Muslim Studies Vol. 2, pp. 44-45 []
  3. This argument regarding tawaf was put forward in Karen Armstrong, Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths (Ballantine Books, 1997), pp. 240-241 []
  4. Refer to Qur’an, 17:1 []
  5. Ibn ‘Asaker reported that it was in 82 A.H. []
  6. Ibn Abd-Rabbuh, Al-‘Uqd-ul-Farid Vol. 1, p. 60 []

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *