The middle east is enriched with great architectures. Diving deep in any of the historical buildings will unfold a new tale. Each of these buildings shows the extreme love of the past people for great edifices. It shows how significant those civilizations were. Even to this day, these buildings stand alone in the field of artistry and grace. One big stop to this are the remarkable structures in Syria- the heart of western Asia.
While exploring Syria, one would definitely do injustice if he skips the most noticeable masterpiece of Damascus that is none other than its mosque called The Great Mosque of Damascus. It is nonetheless a living monument of Umayyad Dynasty. So let’s start our journey with the Author.
History of Umayyad Mosque, Syria:
The Great Mosque of Damascus is also called The Umayyad Mosque. It is one of the oldest mosques in Islam. Some Muslims consider it the fourth holiest site. Besides Muslims, it is considered holy by the Christians alike. There are various reasons it is sacred for both the religions. And both consider it divine and have a strict association with it.
Construction of the building:
As Syria is a home to many great civilizations therefore back in the days when Syria was under Aramaean rule who followed the god of rain and thunderstorm Hadad-Ramman as per their faith, constructed a temple for him. This is the location where present day Umayyad Mosque is built. After the conquest of Syria by the Romans, they comprehend the god of rain Hadad-Ramman as their own god of rain Jupiter. And thus expanded the temple. Later in the 4th century, the temple was converted into the Christian cathedral.
Umayyad Mosque’s importance for Christians:
As the temple was converted into the cathedral. It was under the control of bishop of Damascus. It is to be believed that the head of Saint John the prophet who is a holy figure for both Christians and Muslims is buried here. Saint John’s holy shrine is still in the Mosque of Damascus and people believe that some prophetic and miraculous events are associated with it. It was a major site for pilgrims in Byzantine empire and people would often travel long distances in order to pay visits to the enshrined head of John the Baptist.
Umayyad Mosque’s importance for Muslims:
The Arab Muslims conquer Damascus under the leadership of Khalid Bin Waleed. By then the caliphate was under the control of Umayyad Dynasty. The six caliph of that period ordered the construction of a mosque at the place of the cathedral. Before that, it was visited regularly by the local Christians along with other Muslims who had a prayer room in another part of the building. After the order of caliph, a major part of the building was demolished along with the prayer room. The main purpose of constructing a new building was to provide the large area for congregational prayers for Muslims and as a compensation, all other churches of the city were given back to the Christian community. The mosque had to be rebuilt several times because of the negligence that has occurred in protecting it.
Few Facts associated with The Great Mosque of Damascus:
- The minarets of the mosques dated back to al-Walid, who constructed it for the first time, with little reconstruction. One of the minarets is called the Minaret of Jesus because it is to be believed by the Muslims that before the final hour Jesus Christ would come back and this is the place where Christ will appear.
- Towards the eastern side of the main hall is the place which is finely tiled chamber or shrine. It is to be believed that this place holds the head of either Zechariah the father of prophet John or Hussein Bin Ali- the grandson of Muhammad.
- Saladin is considered as one of the most prominent conquerors in Islamic history and his tomb is placed in the garden that adjoins the north wall of the mosque. This is one more reason why Umayyad Mosque holds significance in Islam.
- The shrine of John who is considered a prophet in Islam is still in the mosque and it is a means of utmost respect and divinity for Muslims.
- The great Mosque of Damascus is the place where the prisoners of Karbala incident were kept. The household of Prophet Mohammad walked all the way from Iraq to this place and was imprisoned here for sixty days. There are numerous other tiny sites inside the hall that tells stories.
It is, therefore, sacred for both shia and Sunni sects of Islam. Just like it is sacred for Christians. Every year many people visit this Holy and historical site that is a mark of many ages in itself.