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The Islamic Museum

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 25.02.2006:

This Week in Palestine

October 2005

The Islamic museum was founded in 1922 by the Higher Islamic Council in Palestine. When Jordanian rule prevailed over the West Bank in the late 1940s, responsibility for the museum passed to the Jordanian government, which still administers it to this day. In 1929 the museum moved to its present location on the southwestern side of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Exhibitions are held in two adjacent halls, covering a total area of 1,000 m².

The objects on exhibit in the museum represent a bird’s eye view of Islamic culture and civilisation throughout the years. Most of the objects and artefacts were remnants of restoration works on buildings in the Al-Haram Al-Shareef complex. A lot of the manuscripts and inscriptions were taken from the troves of Jerusalem’s historic schools. Others came from various Palestinian towns and villages. The museum has a collection of wooden objects dating to the Umayyad period, including the remains of the dais of Noor Eddin, which was burnt in 1969, and others dating to the Ottoman period. There is also a large collection of metal objects, mostly in copper, the oldest of which is a metal railing dating to the 12th century AD, and candelabrums in copper ranging in date from the 12th – 19th centuries. The museum owns an impressive collection of coins, some dating to the pre-Islamic period, and covering most Islamic periods. Not to mention the varied items such as cooking utensils, plates, incense jars, inkwells, and seals of various sizes and shapes.

Old tiles that were used by the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent on the Dome of the Rock are also on display, as is a collection of ceramic jars of varying sizes that were used for the storage and transportation of liquids such as water and oil. The large stone inscriptions, some of which were found in Palestinian towns, represent an important record of an incident or historic event. There are also tombstones, the oldest of which was brought from the village of Halhoul, near Hebron, and bears the date 674/55. Inside the museum and outside it can be found several capitals of columns that range in date from the 2nd to the 12th centuries AD.

The museum, naturally, boasts a precious collection of holy books, Qur’an, that date to several periods. The oldest and most valuable is the Maghrebi collection that was written in Morocco in the 14th century and presented to the Al-Aqsa Mosque as a gift. Other manuscripts, all written in Arabic save 28 that are in Persian, constitute an important source of historic data on Jerusalem and Palestine during the Mamluk period. The documents contain information on ceremonies, property, land deeds, marriages, wills, etc.

The museum is presently closed for renovation works.

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