MembersWho Owns the Temple Mount?

Events over the past few weeks surrounding the Temple Mount in Jerusalem have brought into focus the Muslim Waqf and its claim to ownership over the holy site.

By David Lazarus |
Photo: Nati Shohat/Flash90

What is the Waqf, and what is the source of its demand to retain exclusive guardianship over the Temple Mount?

Waqf in Arabic refers to a piece of real estate held in trust and dedicated to religious or charitable purposes. According to Sharia Law, once a property is designated as Waqf, there can be no possibility of transfer of ownership, not through inheritance, sale or otherwise. Waqf properties are exempt from taxes, past or present, and any accumulated debts are cancelled. Over the centuries, Christians and Jews living in some Islamic lands were allowed to designate churches and synagogues as Waqf in order to avoid paying taxes.

The Temple Mount was first defined as Waqf immediately after the Mamalukes took control of the city. Over time, Waqf authorities designated numerous properties around Jerusalem. In the 13th century, under the rule of Sultan Baibars of the Mamluk dynasty, Waqf authorities were given military forces to protect the holy sites. In this way, they succeeded in neutralizing any secular government intervention in Temple Mount affairs.

This was the status of the Temple...

Israel Today Membership

Become a Member

  • Read all member content

    Get exclusive in-depth reports from Israel.

  • Get exclusive in-depth reports from Israel

    Connect with Israel, right from your home.

  • Lift up the voice of truth and hope

    Support Jerusalem-based Zionist journalism.

Already a member? .