The Temple Mount is to Judaism as Mecca is to Islam. “Omar knew that Muhammad had revered David and Solomon. “Take me to the sanctuary of David,” he ordered Sophronius (Jerusalem’s Christian Patriarch, a Greek intellectual who praised Jerusalem in his poetry as “Zion, radiant Zion of the Universe”…)
Omar and his warriors entered Temple Mount, probably through the Prophet’s Gate in the south, and found it contaminated by “a dingheap which the Christians had put there to offend the Jews.”
Omar asked to be shown the Holy of Holies. A Jewish convert, Kaab al Ahbar, known as the Rabbi, replied that if the Commander preserved “the wall” (perhaps referring to the last Herodian remains, including the Western Wall), “I will reveal to him where are the ruins of the Temple.” Kaab showed Omar the foundation stone of the Temple, the rock which the Arabs called the Sakhra.
Aided by his troops, Omar began to clear the debris to create somewhere to pray. Kaab sugested he place this north of the foundation stone “so you will face make two qiblas, that of Moses and that of Muhammad.” “You still lean towards the Jews,” Omar supposedly told Kaab, placing his first prayer house south of the rock, roughly where the al-Aqsa Mosque stands today, so that it clearly faced Mecca. Omar had followed Muhammad’s wish to reach past Christianity to restore and co-opt this place of ancient holiness, to make Muslims the legitimate heirs of Jewish sanctity and outflank the Christians.”