This is the holiest place for Christians in Jerusalem, because it is there that they believe that Isa [Jesus] (peace be upon him) was crucified. This concept is rejected by Muslims who believe that Isa (peace be upon him) is not dead, but was raised up by Allah to heaven and will return towards the end of time.
Allah tells us in the Quran in Surah Nisa: “They said (with boasting):“ We killed Isa, the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah; But they did not kill him or crucify him. Only a likeness of this was shown to them. And those who are different in this are full of doubts, without knowledge, but only with the assumption that they will follow him, because they killed him. No, Allah has lifted him to Himself, and Allah is Exalted in power, Wise. ” [4: 157-158]
Muslims peacefully took control of the city of Jerusalem from the Byzantines in February 638 CE. Caliph Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) accepted the surrender of the city from Sophronius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. He was shown around the church, during which time for the salah occurred. The patriarch offered him a place for prayer in the church and laid out a straw mat, but Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) refused, explaining to the Patriarch: “If I prayed in the church, the Muslims who come after me would take possession of it, saying that I had prayed in the church. ” Tradition says that he took a stone, threw it on the street and prayed in the place where it landed. The current Umar mosque was built on this site by the son of Salahuddin Ayyub Afdhal Ali in 1193.
The earliest known Christian church on this site dates back to 66 CE., But the area was leveled by the Roman emperor Hadrian, who then raised the temple to Aphrodite here in 135 AD, after the Second Jewish Uprising. After converting to Christianity, the emperor Constantine sent his mother Helena to the Holy Land in 326 CE., To establish the true places of Christian shrines.
Since it was common practice to build temples in places that were dedicated to other religions, especially subversive, Hadrian’s construction of the temple of Aphrodite here led Helena to define the place as the site of the supposed crucifixion and burial.
The church was built on Golgotha, Cavalry Hill, where it was supposed to be crucified. At the time of Isa (peace be upon him) this place was located outside the walls of Jerusalem.
Over the centuries, the church was destroyed several times, and its current appearance is attributed to the emperor Monomak and the crusaders of the twelfth century.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has long been the subject of interfaith disputes. The six Christian denominations are Latins (Roman Catholics), Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox (Jacobites), Ethiopians and Copts own different parts of the church, and there are regular and sometimes violent clashes as everyone struggles to preserve their territory. Repairs are particularly problematic; restoration work after the earthquake of 1927 were not completed until 1988, after thirty years of disputes and another thirty years of construction. 11 people were hospitalized in 2002, when a fire broke out after a Coptic monk, who is on the roof of the church, to symbolize Coptic claims for a place, moved his chair from the agreed place to the shade, which was regarded as a hostile act. Two years later, another quarrel occurred when the door of the Franciscan chapel was left open, which was regarded as a manifestation of disrespect by Orthodox believers.
None of the denominations have a main entrance. In 1192, Salahuddin Ayubi assigned it on two neighboring Muslim families. Joudeh was entrusted with the key, and Nusseibeh, who had been the guardians of the church since the times of Caliph Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), retained the position of opening the door. This arrangement has been preserved in our time, since no Christian sect will trust the other with the key. Every morning and evening, two armed Israeli soldiers escort a member of the Joudeh family, who brings the key to the door to a Nuseibeh family member who opens or locks the door.
The video below shows that the church is locked.
Sources: Wikipedia, Palestine: Beginner’s guide – Ismail Adam Patel, The Rough Guide to Jerusalem, Sacred Places – Philip Carr-Gomm, HUMA Travel guide to Palestine.