The outer layer of a mosque discovered in excavation in Tiberias has been dated to the seventh century CE, according to a presentation last week of archaeological findings from the site. The dating of the layer may deemit to be one of the first known mosques to have been built after the beginning of Islam.
Dr. Katia Cytryn-Silverman, who led the 11-year-long excavations at the site on the outskirts of Tiberias, is a senior lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and presented the findings last week during an academic conference with Hebrew University and the Ben-Zvi Institute. The conference was organized in commemoration of Tiberias’s 2,000th anniversary, according to Haaretz.
Cytryn-Silverman, who specializes in Islamic archaeology, said that the early Islamic period layer could make the structure one of the first known mosques.
The excavations estimate that what was unearthed underneath the structure — the outer layer of a mosque — might actually date back to 635 CE, and have been potentially constructed by a friend of the Prophet Muhammad — Shurahbil ibn Hasana — when the Levant was conquered by his forces in the seventh century, noted Arab News.
The professor said that they cannot be sure that ibn Hasana built the structure. "But," she added, "we do have historic sources that say he established a mosque in Tiberias when he conquered it in 635," Arab News reported.
Cytryn-Silverman explained that after the Arab conquest, Tiberias became a center of economic and political growth for the Arab world, Haaretz reported.
Arab News noted further that historians do know where a lot of the earliest mosques are, but cannot access them since contemporary mosques have been constructed over the original site.
For example, the newspaper noted, one of the oldest mosques in the world is in Fustat, Egypt, which was the country's first Muslim capital, established in the seventh century. The Mosque of Amr was the first to be built in Egypt.
Jewish presence in Fustat is dated to the late seventh century, as they joined the various other groups in the developing city. Maimonides moved there in 1166, where he gained the title Ra'is al-Umma or al-Millah (Head of the Nation or of the Faith) for writing his Guide for the Perplexed, and was an acclaimed physician.