Musjid Al Aqsa

Al-Aqsa Mosque (Arabic:المسجد الاقصى, IPA /æl’mæsʒɪd æl’ɑqsˁɑ/, al-Masjid al-Aqsa (help·info) translit: “the Farthest Mosque”), also known as al-Aqsa, is an Islamic holy place in the Old City Jerusalem.

Al Aqsa “the farthest mosque”

Al-Aqsa Mosque (Arabic:المسجد الاقصى, IPA /æl’mæsʒɪd æl’ɑqsˁɑ/, al-Masjid al-Aqsa (help·info) translit: “the Farthest Mosque”), also known as al-Aqsa, is an Islamic holy place in the Old City Jerusalem.

The mosque itself forms part of the al-Haram ash-Sharif or “Sacred Noble Sanctuary” (along with the Dome of the Rock), a site also known as the Temple Mount and considered the holiest site in Judaism, since it is believed to be where the Temple in Jerusalem once stood.

Widely considered as the third holiest site in Islam, Muslims believe that the prophet Muhammad (SAW) was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to al-Aqsa during the Night Journey. Islamic tradition holds that Muhammad (SAW) led prayers towards this site until the seventeenth month after the emigration, when God ordered him to turn towards the Ka’aba.

The al-Aqsa Mosque was originally a small prayer house built by the Rashidun caliph Umar, but was rebuilt and expanded by the Ummayad caliph Abd al-Malik and finished by his son al-Walid in 705 CE. After an earthquake in 746, the mosque was completely destroyed and rebuilt by the Abbasid caliph al-Mansur in 754, and again rebuilt by his successor al-Mahdi in 780. Another earthquake destroyed most of al-Aqsa in 1033, but two years later the Fatimid caliph Ali az-Zahir built another mosque which has stood to the present-day.

During the periodic renovations undertaken, the various ruling dynasties of the Islamic Caliphate constructed additions to the mosque and its precincts, such as its dome, facade, its minbar, minarets and the interior structure. When the CrusadersSaladin. More renovations, repairs and additions were undertaken in the later centuries by the Ayyubids, Mamluks, the Supreme Muslim Council, and Jordan. Today, the Old City is under Israeli control, but the mosque remains under the administration of the Palestinian-led Islamic waqf . captured Jerusalem in 1099, they used the mosque as a palace and church, but its function as a mosque was restored after its recapture by Saladin. More renovations, repairs and additions were undertaken in the later centuries by the Ayyubids, Mamluks, the Supreme Muslim Council, and Jordan. Today, the Old City is under Israeli control, but the mosque remains under the administration of the Palestinian-led Islamic waqf .

Religious significance

Islam

In Islam, the term “al-Aqsa Mosque” is not restricted to the mosque only, but to the entire Temple Mount. The mosque is known to be the second house of prayer constructed after the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. Imam Muslim quotes Abu Dharr as saying:

“I asked the beloved Prophet Muhammad which was the first “mosque” [i.e. house of prayer] on Earth?”
“The Sacred House of Prayer (Masjid al-Haram), i.e. Kaaba),” he said.
“‘And then which’, I asked?”
“The Furthest House of Prayer (Masjid al Aqsa)”, he said.
“I further asked, ‘what was the time span between the two’?”
“Forty years,” prophet Muhammad replied.

During his night journey toward Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem), Muhammad rode on Buraq to Jerusalem and once there he prayed two raka’ah on the Temple Mount. After he finished his prayers, the angel Gabriel took him to Heaven, where he met several of the prophets and upon encouragement from Moses, negotiated with God via Gabriel that Muslims would be required to make five prayers daily.

The al-Aqsa Mosque is known as the “farthest mosque” in suraal-Isra in the Qur’an. It is traditionally interpreted by Muslims as referring to the site at the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem on which the mosque of that name now stands. According to this tradition, the term used for mosque, (Arabic: masjid), literally means “place of prostration”, and includes monotheistic places of worship such as Solomon’s Temple, which in the Qur’an is described as a masjid. Western historians Heribert Busse and Neal Robinson believe this is the intended interpretation.

First qibla

The historical significance of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Islam is further emphasized by the fact that Muslims turned towards al-Aqsa when they prayed for a period of sixteen or seventeen months after migration to Medina in 624, thus it became the qibla (“direction”) that Muslims faced for prayer. According to Allame Tabatabayee, God prepared for change of qibla, first by revealing the story of Abraham and his son, Ishmael, their prayers for the Ka’bah and Mecca, their construction of the House (Ka’aba) and the order then received to cleanse it for the worship of Allah. Then Quranic verses were revealed which ordered Muslims to turn towards Masjid al-Haram in their prayers.[Qur’an 2:142–151]

The altering of the qibla was precisely the reason the Rashidun caliph Umar, despite identifying the Rock — which Muhammad used to ascend to Heaven — upon his arrival at the Temple Mount in 638, neither prayed facing it nor built any structure upon it. This was because the significance of that particular spot on the Temple Mount was superseded in Islamic jurisprudence by the Ka’aba in Mecca after the change of the qibla towards that site.

According to early Qur’anic interpreters and what is generally accepted as Islamic tradition, in 638 CE Umar, upon entering a conquered Jerusalem, consulted with Ka’ab al-Ahbar — a Jewish convert to Islam who came with him from Medina — as to where the best spot would be to build a mosque. Al-Ahbar suggested to him that it should be behind the Rock “… so that all of Jerusalem would be before you”. Umar replied, “You correspond to Judaism!” Nonetheless, immediately after this conversation, Umar began to clean up the site — which was filled with trash and debris — with his cloak, and other Muslim followers imitated him until the site was clean. Umar then prayed at the spot where it was believed that Muhammad had prayed before his night journey, reciting the Qur’anic suraSad. Thus, according to this tradition, Umar thereby reconsecrated the site as a mosque.

Because of the holiness of Temple Mount itself — being a place where Abraham, Solomon, and David had prayed — Umar constructed a small prayer house in the southern corner of its platform, taking care to avoid allowing the Rock to come between the mosque and the direction of Ka’aba so that Muslims would face only Mecca when they prayed.

Holiest sites in Islam

Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem are recognized as the three most important sites in Islam according to interpretations of scriptures in the Qur’an and hadith. References to Jerusalem and events in it have been made more than seventy times in the Qur’an, in various states of ambiguity, and many times in the hadith.

Medieval scriptural references, as well as modern-day political tracts, tend to treat al-Aqsa Mosque as the third holiest site in Islam.For example, Sahih Bukhari quotes Abu al-Dardaa as saying: “the Prophet of Allah Muhammad said a prayer in the Sacred Mosque (in Mecca) is worth 100,000 prayers; a prayer in my mosque (in Medina) is worth 10,000 prayers; and a prayer in al-Masjid al-Aqsa is worth 1,000 prayers,” more than in an any other mosque. In addition, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, whose raison d’êtreis to “liberate al Aqsa from the Zionist [Israeli] occupation”, refers to the al-Aqsa Mosque (in a resolution condemning Israeli actions in the city) as the third holiest site in Islam.

According to the scholar Maimunah bint Sa’d on traveling to the al-Aqsa Mosque, he said, “the messenger of Allah [Muhammad] said, ‘He should make a gift of oil to be burnt therein, for he who gives a gift to the al-Aqsa Mosque will be like one who has prayed salaah(five daily ritual prayers in Islam) therein.’

Some Western scholars, such as Martin Gilbert, claim that the use of the term “third holiest” is driven by political motives and that the al-Aqsa mosque is not the third holiest site in Islam. According to Gilbert, Jerusalem is not one of Islam’s holiest cities, and points to the politicized nature of construction on the Haram from the time of the building of the Dome of the Rock until present. He argues that this site is arguably the most contested religious site in the world and that the emphasis on al-Aqsa today is due to its construction on the Temple Mount precinct, considered the holiest site in Judaism. Others, such as Ghada Hashem Talhami and Jonathan Silverman, point out that the term “third holiest city” would be better translated as “third holy city,” denoting the order of designation of the holy cities of Islam rather than order of importance. They point to the literary genre al-Fadhail (history of cities), where the perceptions of the value of Jerusalem varied, with some scholars insisting on the superiority of Jerusalem to Mecca or Medina.

Judaism

Temple Mount

The Al-Aqsa mosque takes up part of the Temple Mount. Solomon built the first permanent Jewish temple where the mosque is located. According to Jewish tradition, this temple housed the Ark of the Covenant, and the Ten Commandments, both considered holy by the Jews. The temple also became the only legal place to have sacrifices. It is also on the location where Herod built the Second Temple.

Various traditions exist about the location in Judaism. In rabbinical tradition it is the place where Adam was born, and built an altar to God. It is believed to be where Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to God, where Noah built an altar after the flood, and where Abraham intended sacrificing Isaac.

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