The Centrality of Al-Aqsa Mosque
The sanctified city of Jerusalem is held dear to Muslims across the world
Masjid Al-Aqsa is an area of land in Jerusalem that includes the Golden Dome Masjid called the Dome of the Rock and the grey domed Masjid called Musallah Al-Aqsa.
The Holy City of Jerusalem has several names, one of which is al-Quds, meaning “the purest place”. This is the most popular name used today by Arabs.
The city extends to an area of 45 square km and within this is the ‘Old City’ where a number of major historical events took place. Within the Old City is the al-Aqsa Sanctuary – an area of around 35 acres.
At the southern end is the dark-domed al-Aqsa mosque, and in the centre is the golden-domed mosque known as the Dome of the Rock. There are also a number of other monuments and buildings contained within the same area.
The entire area, containing these buildings is known collectively as the al-Aqsa Sanctuary.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not solely the al Aqsa mosque building, nor the Dome of the Rock alone that are sanctified to Muslims, but in fact it is the entire land of the al-Aqsa Sanctuary.
The buildings which exist today have not always been there and in prophetic times, the area would have looked very different. The buildings within the Sanctuary are significant historically to Muslims, and that is why the entire area and all that it contains are revered.
Excavations by Israeli archeologists have been taking place for some time now beneath the al-Aqsa Sanctuary and this has lead to reports of cracks in some walls, weakening of the foundations and a part of the ground caving in. Despite protests against this, Israel continues to dismiss and ignore calls to respect these holy and sanctified buildings.
The Night Journey (Al-Isra’ wa al-Mi’raj)
Within Islamic history, the sanctity of al-Aqsa Sanctuary centres on a particular incident which occurred during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), when he was taken to al-Quds on the miraculous Night Journey. Here, he led all the prophets of God in prayer. This was followed by his ascension through the heavens. This miraculous journey is an important incident in the Islamic tradition.
The Holy Qur’an relates:
“Glory to Allah who did take His servant for a journey bynight from the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah) to the Al-Aqsa(in Jerusalem) whose precincts we did bless.”
The fact that the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) was taken to al-Quds, impresses upon the Muslims the importance of this noble city and God mentions in the Qur’an that this is a blessed land.
The Sacred City
Not only is the sanctity of al-Quds emphasised in numerous places in the Holy Qur’an, but numerous prophets have visited and even lived in the city, giving Jerusalem a high standing in the hearts of Muslims around the world.
Prophet Yaqub (Jacob) raised his twelve sons in this city and from here Yusuf (Joseph) was taken and sold as a slave in Egypt. Some centuries later, Musa (Moses) was directed by God to migrate from Egypt back to al-Quds and even prayed to God that he be near al-Aqsa at the time of his death. Both Dawud and Sulayman (David and Soloman) lived and ruled over Jerusalem after the city was conquered by Dawud.
Later, Zakariyyah (Zacharias) was the imam of al-Aqsa mosque where he prayed earnestly to God. Maryam (Mary) mother of Isa (Jesus) spent a great deal of time in the mosque meditating and praying to God and it was here that the angel Gabriel brought her the good news of the impending birth of Isa.
Prophets and companions of prophets, spanning many ages, have been buried there. These include Ibrahim (Abraham), Yaqub, Ishaq (Isaac) and up to a hundred others. May God’s peace and blessing be upon them all.
Al-Quds has been home to numerous prophets, messengers and righteous people. It is a city of honour and faith and as such is held in high esteem by Muslims world-wide.
Israel consistently attempts to lay claim to Jerusalem as its own and calls it the ‘Jewish capital’ of Israel. In fact the international community does not recognise it to be the capital and to do so would be to entirely disregard the historic rights of the Palestinian people. Since Jerusalem is of such central importance to Muslims, Christians and Jews, the city must be accessible to people of all faiths who must be allowed toworship freely therein. Israel’s discriminatory policies and lack of respect towards worshippers in al-Aqsa already shows the state’s inability to act equitably between different communities.
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Al-Aqsa Sanctuary in Jerusalem is revered by Muslims for numerous reasons. It was the first Qibla (direction Muslims faced in prayer) and remained so until around 18 months after the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) migrated from Makkah to Medina. It was also the second house of worship built on earth, 40 years after the sacred Ka’ba. Furthermore, it is the third holiest site in Islam, preceded only by the two holy mosques in Makkah and Medina.
Muslims respect all of the Prophets revered by Judaism and Christianity, and therefore their venerated places are also central to Islam and protected by it. Historically, it has only ever been under Muslim rule that the Holy City of Jerusalem was made free for followers of all faiths to enter and worship within.
The sanctified city of Jerusalem is held dear to Muslims across the world and it is only through a greater awareness of the virtues and significance of the al-Aqsa Sanctuary, that we can truly understand why the struggle for Palestine is so great to Muslims world-wide.