The History of Al-Aqsa Mosque from Earliest Times to the Present day

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Introduction

For  more  than  thirteen  hundred years  Al-Aqsa  has  been venerated throughout the Muslim  world as  the  third  holiest  site  of  Islam.  It  was  to this  that the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam),  made his  Night Journey  from  the Masjid al – Haram in Makkah. It was  from  this  site  that he (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) ascended on the Miraj,  his  journey  through the heavens  to his  Lord.

Glory  be to him Who carried His  Servant (Muhammad – sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  by  night, From the Holy  Mosque to the Furthest Mosque, The precincts  of which We  have blessed,That We  might show him some of Our  signs. He is  the All – Hearing, the All  Seeing. (Quran,  Surah Al-Isra,  17:1)

For  thirteen hundred years  Al- Aqsa  has  dominated the skyline and the life of  the Holy  City.  For more  than thirteen centuries  it was  a centre  of  pilgrimage for  Muslims  from  all over  the world.  For the past twenty  years,  its  very  existence has  been threatened. It  is  purpose  of  this  article to outline the history  of  events  that has  led  to  this  situation and the Muslim perspective on, and beyond it.

The History  of  Palestine

Palestine;  The  land  of  the  Prophets. Rich in history – the history  of  generations  of  believers  who lived and worshipped, and fought and died there, praising their  Lord and defending their  faith.

Nearly  4,000 years  ago the Prophet Ibraheem (alayhissalaam) [Abraham], stopped in the land of Cannan. He was  a true believer,  one pure of  faith. He surrendered his will to God alone, with no associates.  

From  his  sons Isma’eel (alayhissalaam) [Ishmael] and Is’haaq (alayhissalaam) [Isaac]  came  two  great  nations  of  believers.  The  descendants  of Ibraheem (alayhissalaam)  [Abraham]  – two rivers  from  a single sea. But the nearest to Ibraheem (alayhissalaam) [Abraham]  were  those who most  closely followed his  way.

Six  centuries  later  the Prophet Musa (alayhissalaam) [Moses],  revived his  teachings  and led his people, descendants  of  Is’haaq (alayhissalaam) [Isaac], out of  Egypt. Their  destination?? Palestine, the Land of  Canaan.

Two more  centuries  and the Prophet Dawud (alayhissalaam) [David], united the scattered  tribes of Israel. He took  Jerusalem  for  his  capital. It is  said that he brought with him the ark of  the covenant.

The  Prophet Sulaymaan (alayhissalaam) [Solomon],  inherited the Kingdom  from Dawud (alayhissalaam) [David], and built fortifications,  and  a  place of  worship; a place of  worship on a site revered since ancient times,  a hill known as  Moriah.

The Kingdom  split into two in the struggle for  power  following Sulaymaan’s (alayhissalaam) [Solomons]  death;  Israel  to  the  North and tiny Judah, including Jerusalem  to the South.

After  two  hundred  years  of  bitter  rivalry  between these two kingdoms,  Israel was  conquered by the Syrians and Judah found itself  the sole remaining remnant of  the Israelite nation.

A  temple  cult  developed  in  the  house of  worship built by Sulaymaan (alayhissalaam) [Solomon]. Elaborate rituals  and a paid priesthood  were  put  in  place. Protagonists  of  a return  to the pure teachings  of  Musa (alayhissalaam) [Moses]  were  beaten and exiled. Incidents  of  injustice and immorality  within the general populace  became  rampant. The destruction of  the Temple, and with it Jerusalem,  was  prophesied.

Nebuchadenezzar  entered  Jerusalem  in  586  BC. The temple was  sacked and set fire  to, and razed  to  the  ground.  The  Royal  Palace  and all the great houses  were  destroyed, the population carried off  in chains  to Babylon. and they  lamented on their  long march into exile:

If we had just  performed the will of God and devoutly  sung His  praises,  we would not have into your  hands  been delivered

Judah ceased to exist. Four  hundred years  of  rule by  the house of  Dawud (alayhissalaam) [David] had to come  to an end.

In  536  BC,  the Persians  overthrew  the Babylonians  and encouraged exiles  to return. Construction began on the Second Temple and was  completed in twenty  years.

After  200 years  of  relative peace the Greeks  captured Jerusalem.  Attempts  at  Hellenization, including the rededication of  the Second temple of  Zeus  and the sacrifice of  pigs  on  its  altar sparked a revolt.

In  164  BC  Hasmonean Jews  captured Mount Moriah and re – consecrated the Temple. But after  a hundred  years  of  Jewish  rule,  the  society  they  created lay  in ruins,  broken down by  years  of vicious  infighting.

Jerusalem  was  over-run  by  Rome  in  63 BC. Herod was  appointed King of  Judea. He slaughtered the  last  of  the  Hasmoneans  and ordered a lavish  restoration and extension of  the Second Temple.

A  period  of  great  civil  disorder  followed with strife  between pacifists  and Zealots,  and riots  against the  Roman  authorities.  In  the  midst  of  this  chaos ‘Eesa Masih (alayhissalaam) [Jesus  of  Nazareth], began his  teaching mission. His  attempts  to call people back  to the pure  teachings  of  Ibraheem  and Musa (alayhimussalaam)  were  judged  subversive  by  the authorities.  He was  tried and sentenced to death;  “yet they did not slay  him but a likeness  that was  shown to them.

Years  later  Jewish  Zealots  captured the temple Mount and massacred Roman troops  in Herod’s palace. After  three years  of  revolt, Titus  of  Rome  laid  siege  to  Jerusalem.  The  fiercely  defended Temple  eventually  fell,  and with it the whole city. Seeking a complete and enduring victory,  Titus ordered the total destruction of  the Herodian Temple. It was  the 70th year  of  the Christian Era.
A new  city  named Aelia was  built by  the Romans  on the ruins  of  Jerusalem,  and  a  temple dedicated  to  Jupitor  raised  up.  In 324 Constantine of  Byzantium  marched on Aelia. He rebuilt the City  walls  and commissioned the church  of  the Holy  Sepulchre, and opened the city  for  Christian pilgrimage.

After  nearly  300 years  of  Christian rule Jerusalem  was  sacked again, this  time  by  the  Sassanid Persians. The Christians  were  massacred and their  holy  places  destroyed.  Fifteen  years  later Byzantine rule was  restored and the Persians  expelled.

Attempts  were  made to rebuild the city. But the die was  cast:  600  miles  to  the  south,  Makkah  had just  converted  to a far  more  dynamic  and true compassionate force. And it was  spreading north, soon  to  overwhelm  all  of  Byzantium,  carrying  with it the pure essence of  the teaching of Ibraheem (alayhissalaam) [Abraham], the path revealed to Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam),  the path of  Islam.

In 638 Jerusalem’s  thousand years  of  recurrent  persecution,  intolerance  and  oppression,  were bought to an abrupt halt: ‘Umar  ibn al-Khattab (radhiyallahu anhu), the Second Khalif of  Islam,  entered Al-Quds.

Eager  to  be  rid  of  their  Byzantine  overloads  – and aware of  their  shared heritage with the Arabs, the descendants  of  Isma’eel (alayhissalaam) [Ishmaeel], as  well as  the Muslims’  reputation for  mercy  and compassion in victory  –  the people of  Jerusalem  handed over  the city  after  a brief  siege.

They  made only  one condition: that the terms  of  their  surrender  be  negotiated  directly  with  the Khalif  ‘Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) in person.

‘Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) entered  Jerusalem  on  foot.  There  was  no bloodshed. There were  no massacres. Those who  wanted  to  stay  were  guaranteed protection for  their  lives, their  property, and places  of worship.

It  is  related  that  ‘Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) asked Sophronius, the city  patriarch, to take  him  to the Sanctuary  of  David, as  soon as  he was  through writing the terms  of  surrender. They  were  joined  by  four  thousand  of the companions  of  the Prophet.

When they  reached the area of  the Noble Sanctuary  they  found  it  covered  in  rubbish.  ‘Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) proceeded  to  the  West  of  the sanctuary  and unfurled his  cloak. He filled it with debris, those with him  did likewise. They  disposed of  it and returned, again and again, until the  whole  area where  Al – Aqsa  Mosque now  stands  was  cleared.

The entire area of  the Haram  ash – shariff,  the Noble sanctuary,  included more  than 35  acres. The great rock, site of  the Prophet’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) ascension to heaven on the Night Journey,  and direction of  the first qibla, lay  in the centre. The rock  was  uncovered and the ground purified. It was  suggested that the Muslims  pray  to the North of  the  rock,  to include  it  in  the  qibla  when facing south toward  Makkah, but ‘Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) rejected this  idea, and possible future  confusion, by  praying to the South of  the  Rock,  at  the  southernmost  wall  of  the Noble sanctuary.

A huge timber  mosque which held three thousand worshippers  was  erected on this  site,  the  site of  the present Aqsa  Mosque. Fifty  years  later,  near  the end of  the 7th century,  it was  given  to  the Umayyad Khalif, ‘Abdul Malik  ibn Marwan, to construct one of  the world’s  most  beautiful  and enduring shrines  over  the rock  itself. Highlighting the skyline  of  Jerusalem,  and  the  memories  of all that visit, the dome of  the rock  is  a tribute to the Muslims’  love and respect for  this  site.

Thabit Al-Bunani reported on the authority  of  Anas (radhiyallahu anhu)  that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “I was  brought al – Buraq, an animal white and  long,  larger  than  a  donkey  but  smaller than a mule, whose stride was  a distance equal to the range of its  vision. I  mounted  it  and  came  to  Jerusalem,  and tied it to the ring used by  the Prophets.  After entering  the  Mosque,  and  praying  two  rakats  in it, I came out and Gabriel brought me a vessel of wine and a vessel of milk. I chose the milk, and Jibreel [Gabriel] said, ‘you have  chosen the true religion’ We  were  then taken to heaven…..” [Muslim] 

After  completion  of  the  Dome  of  the Rock, construction began on the site of  the original timber mosque  at  the south end of  the Sanctuary.  A vast  congregational mosque, accommodating over 5,000 worshippers,  rose  up. It became known as  Masjid Al – Aqsa, although, in reality  the  entire Haram  ash-Sharif  is  considered Al -Aqsa  Mosque, its  entire precincts  inviolable.

The next five centuries  of  Muslim  rule were  characterized by  peace, justice and prosperity.  The Noble sanctuary  became a great centre  of  learning; scholars  came  from  all over  the  world  to worship at Al-Aqsa  and to study  and teach within its  precints. Except  for  a  brief  period  under  the Fatimid Hakim  which caused as  much  hardship for  the  Muslims  as  the  Christians  and  Jews,  the Islamic  injunctions  to  respect  the  rights  of  the people of  the Book  were  respected throughout this period.

And We  gave Moses  the book, and made it a guidance for  the children of Israel saying: ‘Take not unto yourselves  any  guardian other  than me’ They  were  the  seed  of  those  We bore with Noah; surely  he was  a thankful servant. And We  decreed for  the children of Israel in the book: You shall do corruption in the earth twice,  and  you  shall  become great tyrants.  So when the time for  the first of these came to pass,  We  sent against you servants  of ours,  men of great might, and they  ravaged  the country, and in it was  a promise performed.” (Qur’aan, Surah Al-Isra)

People of the Book

In  1078  bands  of  Selijuq Turks  took  Jerusalem.  They  ruled for  the next 20 years,  during which time  the rights  of  Christian pilgrims  to Jerusalem  were  regularly  trampled,  together  with  almost everyone else’s, in the paths  of  their  fierce  internal rivalries.

In 1096, the first Crusade was  called by  Pope Urban II,  Hundreds  of  thousands  of  Christians  were  mobilized to defend their  faith.

Sanctified by  religion, spurred on by  the promise of  adventure and material  gain,  rag-tag  army of  knights,  foot soldiers, women children and old men, marched across  Europe to their  destination and  their  goal,  the  Holy  City  of  Jerusalem.  Three years  of  marching and mayhem  – – much  of  it against their  pockets  of  Jews  who crossed their  path  and a remnant of  the Crusaders,  perhaps a tenth of  those that had set out, reached gates  of  Jerusalem.  It was  morning of  June 7th  1099. 

Ironically, by  the time  they  arrived the city  was  back  in the hands  of  the Fatimids, and the  rights  of Christian pilgrims  had been restored. After  a five-week  siege,  the  city’s  ramparts  were  stormed. The Crusaders  went berserk. For  two days,  the 40,000 men, women and  children  of  al-    Quds were  massacred in the streets,  in the mosques, and in  their  homes.  Muslim  soldiers  were slaughtered  in  Al-Aqsa  mosque after  being guaranteed amnesty  there. The cities  Jews  were burned  alive  in  their  main  synagogue,  where  they  had huddled together  for  refuge. Al-  Aqsa  and the Dome  of  the Rock  were  looted.  

A golden cross was placed on top of the Dome of the Rock. It was renamed Templum Domini. Al Aqsa  mosque became Temple Solomonis.  On  their  enthusiasm  to link  the glory  of  the Noble sanctuary  with  their  own  heritage, the new  conquerors  erased every  trace possible of  its  Islamic origin. In the Dome  of  the Rock, Quranic  inscriptions  were  plastered  over.  Steps  were  carved  into the rock  and an alter  placed on top of  it. Chips  of  the rock  were  sold  for  their  weight  in  gold.  Al- Aqsa  mosque  was  sub-divided into a royal palace for  the Knights  Templar.  The vast  vaulted subterranean area to the east of  Al-Aqsa  became a stable for  400 horses.  All  this  had  not passed  by  entirely  unnoticed  by  the  Muslims  outside of  Jerusalem.

In 1146, Nuradeen Mahmud ibn  Zangi,  ruler  of  Aleppo,  commissioned master  craftsmen to build an extraordinary  cedar mimbar.  It  was  to  be  installed  in  Al-Aqsa  on the day  the crusaders  were  expelled from  Al-Quds. It was  Nuradeen who, through an auspicious  joining of  statesmanship, piety,  humility  and honour  in his  own character,  reunited the Muslims  of  Syria into  a  force  capable  of  rising  Jihad against  their  enemies.  But it was  his  lieutenant and successor,  Salahudeen, who was  to lead them  into  victory.  Generous  almost  to a fault, shunning luxury  and ostentation, Salahudeen was merciful  with  those  he conquered but ruthless  to anyone who maligned the Prophet and the path of  God.  

On  the 2nd  day  of  October, 1187, the 27th  day  of  Rajab, the day  Muslims  celebrate the  Prophets night  journey,  Salahudeen entered Jerusalem  after  a 12-day siege.  There  was  no bloodshed. There were  no massacres. Those who wanted to leave were permitted to do so, with all their  goods. Those who wanted to stay  were  guaranteed protection  for their  lives, property, and places  of  worship. The wisdom  of  the  Khalif  Umar  (radhiyallahu anhu) was  observed,  the laws  of  Islam  restored.   

The  cross  on  the Dome  of  the Rock  was  taken down. Al-Aqsa  was  purified and reinstated as  a mosque.  The magnificent mimbar  commissioned by  Nuradeen 40 years  earlier  was  put into place. After  88 years  of  occupation, the Jumu’ah prayer  was  held once again on the  furthest mosque. The Crusaders  dressed in black.  They  sought aid throughout  Europe  to  recapture Jerusalem  and  soon  returned  to  lay  siege to the Muslim  coastal stronghold of  Acre. Richard the Lionheart joined them  in the Spring of  1191. By  July  the city  of  acre  surrendered  into  the crusaders hands. Two thousand seven hundred Muslim  soldiers  and  their  families  were assembled and massacred outside the city  walls. After  a year  of  struggling to  get  a  toe-hold  from which to regain Jerusalem,  Richard finally  capitulated and returned  to  England.  The  rights  of Christians  to worship at their  holy  sites  were  guaranteed and  Salahudeen’s  authority  in  all  but  the coastal areas  of  Palestine was  confirmed.  

The next centuries  witnessed the final expulsion of  the  Crusaders  from  Palestine  and  successful resistance to the advance of  the Mongols  under  the energetic  rule of  the  Mamaluks.  Awesome  in battle, the Mameluks  were  no less  vigorous  in their  building programs  and public  works.  The  four minarets  on  the  North  and  West  boundaries  of  the noble Sanctuary  and the arched mawzeen surrounding  the  Dome  of  the  Rock  are from  the Mameluk  period, as  are endowments  for  four madrassas  on  the  grounds  of  the  sanctuary  and a trust fund for  maintaining Al-Aqsa  and the Dome  of  the Rock.  

After  a reign of  nearly  300 years  Mameluk  power  declined. By  the early  16th  Century  Ottoman Turks  displaced  them, in the process  establishing a vast  empire  which encompassed Constantinople, Damascus,  Cairo, Makkah, Madinah and Jerusalem.  

On  entering  Jerusalem  in  1517 the ottoman sultan Selim  was  entrusted with keys  to Al-Aqsa and the Dome  of  the Rock. A delegation of  Christian clerics  presented him  with  a  scroll  containing  the original covenant of  ‘Umar (radhiyallahu anhu),  guaranteeing them  rights  over  the Church  of  the  Holy  places.  Selim pressed them  to his  face  and kissed them, confirming his  intention to honour  Umar’s (radhiyallahu anhu) word.  

Selim’s son Sulayman al  Qanuni, known throughout Europe as  Sulayman the Magnificent, consolidated his  domain into the greatest world power  of  the 16th Century, drawing  on  his tremendous  resources,  he  restored  and renewed all of  Jerusalem,  building walls, gates, towers, and aqueducts. 

His  most  remembered  gift  to Jerusalem,  however, was  the breathtakingly  beautiful tile work commisioned  for  the  exterior  of  the Dome  of  the Rock. With the incomparable skills  of  Persia’s master  ceramists,  40’000 tiles  were  fired and put into place, crowned  by  the  inscription  of  Surah YaSeen  at  the  top.  This  brilliant application of  exquisite aesthetics  to celebrate the message of God has  made the Dome  of  the Rock  a world landmark  in sacred architecture. 

This  was  the peak  of  the Ottoman empire. It soon began to deteriorate. Central authority  broke down.  Regionalism  rose  up.  Corruption by  petty  officials  became widespread. Military  and political instructions  and frontiers  began to crumble. The western powers,  restrained by  Ottoman strength for  so  many  years,  were  joyously  anticipating its  collapse and the inevitable division of  spoils.

In  19th  Century  Jerusalem  their  dreams  began to be realized. Consular  offices  representing the European  powers  were  set  up  in  the  old city  to begin exerting influence from  abroad, while a new political movement was  being cultivated that could exercise  power  from  within  Palestine:  Secular Zionism.

Denying the prophetic  message, while at the same  time  using it as  the basis  of  their  claims  for  a Jewish  state in the Holy  Land, crying anti -Semite  at  every  protest  of  their  despotic  actions,  even as  they  planned   a ruthless  displacement policy  against the Semitic Arabs, the European  Zionists created sufficient confusion to successfully  deflect  world criticism  of  their  nationalistic  goals  in the Middle East. From  this  apparently  irreconcilable platform, the political Zionists  waged  a successful campaign to gain international sympathy  and support for  their  bizarre  concept  of  a secular, and at the same  time Jewish state in Palestine.

Ottoman  sovereignty  was  now  seriously  threatened and with it the believers’ control of  the sacred city  of  Al-Quds.

When  British forces  entered Jerusalem  after  its  surrender  by  the Ottomans  in 1917, it was  only  a question  of  time  until  Zionist  plans  began to be realized. The Balfour  Declaration of  the same  year gave support for  the idea of  a Jewish  homeland in Palestine. The British Mandate of  1920 helped to  enforce  it.  But  what  was  originally  conceived of  as  a more  passive and politically  acceptable ally  in the Middle east, turned out to be an unexpectedly  impatient  and  violent  one.  Zionist inspired terrorism  and economic  blackmail combined to force the British out in 1948.

A hastily prepared UN recommendation for  the creation of  separate Arab and Jewish  states  with Palestine  led  immediately  to  an  escalation of  hostilities.  Two Jewish  terrorist  groups, Airgun and the Stern gang, led a campaign of  terror  and psychological warfare calculated  to  drive  the  Arabs out,  culminating  in  their  joint  undertaking  at the Arab village of  dayr Yasin, in which 250 men, women and children were  brutally  murdered, with  threats  to  repeat  performances  broadcast throughout Palestine.

On  May  14th, in 1948, David Centurion proclaimed the State of  Israel. Lack  of  unity  among  the Arab states  in the ensuing Arab/Israeli wars  led to huge losses.  By  the time  of  the Cessation of hostilities  in 1949, more  than 700;000 Arabs  were  driven out of  their  homes.

Al-Aqsa  Mosque  and  the  Dome  of  the Rock  had both sustained damage from  the crossfire of mortars  and bombs  but remained, together  with the old walled city, in the hands  of  the Arabs.

The first stage of  their  nationalistic  plans  realized, the Israelis  cast  a covetous  eye on Gaza  and the West  Bank. But the real prize, East  Jerusalem,  and  its  jewel,  the  Noble  sanctuary,  laid tantalizingly  just  out  of  reach.  The  Israelites  commenced on their  plans  for  the capture of  Al-Quds.

In  1967  they  got their  opportunity. Through the din of  the capricious  chants  of  Arab nationalism Israel carefully  plotted its  attack. On  June 7th the Israelis  took  Al-Quds.

Israeli  tanks  and  soldiers  entered the Noble sanctuary.  The Maghribi quarter  was  levelled. Two mosques  and 135 homes  were  bulldozed, leaving six  hundred and fifty  Muslims  homeless.  The West  Bank  and Gaza  were  occupied, demographically  impossible situations, which would drive the  Jews  to  desperation  and  despicable acts  of  oppression in years  to come. Jerusalem  was annexed.

Only  the Haram ash-Sharif  was  returned to the Muslims  and their  willingness  to defend it at  any cost.

Then We  gave you once again your  turn  to prevail over  them. And We  gave you  wealth and  children,  and  We  made  you  more  in  soldiery, saying, ‘If you do good, it is  to your  own souls  and you do good to, and if you do evil it is  to them also

So when the promise of the second came to pass,  We  roused against you others  of Our servants  to ravage you, and to enter  the Temple,  even  as  they  entered  it  the  first  time, and  to lay  waste to all that which they  conquered with an utter  wasting. Perhaps  the lord will  have  mercy  on you but if you return, we shall return  – and We  have appointed Hell a prison for  the unbelievers.” (Quran, Surah Al-Isra)

The Furthest Mosque

With the capture of  east Jerusalem  all of  the elements  seemed to  be  in  place  for  the  realization  of the  Jewish  national  dream,  the  rebuilding  of  the Second Temple, for  which virtually  every practicing Jew  had been praying, “that in our  days  may  the Temple  be  rebuilt“,  for  the  past  1900 years.

Only  according  to the Halachah, the Jewish  code of  law  and doctrine, the most  critical requirement  for  rebuilding  the  Temple,  the  coming  of  the Messiah, had yet to be fulfilled. But the requirements  of  Judaic  Law  had never  deterred the Secular  Zionists  before.  Especially  when  it involved  prohibiting something they  desired, like a a fantastic  symbol of  Jewish  nationalism  right in  the  middle  of  Jerusalem,  to  replace  the  glaring reminder  of  the Muslims  still in their  midst. A Second  Temple  would  do  very  well  indeed, just  as  it had before its  destruction, as  an object of worship for  the Jews.

A  model  of  the  temple  already  existed,  built on the grounds  of  the Holy  Land Hotel in West Jerusalem  before the Six  Days’ War.  The only  obstructions  to  the  realization  of  the  Zionists architectural dreams:

•  international recognition of  the Muslim  right to, and ownership of  the Haram  ash-Sharif,

•  the existence of  Al – Aqsa  Mosque and the Dome  of  the Rock,

•  and the vigilance of  600 million Muslims  who call this  site the third holiest  in Islam.

Seeking  to  establish the principle of  the Noble Sanctuary  as  a place of  Jewish  worship, extremist groups  began performing Jewish  prayer  services  in the area of  the  Sanctuary,  despite  the prohibition  by  the  chief  Rabbinate  of  Jews  of  even setting foot in it for  fear  of  violating its  sanctity according to Judaic  law.

Fearing retribution from  the Muslim  World the Israeli attorney  General  banned  such  acts  in  the Spring of  1969. Four  months  later  the entire south wing of  the Al-Aqsa  Mosque  was  destroyed by  fire. Fire  fighters  from  Jerusalem  and the West  Bank  answered  the  alarm,  but  not  soon  enough to prevent damage that would take  more  than twenty  years  of  concerted effort  to repair.

When  the  fire  was  finally  extinguished, the Qibla wall, mihrab and dome were  destroyed and with them  the  mimbar  commissioned  by  Nuradeen  over  700 years  earlier;  the mimbar  installed by Salahudeen when the Crusaders  were  driven out in the twelfth century.

An Australian visitor  at a coastal kibbutz  was  arrested that night for  setting blaze. Reaction  from the  Muslim  countries  was  strong and swift. A protest strike  and demonstration was  called in Jerusalem.  Others  followed throughout the Muslim  world.

An  emergency  meeting  of  the  UN  Security  Council was  called, and Israel’s  control of  Jerusalem put into question. The Israel’s  position about rebuilding the Temple on public  record:  

according  to  the  Halachah,  the  Temple  will be rebuilt when the Messiah appears.  It is therefore inconceivable that we ourselves  should make  any  plans  for  rebuilding the Temple

Despite his  disarmingly  rational courtroom  demeanor,  and  evidence  that  he  may  have  worked with others,  an Israeli court ruled that the Australian could not be held responsible  for  his  actions due to mental imbalance. After  treatment in Israel he returned to Australia.

Two decades  later,  work  on the restoration of  the  damage  caused  by  this  fire  continues. Supported by  Muslims  throughout the world, and winning international awards  for  excellence,  the restoration has  nonetheless  disrupted worship in al- Aqsa  since 1969,  with  immediate  end  in sight.

Attempts  to  establish  Jewish  prayer  services  within the Sanctuary  continued. In 1976 Israeli central  Courts  passed  a  law  permitting them. Two weeks  of  demonstrations  by  Muslim  Law students  and  the  subsequent  resignation  of  members  of  the municipal courts  in the West  Bank resulted in their  repeal. Other  attempts  to establish these services  were  renewed two years  later.

In September  of  1979, fifteen extremist Jews  blocked the way  to one of  the Sanctuary’s  gates  on the day  of  the Friday  congregational prayer, pointing a gun at one of  the Muslim  security  guards.

In  may  of  1981  the  adhan  was  prohibited from  the minaret overlooking the West  Wall because of Jewish  celebrations.  The  following  month  the Hakam  of  the Wailing Wall petitioned the Minister  of Religious  affairs  in  Jerusalem  for  permission  to pray  in Al – Aqsa. Harassment and acts  of sabotage escalated in 1981. In August an Israeli helicopter  hovered  at  low  attitude  over  Masjid  Al – Aqsa  preventing worshippers  inside from  hearing the khutba. That same  month a tunnel  dug  by workers  from  the Ministry  of  Religious  affairs  was  uncovered  in  the  sanctuary  leading  to  the Western Wall. The government immediately  ordered the tunnel sealed because  of  the  political sensitivity  of  the issue.

Despite warnings  by  Israeli archeologists  against digging beneath the Sanctuary,  and UN resolutions  against them, excavations  continued, leading to dangerous  cracks  to  buildings adjoining  the  Western  Wall.  Engineers  and archeologists  were  prohibited by  Israeli authorities from  revealing anything about their  digs  beneath Al-Aqsa.

In September  Arab students  entering one of  these tunnels  to seal it off  were  injured  in  an encounter  with a group of  Israelis. A general strike  was  called by  the Supreme Muslim  Council  to protest the excavations. Muslims  were  prevented by  Israeli Security  Forces  from  entering Jerusalem  the following Friday  for  fear  of  large demonstrations.

The following spring armed Israeli religious  students  clashed  with  Muslim  security  guards.  This time  the Minister  of  Defence was  petitioned for  permission to perform  Jewish  services  at  Al- Aqsa. Excavations  beneath Al – Aqsa  continued with Israeli archeologists  claiming  the  discovery of  Jewish  ruins  under  the Mosque. In April of  1982 a parcel with a  fake  bomb  and  threats  signed by  Jewish  extremists  was  discovered at one of  the gates  leading to the Sanctuary.  Two days  later Muslims  mobilized a large demonstration in Al-Aqsa  to protest attacks  on Holy  places.

The following day  an ex-Israeli army  regular  opened fire  with his  military  assault  rifle,  killing  two Muslims  and  filling  the  interior  and  exterior  of  the Dome  of  the Rock  with bullet holes.

The West Bank  and Gaza  rioted in protest. Less  than a month later,  shots  were  fired  into  the  Sanctuary  by  a sniper  on  the rooftop on the Madrassa  Amriyya, and a group of  Israelis  tried to enter  the Sanctuary  with  leaflets  inciting Jews  to take  over  the Mosque. In nearby  Khalil, armed members of  Kryat Arba entered the Ibraheemi Mosque and performed prayer  with the support of  the Military.

In  June  the  Awqaf  received a letter  from  Europe warning that this  fund was  trying to buy  up Waqf property  to the Sanctuary.

In March Muslim  security  guards  discovered explosives  in the entrance to the Sanctuary  on  the day  of  the Friday  prayer, four  armed Israelis  were  discovered  attempting  to  enter  the  sanctuary through Solomons  Stables, and arms  and plans  for  rebuilding the temple  were  found  in  the house of  an extremist group leader.

The  same  month  a  group of  Jewish  fanatics  armed with Uzi’s  and M – 16’s  and carrying a cache of  explosives  were  caught attempting to enter  the Sanctuary.  Radio Israel reported  that  they  were prepared for  a prolonged siege. Six  months  later  they  were  acquitted in Israeli courts.

In  January  of  1984 a group of  Jewish  terrorists  carrying ladders  and explosives  were  stopped in the  sanctuary  by  Muslim  security  guards  in the middle of  the night. Four  days  later  time  bombs were  discovered by  explosive experts.

By  the  Spring  of  ’84 armed Israeli guards  were  patrolling the Sanctuary  twenty  – four  hours  a day, their  presence and behavior  inimical to the sanctity  of  the Mosque. The Supreme Muslim  Council petitioned  the  Israeli  Prime Minister  repeatedly  to withdraw  the soldiers  but to no effect. With no response forthcoming from  the Israelis, the Supreme Muslim  Council petitioned the UN in May  of 1984 to pressure  Israel to withdraw  its  troops  from  Al-Aqsa.

Despite  continued  demands  for  their  withdrawal, Israeli soldiers  continue to patrol the Sanctuary on the pretense of  protecting it from  attack. In reality  it is  the Muslim  –  run  Aqsa  Security  force  – underpaid, understaffed, and unarmed – whose vigilance has  provided the only  protection for  the Noble Sanctuary  in virtually  all the acts  of  terrorism  against it.

The UN Security  council has  passed more  than  20  resolutions  condemning  Israel’s  annexation  of Old  Jerusalem  and its  military  occupation of  the West  Bank. Repeated violations  of  human rights led  directly  to the Intifada, the Palestinian Uprising, in the winter  of  1987. Recognizing the Intifada’s  roots  in the revival of  Islam,  the Israelis  increased their  attacks  on places  of  worship throughout  Palestine.  On  June 15th, 1988 Israeli troops  stormed Al – Aqsa  Mosque, firing tear  gas into  groups  of  worshippers.  A month later  the discovery  of  new  excavations  adjacent to the Sanctuary  led to more  civil disorder.

Less  than one year  later  soldiers  were  forced from  the precints  of  the Noble Sanctuary  by  the more  than 20’000 Muslims  who gathered in Al – Aqsa  for  the first Friday  prayer  in  Ramadan. Roadblocks  were  set  up  around  Jerusalem  the following week  and Palestinians  from  the West Bank  and Gaza  were  barred from  the Mosque.

In the meantime, the aspiration to rebuild a Jewish  Temple on the site of  the Dome  of  the  Rock has  become more  and more  open, despite the Judaic  injunctions  against it. In July  of  1984 it  was reported in the  International Herald Tribune  that the

yearning to remove  the mosques  and build a Jewish  temple there has  begun to  spread from a few religious  fanatics  into more  established rightist political groups.”  

A  recent article on rebuilding the Temple appearing in one of  Israel’s  major  color  supplements, The  Nation,  explores  such  obtuse  questions  as  the location of  toilets, parking spaces, and gift shops  – and whether  or  not to air-condition while pondering the more  serious  implications  of  the multi – billion dollar  projected annual income  generated by  their  anticipated  monopoly  on  the Jewish  pilgrim  trade.

A  visit  to  the  Institute  of  the  Temple overlooking the Wailing Wall, and the sanctuary  itself, reveals just  how  busy  some  have been in making preparations  for  what they  feel may  be  a  forthcoming event.  A  scale model of  the Second temple is  on display,  together  with diagrams  of  various  other aspects  of  the Temple based on descriptions  of  their  original counterparts  recorded in the Misha, and a miniature version of  the Arc  of  the Covenant, thought to be buried somewhere under  Al – Aqsa.  Major  expenditures  in time  and money  have already  been made to reproduce what are thought  to  be  exact  replicas  of  the myriad utensils  necessary  for  the performance of  the complex Jewish  rituals  to take  place within the Temple.

A recent debate in Jerusalem  between Muslim, Jews  and  Christians  televised  in  Britain  included the serious  suggestion by  an Israeli participant that the Dome  of  the  Rock  could  be  relocated,  as the  Temples  of  Ramses  the  Second  were  in Aswan Dam  project, to make  way  for  the new  Jewish temple.  If  the  Israeli’s  enthusiasm  for  moving  Arabs  out of  their  houses  is  anything to go by, not to mention their  history  of  blowing them  up, then the Muslims  had better  keep  an  eye  on  Al – Aqsa and the Dome  of  the Rock.

Harassment  and  acts  of  terrorism  against Muslims  living adjacent to the Sanctuary,  while officially not  condoned,  are  part  of  an  ongoing  policy  to drive them  from  this  area. The eventual bulldozing and  replacement  of  their  houses  with Jewish  condominium  fortress  complexes  can only  be a harbinger  of  things  to come.

The  Israelis  seem  busy  preparing  for  a war  while creating the desperation, injustice and despair necessary  to provoke one. Where can it possibly  lead?

To  the West  Bank  and Gaza. To  the Intifada and a people who have had enough of  the insatiable greed and thoughtlessness  of  an unconscionable occupation. And  to  Al-Aqsa,  to  the  furthest mosque – not to the idol that the Temple became where prophets  were  slaughtered and pure religion of  Ibraheem (alayhissalaam) [Abraham]  was  abandoned – but to the site from  where the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam),  made his  journey  through the heavens  to the Lord.

Regarding  his  ascent the Prophet, peace and blessings  be upon him,  related in the last  section of the hadith reported by  Thabit al  bunani, on the authority  of  Anas (radhiyallahu anhu):

…..I found Ibraheem (alayhissalaam) [Abraham] leaning his  back  against the frequented house  which  is  entered  daily  by seventy  thousand angels  who do not return  to it.

I was  then taken up to the lote – tree of the furthest boundary  whose leaves  are like elephant ears and whose fruits  are like earthen vessels. When  what  God  commands  over  shadows  it,  it changes, and none of God’s  creatures  can describe it  because  of  its  beauty.  God  revealed  to  me what He revealed and made obligatory  fifty  prayers  every  day  and night.

I  then  came down to Musw (alayhissalaam) [Moses]  who asked what my  Lord had made obligatory  for  my  people. When I told him he had prescribed fifty  prayers  every  day  and night he said, ‘

Go  back  to your  Lord and ask  Him to lighten them, for  your  people are not capable of that. I have tested Bani Israel and have experience.’

I  went  back  to my  lord  and said “O  my  Lord, make  things  lighter  for  my  people”, so  he relieved me of five. when I returned to Moses  and told him he had relieved me of five  he said,

“your  people are not capable of that, so  go back  to your  Lord and ask  Him to make  things  still lighter.” I then kept going back  and forth between my  Lord and Moses  till he said,  

“Muhammad, there are five  prayers  every  day  and night. Each  will count as  ten making fifty  times of  prayer. He who intends  to do a good action recorded for  him. If he does  do it, it will be recorded for  him  ten times.  He who intends  to do a wrong action but does  not do it, will have nothing recorded against him. If he does  do it, only  one wrong action  will  be  recorded  against  him.  I  then came down. When I came to Moses  and told him he said,  “Go  back  to  your  Lord  and  ask  Him  to make  things  lighter.”  God’s  messenger  said that he replied “I have gone back  to my  Lord until I am ashamed before him  ” [Muslim].

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