Category Archives: Masjid Al Aqsa

Jerusalem: words from a Christian pilgrim, a Jewish academic, a Muslim leader and a patriarch

By Brother Hamza Tzortzis

Bernard the Wise, a pilgrim monk, visited Egypt and Palestine in the reign of Al-Mu’tazz (866-9 CE), and he had the following to say:

“… the Christians and the Pagans [i.e. Muslims] have this kind of peace between them there that if I was going on a journey, and on the way the camel or donkey which bore my poor luggage were to die, and I was to abandon all my goods without any guardian, and go to the city for another pack animal, when I came back I would find all my property uninjured: such is the peace there.” [Cited in Walker, C. J. (2005) Islam and the West: A Dissonant Harmony of Civilisations, p. 17.]

The Jewish academic historian Amnon Cohen illustrates how the Jews of Ottoman Jerusalem were free and contributed to society:

“No one interfered with their internal organisation or their external cultural and economic activities… The Jews of Ottoman Jerusalem enjoyed religious and administrative autonomy within an Islamic state, and as a constructive, dynamic element of the local economy and society they could—and actually did—contribute to its functioning.” [Cohen, A. (1994) A World Within: Jewish Life as Reflected in Muslim Court Documents from the Sijill of Jerusalem (XVIth Century). Part One. Philadelphia: The Center for Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania, pp. 22-23.]

‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, the companion and student of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), granted the Christians of Palestine religious freedom, security and peace. His treaty with the Palestinian Christians stated:

“This is the protection which the servant of God, the Leader of the faithful, grants to the people of Palestine. Thus, protection is for their lives, property, church, cross, for the healthy and sick and for all their co-religionists. In this way their churches shall not be turned into dwelling houses, nor will they be pulled down, nor any injury will be done to them or to their enclosures, nor to their cross, and nor will anything be deducted from their wealth. No restrictions shall be made regarding their religious ceremonies.” [Tabari, M, S. (1967) Tarikh Tabari: Tarikh ar-Rusul wal- Muluk. Edited by Muhammad Ibrahim. Vol 3. 3rd Edition. Cairo, Dar al-Ma’aarif, p. 609.]

In 869 CE, patriarch Theodosius of Jerusalem confirmed the Muslims’ adherence to the values of their beloved Prophet (peace and blessing he upon him):

“The Saracens [i.e. the Muslims] show us great goodwill. They allow us own customs without hindrance.” [Cited in Walker, C. J. (2005). Islam and the West: A Dissonant Harmony of Civilisations. Gloucester: Sutton Publishing, p. 17.]

History is full of evil, tragedy and suffering. However, it contains abundant good. Let’s learn from it. ‪This is why we shouldn’t over glorify our history. It’s a sign of a defeated mind. Rather, we should learn lessons from it; continuing the good, removing the bad.‬

I pray for tolerance, peace, coexistence and the removal of all types of oppression and injustice—for all.

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Why a visit to Masjid al-Aqsa has to be on your bucket list

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Written By Ebrahim Moosa

It should hardly take much convincing to get one packing for a voyage to al-Quds. The first qiblah, second mosque to be established and third holiest site in Islam is a haven of history and a sanctuary replete with spiritual blessings.

For starters, Masjid al-Aqsa is one of the select trio of masaajid one is permitted to head off towards solely for the purpose of prayer, as per the Ahadeeth of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

Sayyidina Abu Hurairah (Radhiyallahu anhu) narrates: “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: ‘Do not deliberately set out on a journey [for the purpose of worship] but to three mosques: the Masjid al Haram [in Makkah], al Masjid al Aqsa[in Jerusalem], and my Masjid [in Madinah]’” (Bukhari)

The rewards of worship here are multiplied manifold – up to 5000 times, according to some narrations. Its association with the Prophets, Sahabah and saintly persons throughout history, too, is unmistakeable.

Al-Aqsa marks the only spot on earth where all the Prophets performed Salaah together, at the same time, in congregation. It was here that the epithet of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, of Imaamul Ambiyaa (Leader of the Prophets), was manifested. Such is its pedigree that the companion Sayyidina Ibn Abbas (Radhiyallahu anhu) commented: “There is not a single inch in al-Quds where a Prophet has not prayed or an angel not stood” [Tirmidhi and Imam Ahmad].

In a Hadith, the Prophet ﷺ narrates how, among the three supplications the Prophet Sulaymaan (Alayhisalaam) made whilst reconstructing al-Aqsa, was a duaa for the person who came to Masjid al-Aqsa solely for the purpose of praying therein to be delivered from all his sins as the day his mother gave birth to him.

Adding weight to this duaa, the Prophet ﷺ remarked, “the [first] two prayers were granted, and I hope the third was granted as well.”

Hence – though obviously not equivalent in status – the spiritual journey to Masjid al Aqsa can be considered to share one of the rewards that in fact has been narrated for the pillar of Hajj.

Additional impetus

As indicated earlier, such spiritual incentives should be compelling enough to stir one to undertake the journey, as ibadah anyway should constitute the primary motivation for visiting the Masjid.

However, as enlightened global citizens, we are not ambivalent to the current suffering of Masjid al-Aqsa and its people, and, as such, this pitiful status quo can only provide us an additional impetus for the trip.

It is noteworthy that, unlike his directives regarding the other most esteemed mosques, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ singled out Masjid al-Aqsa as a financial responsibility for the wider Ummah, when he issued guidelines to those who cannot manage to undertake the physical journey there. “Send oil for its lamps,” he said, “for whoever does so, it is as if they went there.”

The plight of Masjid al Aqsa today can be captured in two concurrent trends: A drive towards exclusion, and another of inclusion.

For the former, this is manifested through the perennial restrictions Israel places on Palestinian entry into al-Aqsa, from policing the age groups, genders, residency status and geographical regions of origin of entrants.

This is aided by an architecture of exclusion in place around Jerusalem and the Masjid itself comprising the Apartheid Wall, expanding Jewish settlements, house demolitions, banning orders, different tiers of permits, surveillance, brute force and bureaucracy.

The metal detectors Israel sought to impose on the Masjid in July were meant to entrench this exclusion, and although thwarted by a spirited popular resistance, Israel has not relented in its pursuits, of late setting up a dedicated police unit to assert control at Aqsa and installing new cameras overlooking its entrances.

These latest moves, said Sheikh Omar al Kiswani, Imam of the Masjid, were intended to tighten the supervision of worshippers and to send them a message that they were being watched from the moment they entered the site.

On the flip side, the inclusionary trend can best be captured in the meteoric rise of the Temple Movement in Israel and its constant stream of visits and provocations regarding the mosque.

Twenty years ago, says Betty Herschman of the Israeli NGO Ir Amim, these organizations were seen to be on the radical fringes of the political and religious map, but since 2000 they have attained a respectable position within the mainstream of the political and religious right and have benefited from close ties with the authorities of the State of Israel.

In the past, when settlers sought to visit Masjid al-Aqsa, restrictions on group size and other criteria were enforced.

Before 2000, mentions the Ir Amim report, Dangerous Liaison – Dynamics of the Temple Movements, Jewish visitors entered al-Aqsa in pairs or groups of three and until the first group left, the next was not permitted to enter. Today those restrictions no longer apply.

Soldiers freely visit in uniform, religious rituals are performed discreetly, and “ascending the Mount” – as the Temple Movement dubs it – in large groups, is a near daily affair. Whilst previously discouraged by senior rabbinical authorities – borne from a religious fear of “treading on the Holy of Holies,” visitation is now sanctioned by an increasing lot of rabbinic figures in the national-religious community, who have argued that the prohibited areas can simply be avoided during walkabouts.

2015 Israeli Police statistics showed that Jewish visitation to al-Aqsa increased some 92 percent since 2009. A record number of Jews visited over Passover this year, and that record was quickly surpassed in August when 1043 Jews visited the holy site from 7:30-11 a.m. in a single day.

Temple zealots wax lyrical about these advances, often citing them as harbingers for the physical establishment of the Temple.

When considered carefully, a picture emerges wherein these drives of exclusion and inclusion merge, resulting only in an increased sense of vulnerability and isolation for Masjid al Aqsa and her people.

At present, a rapid rail link between Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem is in its advanced stages; a controversial cable car project that will further assert Israeli sovereignty on Jerusalem has been approved, and the settler-run City of David complex, close to Al-Aqsa, has taken over a large area of Silwan, damaged surrounding Palestinian homes with underground excavations, and encouraged large numbers of settlers to move into the area, backed by armed guards.

Furthermore, Israeli master plans for Jerusalem effectively airbrush any significant Palestinian future role in the city.

For many observers, these ongoing schemes point to an all-out effort to change the historically diverse character of Jerusalem irreversibly.

“The fight for Jerusalem has begun in earnest,” a spokesperson for a new right-wing Zionist think-tank operating from the Holy City said recently, “and we have to be there.”

Physical Presence

In light of these shifting sands, it is imperative that those who are troubled by the plight of the Palestinians and the siege of Masjid al-Aqsa are there too, to assert a physical presence and become observers, so as to impede plans to create new facts on the ground, and ensure that full-blown domination of al-Quds does not become fait accompli.

During a visit to the holy compound in Ramadan, I witnessed first-hand the travails and deep yearning of Palestinians simply to reach the Masjid. For some elderly persons from the West Bank, this was the first time ever they got to pray there. Many intuitively fell into prostration immediately on entering the Holy Sanctuary. Others could be seen making emotional phone-calls to family members indicating that they “finally made it,” whilst yet others, totally overwhelmed, even fainted.

What was deeply humbling (and troubling) about the experience was, as a 30-year-old from faraway South Africa, I was been asked questions about the Masjid and being requested to give directions to sites in its compound by individuals double my age – indigenous Palestinians, who lived at its doorstep, but were largely barred from visiting due to the architecture of exclusion that the occupier had effected, to the extent that Masjid had grown unfamiliar to them.

Masjid al-Aqsa and Jerusalem occupies a central role in the identity of all Palestinians, with phrases such as ‘Next Year in al-Quds’ or ‘Next Year in Al-Aqsa’ being popular slogans shared at happy occasions and religious celebrations. However, personal interactions with Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza and the diaspora reveal just how far Occupation has impeded them from perceiving al-Aqsa as a tangible reality.

The same could be said to be the case with a vast majority of residents of the Arab World, who due to (perfectly acceptable) efforts to prevent normalization with the occupier, cannot imagine visits to al-Aqsa for the foreseeable future.

This leaves alone Muslims in the West, who, due to the relative ease of travel their status permits, come to shoulder a massive responsibility towards Masjid al-Aqsa. It is in fact unfathomable, noting the mammoth struggles others endure to get to Masjid al-Aqsa, for Muslims in this category to squander this ease and the golden opportunities to visit – thereby leaving unfulfilled a spiritual calling, and betraying a weighty obligation owed to the Ummah.

Visiting Masjid al-Aqsa, as Dr Wasfi Kailani writes, serves a number of purposes. It is first: a religious duty; second: a way of cementing our connection to our holy sites and third: a way of keeping us aware of the plots to destroy and remove our holy sites from existence. Visiting Jerusalem is also a way of supporting the steadfast Jerusalemites as they withstand the harm they face at the hands of the occupation; and a way for them to know that they are not alone in the struggle to maintain the Holy City’s authentic identity.

Adds the UK’s Friends of Al-Aqsa, by visiting Jerusalem and Masjid al-Aqsa, Muslims from around the world empower the Palestinians and provide them with the support and strength to continue their struggle. This support is vital, and every visitor to Jerusalem lifts the spirits of each Palestinian they encounter. For Palestinians, the simple fact that they have not been forgotten gives them the incentive to continue in their struggle.

And it inspires the visitor to continue the struggle too.

Having bathed in al-Aqsa’s blessings, one leaves better equipped for taking on the spiritual struggles of everyday life. And having encountered the realities of dispossession in the Holy Land, one is spurred on to take up the cudgels and make our world a better and more just place for all those who live in it.

Ebrahim Moosa is a researcher at the Palestine Information Network(PIN). Follow PIN on Twitter @learnpalestine and @firstqiblah

Palestine, Musjidul Aqsa & Allah’s Athaab

[Al-Haqq]

“Many  were  the  orchards  and springs  they  had  to  abandon, along  with  plantations  and   palatial  homes.  Thus,  We  granted  these  to  others.  Neither  the  heavens  nor  the  earth  wept  for  them,  and  they  were  not  granted  respite.” (Qur’aan)

These  Qur’aanic  Aayaat  have  reference  specifically  to  Fir’oun and  his  nation  who  were  destroyed  by  Allah’s  Athaab.  Allah  Ta’ala  then  made  their  slaves, viz.  Bani  Israaeel,  the  masters  of  their  palaces,  orchards,  farms  and  the  country.  Those  who  were despised  became  the  rulers  and the  masters.

Whilst  these  Verses  refer  specifically  to  the  destruction  of  Fir’oun  and  his  nation,  the  lesson  conveyed  has  universal  application.  Allah  Ta’ala  metes  out  the  same  punishment  to  people  when  they  transgress  all  bounds  of  sin  and  disobedience.  The  very  people,  namely,  Bani  Israaeel,  who  were    made  the  rulers  and  masters  of  Egypt  and  the treasures  of  Fir’oun,  were  later punished  by  Allah  Ta’ala.  Their land  was  snatched  away  and handed  to  the  kuffaar  who  once  again  reduced  them  to  slavery.  Jerusalem  was  reduced  to  rubble  and  Musjidul  Aqsa  was  defiled  and  utterly  destroyed.  All  of  this  was  a  punishment  for  the  Muslims  of  that  era  who  had  rebelled against  Allah  Ta’ala  just  as  Muslims  in  our  age  are  today  treacherously  rebelling  against  Allah  Ta’aala.

Recounting  the  ruin  of  Bani Israaeel  after  they  had  been  installed  as  rulers,  the  Qur’aan Majeed says:

“We  had  informed  Bani  Israaeel  in  the  Kitaab:  ‘You  will  most  certainly  spread  mischief  (vice,  evil  and  treachery)  in  the  land  twice,  and  you  will  cause  great  anarchy.  Then  when  the  first  of  the  two  promises   materialized,  We  sent  against  you  such  of  Our  servants  who  were  powerful  in  war,  and  they  penetrated  the  cities.  And,  that  was  a  promise accomplished.

And,  when  the  second  promise materialized, (We  sent  against  you  again  Our  servants)  so  that  they  disfigure  your  faces, and  so  that  they  penetrate  the Musjid  as  they  had  entered  it  the  first  time,  and  they  utterly  pillaged  (and  plundered)  wherever  and  whatever  they  overran.” (Bani Israaeel, Aayaat 4 – 7)

The  ‘land’  mentioned  in  these Verses  refers  to  the  Land  of Shaam.  The  first  occasion  occurred  after  Nabi  Musaa  (Alayhis  salaam),  and  the  second  after  Nabi  Isaa  (Alayhis  salaam).  During  the  first  occasion  of  destruction,  Allah  Ta’ala  sent  a  Majoosi  kaafir  king  to  pillage  and  plunder  Bani  Israaeel.  The  second  occasion,  Allah  Ta’ala  sent  a  Roman  king  against  them.  He    demolished  the  entire  Jerusalem and  Musjidul  Aqsa.

The  consequence  of  Muslim rebellion  and  transgression  was  the  imposition  of  kuffaar  domination  and  handing  over  Musjidul  Aqsa  to  them  (to  the  kuffaar)  who  desecrated  the  Musjid  as  a  punishment  for Muslims.

The  Qur’aan  clearly  mentions  that  the  reason  for  the  destruction  of  Musjidul  Aqsa  and  Jerusalem  was  the  anarchy,  fisq  and  fujoor  of  the  Muslim  Ummah  of  those  times,  namely,  Bani  Israaeel.  This  is  the  Sunnah  of  Allah  for  which  there  is  no  change.  The  same  scenario  is  prevailing  today.  The  Yahoodi   control  of  Musjidul  Aqsa  and  the  persecution  of  the  Palestinian Muslims  by  the  kuffaar  are  the  consequences  of  the  treachery  and  evil  of  the  Muslims.

No  amount  of  stupid  protests and  reviling  the  kuffaar  will change  the  condition  of  Muslims.  Allah  Ta’ala  had  severely  punished  Bani  Israaeel  by  means  of  the  imposition  of  kuffaar  oppression.  70,000    were  enchained  and  marched  to  Babylon  where  they  remained  as  slaves  for  years.  Then,  after  their  Taubah,  Allah  Ta’ala  again  granted  them power,  but  via  His  Nabi,  He warned  them: “If  you  return  (to  your  treachery,  fisq  and  fujoor),  We  too  shall  return  (to  Our punishment).”  

What  is  happening  in  Palestine,  and  elsewhere  –  the  calamities  settling  on  Muslims  –  are  the  Athaab  of  Allah Ta’ala.

Ihraam From Masjid al-Aqsa

Reasons for wearing the Ihraam for Hajj or Umrah from Masjid al-Aqsa, Palestine:

Forgiveness
Our Mother, Hadhrat Umm Salamah (radhiyallahu anha), the wife of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), reported that she heard the beloved Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) say:

“Whoever wears the Ihraam for Umrah or Hajj from Masjidul Aqsa, and then proceeds to Makkah Mukarramah, he will have all hia sins forgiven.”  [Sahih Ibn Hibban, Ahmad]

Hadhrat Umm Salamah (radhiyallahu anha) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “If anyone puts on Ihraam for Hajj or Umrah from Masjidul Aqsa and then proceeds to the Sacred Masjid (Ka’abah), their past and future sins will be forgiven, or they will be entered into Paradise.”  [Abu Dawud]

Special Dua’
Prophet Sulaymaan (alayhissalaam) asked this special dua’ for all those who will visit and offer Salaah at Masjid al-Aqsa:

“O Allah! Forgive that person in such a way that he becomes sinless as the day he was born.” [Ibn Majah]

Special Reward
‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) relates, I asked the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), O Prophet of Allah!, tell us the legal injunction about (visiting) Bayt al-Maqdis:

The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said,

“Go and pray there, if you cannot visit it and pray there, then send some oil to be used in the lamps.” [Bukhari]

FIDGET SPINNERS – THE LATEST DAJJALIC TREND

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In any other era, if we were to see an adult aimlessly and mindlessly spinning a silly, colourful, childish toy between his fingers, we would perhaps start to doubt the fact that his mental capacities were still functioning according to the Divinely set and apportioned harmonious equilibrium normally found in adults. Or, in simpler terms, we would consider calling the psychiatrist. But not in the era we are living in. This techno-tronic era we find ourselves in is an exaggerated form of The Brave New World of Aldous Huxley, and the 1984 of George Orwell, satirical works written many decades ago about a futuristic world devoid of, well, everything even remotely humane. An era in which Dajjal calls the shots (at least according to his deficient and limited mental scope), and we, the Ummah, obediently follow in utter subservience, choosing to ignore and lay to waste the great gift of intelligence given to us by Allah Ta’ala, and the ability to think for ourselves.

Fidget spinners, as these new toys are called, have been quite aptly named. It is claimed that they help bring about concentration and calmness, and remove fidgeting. Outwardly it may seem so, but in reality this toy has been cleverly designed to do just quite the opposite – it is nothing but a time-wasting distraction which causes excessive and dangerous fidgeting of the spiritual heart, and the fidgeting it is actually supposed to remove is quite different from anything we may imagine. The saddest and most distressful part is the fact that Muslims have been rushing to buy, and even sell the toy, despite knowing well that Allah has categorically and clearly stated in the Quran, “Beware! It is only and only through the remembrance of Allah that the hearts can attain peace, contentment, tranquillity, happiness.”  

Concentration and calmness cannot be achieved through fidget spinners when a person is involved in the disobedience of Allah, because to disobey Allah is to forget Him. Peace can only be achieved through staying away from sin, and involving oneself in salaah, dhikr, recitation of the Quran, pondering over the power and beauty of Allah, sitting in the gatherings of the Awliyaa, among numerous other praiseworthy deeds.

Whoever has seen a fidget spinner will know that they come in various colourful designs and shapes. When spun, the rotation of the designs creates a mesmerising, hypnotic effect similar to what is used in actual hypnosis sessions. Similarly, the spinner comes with an option of LED lights, for spinning in the dark. The effect created by these fast spinning, colourful LED lights is almost the same as the effect of flashing, pulsating, rotating disco lights. Disco lights aren’t how they are without any reason, the lights have been specifically designed to achieve sinister objectives. Disco lights were created to blanket the human mind into a mildly hypnotic stupor, and this is what happens with the LED lights on the fidget spinner. Not everyone goes to the disco, so they simply brought the disco lights home in the form of a seemingly harmless toy. From this we get to know that the spinning of the colourful designs and/or the LED lights exercises a tranquilising, hypnotising effect on the brain, relaxing its natural guards and alarms, so that the mind becomes more willing to accept subliminal messages and suggestions, and becomes more vulnerable and susceptible to subconscious programing.

In layman’s terms, fidget spinners have been designed to make our minds more willing to blindly accept, consciously or subconsciously, whatever Dajjal and his cronies want us to believe, without even knowing what we are actually doing. It thus effectively removes the ‘fidgeting’ of the mind, otherwise more commonly known as critical thinking. Not co-incidentally, television works according to the same principle of flashes of colourful lights moving with high speed, to achieve a similar objective.

Fidget spinners are extremely dangerous and harmful toys for adults as well as children, which can destroy our dunya as well as Aakhirat. Let us not become gullible, blind slaves to the fads and crazes being propelled by the West. Let us learn to think for ourselves, and look deeply into matters with the noor of the heart, to be able to see the reality that is not apparent at first glance. May Allah save all of us from the traps of Dajjal.

Ahadith On the Virtues of Masjid al-Aqsa

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Infograph source: Islamiclandmarks.com

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The Second House of Allah on Earth
1, Abu Dharr (radhiyallahu anhu) reported that he asked the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), “O Messenger of Allah, which Masjid was built first on earth”? The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) replied, “The Sacred Masjid of Makkah”. Abu Dharr (radhiyallahu anhu) again asked, “Which was next”? The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Masjid Al-Aqsa”. Abu Dharr (radhiyallahu anhu) further asked, “How long was the period between the building of the two Masjids”? The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Forty years”. Apart from these, offer your prayer anywhere when it is time to pray, although excellence is in praying in these Masjids”. (Bukhari)

The Importance of Visiting Masjid Al-Aqsa
2, Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “You should not undertake a special journey to visit any place other than the following three Masjids with the expectations of getting greater reward: the Sacred Masjid of Makkah (Ka’bah), this Masjid of mine (the Prophet’s Masjid in Madinah), and Masjid Al-Aqsa (of Jerusalem)”. In another narration the words are, “For three Masjids a special journey may be undertaken: The Sacred Masjid (Ka’bah), my Masjid and Masjid of Jerusalem (Al-Aqsa). (Muslim, Bukhari, Abu Dawud)

Greater Virtue of praying in Masjid Al-Aqsa
3, Abu Darda (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallqm) said, “A prayed in Makkah (Ka’bah) is worth 1000,000 times (reward), a prayer in my Masjid (Madinah) is worth 1,000 times and a prayer in Al-Aqsa Sanctuary is worth 500 times more reward than anywhere else”. (Tabarani, Bayhaqi, Suyuti)

4, Anas Ibn Malik (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, ” The prayer of a person in his house is a single prayer; his prayer in the Masjid of his people has the reward of 27 prayers; his prayer in the Masjid in which the Friday prayer is observed has the reward of 500; his prayer in Masjid Al-Aqsa (i.e. Al-Aqsa Sanctuary) has a reward of 5,000 prayers; his prayer in my Masjid (the Prophet’s Masjid in Madinah) has a reward of 50,000 prayers, and the prayer in the Sacred Masjid (Ka’bah) has the reward of 100,000 prayers”. (Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah)

The Importance of Donating to Masjid Al-Aqsa 
5, Abdullah Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) relates, I asked the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), “Apostle of Allah, tell us the legal injunction about (visiting) Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem).” The Apostle of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, ”Go and pray there. If you cannot visit it and pray there, then send some oil to be used in the lamps”. (Bukhari)

6, Maymunah Bint Sa’d (radhiyallahu anha) relates that she asked the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), “O Messenger of Allah, inform us about Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem)”. He said, “Visit it for prayer “. She further asked, “If one of us cannot visit it, what should we do”? He said, “If you cannot go for prayer then send some oil to be used for its lamps, will be as if he has prayed in it”. (Ahmad, Ibn Majah, Abu Dawud, Tabarani)

The Virtues of Wearing Ihram From Masjid Al-Aqsa
7, Umm Salamah (radhiyallahu anha) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “If anyone puts on Ihram for Hajj or Umrah from Masjid Al-Aqsa and then proceeds to the Sacred Masjid (Ka’bah), their past and future sins will be forgiven, or they will be entered into Paradise”. (Abu Dawud)

The Blessed Land of Masjid Al-Aqsa
8, Zaid Ibn Thabit (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “How blessed is Al-Sham”! The Companions (ra) asked, “Why is that”? The Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) replied, “I see the Angels of Allah spreading their wings over Al-Sham”. Ibn Abbas (radhiyallahu anhu) added, “And the Prophets lived therein. There is not a single inch in Al-Quds (Jerusalem) where a Prophet has not prayed or an Angel not stood”. (Tirmidhi, Ahmad)

9, The Prophet Mohammed (saw) said, “Allah has blessed what lies between Al-‘Arish (in Egypt) and the Euphrates and has made Palestine particularly Holy”. (Kanz Al-Umal)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The First Qiblah (direction of prayer)
10, Abdullah Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates, “We prayed along with the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) facing Al-Quds (Jerusalem) for 16 or 17 months. Then Allah ordered him saw) to turn his face towards the Ka’bah (in Makkah). (Bukhari)

11, Al-Bara (radhiyallahu anhu) added, “Before we changed our direction towards the Ka’bah in prayer, some Muslims had died or had been killed and we did not know what to say about them (regarding their prayers). Allah then revealed: And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost (i.e. the prayers of those Muslims facing Bayt Al-Maqdis were valid) {2:143} (Bukhari)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The Station of Al-Isra and Al-Miraj
12, Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “On the night journey Allah’s Apostle (sallallaahu alayhi wasallan) was taken on a night journey (Al-Isra and Al-Miraj), two cups, one containing wine and the other containing milk were presented to him (saw) at Al-Quds (Jerusalem). He looked at them and took the cup of milk. Angel Gabriel said, “Praise be to Allah, who guided you to Al-Fitrah (the right path); if you had taken (the cup of) wine, your Ummah would have gone astray”. (Bukhari)

13, Regarding the statement of Allah in the Holy Quran, “And We granted the vision (ascension to the Heavens) which we made you see (as an actual eye witness) was only made as a trial for the people”. (17:60) Ibn Abbas (radhiyallahu anhu) said, “The sights which Allah’s Apostle was shown on the Night journey where he was taken to Bayt Al-Maqdis (i.e. Jerusalem) were actual sights, (not dreams). And the Cursed tree (mentioned) in the Quran is the tree of Zaqqum. (Bukhari)

14, Jabir Ibn Abdullah (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “When the people of Quraysh did not believe me (i.e. the story of his Miraculous Night Journey), I stood up in Al-Hijr and Allah displayed Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem in front of me, and I began describing it to them while I was looking at it”. (Bukhari)

15, Abdullah Ibn Hawwala (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “I saw on the night of Al-Isra and Al-Miraj (the Night Journey) a white column resembling a pearl which the Angels were carrying . I asked them, “What are you carrying”? They said, “The Column of the Book, we have been ordered to place it in Al-Sham. Later in my sleep, I saw the Column of the Book being taken away from under my headrest. I began to fear lest Allah the Almighty had abandoned the people of the earth. My eyes followed the Column of the Book. It was a brilliant light in front of me. Then I saw it was placed in A;-Sham. (Tabarani)

16, Anas (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “I was brought the Buraq, a tall white beast, bigger than a donkey, smaller than a mule. It could place his hooves at the farthest boundary of his gaze. I mounted it until I arrived at Bayt Al-Maqdis. I tied it at the ring where the Prophets tied it before (i.e. Buraq Wall or the Western Wall). I entered Masjid Al-Aqsa Sanctuary and prayed 2 rak’ah there…” (Muslim)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The Place for Major Events
17, Mujamma Ibn Al-Harith (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Ibn Maryam (Jesus) will kill Al-Dajjal (the Anti-Christ) at the door of Ludd (a town in Palestine)”. (Ahmad, Tirmidhi)

18, The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said regarding Al-Dajjal: “He will stay in the land forty days; he will enter every place on earth except the Ka’bah, the Prophet’s Masjid, Al-Aqsa Sanctuary and Mount Sinai”. (Ahmad)

19, Nahik Ibn Suraym Al-Sakuni (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “You will fight the pagans until the remnant of you fights on the river of Jordan, you to the east of it (present day Jordan) and they to the west of it (occupied Palestine)”. (Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani)

20, Maymunah Bint Sa’d (radhiyallahu anha) reports that she asked the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), “O Messenger of Allah, give us a pronouncement about Al-Quds (Jerusalem)”. The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) replied, “It is the land where they will be raised (Al-Hashr) and gathered (Al-Mahshar)”. (Ahmad, Tabarani)

21, Muadh Ibn Jabal (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “The Flourishing state of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) (under the non-Muslims) will be taken when Yathrib is in ruins, the ruined state of Yathrib will be when the Great War comes, the outbreak of the Great War will be at the conquest of Constantinople and the conquest of Constantinople when Al-Dajjal (Anti-Christ) comes forth”. He (the Prophet) struck his thigh with his hand and said, “This is as true as you are here or as you are sitting (meaning Muadh Ibn Jabal). (Abu Dawud)

22, Awf Ibn Malik (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “The rest of the world will be destroyed forty years before Al-Sham is”. (Ibn Asakir)

23, The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said regarding the inhabitants of the blessed land, “They and their wives, children and slaves (male and female) are in ribat (guardians, literally a fort) in the cause of Allah”. (Tabarani)

24, Al-Nawwas Ibn Saman Al-kalbi (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “If Al-Dajjal comes forth while I am amongst you then I shall dispute with him on your behalf, but if he comes after I am not with you, a man must dispute on his own behalf, and Allah will take to protecting every Muslim. Those of you who live up to his time should recite over him the opening verses of Surah Kahf, for they are your protection from his trial”. We asked, “How long will he remain on earth”? He (saw) replied, “Forty days, one like a year (1 day will be equivalent to 1 year), one like a month, one like a week and the rest of his days like yours”? We asked, “Will one day’s prayer suffice us in the day which will be like a year”? He replied, “No, you must estimate of its extent. Then Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Virgin Mary) will descend at the white minaret to the east of Damascus. He will then catch Al-Dajjal up at the gates of Ludd and kill him”. (Abu Dawud)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The place of Mujahideen
25, Umamah Al-Bahili (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “A group of my Ummah will remain on truth, they will vanquish their enemy and those who disagree with them will not be able to harm them until Allah commands”. “Where are these people”? The Companions (ra) asked. The Prophet (saw) said, “In and around Al-Quds (Jerusalem). (Ahmad)

26, Mu’awiyah Ibn Sufyan (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “There is a group among my followers who will continue to be openly on the truth. No one who opposes them can harm them until the coming of the Hour”. The Companions (radhiyallahu anhum) asked, “Where will they be”? The Messenger of Allah said, “They will be in and around Bayt Al-Maqdis (i.e. Jerusalem)”. (Ahmad)

27, Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “A group of my Ummah will not cease to fight at the gates of Damascus and at the gates of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and its surroundings. The betrayal or desertion of whoever deserts them will not harm them in the least. They will remain victorious, standing for the truth, until the Final Hour rises”. (Tabarani)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The Best Place of Residence
28, Abdullah Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, There will be migration upon migration. The best of the inhabitants of earth will reside where Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) migrated (Jerusalem)”. (Abu Dawud)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The Desired Site of Musa (Moses)
29, Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “The Angel of death was sent to Musa. When he came to Musa, Musa punched him on the eye. The Angel returned to Allah and said, “You sent me to a servant who does not want to die”. Allah ordered the Angel, ‘Return to him and tell him to put his hand on the back of an ox and for every hair that will come under it, he will be granted one year of life’. Musa asked, “O Lord! What will happen after that”? Allah replied, ‘Then death’. Musa decided, let it be now’. Musa then requested Allah to let him die close to the Sacred Land (near Masjid Al-Aqsa) so much so that he would be at a distance of a stone’s throw form it”. Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) added, the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) then said, “If I were there, I would show you his grave below the red sand hill on the side of the road”. (Bukhari)

Liberation of Masjid Al-Aqsa Prophesied
30, Awf Ibn Malik relates, “I went to the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) during the battle of Tabuk while he was sitting in a leather tent. He said, ‘Awf, Count six signs, between now and the approach of the Hour (Qiyamah/Doomsday): my death, the conquest of Al-Quds (Jerusalem); a plague that will afflict you (and kill you in great numbers) as the plague that afflicts sheep; the increase of wealth to such an extent that even if one is given 100 hundred Dinars (Arabian currency), he will not be satisfied; then an affliction which no Arab house will escape; and then a truce between you and Banu Asfar (i.e. Byzantines) who will betray you and attack you under eighty flags. Under each flag will be twelve thousand soldiers”. (Bukhari)

31, Shadad Ibn Aws (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Sham will be conquered and Al-Quds (Jerusalem) will be conquered and you or your sons will be Imams there, if Allah will”. (Tabarani)

The Preference of Masjid Al-Aqsa
32, Once the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) advised Abdullah Ibn Hawwala (radhiyallahu anhu) to join the army in al-Sham, over any other. However, the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), noticing Ibn Hawwala’s indifference said, “Do you know what Allah says about Al-Sham? Allah said, ‘Al-Sham you are the quintessence of My lands (safwati min biladi) and I shall inhabit you with the chosen ones among My servants’”. (Tabarani)

33, Abdullah Ibn Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) repeated the following statement three times: “When the dissension takes place belief shall be in Al-Sham”. One version of hadith states, “safety will be in Al-Sham”. (Tabarani)

34, Abdullah Ibn Hawwala reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “At some point you will be (split into) standing armies: one army in Al-Sham, on in Yemen and one in Iraq”. Abdullah Ibn Hawala asked he Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), “Choose for me, Messenger of Allah in case I live to see that day”. The Prophet (Sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) replied, “You must go to Al-Sham, for it is the chosen land of Allah in all His earth. He protects, by sending them there, the chosen ones among His servants. If you do not wish to go there, then go to Yemen. Allah has given me guarantee concerning Al-Sham and its people. (Abu Dawud, Ahmad)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The Site of the Future Caliphate
35, Abdullah Ibn Hawwala Al-Azdi (radhiyallahu anhu) reported, the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) put his hand on my head and said, “Ibn Hawwala if you see that the Caliphate has taken abode in the Holy Land then the earthquakes and tribulations and great events are at hand. The last Hour on that day will be closer to people than my hand is to your head”. (Ahmad, Abu Dawud)

36, Yunus Ibn Maysarah  relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “This matter (the Caliphate) will be after me in Madinah, then Al-Sham, then Al-Jazira, then Iraq, then in Madinah, then in AL-quds (Jerusalem). If it is in Al-Quds, its home country is there, and if any people expel it, it will not return there forever”. (Ibn Asakir)

37, Al-Numan Ibn Bashir (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Prophethood will last with you for as long as Allah wants it. Then Allah will end it if He wishes to end it. Then there will be the Rightly Guided Caliphs according to the method of Prophethood and things will be as Allah wishes them. Then Allah will end it if He wishes it. Then there will be a voracious kingdom and things will be as Allah wishes them. Then Allah will end it if He wishes. Then there will be Khilafah (Caliphate) according to the method of Prophethood. Thereafter the Prophet (saw) fell silent”. (Ahmad)

38, Abd Al-Rahman Ibn Abi Umayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “There will be an oath of allegiance according to guidance in Al-Quds (Jerusalem)”. (Bukhari, Muslim)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The Place Where Allah’s Revelation Descended
39, Abu Umama (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Prophethood descended upon me in three places: Makkah, Madinah and Al-Sham. Once it is brought out from any of them, it shall never return to it”. (Abu Dawud) In another narration it states, “The Quran was revealed in three places – Makkah, Madinah and Al-Sham”. (Tabarani) Ibn Kathir, the great scholar of Islam, said, “Al-Sham here means Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem). (Abu Dawud, Tabarani)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – Mentioned By Name In The Holy Quran
40, Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) reports that the Prophet (saw) used to recite Surah Al-Isra every night in his prayer:
Glorified (and Exalted) be He (Allah) Who took His slave (Muhammad Sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) for a journey by night from Al-Masjid-al-Haram (at Makkah) to the farthest mosque (in Jerusalem), the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, in order that We might show him (Muhammad SAW) of Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, lessons, signs, etc.). Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer. (17:1)

May Allah Ta’ala protect Masjid al-Aqsa and protect its surroundings from the enemies. Aameen.

Existence of Masjid Al-Aqsa During Isra’ Wal Miraj

Source: www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Contrad/External/aqsa.html

Introduction

Glory to (Allah) Who did take His Servant for a Journey by night
from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless – in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things). [Qur’an 17:1]

Many Christian missionaries point to an ‘alleged difficulty’  concerning the above passage. They claim that:

The Farthest Mosque (Al-Masjid-ul-Aqsa) was built many years after the death of Muhammad. It is utterly impossible that Muhammad visited it on his Night Journey.

They further add:

The Temple of Solomon had been completely destroyed in 70 AD, i.e. 550 years before the alleged time of the Miraj in 622 AD, the twelfth year of Muhammad’s mission. A Temple that didn’t exist anymore does not provide any better solution to this problem than a Mosque which wasn’t built yet.

Similarly, the Christian apologist ‘Abdallah ‘Abd al-Fadi says:

Moreover, the Further [sic!]  Mosque was not in existence at the time of Muhammad, but was built about a hundred years after his death! How could he have prayed in it, then, or described its gates and windows? [1]

Firstly, al-Aqsa mosque was built not “about a hundred years” after the death of the Prophet in 11 AH / 632 CE. In 49-50 AH / 670 CE, Bishop Arculfus, a Christian visitor in Jerusalem, reported:

On the famous place where once stood the temple, the Saracens worship at a square house of prayer, which they have built with little art, of boards and large beams on the remains of some ruins… [2]

By the time Bishop Arculfus was in Jerusalem, some 40 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad, the al-Aqsa mosque was already being used as a place of worship by Muslims. Secondly, as usual, the solution to such a “difficulty” lies in part in an elementary knowledge of the Arabic language as well as an understanding of basic Islamic concepts relating to the word “masjid”.

What Is A Masjid??

We will begin by dealing with the word masjid from both the linguistic and legal points of view. The Arabic word for “mosque” is masjid. Discussing with the word masjidfrom a linguistic point of view al-Zarkashi says:

Masjid from a linguistic point of view

Linguistically, it comes on the scheme of maf’il with a kasrah  [i.e. the ‘i’ of masjid] which is ism makan [i.e., name of location] for prostration, while with a fathah [i.e., masjad] it is a masdar.

Abu Zakariyya al-Farra’ [a famous grammarian] said: Every verb coming on the scheme of fa”ala  [in the past form] yaf’ulu [in the present form] like dakhala yadkhulu [which means “to enter”] admits the form maf’al  with a fathah as a noun or  masdar without distinction like in dakhala madkhalan. There are some nouns that were bound to take a kasrah on the second letter of its root like masjid, matli`,  maghrib, mashriq and others, thus making the kasrah a sign of the noun, and some Arabs may say it with a fathah.

Indeed, masjid and masjad, and matli’ and matla’ were all narrated.

He said: Putting a fathah in all these forms is admissible even if we did not hear it before.

He said in Al-Sihah: Masjad with a fathah refers to one’s forehead which is the place involved in prostration. [3]

The Arab grammarians classify masjid as “ism makan”, i.e., “name of location”; it indicates the place where an action takes place.  Masjid being derived from the root sa-ja-da (to prostrate), it means “place of prostration”. Since a place of worship is a place where believers prostrate to God, “masjid” is a general term to designate any place of worship without any religious distinction. Later, this word was used to designate Islamic places of worship in particular, i.e., the mosques.

The Prophet’s night journey was from “the inviolable place of worship” (al-Masjid al-Haram) to “the farthest place of worship” (al-Masjid al-Aqsa). The former is certainly located in Makkah, but what about the latter? The reference to Allah blessing its surroundings (…whose precincts We did bless) suggests a location in the “Holy Land” (cf. 21:81; 7:137; 34:18). Neal Robinson states:

The [Muslim] tradition which identifies it [i.e., al-Masjid al-Aqsa] with the Temple Mount in Jerusalem makes admirable sense in view of the fact that the ‘place of worship’ (masjid) whose destruction is evoked in v. 7 [i.e., 17:7] is clearly the Temple. [4]

This view is also shared by many western scholars. [5]

As it was mentioned earlier that masjid refers to a place of prostration without any religious distinction; an excellent example of the usage of the word “masjid” referring to a non-Islamic sanctuary can be seen in the verse 17:7. The verse describes briefly the destruction of the masjid in Jerusalem (i.e., the Temple) by the enemies of Children of Israel. Allah says in the Qur’an that the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem was a punishment was inflicted upon the Children of Israel for their tyranny and arrogance.

Now that the linguistic issues are clarified, let us now turn to the legal issues (i.e., Islamic Law) concerning the word masjid. Al-Zarkashi says:

Masjid from a legal point of view

From a legal point of view it refers to every place on earth since the Prophet – peace be upon him – said: “The earth was made a masjid for me” which is a particularity of this ummah. This was said by the Qadi `Iyadh because the previous nations used not to pray except in the places they were sure of their pureness whereas we were allowed to perform the prayers in any place not known to be impure. [6]

Further he emphasizes:

Since prostration is the most honourable act in prayer because of the nearness of the servant to his Lord, the name of the location was derived from it. This is why we call it masjid [location of sujud / prostration] and not marka` [place of ruku` / inclination]. [7]

In summary, masjid from a linguistic point of view means a “place of prostration” without any religious distinction. From a legal point of view the word masjid in shari’ah constitutes every place on earth that is fit for prostration. In other words masjid does not designate a building but only a “place of prostration”; the place may or may not have the building. In support of the argument, we quote hadith #323 in Sahih al-Bukhari that has already been mentioned by al-Zarkashi:

Muhammad Ibn Sinan, i.e., al-‘Awqi told us, Hushaym told us; and Sa`id Ibn an-Nadr told me, Hushaym informed us that Sayyar informed us, Yazid, i.e., Ibn Suhayb al-Faqir told us, Jabir Ibn ‘Abd Allah told us:

The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “I have been given five things which were not given to any amongst the Prophets before me. These are:

1. Allah made me victorious by awe [by His frightening of my enemies] for a distance of one month’s journey.

2. The earth has been made for me [and for my followers] a “masjid” [Arabic: a place for prostration] and a means of purification. Therefore, my followers can pray wherever the time of a prayer is due.

3. The booty has been made halaal [lawful] for me [and was not made so for anyone else].

4. Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation exclusively but I have been sent to all mankind.

5. I have been given the right of intercession [on the Day of Resurrection]. [8]

So, according to this hadith, any place on the earth is a masjid for Muslims. Therefore, whether there was a building or not when the Prophet made his heavenly trip, it is the location of the “Farthest Mosque” that is intended by the verse and not a building per se because the location where it lies was blessed by God as mentioned in verse 17:1 “the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless”. Therefore, no one can claim that the word “masjid” in the Islamic terminology refers necessarily to a building. Imam Ibn Hajar confirms this opinion in Fath al-Bari (his commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari) :

(the earth has been made for me a “masjid”) means a place for prostration, i.e., prostration is not restricted to any particular place of the earth. It may also be a metaphor of a construction built for prayer. This is due to the fact that once prayer is authorized everywhere on earth it becomes like a mosque for that purpose. Ibn al-Tin said: “The earth has been made for me a masjid and a means of purification” both were given to the Prophet, peace be upon him, while it was only a place for worship for others and was not a means of purification, because Jesus used to walk around and pray whenever prayer was due. Al-Dawudi said likewise before him. It was also said that they [the previous generations]  were authorized to perform prayer in places known for sure to be pure, whereas this ummah is authorized to pray anywhere on earth except in the places known for sure to be impure. The strongest opinion is that of al-Khattabi who says that earlier nations were authorized to perform prayer in special places like synagogues and churches. This is confirmed by the wording of the narration of Ibn Shu`ayb “And before me people prayed in their churches.” This is a controversial [?] wording but the specificity was established [??]. This is supported by the narration of al-Bazzar from the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas similar to the present hadith which includes “Prophets did not pray until they reached their chamber”. [9]

Before we close this issue, one should realize that verse 17:1 also speaks of “The Sacred Mosque” which is in Makkah around the Ka`bah. Did a building for the mosque exist there in the time of the Prophet? The answer is that the Ka`bah was there but there was no building for the mosque. This further adds to the argument that the word masjid in this verse refers to a place of performing the prostration and does not imply the presence of a “building” in the modern understanding.

The above understanding of the wordmasjid as a place of worship not building per se is also well supported by archaeological and historic evidence. Below we present a picture of an early mosque in a place called Besor in Occupied Palestine. [10]

image

image

Moshe Sharon comments about the Besor mosque. He says:

To the west of the village on the top of the hill, overlooking the valley and the houses of the village, was the threshing floor, and to the south of it a small open mosque with a rectangular mihrab made of 3 blocks of stones [bottom figure]. The mosque was built to a height of probably two layers of stones, no more than 0.5 m., and was almost square, about 3 x 3 m. and could contain no more than 8-10 men at a time. [11]

There are many other examples of early mosques from Negev region that are nothing but a few stones arranged to mark the mihrab. [12,13]

image

image

image

image

It is clear from the above pictures that a mosque is simply a place where Muslims prostrate in prayer. It does not need an

elaborate building to be called a mosque. The open mosques that we have seen above do exist even today in Middle East and North Africa.

Concerning early mosques, Creswell states:

… their [i.e., Muslims’]  architectural resources, before they started in their career of conquest, were barely enough to give expression to their needs. In other words Arabia constituted an almost perfect architectural vacuum…The first mosques in the great hiras, or half nomadic encampments of the conquest, such as Basra, Kufa and Fustat, were primitive in the extreme, and in Syria the first mosques were churches that had been converted or merely divided: In fact there is no reason for believing that any mosque was built as such in Syria until the time of al-Walid (705-15) or possibly ‘Abd al-Malik (685-705), for over a generation the Arabs remained quite untouched by any architectural ambitions… [14]

It is worth noting that the Prophet disliked extravagance and impressive architecture in buildings, especially mosques. The relative simplicity of early mosques is in fact a historical example of how the Prophet’s Companions diligently followed his wishes. This is true to a greater extent even today.

Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa: A Place Of Prostration For Jews

The Qur’an refers to al-Aqsa as a masjid, a place of prostration. Was this place used for prostration in early times?

Al-Masjid al-Aqsa and the surrounding area (i.e., Dome of the Rock among others) is usually identified with the place where the Temple of Solomon once stood. Bet ha-Miqdash, as the Temple is usually known in Jewish literature, was primarily a place of assembly for the entire people, for purposes of sacrifice, prayer, and thanksgiving. It is in the prayer ritual that prostrations were performed by the priests. Encyclopaedia Judaica provides an interesting account of the prayer ritual by the priests of the Temple.

The priest who had gathered the coals entered the sanctuary first, scattered them over the incense altar, prostrated himself, and departed. Then the priest who was chosen by lot to offer the incense entered, bearing the pan of incense in his hand. He was accompanied by a priest appointed for this task who instructed him in the proper ritual, and he did not offer it until he was told: “Offer the incense!” The officiating priest waited until the space between the hall and the altar was cleared of people, offered up the incense, prostrated himself, and departed (Tam. 6; Kelim end of ch. 1). During the offering of the incense in the sanctuary, the people used to gather in the azarah for prayer, and even outside the Temple these times were set aside for prayer (cf. Luke 1:10; Judith 9:1). After the departure of the priest who had offered the incense, all the priests filed into the sanctuary, prostrated themselves, and went out again. [15]

It is interesting to note that the Temple was considered as the only place of prostration by some Rabbis and that they would refuse to completely prostrate outside the Temple in Jerusalem. [16]

The Jewish concept of worship has extensive vocabulary, out of which hishtahawah, “to prostrate oneself,” is the most frequently used in the Hebrew Bible (86 times). [17]

Yet Another Problem!

In the same article, the missionaries express another objection:

In Yusuf Ali’s commentary on this verse we read: “The Farthest Mosque must refer to the site of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem…” So, it is interpreted to be not the building itself, but only the site, the location where it had been. I might be wrong, but this seems to be contradicted by a hadith and Muhammad’s understanding that Al-Masjid-ul-Aqs-a is something that is built, not just a location. Al-Masjid-ul-Haram after all was a building.

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 636:

Narrated Abu Dhaar:

I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Which mosque was built first?” He replied, “Al-Masjid-ul-Haram.” I asked, “Which (was built) next?” He replied, “Al-Masjid-ul-Aqs-a (i.e. Jerusalem).” I asked, “What was the period in between them?” He replied, “Forty (years).” He then added, “Wherever the time for the prayer comes upon you, perform the prayer, for all the earth is a place of worshipping for you.”

This hadith actually introduces yet another problem. Abraham supposedly (re)built the Kaaba, (and Abraham lived about 2000 BC) and the Temple was built by Solomon in about 958-951 BC, then Muhammad gave another historically false information based on a major confusion about the time when these people lived.

Firstly, we have already shown that the word masjid does not necessarily refer to a building but rather to a location, i.e., the place of prostration. Secondly, the missionaries try to deceive the readers in the above paragraphs. Indeed, they admit the Islamic opinion that Abraham rebuilt the Ka`bah (it was Adam who built it originally according to the Islamic tradition), but for unjustified reason they overlook the Islamic traditions addressing the construction of the farthest mosque, presumably to generate a “contradiction”. 

They identify the Farthest Mosque with the Temple of Solomon without further justification, and point out an error that they had invented themselves. Let us for example see what Imam Ibn Hajar says about this hadith in Fath al-Bari:

His saying (40 years) 
Ibn al-Jawzi said: It raises a problem since Abraham built the Ka`bah and Solomon built Bayt al-Maqdis [another name of al-Masjid al-Aqsa cf. Hebrew Bet ha-Miqdash] and there are 1,000 years between them. His evidence for saying that it is Solomon – peace be upon him – who built the Farthest Mosque is the narration of al-Nasa’i from the hadith of `Abd Allah Ibn `Amr Ibn al-`As attributed to the Prophet with an authentic isnad that “When Solomon built Bayt al-Maqdis he asked God the Most High for three things etc.” and in al-Tabarani from the hadith of Rafi` Ibn `Umayrah that “David – peace be upon him – started building Bayt al-Maqdis but God inspired him: I shall accomplish its building with Solomon” and the hadith has a story. He[Ibn al-Jawzi] said: “The answer to that is that the mention concerns the first construction and the foundation of the mosque and it is not Abraham who built the Ka`bah for the first time nor is it Solomon who built Bayt al-Maqdis for the first time. Indeed, we have narrated that the first one who built the Ka`bah is Adam. Then his progeny spread out on earth. Therefore, it is possible that one of them built Bayt al-Maqdis. Later, Abraham (re)built the Ka`bah according to the Qur’an.” Likewise, al-Qurtubi said: The hadith does not indicate that Abraham and Solomon were the first ones to build the two mosques. It was only a renovation of what had been founded by others.  [18]

After quoting other opinions, Ibn Hajar insists:

But the possibility mentioned by Ibn al-Jawzi is more pertinent. And I found evidence supporting those who say that it is Adam who founded both mosques. For instance, Ibn Hisham mentioned in “Kitab al-Tijan” that when Adam built the Ka`bah, God ordered him to walk to Bayt al-Maqdis and build it and so he did and offered worship in it. And the construction of the House [Arabic: al-Bayt, i.e., the Ka`bah] is famous and we have mentioned earlier the hadith of ‘Abd Allah Ibn ‘Amr that the House was elevated in the time of the flood until God showed Abraham its location. Ibn Abi Hatim narrated from the way of Ma’mar from Qatadah: God founded the House with Adam when he descended. But Adam missed the voices of the Angels and their prayers. Therefore, God told him: I sent down a House around which [people] will revolve like it is revolved around my Throne, so set out to it. Adam set out to Makkah – He had descended in India, and his steps were enlarged until he reached the House and revolved around it. It was also said that when he had prayed at the Ka`bah, he was ordered to set out to Jerusalem where he built a masjid [mosque]  and prayed therein so that it became a qiblah to a part of his progeny.  [19]

In summary, the verse 17:1 refers to the holy locations in Jerusalem and Makkah because they are blessed regardless of the presence or absence of a building at the time of the heavenly trip of Prophet Muhammad. From an Islamic point of view, evidence has been given by eminent Muslim scholars like Ibn Hajar and Ibn al-Jawzi showing that it was Adam who built both mosques for the first time and that the job of Abraham and Solomon was only a renovation/reconstruction of these sanctuaries.

Conclusions

The word masjid from a linguistic point of view refers to a place of prostration without any religious distinction. From a legal point of view the word masjid in shari’ah constitutes every place on earth that is fit for prostration, whether or not it is a building.

The verse 17:1 may very well refer to the holy locations in Jerusalem and Makkah because they are blessed regardless of the presence or absence of a building at the time of the heavenly trip of Prophet Muhammad from Makkah to Jerusalem to the Heavens. From an Islamic point of view, evidence has been given by eminent Muslim scholars like IbnHajar and Ibn al-Jawzi who have discussed the issue. They have shown that it was Adam who built both mosques for the first time and that the duty of Abraham and Solomon was only a renovation/reconstruction of these sanctuaries.

And Allah knows best!

Appendix: Who Turned The Temple Mount Into A Garbage Dump??

Let’s now deal with some side issues. The Christian missionaries tell us that when the Muslims conquered Jerusalem they found the Temple Mount filled with garbage:

“When the Arabs conquered Jerusalem they found the Temple Mount abandoned and filled with refuse. … `Umar ordered it cleaned and performed a prayer there. The sanctuary [the Dome of the Rock] … was built by Caliph `Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan around 72/691.”

Two question now arise, who abandoned the Temple Mount and why was it filled it with rubbish? The facts become clearer when we actually fill in the blanks “…”  in the Christian missionaries’ quotation:

When the Arabs conquered Jerusalem they found the Temple Mount abandoned and filled with refuse. The abandonment of the Temple site was in accordance with Jesus’ prophecy that not a stone would be left standing on another.`Umar ordered it cleaned and performed a prayer there. [20]

So, it was the Christians who abandoned the Temple some 600 years before the Muslims entered it. But who used the Holy place a rubbish dump?

Ever since the Persian occupation, when the Jews had resumed worship on the platform, the Christians had used the place as the city rubbish dump. When `Umar reached the old ruined gates of the Temple, says the Muslim historian Mujir al-Din, he was horrified to see the filth, “which was then all about the holy sanctuary, had settled on the steps of the gates so that it even came out into the streets in which the gate opened, and it had accumulated so greatly as almost to reach up the ceiling of the gateway.” The only way to get up to the platform was to crawl on hands and knees. Sophronius went first and the Muslims struggled up behind. When they arrived at the top, the Muslims must have gazed appalled at the vast and desolate expanse of Herod’s platform, still covered with piles of fallen masonry and garbage. [21]

It was the Christians! The Christian attitude towards Jerusalem can be understood by reading the New Testament. Paul’s Epistles and the Book of Revelation may have defined a theological framework for the attitude towards Jerusalem, but the two synoptic Gospels of Luke (19:42-44) and Matthew did more than that. They also provided guidelines for political or quaispolitical actions after Christianity became the officially established religion of the Roman Empire. The Gospels relate how Jesus rebuked his disciples when they admired the Temple’s beauty from the Mount of Olives: “His disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the Temple. But he answered them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left any stone upon another.'” (Matthew 24:1-2).

Art historians such as Nuseibah and Grabar have reached a similar conclusion concerning the Christian attitude towards the Temple Mount:

More importantly, not only was the Haram left barren, but that very barrenness was given the Christian significance of fulfilling Christ’s prophecy, “There will not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down” (Mark 13:2). The ruins of the Jewish Temple and whatever else had been there were to remains as signs of the triumph of Christianity. [22]

Thus the Christians preferred to leave Temple as it was after its destruction; it was left abandoned and became a place of dumping city garbage. It would not be out of place to cite the attitude towards Jerusalem in the early Christian literature. We will take the examples from the writings of John Chrysostom and Athanasius, both of them contemporaries. John Chrysostom of Antioch was the founding father of Christian anti-semitism, whose writing against Jews are extremely vitriolic and of bad taste (no wonder the Christian Church honoured him!).[23] He lived during the period (4th century CE) when Christian eschatology was being linked to Jerusalem or (euphemistically) the Temple Mount. In the wake of Jewish proselytizing efforts, which he feared would empty the churches, Chrysostom vented unbridled wrath against the Jews of Antioch, levelling various accusations against Jews and Judaism. He censured the Jews for celebrating Passover outside Jerusalem, thereby disobeying their own commandments. [24] Above all, he claimed that Jerusalem’s destruction testified the truth of Christianity. Jerusalem has been in ruins and lost to the Jews for three hundred years; why should they await a change? [25] They tried to rebuild the Temple three times – in the time of Hadrian (Bar Kochba revolt), Constantine (an unknown attempt) and Julian. All the attempts failed. It should make amply clear to the Jews that their status will not change. It is true that the prophets referred to an end to exile, but they did not mean the present exile, which is eternal. [26] In this way, Jerusalem’s status came to be identified by the Christians with the fate of Jews; the latter’s final, eternal defeat.

Like his contemporary John Chrysostom, Athanasius was involved in anti-Jewish polemics but not as bitterly as the former.[27] Athanasius thought that the incorporation of Jerusalem into Christian Empire provides the proof of new religion’s truth. According to Jesus’ prophecy, the Holy City as well as Temple have been taken from them forever.

The Christian Jerusalem, before of the advent of Islam, had undergone subtle developments. The Christians had appropriated a body of Jewish traditions concerning the Temple Mount (some of them mentioned in the New Testament) and were now applied to the Church of Holy Sepulchre and Church of Resurrection. The process of “consecration” of Jerusalem and making it into a Christian city met with little opposition; the pagans had no opposition, while the Jews had not been permitted to reside in Jerusalem since the time of Hadrian (the Bar Kochba revolt). And as expected the Temple Mount was left in the state of pile of fallen masonry and rubbish.

It was Islam that restored the sanctity of Temple Mount, and made it a place of prostration and prayer of One God.

References

[1] `Abdallah `Abd al-Fadi, Is The Qur’an Infallible?, 1995, Light of Life: Villach (Austria), p. 271.

[2] A. Duncan, The Noble Sanctuary: Portrait Of A Holy Place In Arab Jerusalem, 1972, Middle East Archive: London (UK), p. 24.

[3] Badr al-Din bin Muhammad bin Bahadir al-Zarkashi, I`lam Al-Sajid Bi-Ahkam Al-Masajid, 1995, Dar al-Kutub al-`Ilmiyyah, Beirut (Lebanon), p. 13.

[4] N. Robinson, Discovering The Qur’an: A Contemporary Approach To A Veiled Text, 1996, SCM Press Ltd.: London, p. 192.

[5] See for example the recent work of Heribert Busse, “The Destruction Of The Temple And Its Reconstruction In The Light Of Muslim Exegesis Of Sura 17:2-8”,Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 1996, Volume 20, p. 1.

[6] Al-Zarkashi, I`lam Al-Sajid Bi-Ahkam Al-Masajid, op. cit., pp. 13-14.

[7] ibid., p. 14.

[8] Sahih al-Bukhari, available online.

[9] Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani, Fath al-Bari available online.

[10] M. Sharon, Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarium Palaestinae, 1999, Volume II, Brill: Leiden, see plates P29 and P30.

[11] ibid., p. 172.

[12] G. Avni, “Early Mosques In The Negev Highlands: New Archaeological Evidence On Islamic Penetration Of Southern Palestine”,Bulletin Of The American Schools Of Oriental Research, 1994, Volume 294, pp. 83-100. All the pictures are taken from here.

[13] U. Avner & J. Magness, “Early Islamic Settlement In The Southern Negev”, Bulletin Of The American Schools Of Oriental Research, 1998, Volume 310, pp. 39-57. This articles throws further light on an early Islamic open mosque and a settlement.

[14] K. A. C. Creswell, A Short Account Of Early Muslim Architecture, 1968, Librairie Du Liban, Beirut, pp. 15-16.

[15] “Temple”, Encyclopaedia Judaica (CD-ROM Edition), 1997, Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Limited.

[16] “Tahnum”, ibid.

[17] “Worship”, ibid.

[18] See ref. 4.

[19] ibid.

[20] “Dome Of The Rock” in C. Glassé,The Concise Encyclopaedia Of Islam, 1989, Stacey International: London, p. 102.

[21] K. Armstrong, Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths, 1997, Ballantine Books: New York, p. 229.

[22] S. Nuseibah & Oleg Grabar, The Dome Of The Rock, 1996, Thames and Hudson: London (UK), p. 35.

[23] St. John Chrysostom (translated by P. W. Harkins), Discourses Against Judaizing Christians, 1979, The Catholic University Of America Press: Washington, DC.

[24] ibid., See discourse IV: 4.9, 5.1-3, 6.1-5.

[25] ibid., See discourse V: 3.13-15; also 5.10

[26] ibid., See discourse V: 4.5.

[27] St. Athanasius (translated by C. S. M. V.), The Incarnation Of The Word Of God: Being The Treatise Of St. Athanasius De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, 1944, The Centenary Press: London (UK), see the chapter VI, “Refutation Of The Jews”, p. 64.