Masjid Al Aqsa, the first qibla of the Muslims, second oldest masjid after Makkah and the third most important holy place in Islam after Makka and Madina is located in the city of Jerusalem known to Muslims worldwide as Al Quds (The Holy) or Baitul Muqaddis (The House of Holiness).
The historical significance of the Masjid Al-Aqsa in Islam lies in the fact that the early Muslims turned towards it in prayer for a period of around seventeen months after the hijra or migration to Medina in 624 AC. Thus it became the qibla (direction) that Muslims faced for prayer. According to Allame Tabatabayee, Allah prepared Muslims for the change of the qibla, first by revealing the story of Ibrahim and his son Ishmael, and their prayers for Makkah, their construction of the House of Allah (Ka’aba) and the order to cleanse it of idols for the worship of the One True God-Allah. Then Quranic verses were revealed which ordered Muslims to turn towards Masjid al-Haram, the Holy Mosque in Makkah in their prayers.[Qur’an 2:142–151]
Masjid Al Aqsa is the place where Prophet Ibrahim, the patriarch of all the three great monotheistic faiths Judaism, Christianity and Islam prayed. It was in this very same Masjid that Allah resurrected and assembled all the prophets and messengers for Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to lead the prayer with them during his divine night journey to the heavens. Allah chose the Masjid of Jerusalem for this greatest prayer, for the first time in history, because of its purity, nobility, distinction and highest standing.
The ascension of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), from the rock beneath the Qubbat Al Sakhra Mosque known as Dome of the Rock to heaven remains the loftiest spiritual event in the history of Islam and highlights the importance of Jerusalem for Muslims. The direct ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from Makkah to heaven would have been possible for Allah, but He wanted it to take place from Jerusalem. That miraculous journey drew attention of Muslims to the specificity of Jerusalem and its extraordinary divine claim.
However, despite all this religious significance of Jerusalem for Muslims, the Zionist Jews who occupied East Jerusalem in their war of aggression in June 1967 have been repeatedly conspiring to destroy Masjid Al Aqsa and build in its place a new Solomon’s Temple, the older temple having been destroyed by the Romans in 70 AC, the remnants of which are only seen today as a wall known to Jews as the Wailing Wall. As part of this conspiracy they commenced a ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing the Palestinians who had been living there for generations.
In this move the Zionists have been, directly and indirectly, backed by the United States, United Kingdom, France and Russia for long. Now they are being backed by US President Barack Obama, known for his longstanding avid support to Israel and described by Jeffery Goldberg, the most influential journalist on matters related to Israel, as more pro Israeli than either Ehud Olmert or Ehud Barak ( J Goldberg.New York Times,18 May 2009).In fact Obama told an American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee-AIPAC- audience in clear and bold diction that;
“Let me be clear, Israel’s security is sacrosanct. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive and that allows them to prosper. But any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided”.
In other words Obama openly assured the Zionist lobby that, on being elected as president of the United States, he would recognize Israel’s unfounded claim over Masjid Al Aqsa.
In doing so Obama was very well aware that East Jerusalem is a city occupied by Israel in its war of aggression. The irony is that a Presidential candidate of the United States, the most powerful country on earth, needs to please Jewish lobbies to enter the White House and also serve the Zionists despite their criminal records of which there are many such as the infamous massacre at Deir Yessin, a village inhabited by innocent Muslim and Christian Palestinians and now the recent genocide in Gaza.
Obama made this statement with no respect at all for international law, moral principles or the religious sentiments of Muslims worldwide, America’s trade and other relations with the Muslim countries, the economic impact on America and on top of all worldwide Muslim anger.
What can Muslims now expect from President Obama and his Zionist and neo con dominated administration hell bent on protecting Israel? Already the US Congress, more a Zionist Congress, voted in 1995 to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem in clear violation of international laws. In June 2009 President Obama postponed the move by a further six months. He would perhaps love to hand over full control of Masjid Al Aqsa to the Israelis and hence ensure Jewish support for a second presidential bid for the White House. Perhaps a little bit of wisdom had dawned on him about the consequences of doing so, especially in the light of the attachment of Muslims to Masjid Al Aqsa through the explicit words of Holy Quran ( Al Israa 17;1).
Thus the seriousness of the threat to Jerusalem and Masjid Al Aqsa.
The question is what has around one and half billion Muslims worldwide done to save Masjid Al Aqsa from the designs of Zionist Jews and their supporters in the US led West. There was a time when the Arab rulers, most of them lackeys of the Judeo-Christian West, met at glittering conference halls and issued statements emphasizing the need to protect Jerusalem. They dispersed asking the international community to deal with the Israeli conspiracy .However they never took, individually or jointly, any substantial step to protect Masjid Al Aqsa, let alone liberating it.
During World War 1 Jerusalem was under Turkey’s Ottoman rule .However following Turkey’s defeat in the war, Jerusalem was brought under British control on December 9, 1917. The Zionist Jews manipulated the toppling of Turkey and the then Arab rulers, corrupt and bribed, supported the British and the Jews to topple Muslim Ottoman Turkey.
Over the years the Arab rulers abandoned the Palestinians, Jerusalem and even Masjid Al Aqsa.Their only concern was to preserve their seats of power and comforts and, to ensure this they even started having open and secret relations with the very same Zionists despite all their conspiracies against Islam and Muslims. Even the toothless Organization of Islamic Conference has failed to do anything concrete to save Masjid Al Aqsa. However only Iran kept the Jerusalem issue alive by observing the last Friday of the holy Month of Ramadan as “Al Quds Day”.
The spacious complex of Masjid Al Aqsa.Masjid Al Aqsa is in the right and the Dome of the Rock in the left.
The Zionist Jews have been desecrating Masjid Al Aqsa beginning from the time of the British mandatory rule. A group of Jewish extremists, with the help of the British army, broke into the Al-Aqsa complex on 20 August 1929 and took control of the western area, including Al-Buraq Wall (now referred to as the Wailing Wall by the Jews). Within 15 days, 338 Palestinians died in their effort to thwart the Zionists’ plan. In June 1967 the Zionists entered Haram As-Sharif in tanks, seized the key of Al-Magharibah Gate and took control of the city’s eastern side, including Al-Aqsa Mosque. In 1970, the Israelis commenced intensive excavations directly beneath Masjid Al Aqsa on the southern and western sides. In 1977 digging continued and a large tunnel was opened below the women’s prayer area and a new tunnel was dug under the mosque, going east to west in 1979.
On August 21st 1969, a Jewish extremist called Dennis Michael Rohan (Jewish name: Mikhail Rohan) set Al-Aqsa on fire. The fire destroyed most of the mosque, including the historical minbar (pulpit), used by Salahuddin al-Ayyubi after he liberated Al-Aqsa from the Christian Crusaders. The Palestinians succeeded in extinguishing the fire, but Rohan was freed from all charges on grounds of insanity
In the 1980s, the Israelis started their so called archaeological project in the Masjid Al-Aqsa premises claiming that they were searching for the Temple of King Solomon. They dug another tunnel near the western portion of the masjid in 1984. In February 2007 Israelis started excavating a site, 60 meters away from the mosque, to rebuild a collapsed pedestrian bridge. As part of this conspiracy the Zionist Jews also trained Temple guards, sewed special Kohannim robes for the rabbis, and even built a model of the temple near Masjid Al-Aqsa. War criminal Ehud Olmert, former mayor of Jerusalem and former Prime Minister who slaughtered starving Palestinians in Gaza, officiated at the opening of the Jewish Museum, built underneath Masjid Al-Aqsa.
The Aqsa Mosque where the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) led prayers with all the prophets, from Adam (alaihe salam) to Isa (alaihe salaam). The home of prophets, the first qibla of Muslims and the place where the Miraj journey commenced.
Close up view of Masjid Al Aqsa. Please make sure you, your children, your friends and all others know which the real Masjid Al Aqsa is.
The Masjid Al Aqsa seen from Al Buraq which the Jews call the Western Wall 1991.In the background is the Dome of the Rock,Qubbat us Sakhra mosque in the Masjid Al Aqsa complex.
On October 15th 1989, the “Guardians of the Temple” group laid the foundation for the Solomon’s Temple. The tunnel underneath the mosque reached the length of 400 meters (half the length of Al-Aqsa), and damaged the structure. Sheikh Raed Solah, the leader of the Islamic movement in Jerusalem who exposed these activities was imprisoned.
During his brief visit to Bahrain on Monday 16 November 1998 Sheikh Ekrima Sa’ad Sabri, the chief preacher at Masjid Al Aqsa,made a passionate appeal to Muslims all over urging them to save Masjid Al Aqsa and Jerusalem from the Zionists and, thereby, safeguard their rights and dignity.
In an emotional plea during an interview with me Sheikh Ekrima said “Jerusalem which Allah declared as a Muslim city from the day the Prophet Muhammad ( pbuh) was taken on the journey to heaven “Al Isra Al Miraj” is in danger. He warned that failure to save it will be disastrous as it will expose other religious places including the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madina to Zionist designs.
He said Israelis continue to dig under Masjid Al Aqsa and other residential districts in the old city to pave the way for the automatic collapse of Masjid Al Aqsa and other buildings of religious importance. Israelis have been changing the Islamic characteristic of the city almost on a daily basis and many of Jerusalem’s Islamic landmarks have been falling down and disappearing one after the other.
Therefore, it is the religious duty of Muslims worldwide to do everything possible to free this city from Zionist Jewish control, pleaded Sheikh Ikrima.
Eleven years later today the situation is worse as Israel often imposes severe restrictions on access to the mosque for Palestinian Muslims living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinian males must be married and at least 50 years of age and women must be married and at least 45 years of age to enter the Masjid. Palestinian visits are therefore rare during most of the year, except during the month of Ramadan.
On September 28, 2000, Ariel Sharon ,a war criminal soaked in innocent Palestinian blood, visited al-Aqsa along with 1,000 armed guards, and deliberately triggered off a seven-year uprising by the Palestinians referred to as the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
Early Settlements of Palestine
There is no historic record or evidence showing when the land of Palestine was inhabited. However archaeological discoveries point to the first known settlements of Canaanites and Amorites around 10th Century BC.
According to ancient tradition, Jerusalem was first a small village known as Salem inhabited by Canaanites, the ancestors of the Palestinians. A great and righteous Canaanite king Melchizedek, a contemporary of the Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) who lived around 2900 BC, turned this village into a city and called it Ursalem (The City of Peace) which the Jews turned into Yerushalayim which eventually became Jerusalem.
Most scholars are of the opinion that Masjidul Al Aqsa, first built by Prophet Adam, was the second Masjid on earth built 40 years after building the Ka’ba in Makkah.
It was rebuilt several times. For example Prophet Ibrahim rebuilt Masjid Al Aqsa as he and his son Ismail rebuilt the Ka’ba in Makkah followed by Prophet Daud. It was Prophet Sulayman who finally completed the building of Masjid Al Aqsa which was later destroyed in 587 BC by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon.
The Jews regard this same Masjid Al Aqsa built by Prophet Sulayman as their Temple. They re-built their Temple on the same site in 167 BC but it was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans when the Jews were banished from Jerusalem. Since then the site of Masjid Al Aqsa remained barren and was used as a rubbish heap for nearly 600 years until the Caliph Umar Ibn Khattab liberated Jerusalem in 637/8 AD.
Caliph Umar, as stated earlier, began the foundation of Masjidul Al Aqsa and built a timber mosque. The Umayyad Khalifah, Abd’ al Malik ibn Marwan in 691/2 began the construction of the Dome of the Rock called Qubbat Al Sakhra Masjid. This is one of the world’s most beautiful and enduring architectural treasures to date. The gold dome stretches 20 meters across the Noble Rock, rising to an apex more than 35 meters above it. The Qur’anic verse ‘Ya Sin’ inscribed across the top in the dazzling tile work was commissioned in the 16th century by Turkey’s Ottoman Ruler Suleiman the Magnificent.
Dome of the Rock- Qubbat as-Sakhra. The magnificent golden yellow dome of the Qubbat us Sakhra has, over time, been depicted as the symbol of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This disinformation about the mosque is part of a purposeful plan to mislead the world. Many Muslims mistakenly think the Qubbat Al-Sakhrah Mosque (shown on the left) also known as the “Dome of the rock” is the Al-Aqsa Mosque!!
This is the rock beneath Qubbat Al Sakhra-Dome of the rock, from where Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
Ascended to heaven on Shab-e- Mairaj
Below is the close up of the rock from where Prophet Muhammad( pbuh) ascended to heaven.
The al Buraq wall or Western Wall where Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) tied his animal, the Buraq, on the night journey of al Isra is what the Jews call the Wailing Wall. To Muslims it is the land of the Haram Sharif area which is most holy and important. The Haram area of Al Aqsa of about 144,000 square meters has within it the Masjid Al Aqsa [Black Domed Mosque] and Dome of the Rock [the Golden Domed Mosque].
Over the years Jerusalem came to be known as Al-Quds-The Holy. Many of the Prophet’s Companions traveled to worship at the blessed spot from where the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) ascended to the heavens. According to the authentic tradition of the Prophet, travel for the sake of worship is undertaken to only three mosques; the Sacred Mosque in Makkah, the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina and the Furthest Mosque-Masjid Al Aqsa- in Jerusalem.
Muslims’ respect all the Prophets revered by Judaism and Christianity and thus their venerated places are also central to the ethos of Islam. The land of Palestine has in it some of the noblest souls the earth has seen. The graves of many Prophets such as Ibrahim, Yakub and Ishaq are in Palestine and, according to some commentators, there are over 100 Prophets buried in Palestine.
Palestine also has the bodies of some of the closest companions of the Prophet (pbuh) and thus the first generation of Muslims. These include the graves of Ubada ibn al Samit, Shaddad ibn Aws ibn Thabit al Ansari and Tamim al Dari [ra].
The Prophet Ibrahim migrated to the land of Canaan around 2900 BC. The Holy Qur’an states: “We said, O Fire! Be thou cool and safety for Ibrahim. Then they planned against him, but We made them the greater losers. But we delivered him and (his nephew) Lot (and directed them) to the land which we have blessed for the nations (Al-Anbiyaa 21: 69-71). The Holy Qur’an reports Prophet Musa telling his people: O my people! Enter the holy land… (Al-Maida 5: 21) ).
Umm Salamah [ra] narrates that she heard the Prophet [ pbuh] saying, ‘whosoever starts his Umrah or Haj from Masjid al Aqsa his wrong actions will be forgiven, both past and future’. In another version, he is reported to have said that Paradise would be his reward. (Targheeb).
Jerusalem Under Muslim Control
During the period of the Second Caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab, the Muslim forces, under the command of Abu Ubaydah, lay siege to Jerusalem after capturing Damascus in the Battle of Yarmuk. The Patriarch of the city, Sophronius, stated that he would negotiate only with Caliph Umar and that nobody enters Jerusalem before Caliph Umar. On hearing this Caliph Umar informed that he was on his way.
Accompanied by a servant, Caliph Umar rode on camelback to Jerusalem though he could have been accompanied by an entourage that could have made the ground tremble under the hooves of horses. He did so to show simplicity and ensure that Allah alone deserves all the glories.
On reaching Jerusalem, it was the servant’s turn to ride the camel and as a mark of respect and to ensure that the people see Caliph Umar, he wanted the Caliph to ride the camel. However Caliph Umar refused and entered Jerusalem on foot while the servant rode the camel to the shock and surprise of everyone including Patriarch Sophronius. On reaching the place Caliph Umar continued the journey on foot carrying his shoes in hand under the astonished gaze of the people.
The Muslims who saw this spectacle recited the short prayers that refer to Allah’s absolute greatness and uniqueness. Caliph Umar walked to the army wearing modest threadbare clothes. The Christians who watched everything from the walls of Jerusalem were amazed at the strange simplicity, unable to believe that this simple man could be the leader of those well equipped armies.
Abu Ubaidah who could not contain himself on seeing this unprecedented show of humility rushed to Umar’s side saying” today you have performed a magnificent deed before the people, perhaps you might….? Umar slapped him on the chest and criticized him saying “I wish someone other than you, Abu Ubaydah, had said this. We were a humiliated people and Allah honored us with Islam. We were weak and He gave us strength”.
The Patriarch who saw the unfolding scenes with great admiration said to his people that nobody in the world would be able to stand up to these people and advised them to surrender to be saved. Negotiation took place and a famous treaty called ‘Umariyya Covenant” was concluded .This treaty is still preserved in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The Christians requested that Jews, who were not there before the conquest, be forbidden to enter Jerusalem and Umar accepted. Yet on his part Umar offered members of all faiths safety in Jerusalem and protection for their beliefs and their holy places, forbidding them to be desecrated or destroyed.
After the treaty was signed the key to the city was formally handed over in 637 AC. The gates of Jerusalem were opened and Caliph Umar entered along a promenade that led him to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Caliph Umar was inside and the Patriarch said to him “pray”. However Caliph Umar declined, fearing it might establish a precedent that would threaten the church’s continued use as a Christian house of worship. Instead he prayed in an area to the south of the church, now the site of the Mosque of Umar in Jerusalem.
In doing so Caliph Umar showed the world the meaning of tolerance and generosity in victory and strength. It was the greatness of Islam that shone in his spirit and was reflected in his ethics though he was a person known for his firmness and courage.
Caliph Umar then asked to be taken to the site of Masjid Al Aqsa.He could not find, but patriarch showed him the way.
On arrival, accompanied by hundreds of Muslims, he found the area covered in dust and debris. He rolled up his sleeves and began sweeping and clearing the mosque immediately. On seeing this other Muslims including army generals and soldiers joined him in cleaning the place. Once cleaned up Caliph Umar took off his cloak, prayed and left there. It was the first prayer of Muslims in the Masjid Al Aqsa after the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Caliph Umar immediately ordered the restoration of the mosque. A huge timber mosque, Masjid Al Marwani, with a capacity to accommodate 3000 worshippers was erected on this site at the southernmost wall of the Noble Sanctuary. They then started praying in this holy place. This was the most peaceful manner Jerusalem was conquered and great status of this mosque was restored after the affront committed by the Christians.
Under Caliph Umar’s generosity those who wanted to leave were allowed to do so with all their possessions while others who opted to stay were guaranteed protection for their lives, property and places of worship. Later Caliph Umar reversed the four hundred year Christian ban on Jews, allowed them to return to Jerusalem and granted Christians free use of their holy sites .Thus he turned Jerusalem into a city where Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived in tolerance, peace and harmony.
This opened the doors to the Jews who were denied access to Jerusalem. Throughout the Muslim rule of Jerusalem, from 637 to 1917 except for two relatively short periods, Jerusalem maintained its rightful title of ‘The Holy City’.
Under Muslim rule there were no massacres, no burning and looting and no desecration of holy places unlike being committed now by the Zionist Jews. The only conflict that marred the peace of the city was the conflict between various Christian sects for control of the Christian holy sites, but Muslims were generally successful in keeping them from violent confrontations.
Instead when Jerusalem fell to the Crusaders in the year 1099 the invaders went into the city with all the barbarity. They slaughtered people without any discrimination- young and the aged, men and women and healthy and the sick. Most of the people took refuge in the masjid of Jerusalem which was filled with around 100,000 people. The crusader governor found no better chance to behead them and got them slaughtered.
The crusaders occupied Jerusalem for 91 years before Salahudin’s forces retook the city. In fact this gives hope to Muslims worldwide today that Jerusalem can be retaken however long it may take.
Thus the history of Jerusalem is no ordinary history. In this history the purpose of Allah is manifested in a very special way. According to several scholars the events that have taken place in Jerusalem in recent years or are now taking place also have a divine message. They are meant, it seems, to remind us that we have not been living up to our responsibility as Muslims to strive to make supreme the word of Allah. They are also meant, it seems, to prepare for yet another decisive battle, both of arms and of ideas, between tawhid and shirk, between the worship of the one true universal Allah and the worship of the three idols of Zionism: nation, race and land.
Muslims duties and responsibilities.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that “There will be a group from my ummah that will always be on the true and righteous path. They will overcome their enemies and will not be transgressed against unless suffering befalls them, until Allah’s help comes and they return to their normal state”. The companions asked: Where do they live, oh Rasulullah? The Prophet replied: “In Jerusalem and the surrounding areas” (reported by Ahmad).
Allah has chosen the Palestinian people to be the ones to protect Al-Aqsa. They have sacrificed everything, including their lives, wealth, family, children and their whole world in order to defend our holy land. They have given everything for Allah and when they meet Him; their responsibility will have been fulfilled.
The question is what the rest of the Muslims contributed to Al-Aqsa? Defending Al-Aqsa is an obligation, so is it enough for us to just look on while our brothers and sisters suffer? What will be our answer in front of
Allah on the Day of Resurrection?
There are many steps Muslims can take to show solidarity with their Palestinian brothers and sisters to protest the Zionist occupation of their land and the sufferings inflicted upon them. The main thing is for us to propagate the cause by denouncing the oppression and use all available resources to help the suffering Palestinians morally and financially.
Hopefully our small but consistent contributions and our constant prayers will save us in the Hereafter. So continue to pray and contribute if you have means to do so.