Islamic History of Al Masjid Al Aqsa

Al Masjid Al Aqsa has a very special place in the hearts of the entire Muslim community due to its unique and rich history as a place of worship that is so closely intertwined with the lives of many of the Prophets of Islam, as well as for its special status as a Masjid to which travel is recommended and in which reward is increased. It is a special and blessed Masjid of vast size comprising 144,000 square metres in size (covering approximately 1/6th of the entire area of the Old City of Jerusalem) and with capacity to accommodate in the region of 500,000 worshippers. InshAllah below we shall set out a very brief summary of the history of Al Masjid Al Aqsa, splitting the information into three sections: 1) From Prophet Adam (as) to Prophet Muhammad (saw); 2) From Prophet Muhammad (saw) to 1917; and 3) From 1917 to the present day. [Please note: for a more detailed analysis of the history, Prophetic missions and for a comparative study of the significance of Jerusalem as set out in the Torah, Bible and Qur’an, we would strongly recommend the online book “Transcending Jerusalem”. It is v insightful and is written by a Jewish convert to Islam. The book can be found free of charge at www.transcendingjerusalem.com . We are also happy to recommend www.lostislamichistory.com] 1. From Prophet Adam (as) to Prophet Muhammad (saw) Al Masjid Al Aqsa was the first qibla in Islam and it has been a significant and important place of worship for the Prophets of Islam. It was built 40 years after Al Masjid Al Haram in Makkah. There is a difference of opinion amongst scholars as to who exactly built Al Masjid Al Aqsa, with some scholars and historians asserting the view that Al Masjid Al Aqsa was built by Prophet Adam (as), and others opining that it was built by Prophet Ibrahim (as). It has also been rebuilt, renovated and expanded many times in the history of Islam. It was a well known place of worship at the time of Prophet Ibrahim (as) and for his son Prophet Ishaq (as) and grandson Prophet Yaqub (as). When Prophet Yaqub’s son Prophet Yusuf (as) attained a position of power in Egypt, he asked his family to join him and escape the poverty that engulfed Palestine. Biblical sources claim this included his father Prophet Yaqub (as) and Prophet Yusuf’s siblings and their children [Book of Genesis], and that there were 33 in all (Allahu aalam). At this point, as there was no one left amongst Prophet Yaqub’s progeny to look after Al Masjid Al Aqsa (which at the time had the name of “Beteyel” or “House of God”), care for this blessed place was entrusted to the native population of the land (who were also followers of Prophet Ibrahim (as)), the Palestinians. The Israelites who voluntarily emigrated to Egypt seeking a better material life remained there for approximately four centuries and became slaves to the Egyptians. This slavery only ended when Prophet Musa (as) freed them from Firaoun under the command of Allah. However, the Israelites rejected the orders of Allah to return to Palestine and were thus commanded to live in and wander through the desert of Sinai for 40 years. This ended when a new generation was born, containing within it Prophet Daoud (as), who led his generation of believers to Palestine. Prophet Daoud (as) established his kingdom in part of Palestine, and controlled Jerusalem. His son Prophet Suleiman (as) rebuilt Al Masjid Al Aqsa with the help of the local indigenous population and next to it he built the ruler’s palace. After Prophet Suleiman’s death, his two sons divided his kingdom amongst themselves with each having its own capital. These kingdoms existed for a very short period of time – approximately two hundred years, with the last king of Jerusalem in this dynasty being dethroned in 586/587BC as he tried to resist the Babylonians (led by King Nebuchadnezzar) but failed due to a crippling siege that the Babylonians had placed on the city.  Shortly after the Babylonians took control of Jerusalem, Al Masjid Al Aqsa was destroyed again. The Persians overthrew the Babylonians (during which time efforts to rebuild Al Masjid Al Aqsa as a place of worship were renewed), but in the period thereafter ownership changed hands numerous times, and Al Masjid Al Aqsa was destroyed, rebuilt and then destroyed again within a century by the Romans in 70AD after a revolt in the city. By 315-325AD, when the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, the Romans and the people residing in their land (including the Jews) no longer had any regard for Al Masjid Al Aqsa and no longer treated it as a place of sanctity and worship, with the site of Al Masjid Al Aqsa actually being used as a  place of waste disposal for the citizens of the city. This is how Al Masjid Al Aqsa remainded for the next few hundred years until the Prophet Muhammad (saw) revived once again the spirituality of this blessed place, and his great companion Umar Ibn Al Khattab (ra) liberated the city. 2. From Prophet Muhammad (saw) to 1917 Al Masjid Al Aqsa had a very unique place in the life of Prophet Muhammad (saw) for many reasons. Firstly, as Al Masjid Al Aqsa was central to the lives of many of his fellow Prophets (as) with whom he shared an exceptional bond (as the Islam taught by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a continuation, completion and perfection of the religion and message of monotheism preached by all the prophets of Allah including Prophet Adam (as), Prophet Nuh (as), Prophet Ibrahim (as) (of whom Prophet Muhammad (saw) was a descendant through his son Ismaeel (as)), Prophet Musa (as), Prophet Daoud (as), Prophet Suleiman (as), and Prophet Isa (as) to name a few), Al Masjid Al Aqsa also by definition had a central place in his life and heart. In addition to this, up until the 2nd year of Hijra (623/624AD), the Prophet Muhammad (saw) turned and faced … Continue reading Islamic History of Al Masjid Al Aqsa