Masjid al-Aqsa holds a special place in the heart of Islam and is deeply intertwined with the lives of many of the prophets of Allah (SWT). It is also referred to as Bayt al-Maqdis or Bayt ul-Muqaddas, which means ‘the house of holiness’.

Located in the old city of Jerusalem, Masjid al-Aqsa is considered the third holiest site in the realm of Islam. The wider compound of the mosque, known as Haram al-Sharif, comprises of the Dome of the Rock, 17 gates, and 4 minarets, consequently being labeled as ‘The noble sanctuary’.

This mosque was built 40 years after the creation of the Ka’abah itself. The foundations of Masjid al-Aqsa stand upon the site where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) led all the previous prophets in prayer during his blessed ascension of Isra’ and Mi’raj – The night journey – where he was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, on to the Heavens. This mosque is mentioned in the Holy Book of Allah (SWT) in the following words:

“Glorified be He [Allah] Who did take His servant for a journey by night from Al Masjid Al Haram to Al Masjid Al Aqsa, whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of our Signs. Verily He is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” (Quran 17:1)

Masjid al-Aqsa was the first ever Qibla for the Muslims, before the Ka’abah. In the early years of prophethood, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to offer his Salah whilst facing the direction of Masjid al-Aqsa, which was the first divinely decreed Qibla for Muslims. At the time, the Jews shared the same Qibla as the Muslims, which ended up posing as a problem for the Muslim Ummah. Thereafter, Allah (SWT) revealed to His last Prophet the following verses:

“Indeed We see the turning of your [Prophet Mohammed (saw)] face to heaven, so We shall surely turn you to a Qibla which you shall like; turn then your face towards the Sacred Mosque, and wherever you are, turn your face towards it, and those who have been given the Book (i.e. Jews and the Christians) most surely know that it is the truth from their Lord; and Allah is not at all heedless of what they do. Glorious Qur'an” (2:144)

The change of Qibla took place during one of the congregational prayers led by the Holy Prophet (PBUH). During the Salah, Angel Jibrael (AS) descended to instruct the Holy Prophet (PBUH) to change his Qibla direction from Masjid al-Aqsa to the Holy Ka’abah in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Upon completion of the Prophet’s (PBUH) Salah, the Angel Jibrael (AS) took the hand of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and turned him towards the direction of the Ka’abah. Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS) noticed the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) change in direction and followed suit, along with the rest of the people standing in congregation.

The Holy Prophet (PBUH) laid great emphasis on the visitation to Masjid al-Aqsa as it generates great blessings and multiplies rewards from Allah (SWT) upon the offering of Salah and engaging in worship within its walls.

As narrated by Abu Huraira, the Prophet (PBUH) said:

"Do not set out on a journey except for three Mosques i.e. Al-Masjid-AI-Haram, the Mosque of Allah's Messenger (PBUH), and the Mosque of Al-Aqsa, (Mosque of Jerusalem)." (Bukhari, 1189)

It becomes apparent that Masjid al-Aqsa is no ordinary mosque – its significance is deeply embedded in the foundations governing Islam. It is the only mosque mentioned in the Quran apart from the Ka’abah, which only showcases the importance of it in the eyes of Allah (SWT).

The author

Amna Anwaar