Masjid Al-Aqsa and the story of first Qibla

Middle East Contributor
Masjid Al-Aqsa
© Mohammed Abbassi |

Masjid al-Aqsa in the Palestinian city of Jerusalem is one of the holiest places for Muslims around the world. Masjid al-Aqsa is the oldest mosque after Masjid al-Haram. Although the name of this holy mosque is known to us, there is a lot of information about it which is unknown to us. So this article presents some unknown facts about Masjid al-Aqsa.

1) The first Qibla of the Muslims

At the beginning of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) preaching of Islam, Muslims had to make the Masjid al-Aqsa Qibla instead of the Holy Kaaba. This rule remained in force until a few days after the emigration to Madinah. It is narrated in the hadith that for 17-18 months after the Hijrah, the Muslims performed the prayer by making the Masjid Al-Aqsa a Qibla.

In the year 2 AH, Allah revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) instructing him to change Qibla towards the Kaaba:

“Surely I see you looking up at the sky again and again. Therefore, of course, I will turn you towards the Qibla that you like. Now turn your face towards the Masjid al-Haram and wherever you are (from now on) you will turn your face towards it.” (Al-Quran 2: 144)

Ever since the revelation of this verse, Muslims all over the world have been praying towards the Kaaba as their Qibla.

2) Mention of Masjid Al-Aqsa in Quran

Of all the mosques in the world, only two are mentioned in the Holy Quran. One is the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah and the other is the Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem.

Mentioning the names of these two mosques, Allah the Almighty said,

“Glory be to him who took His Servant by night from Masjid al-Haram to Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing” (Al-Quran 17: 1)

3) The journey of Miraj

On the night of Miraj, the Prophet (peace be upon him) ascended from the courtyard of the Masjid al-Aqsa to meet Allah. On this visit, Gabriel first brought him from Makkah to Masjid Al-Aqsa. Here, after praying two rak’ats Salah in congregation with all the previous Prophets, the Prophet (peace be upon him) ascended. The place from which he ascended for the Miraj was later the site of the Golden Dome, known as the ‘Qubbatus Sakharah’.

4) The graves of innumerable prophets and companions

It is not known exactly how many graves of the prophets are in this place. However, many prophets are lying in this place. Many of the Companions of our Prophet (peace be upon him) were also buried in the cemetery adjacent to this mosque.

5) Destruction and reconstruction of Masjid Al-Aqsa

The second oldest mosque of worship, first built by the Prophet Jacob (peace be upon him). It was enlarged by the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him). The mosque has been subject to destruction many times due to natural disasters and man-made causes. Each time it has been rebuilt.

In 587 BC, the Babylonian emperor invaded Jerusalem and destroyed the entire city, including the Masjid Al-Aqsa. Later, in 539 BC, after the conquest of the Babylonian Empire by Emperor Cyrus of Persia, the new Masjid Al-Aqsa was built.

When the Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem rebelled against the Roman emperor in 70 AD, the Romans wreaked havoc throughout the city. At this time the Masjid Al-Aqsa was completely destroyed for the second time. The Romans drove all the Jews out of the city and the Masjid Al-Aqsa fell into ruins. At that time all the garbage of the city was brought and deposited in the mosque complex.

After the conquest of Jerusalem in 637 AD, Umar (R) removed the ruins of the Masjid Al-Aqsa and rebuilt it.

Later, in 690 AD, the Umayyad Caliph Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan built the Masjid Al-Aqsa in an expanded form. He was the first to build the ‘Qubbatus Sakharah’ installation at the Aqsa Square, the place where the Prophet (peace be upon him) ascended on the Miraj procession.

The mosque was renovated by the Abbasid Caliph Abu Jafar al-Mansur after the mosque was damaged by an earthquake in 746 AD. Later, when the mosque was damaged due to earthquakes and other reasons at different times, different rulers rebuilt it.

6) Used as churches, palaces and stables

When the European Christian Crusaders occupied Jerusalem during the First Crusade in 1099, they began to use the Masjid Al-Aqsa in a completely different way. At that time, Qubbatus Sakharah was used as a church and Al-Qibli Mosque as a palace and horse stables.

After the conquest of Jerusalem by Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi from the Crusaders in 1187 AD, he restored the Masjid Al-Aqsa to its former position.

7) The dome of Qubbatus Sakharah

When the Umayyad Caliph Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan built the Qubbatus Sakharah, the entire installation was made of wood. Its dome was then covered with lead or ceramic.

During the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Sulaiman al-Qanuni, he was the first to cover the entire installation with tiles as it is now, and to cover its dome with gold leaf.

8) Terrible arson and establishment of OIC

After the defeat of the Arabs in the six-day war between the Arab states and Israel on June 5-10, 1967, Israeli domination over the entire Palestinian territory was established. At that time, the Masjid Al-Aqsa also came under the control of Zionist Israel.

On August 21, 1969, Dennis Michael Rohan, an Australian Zionist Christian, set fire to the Al-Qibli Mosque. The entire mosque was damaged and the pulpit of Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi preserved in the mosque was destroyed.

Muslims around the world were outraged by the arson attack on the Masjid Al-Aqsa. In response, the OIC, the international organization of Muslim states, was established on September 25, 1969.

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