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Jerusalem’s Jewel: Beyond Stone and Mortar

Did you know that Al-Aqsa was the second mosque ever to be built in the world? Or that there isn’t even a handspan of Jerusalem where an angel or prophet hasn’t prostrated? Well here’s a refresher class on what makes Al-Quds the OG holy site and Al-Aqsa its charm. Going back to the basics should really make it hit home when we hear about them in the unfolding news. We are meant to revere these sites with all our heart and soul and guard them accordingly. 

Established since…the beginning of humanity? 

The legacy of Al-Aqsa goes way back, even before the time of Hazrat Suleiman(AS) who had it rebuilt. It is one of the most ancient mosques and fortunately, even exists today. Spanning over eras, it has undergone the rule of many conquerors in an interplay of religious and political powers. It has been converted to a Roman temple, military headquarters and even a church. Its establishment as a mosque that it was always meant to be is now all the more significant to uphold its original identity.

Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: “I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, which mosque was built on earth first?’ He said, ‘Al-Masjid al-Haram [in Makkah].’ I said, ‘Then which?’ He said, ‘Al-Masjid al-Aqsa.’ I said, ‘How much time was there between them?’ He said, ‘Forty years. So wherever you are when the time for prayer comes, pray, for that is the best thing to do.’” 

[Narrated by al-Bukhari, 3366; Muslim, 520]

Destination Devotion

Let’s talk about spiritual journeys: not just the meditating kind where you sit still and look within, oh no. The ‘let’s get up and going’ kind! If there’s any place on Earth you can pack up your bags and head for as a pilgrim – other than the Kaaba and Masjid-e-Nabawi ofcourse – it’s Al-Aqsa! These are the only three sites Muslims can visit for pilgrimage. The Prophet (SAWW) said:

“Do not set out on a journey except for three Mosques i.e. Al-Masjid-AI-Haram, the Mosque of Allah’s Messenger (SAWW), and the Mosque of Al-Aqsa.”

[Sahih Bukhari 1189]

Compass of Conviction

14.5 years! That makes over 170 months, over 750 weeks, over 5000 days and… over 25000 prayers that were made directly facing Al-Aqsa by our Prophet (SAWW) and his sahabah. Al-Aqsa was the first qibla that oriented the Muslims, signifying its holy status. This established the historical connection of Islam to the Abrahamic faiths, indicating how it is the continuation, completion and perfection of the message they all related.

Home to the Holy

A land is known for what it yields. Great champions bring glory to where they’re from and so when it comes to Al-Quds, it just steals the show. How so? Well, who could be more noble and raised and honoured than the chosen ones: our prophets. And so what brings honour to Al-Quds is that it’s the birthplace of all so many prophets from the lineage of the Father of the Prophets, Hazrat Ibrahim (A.S). No wonder that Ibn ʿAbbās mentions that:

“Bait al-Maqdis was built by the Prophets and inhabited by the Prophets. There is not the area of a single hand span except that a Prophet prayed in it or an angel stood on it.”

Up, up and away! 

Al-Aqsa is the site where Al-Buraq in his majestic glory lowered his white wings for our Prophet (SAWW) to mount him and flew up to the heavens. In the event of Isra wal Miraj, the Prophet(SAWW) was transported to Al-Aqsa in the silence of the night and led all the prophets in prayer. Surely a night to remember. This won Al-Aqsa a very honourable mention as it is of the only two mosques noted by name in the Quran, in the verse:

“Glory be to Him who took His slave on a journey by night from al-Masjid al-Ḥarām to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, in order to show him some of Our Signs. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.”

[Quran 17:1]

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