Masjid al Aqsa – Frequently Asked Questions

What is Masjid al Aqsa?

Also known as the Haram al Sharif(al Aqsa Sanctuary), Masjid al Aqsa is the holiest site in al Quds(Jerusalem); a place used for worship, residence and meditation by many Prophets and pious individuals, past and present. It is a site blessed by Allah SWT and one of the holiest areas on earth, where angels descended with Allah SWT’s message to Divinely-sent Prophets.

It is also the site of the most amazing and incredible journey undertaken by the Prophet Muhammad SAW during the night of al Isra and Mi’raj, wherein he was transported from Makkah to Jerusalem and the heavens and back, by the command of Allah SWT.

Facts about Masjid al Aqsa

  • The second house of Allah SWT to be established on earth, after the Ka’bah in Makkah
  • The first Qiblah in Islam, prior to Divine Command ordaining the direction to be changed to Makkah
  • It is the third holiest site in Islam after Makkah and Madinah, to which believers are specifically encouraged to journey to. Prayer here is valued at between 500-5000 times more than prayer performed anywhere else, apart from Makkah and Madinah
  • Masjid Al Aqsa was first established by Prophet Adam AS
  • Prophet Ibrahim AS rebuilt the Masjid Al Aqsa in Jerusalem just as he and Ismail AS rebuilt the Ka’bah in Makkah
  • Prophet Dawud(David) AS again rebuilt Masjid Al Aqsa. It was his son, Prophet Sulayman(Solomon) AS who finally completed the building of Masjid Al Aqsa
  • Numerous Prophets of Allah frequented Masjid al Aqsa and used it as a base for their missions through the ages. These include Prophet Aramiyah(Jeremia) AS, Zakariyya AS, Yahya(John) AS, Isa (Jesus) AS and Maryam(Mary) AS
  • After the destruction of sites built upon the land of Masjid al Aqsa in 70 CE, the site of Masjid Al Aqsa remained barren and was used as a rubbish tip for nearly 600 years until the great Muslim Khalifa Umar bin Khattab RA liberated Jerusalem in 637/8 CE
  • Sayyidina Umar bin Khattab RA set in place the foundation of a prayer hall inside Masjid Al Aqsa and a timber musalla was built
  • The Umayyad Khalif, Abd’ al Malik ibn Marwan in 691/2 CE[72/73 AH] began the construction of the Dome of the Rock structure within the wider compound of Masjid al Aqsa
  • The al Buraq Wall or Western Wall of Masjid al Aqsa is the location where Prophet Muhammad PBUH tied his heavenly conveyance, the Buraq, on the night journey of al Isra and Mi’raj. Jews call this the Wailing Wall.

What constitutes Masjid al Aqsa?

There is a common misconception that Masjid al-Aqsa refers specifically to the black/grey domed masjid within the al-Aqsa Sanctuary. This is incorrect. It is also incorrect to specify the gold-domed  Dome of the Rock Masjid to exclusively denote Masjid al Aqsa. Allah SWT reminds us in the Holy Qur’an that He has blessed the land of Masjid al Aqsa for us and hence,  according to Islamic teachings, ALL the buildings within the al-Aqsa Sanctuary and the entirety of the land are sacred right down to every single grain of sand within it and when we refer to ‘Masjid al-Aqsa’ it is not to any of the specific buildings upon the land, but rather, the land itself upon which the Dome of the Rock and the black/grey domed masjid(and other structures) stand.

Thus, references to the al-Aqsa Sanctuary/Masjid al-Aqsa are interchangeable terms, and neither refers exclusively to the grey/black domed building within the compound, which is routinely referred to as Masjid al-Aqsa but should be called Musallah al-Aqsa (Qibly). It is this common usage of terms that has confused people.

The Masjid al Aqsa compound, in its authentic understanding, covers a walled off area of approximately 35 acres on the south-east of al Quds(Jerusalem). There are 44 buildings within the al-Aqsa Sanctuary, including the black/grey domed masjid and the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as Sukhra). Other structures on the site include the underground Musalla al Marwani, other buildings on site, smaller domes, minarets, schools, fountains, clearings with olive trees and other plants, and monuments.

Many of these hold interesting historical significance. However, it should be emphasized that it is the land of the entire compound that is holy and blessed, and not the bricks and mortar of individual structures established on the land.

The entire area is a waqf(endowment) and the spiritual benefits associated with al Aqsa apply equally throughout the site.

What is al Quds/Bayt al Maqdis?

Al Quds is the term used most often by Muslims and Christian Arabs to refer to the Holy City of Jerusalem. In English, it means “the purest place”.

Muslims also refer to the city as Bayt-al-Maqdis(the house of purification) and Madinat al-Salam(the city of peace). Several sayings of the Prophet Muhammad SAW and his companions make use of the name Bayt al Maqdis, in referring to Jerusalem.

The implication of purity in the term Quds/Maqdis is to acknowledge the attributes of Jerusalem as being a place frequented by the Prophets of God, where efforts were made to purify mankind and raise human beings to a greater level of God-consciousness.

The city of al Quds currently extends over an area of 45 square kilometers. Within this, is the ‘old city’ where major historical events took place and within the old city lies Masjid al Aqsa.

By virtue of Surah Isra, Verse 1 and other passages in the Qur’aan, the city of Al Quds is considered blessed land in Islam.

Many Prophets of Allah SWT lived in al Quds and the great companion Ibn Abbas RA said: “There is not a single inch in al Quds where a Prophet has not prayed or an angel not stood”. (Tirmidhi and Imam Ahmad)

Is it virtuous to visit Masjid al Aqsa?

Specific injunctions are found in Islamic teachings encouraging visits to Masjid al Aqsa.

It is specified as one of the three Masjids to which one is permitted to undertake a special journey to, for the sole purpose of attaining reward.

Sayyidina Abu Hurayrah RA relates that the Prophet SAW said, “You should not undertake a special journey to visit any place other than the following three masajid (with the expectation of receiving greater reward); the Sacred Masjid of Makkah (Ka’bah), this masjid of mine (the Prophet’s

Masjid in Madinah), and Masjid al-Aqsa (of Jerusalem).” (Muslim)

Sayyidina Abu Dharr RA reported that he asked the Prophet SAW, “O Messenger of Allah, which masjid was built first on earth?” The Prophet  SAW replied, “The Sacred Masjid of Makkah.” Abu Dharr again asked, “Which was next?” The Prophet SAW said, “The Masjid al-Aqsa.” Abu Dharr RA further asked, “How long was the period between the building of the two masajid?” The Prophet SAW said, “Forty years.” Apart from these, offer your prayers anywhere when it is time to pray, as excellence lies in it.” (Al-Bukhari)

Salaah and acts of of worship hold weightier value here, when compared with those offered everywhere else, to the exception of Makkah and Madinah.

Sayyidina Abu Darda’ RA relates that the Prophet SAW said, “The reward of a prayer in al-Masjid al-Haram (Makkah) over other masajid is equivalent to 100,000 Salah (in reward), a prayer in my masjid (Madinah) is equivalent to 1,000 Salah and a Salah in Bayt al-Maqdis (al-Aqsa Sanctuary) is equivalent to 500 Salah.” (Al-Bayhaqi)

Sayyidina Anas bin Maalik RA relates that Rasulullah [Sallallahu AlayhiWasallam] said, “The salaah of a person in his house earns him the reward of a single salaah. Salaah in the masjid of his tribe earns him the reward of 25 salaah. His salaah in the Masjid in which the Friday salaah is observed earns him the reward of 500 salaah, his salaah in Masjid ul-Aqsa has a reward of 5 000 salaah, his salaah in my Masjid (Masjidun Nabawi) in Madinah has a reward of 50,000 salaah and the salaah in the Sacred Masjid in Makkah has a reward of 100,000 salaah”. (Tirmidhi/Ibn Majah)

[Specialised works of Ahadeeth resolve the discrepancy in rewards mentioned by grading the relative soundness of the various Hadith narrations or by holding that one of them abrogates the other]

The virtue of I’tikaaf(spiritual seclusion) at Masjid al Aqsa is also clearly distinguished.

Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman  RA reports that the Messenger of Allah SAW said, “The most superior I’tikaf (seclusion) is that of three masajid: al-Masjid al-Haram (in Makkah), the Masjid of the Prophet (in Madinah), and the Masjid of Bayt al-Maqdis (in Jerusalem).” (Al-Bayhaqi)

If one is unable to visit Masjid al Aqsa, then too, the Muslim maintains a responsibility towards the sacred Masjid. Specific direction is given in the Ahadeeth towards charitable works that will see to the upkeep of the Masjid.

Sayyidah Maymunah RA relates that she said, “O Messenger of Allah, inform us about (visiting) Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem)”. He said, “It is the land of gathering (al-mahshar) and resurrection (al-manshar), visit it and pray there, as one Salah performed there is equivalent to a thousand Salahs performed elsewhere.” She further asked, “What about the one who doesn’t have the capacity to travel to Jerusalem?” He replied, “Then send some oil to be used in its lamps, as the one who sent oil to be used in its lamps will be like the one who performed Salah there.” (Ibn Majah)

Sayyidina Abdullah ibn Umar RA relates, “I asked the Prophet SAW, “Apostle of Allah, tell us the legal injunction (about) Bayt al Maqdis.” The Apostle of Allah SAW said, “Go and pray there. If you cannot visit it and pray there, then send some oil to be used in the lamps”. (Bukhari)

It is also highly recommended for one to commence a journey for Hajj or Umrah from Masjid al Aqsa.

Umm Salamah , the wife of the Prophet SAW, relates that she heard the Messenger of Allah SAW saying, “If anyone enters into the state of Ihram for Hajj or Umrah from Masjid al-Aqsa and then proceeds to the Sacred Masjid, his former and latter sins will be forgiven” or “he is guaranteed paradise.” The narrator ‘Abdullah RA was not sure which words were said. (Abu Dawud)

Additionally, for those able to settle down in the surroundings of Masjid al Aqsa, this too is deemed highly praiseworthy.

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr RA reports that the Messenger of Allah SAW said, “There will be migration upon migration. The best of the inhabitants of the earth will reside where Prophet Ibrahim AS migrated (around Bayt al-Maqdis)…” (Al-Mustadrak)

Why is Masjid al Aqsa known as the First Qiblah?

Qiblah is the direction that Muslims face when performing Salaah. Throughout the Prophet Muhammad SAW’s stay in Makkah, prior to Hijrah, and for a brief period in Madinah post Hijrah, he, alongwith the Muslims would face Masjid al Aqsa for Salaah.

Revelation from Allah SWT, as found in the Qur’aan,  descended sixteen or seventeen months after migration to Madinah, that the Qiblah of the Muslims be changed to Makkah. However, Allah SWT and the Messenger SAW empahised that this change in direction, did not render any acts of worship performed in the direction of Jerusalem null and void. Instead, it was affirmed, that such observances would be rewarded in full.

Al-Bara’ RA narrates, “We prayed along with the Prophet SAW facing Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) for sixteen or seventeen months. Then Allah ordered him to turn his face towards the Ka’bah (in Makkah).” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Al-Bara’ RA also narrated: “Some men had died or had been martyred before the Qiblah changed towards the Sacred House. We did not know what to say about them (and the acceptance of their prayers). Then Allah sent down, “Allah would not let your belief go to waste. Allah is All-Gentle, Most Merciful to mankind.” (2:143) (Al-Bukhari)

The physical change in direction from Jerusalem to Makkah, represents a natural change in focus for believers from the second House of Allah on earth (Masjid al Aqsa) to the first (the Ka’bah). However, in no way, does this move diminish the spiritual significance and legacy of Masjid al Aqsa as enumerated boldly in both the Qur’aan and Hadith.

Is Masjid al Aqsa mentioned in the Qur’aan?

The noble sanctuary of Al Aqsa, the city of al-Quds and its surroundings are referred to directly and indirectly over 70 times in the Holy Qur’aan.

Masjid al Aqsa is the only Masjid besides the Ka’bah in Makkah to be mentioned by name in the Qur’aan. This clear reference is to be found in Surah Isra, verse one:

“Glorified is He Who carried His servant by night from the Holy Masjid[in Makkah] to the farthest Masjid[in Jerusalem] whose surroundings We have blessed that We may show him some of Our Signs. Indeed, He Alone is All Hearing, All Seeing”.

This verse not only makes mention of Masjid al Aqsa, but also empahsizes its surroundings to be blessed.

Likewise, in chronicling the stories of a succession of Prophets of Allah, the Qur’aan refers to the land of Shaam, Palestine and Masjid al Aqsa, as “Holy Land”, “blessed land,” and a land “blessed for the nations”.

The Qur’aan also makes mention of the the land of Shaam in symbolic terms.

Another verse of Surah Al Isra(Qur’aan 17:7) makes direct reference to Masjid al Aqsa:

“And when the promise of your next transgression comes to be fulfilled, they will disgrace you utterly and enter the masjid as they entered it the first time, and utterly destroy whatever they come upon”

A full list of verses of the Qur’aan that make direct or indirect references to Masjid al Aqsa and its surroundings can be found in the Islam and Palestine section of this website.

Who built Masjid al Aqsa?

According to Islamic teachings, Masjid al Aqsa is the second House of prayer to be established on earth, as mentioned in the authentic Hadith:

Sayyidina Abu Dharr RA reported that he asked the Prophet SAW, “O Messenger of Allah, which masjid was built first on earth?” The Prophet SAW replied, “The Sacred Masjid of Makkah.” Abu Dharr again asked, “Which was next?” The Prophet SAW said, “The Masjid al-Aqsa.” Abu Dharr RA further asked, “How long was the period between the building of the two masajid?” The Prophet SAW said, “Forty years.” Apart from these, offer your prayers anywhere when it is time to pray, as excellence lies in it.” (Al-Bukhari)

This tradition establishes a firm Muslim connection to this Holy Site, almost from the inception of human existence on this earth.

Muslim scholars offer different possibilities on the manner in which Masjid al Aqsa was initially built. However, many incline to the view that it was the father of humanity, Sayyidina Adam AS, who laid the foundations for Masjid al Aqsa, after having done the same for the Ka’bah.

Sayyidina Ibrahim AS thereafter rebuilt Masjid al Aqsa with his son Ishaaq AS – just as he had rebuilt the Ka’bah in Makkah with his son Ismail AS.

Subsequent to that, another rebuilding of Masjid al Aqsa began in the era of Sayyidina Dawud AS, and was completed by his son, Sulaymaan AS.

Mujir al-Din al ‘Ulaymi al Hanbali(860-928 CE/1456-1522H), the Chief Qadi of Jerusalem and celebrated chronicler reconciles various narrations on the founding and construction of Masjid al Aqsa as follows:

“It is possible that it was first founded by the angels, then built by Adam AS, then by Sam, son on Nuh AS, then by Ibrahim and Ishaq AS, then by Ya’qub AS, son of Ishaq AS, then by Dawud and Sulyaman AS – for these people are separated by intervals of time lengthy enough to have potentially necessitated the building’s reconstruction”.

Since it is essential for Muslims to believe in all the Prophets of God from Sayyidina Adam AS until, and including, the final messenger, Prophet Muhammad SAW; Islam recognises all the connections of these Prophets, through the ages, to Masjid al Aqsa, and views these as a continuation of the Islamic legacy set into motion ages earlier, when Masjid al Aqsa was consecrated as the second House of Allah SWT on earth.

Today, the numerous structures that can be found throughout the Masjid al Aqsa sanctuary can be dated back across several centuries.

The second Khalif of Islam, Sayyidina Umar ibn al Khattab RA, on his liberation of Al Quds, initiated the construction of a prayer hall at the southern end of Masjid al Aqsa. This structure, which was originally made of wood, was later re-built as a solid structure by the Khalif Walid ibn Abdul Malik.

Today, is known today as the Musallah al Qibli, and constitutes the foremost area where Salaah is performed in congregation at Masjid al Aqsa.

As far as the Qubbat al-Sakhrah (Dome of the Rock), this structure was commissioned by the Umayyad Khalif, ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan in 72-73 AH (691-692). This architectural wonder, which has dominated the skyline of al Quds for hundreds of years, is a glowing example of Muslim reverence and devotion to Masjid al Aqsa, as has been manifested through the ages.

Did the Prophet Muhammad SAW visit Masjid al Aqsa?

The Prophet Muhammad SAW visited Masjid al Aqsa, in person, during his miraculous journey of Isra and Mi’raj that occurred just prior to the Hijrah (migration) of Muslims from Makkah to Madinah.

Accompanied by the Archangel Jibra-eel and riding on a heavenly creature known as the Buraq, the Messenger of Allah SAW was transported from Makkah to Masjid al Aqsa – this leg of the journey being known as the Isra.

Clear mention of this journey is made in the opening verse of Surah Isra(Chapter 17) in the Qur’aan:

“Glorified is He Who carried His servant by night from the Holy Masjid [in Makkah] to the farthest Masjid [in Jerusalem] whose surroundings We have blessed that We may show him some of Our Signs. Indeed, He Alone is All Hearing, All Seeing”.

This event affirmed the centrality of Masjid al Aqsa for Muslims, and imbibed in the Muslim heart a reverence for this sacred space as a symbol of Islam.

At Masjid al Aqsa, the Prophet Muhammad SAW led all the past messengers of Allah in congregational prayer, making the site the only place on earth where all the Prophets performed Salaah together at one given time.

At Masjid al Aqsa, the Prophet SAW was also offered to drink either wine or milk, as offered by the

Angel Jibra-eel AS. He chose milk, and was subsequently congratulated by Jibra-eel AS for having symbolically chosen the Fitrah, or natural way, for his followers.

The Prophet SAW, thereafter, proceeded from Masjid al Aqsa towards the heavens, where he had individual meetings with a number of Prophets of Allah SWT, culminating with a reception with Allah SWT Himself.

On his return journey, the Prophet SAW again visited Masjid al Aqsa.

On his return to Makkah after this miraculous night journey, the Prophet SAW described the structure and surroundings of Masjid al Aqsa in details to the inhabitants of Makkah who doubted his story.

Why is it called Masjid al Aqsa?

Various scholarly opinions are suggested for the Masjid being referred to as Aqsa (or the farthest mosque). These include:

  • Because of its distance from Makkah, as it was the farthest mosque of great significance on earth from Makkah
  • Because of its remoteness from impurities
  • Since Allah SWT knew that Masjid Nabawi SAW would be built, subsequent to this revelation, which would be a shorter distance the Haram in Makkah, and hence Bayt al Maqdis would become the farthest of the three

The name ‘Masjid al Aqsa’ has its direct origins in the Qur’aan as the site was not known as such by the Arabs prior to Islam.

Do the people of Palestine have any special virtues?

The virtues of the people of Shaam(Syro-Palestine) are extolled in various Ahadeeth of the Prophet Muhammad SAW.

Sayyidina Abu Umamah RA reports that the Messenger of Allah SAW said, “The chosen land of Allah is al-Sham. He has therein his chosen creation and servants. Most definitely, a large group from my Ummah will enter Paradise without having to give reckoning or experiencing any form of punishment.” (Al-Tabarani)

Sayyidina ‘Abdullah ibn Hawalah RA reports that he said, “O Messenger of Allah, choose for me a place where I should be, for if I were to know that you are staying I would not have chosen any place over you.” He SAW said three times, “You must go to al-Sham.” When He SAW noticed Ibn Hawalah’s indifference towards it, he said, “Do you know what Allah says about al-Sham? Allah said, ‘O Sham! You are the quintessence of My lands (safwati min biladi) and I shall inhabit you with the chosen ones among My servants.’” (Al-Tabarani)

Sayyidina ‘Abdullah ibn Hawalah RA also reports that the Messenger of Allah SAW said, “At some point you will be [split into] standing armies (groups): one in al-Sham, one in Yemen and one in Iraq.” ‘Abdullah ibn Hawalah asked the Prophet SAW “Choose for me, Messenger of Allah, in case I live to see that day.” The Prophet SAW replied, “Go to al-Sham, for it is the chosen land of Allah in all His earth. He attracts the chosen ones among His servants by sending them there. If you do not wish to go there, then go to Yemen and drink from its water. Allah has given me a guarantee concerning al-Sham and its people.” (Abu Dawud)

Sayyidina Abu Darda’ RA related that the Messenger of Allah SAW said, “From al-Sham to the furthest point of Upper Mesopotamia, the inhabitants therein, along with their wives, children and servants (men and women), are in a state of ribat (guarding the Muslim frontier) in the path of Allah. Whoever occupies any land therein is in ribat. Whoever occupies any frontier therein from the many frontiers is in Jihad.” (Ibn ‘Asakir)

Abu Umamah al-Bahili  RA reports that the Prophet SAW said, “A group of my Ummah will remain on truth, they will vanquish their enemy and those who disagree with them will not be able to harm them until Allah  SWT Commands.” “Where are these people?” The companions asked. The Prophet SAW replied, “In Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem).” (Al-Tabarani)

Umair ibn Hani’ mentions that he heard Mu‘awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan  RA saying on this pulpit that he heard the Messenger of Allah SAW saying, “A group from my Ummah will remain upon the truth. Those who desert them or oppose them will not be able to harm them, they will prevail over others until the decree of Allah (Qiyamah) comes.” (Mu’adh ibn Jabal RA said, “They are the people of al-Sham.”) (Ahmad)

Sayyidina Abu Hurayrah RA relates that the Messenger of Allah SAW said, “A group of my Ummah will not cease to fight at the gates of Damascus and at the gates of Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) and its surroundings. The betrayal or desertion of whoever deserts them will not harm them in the least. They will remain victorious, until the Final Hour comes.” (Al-Tabarani)

Sayyidina ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr RA reports that the Messenger of Allah SAW said, “There will be migration upon migration. The best of the inhabitants of the earth will reside where Prophet Ibrahim AS migrated (around Bayt al-Maqdis)…” (Al-Mustadrak)

Sayyidina Jabir RA relates that the Prophet of Allah SAW was asked, “Who will enter Paradise first?” The Prophet SAW replied, “The Prophets.” The man then asked, “Who next O Prophet of Allah?” The Prophet SAW replied, “The martyrs.” The man then asked, “Who next O Prophet of Allah?” The

Prophet SAW replied, “The callers of Adhan at the Ka’bah.” The man then asked, “Who next O Prophet of Allah?” The Prophet SAW replied, “The callers of the Adhan at Bayt al-Maqdis.” The man then asked, “Who next O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet SAW replied, “The callers of the Adhan at my masjid.” The man then asked, “Who next?” The Prophet SAW replied, “The rest of the callers of the Adhan according to their deeds.” (Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra)

What is Shaam?

The term Shaam etymologically means “land of the left hand”, referring to the fact that for someone in the Hejaz (Arabian Peninsula) facing east, north is to the left (so the name Yemen correspondingly means “land of the right hand”). Shaam comes from the Arabic consonantal root shin-alif-mim ش ا م (referring to unluckiness, such as that traditionally associated with the left).

Bilad al-Shaam, or simply Shaam, is used as a general name for the whole Levant or “Greater Syria” region and refers to the lands currently known as Jordan, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Parts of northern Egypt, and parts of western Iraq.

Though commonly translated as ‘Syria’, this is problematic as modern-day Syria constitutes just one part of the classical Greater-Shaam region.

Geographers say Shaam is bordered by the Euphrates River on the northeast and by Egypt on the southwest. It extends from the mountains of Tai’ in the southeast to the Mediterranean and the Anadol Mountains in the northwest.

Its major cities are Damascus, Jerusalem, Nablus, Homs, Hemah, Halab, Amman, Beirut, Askalan, Gaza, Saida; Sur, Tripoli, Ba’labek, Manbaj and Al-Ma’rah.

Shaam, in Islam, is a blessed and sacred land that Allah SWT destined to be the place of revelations, the birthplace of prophets and a refuge for godly men.

The boundaries of the “blessed land”are not entirely clear and there are differences of opinion on its exact extent.

Some early Muslim scholars including the respected Ibn Kathir, al Qurtubi and Ibn al Jawzi, consider the whole area of Shaam blessed. Others opine that the region of Shaam has within it various “pockets” of blessed land.

However, there is unanimity that Masjid al Aqsa in Jerusalem certainly constitutes “blessed land” as is mentioned in the Qur’aan.

Surah 17, Verse 1, attests not only to this Holiness of Masjid al Aqsa, but also that of the land surrounding it, which is Shaam/part thereof:

“Glorified is He Who carried His servant by night from the Holy Masjid [in Makkah] to the farthest Masjid[in Jerusalem] whose surroundings We have blessed that We may show him some of Our Signs. Indeed, He Alone is All Hearing, All Seeing”.

There are many other verses in the Quran which also make mention of the land of Shaam.

Surah 21:71 describes it as a land “blessed for the worlds”, whilst Surah 5:21 makes mention of it as a “Holy Land”. There are various other similar verses.

Similarly the Prophetic Ahadeeth are replete in mentioning the virtues of Shaam.

“Behold, indeed the heart of the abode of the believers is al-Sham” (Ahmad), and “The heart of the abode of Islam is al-Sham” (Tabarani).

Other narrations speak of Shaam as:

* Allah’s chosen land, to which his best servants will be gathered (Abu Dawood)

* The land which the Angels spread their wings over (Tirmidhi)

* The land of the final Resurrection and Gathering (Ahmad)

* A land which the Messenger of Allah SAW invoked blessings for (Bukhari)

* A place where faith (Imaan) resides at the time of turmoil (fitan)

* A place where the Abdaal reside (Ahmad)

* A place where revelation from Allah SWT descended (Abu Dawood/Tabarani)

* The quintessence of lands of Allah SWT (safwati min biladi) (Tabarani)

* A land of perpetual Jihad and striving in the Cause of Allah SWT (Ahmad)

* A place of great significance in the End Times

The land of Shaam is intrinsically blessed, and Allah SWT honoured it with this status prior to the occurrence of any event or the emergence of any Prophet here. However, the presence of Prophets and other great personalities, and the occurrence of great events here, simply serves to emphasize the blessedness of this region.

What is the Isra and Mi’raj?

The Isra and Mi’raj constitutes one of the most miraculous episodes in the life of the Prophet Muhammad SAW.

Isra was the remarkable night journey of the Prophet SAW, accompanied by the Angel Jibra’eel AS, under Divine Invitation, from the Ka’bah in Makkah to the Al Aqsa sanctuary in Jerusalem.

This was followed by the Mi’raj or ascension to the Heavens, which was characterised by the Messenger of Allah SAW meeting a number of Prophets and conversing with Allah SWT directly.

The Prophet SAW travelled on the Isra using the Buraq, a swift heavenly creature.

On his return from the heavens, the Messenger of Allah SAW again visited Jerusalem prior to him returning to Makkah.

The journey took place just before Hijrah(migration) to Madinah.

The entire journey was a complete bodily experience with the Messenger of Allah SAW being in a state of full wakefulness throughout.

Detailed reports about the Isra and Mi’raj are found in the works of Hadith and Sirah and have been narrated from as many as twenty-five Companions.

It was during this journey that the Ummah was granted the gift of 5 daily Salaah.

In respect to Masjid Al Aqsa, the following transpired within its blessed confines during this journey:

*The celestial steed, the Buraq, was tied to its Western Wall, known to Muslims as the Buraq Wall

*The Prophet Muhammad SAW led all the Prophets of Allah SWT in prayer at the Masjid al Aqsa. This occurred on the prompting of Jibra-eel AS. After Salaah, Jibra-eel AS informed the Prophet SAW that all the Messengers that Allah SWT had sent to earth –from Sayyidina Adam to Isa (Jesus) AS had joined him in prayer. Ibn Abbas RA said: “There is not a single inch in al Quds where a Prophet has not prayed or an angel not stood”. (Tirmidhi and Imam Ahmad)

*It was here that the status of Sayyidina Muhammad SAW as the Imamul Ambiyaa(leader of all the Prophets) was practically manifested

*The Al Aqsa Sanctuary is the only known site on earth where all the Prophets performed Salaah together at a given time, led by the Prophet Muhammad SAW

*It was also within the Masjid al Aqsa Sanctuary that the Prophet SAW was famously offered by Jibraeel AS to drink, either a glass of wine or one of milk. He chose the milk upon which Jibra-eel AS informed him: “You have chosen Fitrah – if you had taken wine, your followers would have gone astray”.

*The Prophet SAW visited Masjid al Aqsa in this journey twice- once prior to departing for the Heavens, and a second time on its return

On his return from this journey, the people of Quraysh in Makkah disputed the story of the Mi’raj, to which Allah SWT displayed to the Prophet SAW Bayt al Maqdis in front of him, thereby enabling him SAW to describe it to them in meticulous detail as they posed questions about it.

What is the ‘Temple Mount’?

Temple Mount is the name given to the Masjid al Aqsa Sanctuary by members of the Jewish faith.

It is considered to be the holiest site in Judaism and is the place Jews turn towards during prayer. Due to Judiac religious understanding, many Jews will not walk on this site, to avoid unintentionally entering the area they consider the Holy of Holies, which they believe to be the location where a High Priest communicated directly with God.

Jewish veneration to the site arguably stems from the claim that it contains the ‘Foundation Stone’ which, according to the rabbis of the Talmud, was the supposed spot from where the world was created and expanded into its current form.

According to Jewish tradition, two temples were established at the site – the first was said to built by Solomon the son of David in 957 BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The second was constructed under the auspices of Zerubbabel in 516 BCE and destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 CE. In

The Western/Buraq Wall of Masjid al Aqsa is known by Jews as the Wailing Wall and is claimed to be a remnant of the Temple, considered by some rabbinical authorities to currently be the holiest accessible site for Jews to pray at.

Jews texts predict that the ‘Temple’ will be rebuilt at the site, with the coming of the ‘Jewish Messiah’. A number of extremist Jewish groups now advocate building the Temple without delay in order to bring to pass God’s “end-time prophetic plans for Israel and the entire world.”

From a Muslim perspective, the entire area of what is considered the ‘Temple Mount’, forms part of the Masjid al Aqsa compound. Masjid al Aqsa is not restricted to structures such as the black-domed Qibli mosque, or the golden domed Dome of the Rock mosque. Rather it is the land of the entire area that Islam considers holy and not the bricks and mortar.

Also for Muslims, Islam is not considered a new religion that began in the 600s when Prophet Muhammad ﷺ began preaching in Makkah. Instead, it is seen as a continuation and capstone of the traditions of earlier prophets that are revered by all three monotheistic faiths. The message of Muhammad ﷺ only continues and perfects the messages of Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), and ‘Isa, which had been corrupted over time. Thus, for Muslims, the ‘Temple’ that was built by Prophet’s Dawood and Sulayman(David and Solomon) AS on the ‘Temple Mount’ in ancient times was in fact part of their own religious history.

With this mindset, when Muslims conquered the city of Jerusalem in 637 during the caliphate of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, they sought to resurrect Jerusalem as a place of worship. The ancient temple of Jerusalem had been rebuilt numerous times, most recently by Herod around 20 BC. By 70 CE, however, the Romans destroyed the temple after a Jewish revolt in Palestine. Jews were forbidden from entering the city and Judaism all but died in Jerusalem.

The area where the temple stood remained as a wasteland for the next few hundred years. The Romans used the area as a garbage dump, so when ‘Umar entered the city and went to see where his religious forefathers such as Dawud and Sulayman had worshiped (which was also the place where Muhammad ﷺ along with all the Prophets had worshiped during the Isra’ wal-Mi’raj) he found the area filthy and unusable as a mosque. Nevertheless, he decided to clean the area and build a Masjid upon the site. As was his custom, he worked alongside average Muslims in cleaning and purifying the area. They erected a basic mosque that could fit about 3000 people at the southern end of the ‘Temple Mount’, now known by the Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary..

For the Muslims, they did not see this as trampling on the holy sites of other religions. Since the same prophets that are mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible are accepted as Muslim prophets, the new mosque was seen as a continuation of those earlier places of worship. This went in line with one of the central themes of Islam – that it was the perfection of earlier monotheistic faiths.

Islam, as portrayed most distinctly during the Isra and Mi’raj, is an inclusive way of life – bringing all the Prophets of Allah SWT together, not segregating or differentiating between them.

The Islamic historical significance of Masjid al Aqsa dates back further than that suggested by many Jews and Christians. For adherents of the Islamic faith Masjid al Aqsa was the second place of worship to be established on earth, which was subsequently rebuilt across the ages by numerous Prophets of Allah SWT including Sayyidina Ibrahim, Ishaaq, Dawood and Sulaymaan AS.

The importance of al Quds to many Jews and Christians begin with the Prophet Ibrahim and is heightened by the rebuilding of Masjid al Aqsa by Dawud and Sulayman AS. To Muslims, however, Dawud and Sulayman AS are but two of the many Prophets in the chain of Prophethood associated with this blessed site. Muslims believe in them and all other Prophets of Allah and acknowledge all of their associations with the Holy Site.

What is Palestine?

Palestine (Arabic: فلسطين‎ Filasṭīn, Falasṭīn, Filisṭīn) is a geographic region in Western Asia between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. It is sometimes considered to include adjoining territories. The name was used by Ancient Greek writers, and was later used for the Roman province Syria Palaestina, the Byzantine Palaestina Prima, and the Islamic provincial district of Jund Filastin. Historically, the region has been known as the southern portion of wider regional designations such as Shaam or the Levant.

Situated at a strategic location between Egypt, Syria and Arabia, the region has a rich history as a crossroads for religion, culture, commerce, and politics. The region has been controlled by numerous peoples, including Ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, the Muslim Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid caliphates, Crusaders, Ayyubids, Mamluks, Mongols, Ottomans, the British, and currently Israelis and Palestinians.

The 10th century Persian geographer Al Istakhri noted that Palestine stretched “from Rafh (Rafah) to the edge of Al Lajjûn” and “from Yâfâ (Jaffa) to Rîhâ (Jericho)”.

Today, the region comprises the Zionist State of Israel (1948 Palestine) and the occupied Palestinian ‘territories’ – Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank.

Whilst many today consider the current occupied Palestinian ‘territories’ to be the extent of Palestine and the building blocks of the so-called ‘State of Palestine’, it should be appreciated that this is a modern political construct, and should not defer from the comprehensive understanding of what comprises Palestine, outlined above.

The modern-day State of Israel which was founded in 1948, and subsequently expanded in 1967, comprises large areas of what should still be considered Palestine, which were appropriated from the original Palestinian inhabitants of the land, by a campaign of force, fear, violent massacres and mass dispossession.

For Muslims, all of Palestine is considered blessed land, by virtue of it being part of the greater Shaam region, whose virtues are enumerated in the Qur’aan and Hadith.

The Prophet Muhammad SAW is reported to have said, “Allah SWT has blessed what lies between al Arish and the Euphrates and has made Palestine particularly holy”. (Kanzul Ummal)

Sayyidina Zayd ibn Thaabit RA reports that the Prophet SAW said: “How blessed is al-Shaam!” The companions around asked: “Why is that?” The Messenger of Allah SAW replied: “I see the angels of Allah spread their wings over al Shaam”. (Tirmidhi and Ahmad)

The core of the blessed land of Palestine for Muslims is the Holy City of Al Quds (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary of Masjid al Aqsa that lies within it.

An indication towards the blessedness of the wider Palestine that flows from the presence of Masjid al Aqsa in Jerusalem can be found in the Qur’aan, Chapter 17, verse 1:

“Glorified is He Who carried His servant by night from the Holy Masjid [in Makkah] to the farthest Masjid[in Jerusalem] whose surroundings We have blessed that We may show him some of Our Signs. Indeed, He Alone is All Hearing, All Seeing”.

What is Gaza?


The Gaza Strip, (Arabic Qiṭāʿ Ghazzah), is a territory occupying 140 square miles (363 square km) along the Mediterranean Sea just northeast of the Sinai Peninsula that borders Egypt on the southwest for 11 kilometers (6.8 mi) and the Zionist state of Israel on the east and north along a 51 km (32 mi) border. Gaza, together with the West Bank and East Jerusalem, comprise what, post the establishment of Zionist Israel, is commonly known as the Palestinian territories.

However, historically, Gaza was not seen as simply being a disjointed ‘Palestinian territory’, but instead was an integral part of the contiguous land mass called Palestine, which in turn formed part of the Greater Shaam region, which Muslims consider blessed.

The current size of the territory is 41 kilometers (25 mi) long, and from 6 to 12 kilometers (3.7 to 7.5 mi) wide, with a total area of 365 square kilometers (141 sq mi). With around 1.85 million Palestinians in some 362 square kilometers, Gaza ranks as the 6th most densely populated polity in the world. Muslims make up the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip. The remainder of citizens are mostly Christian.

Despite a 2005 Israeli ‘disengagement’ from Gaza, the United Nations, International human rights organisations, and the majority of governments and legal commentators consider the territory to be still occupied by Israel, supported by additional restrictions placed on Gaza by Egypt. Israel maintains direct external control over Gaza and indirect control over life within Gaza: it controls Gaza’s air and maritime space, and six of Gaza’s seven land crossings. It reserves the right to enter Gaza at will with its military and maintains a no-go buffer zone within the Gaza territory. Gaza is dependent on Israel for its water, electricity, telecommunications, and other utilities.

In recent years, Israel had launched a number of wars on the people of Gaza, causing extensive damage in and loss of life. Projections by the United Nations suggest that, by 2020, Gaza may be rendered unliveable, if the present cocktail of toxic humanitarian and political trends continue.

It is important to note that, although Gaza forms part of the wider Palestine region, and its Islamic importance stems therefrom, the name Gaza is not a synonym for Palestine, Al Quds or Masjid al Aqsa, and hence these terms should not be used interchangeably.

What is a Waqf?

In the Islamic shari’ah, a Waqf is a voluntary, permanent, irrevocable dedication of a possession – to Allah. Once a waqf, it never gets gifted, inherited, or sold. It belongs to Allah and the corpus of the waqf always remains intact. The fruits of the waqf may be utilised for any shari’ah compliant purpose.

There are various types of Waqf, of which Masaajid(mosques) are a prominent example.

A mosque is a place that has been prepared for the purpose of performing all obligatory Salaah on a permanent basis and is allocated specifically for that, whether it is built of stones, mud or cement, or not.

Once designated, a mosque is no longer the property of the one who establishes it, because it is a waqf. Hence, it is not permissible for him to sell it, or transfer ownership to anyone else.

As a house of worship established, almost at the onset of human existence on earth (the second Masjid to be established after the Ka’bah in Makkah), Masjid al Aqsa is a Waqf, whose confines and maintanence is to be defined by the rules of Islamic endowments.

The Masjid cannot be sold, nor have its ownership transferred or parts of it bequeathed to others.

Currently, a Muslim entity known as the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf (sometimes called an “Islamic Religious Endowments” organization) manages the Masjid al Aqsa Waqf. Some form or another of waqf authority has catered for the needs of Masjid al Aqsa, throughout the years of Muslim custodianship at the site, with the latest version instituted by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan after 1948 war. Accordingly, the King of Jordan currently supplies all of the funding needed to operate the waqf, which is in effect the civil administration for the holy site.

Can Masjid al Aqsa be divided?

The entire walled-off sanctuary of Masjid al Aqsa in the city of Al Quds (Jerusalem), is considered blessed land dedicated exclusively to the worship of Allah, and as such no part of it can be separated from another, or appropriated for a different purpose.

It is important to appreciate that Masjid al Aqsa does not refer to any particular structure, prayer hall or part of the walled-off compound, but refers to the land within the sanctuary. It is this land that is holy and blessed, and not the bricks and mortar.

Hence, regardless of what is to be found situated on the land, all of it constitutes Masjid al Aqsa, and hence cannot be detached from the rest of the mosque.

The entire ambit of the land of Masjid al Aqsa is also considered a Waqf, rendering Allah SWT the Sole Owner of it, thereby prohibiting any notion of selling, dividing or exchanging ownership of the land.

What is the Wailing Wall?

Also known as the Western Wall, this structure is in fact part of Masjid al Aqsa, and is known to Muslims as the Buraq Wall.

It is called as such, because the Messenger of Allah SAW tied to it the Buraq, the celestial creature that was his conveyance during the miraculous journey of Isra and Mi’raj.

In the narration of Sayyidina Anas ibn Malik RA contained in Sahih Muslim, the Messenger of Allah SAW narrates: “I was brought the Buraq, a tall white beast, bigger than a donkey, smaller than a mule. It could place his hooves at the farthest boundary of his gaze. I mounted it until we arrived at Bayt al-Maqdis. I tied it at the ring where the Prophets tied it before (i.e. the Buraq Wall or Western Wall). I entered Masjid al Aqsa Sanctuary and prayed two rak’ah there”.

For Jews, the Wall is considered the holiest place where they are permitted to pray.

Jews believe it to be the only surviving structure of the Herodian temple, and often call it the Kotel.

Adherents to Judaism, however had previously shown hardly any particular interest in this portion of the wall. Though they consider it to be the only surviving remnant of the Second Temple, the Wall was never actually part of the Temple as such, but rather the western wall of a retaining structure built under Herod to support the plaza above. In Herod’s day, the place had been a part of a shopping centre and had no religious significance.

The wall consists of 45 stone courses, 28 of them above ground and 17 underground. The first seven visible layers are from the Herodian period. The next four courses, consisting of smaller plainly dressed stones, date from the Muslim Umayyad period (8th century). Above that are 17 courses of small stones from the Muslim Mamluk period (13–16th century).

Will Masjid al Aqsa play an important role in events to shape the world towards the End of Times?

The area of Shaam, within which Masjid al Aqsa is situated, is destined to play a critical role in the End of Times according to Islamic teachings.

The region is prophesized to witness the emergence of Dajjaal(the anti-Christ), the presence of Sayyidina Mahdi, the return of Sayyidina Isa(Jesus) AS from the Heavens, the slaying of Dajjal and the havoc to be wreaked by Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj(Gog and Magog).

Ahadeeth mention that Dajjaal will pursue his mission on earth for 40 days, entering every place besides the Ka’bah, Masjid Nabawi and Masjid al Aqsa. (Ahmad)

He will however eventually be slayed by Sayyidina Isa AS, in the land of Masjid al Aqsa, at a town called Ludd in Palestine(Ahmad and Tirmidhi)

Narrations mention a huge fight between the enemies of Islam and Muslims that is to take place alongside the River Jordan .

Sayyidina Abu Hurayrah RA related that the Messenger of Allah SAW said, “The Hour will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and defeat them. When a Jew hides behind a rock or a tree, it will say, ‘O Muslim, O Slave of Allah! There is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!’ All the trees will do this except the gharqad(box-thorn) tree” (Muslim and Ahmad)

A Hadith in Sahih al Bukhari lists 6 important signs mentioned by the Prophet of Allah SAW that will be witnessed in the build-up to Qiyamah. One of these will be the liberation of Baitul Muqaddas.

Other Ahadeeth mention the re-establishment of the Khilafah in the Blessed Land as a portent of other major eschatological events to come.

Several Prophetic narrations speak highly of migrating to Shaam towards the End of Time.

The Messenger of Allah SAW spoke of a group of his followers who would be stationed in Shaam and in and around Bayt al Maqdis who would remain in a state of Jihad (sacred struggle) until the coming of the Hour.

Of them, the Messenger of Allah SAW said,”[they] will continue to remain on the truth. No one who opposes them will harm them until the coming of the Hour” (Ahmad).

The land of Palestine has also been pronounced by the Messenger of Allah SAW as the land of raising and gathering for Qiyamah(Ahmad and Tabarani).

Some commentators of the Qu’raan have even suggested that the Angel Israfeel AS will blow the Trumpet signalling the End of the World from Jerusalem.