Alhamdulillah… Infinite praise and thanks are due to the Almighty Allah, the Creator and Owner of the earth; Who gives it to those of His servants whom He chooses. Complete peace and blessings are upon the leader of all Prophets and Messengers, Sayyidunā Muḥammad, his household, his companions and all those who follow his guided path till the end of times.
This article highlights 14 facts about al-Masjid al-Aqsa and Al-Quds that, I believe, every Muslim should know. The purpose is to remind those who know, and inform anyone who might not know about these facts. It hopes to refresh and develop love for the land which Prophet loved, not less than his love for Makkah and Madinah.
There are many other interesting facts, besides the 14 presented in this article, which the Muslim may need to know. If you know or have thought about any of them, please feel free to share them with us in the comments area. Also, feel free to leave your comments and thoughts.
The following two sections are briefs about Al-Quds and al-Masjid al-Aqsa.
Al-Quds or Jerusalem
Al-Quds is the Arabic name of Jerusalem. Literally, Al-Quds means purity and blessing. Whereas Jerusalem means the sacred house. It had been the capital of Palestine before the Israeli occupation. And remains as such even under the current Israeli occupation.
Al-Quds is also the biggest city in Palestine in terms of size and population.
According to Aḥmad al-‘Awaḍi, in his book, al-Ṣuhyūniyyah, Nash’atuhā, Tanẓīmātuhā, Anshiṭatuhā, “history tells us that the first people who settled in Palestine were the Canaanites, 6000 (six thousand) years BCE. The Canaanites were an Arab tribe who came to Palestine from the Arabian Peninsula, and after their arrival, Palestine was named after them [i.e., Canaan]” p.7.
He adds, that it was only 600 (six hundred) years after Sayyidunā Ibrāhīm had entered the land, that the Jews came to the place, for the first time. This means the Jews came to the place 1400 years BCE. Thus, the Canaanites entered Palestine and lived there approximately 4500 years before the Jews” p.8.
The name Al-Masjid al-Aqsa is an Arabic name which means the farthest mosque. This is the name the Qur’an has given to the mosque as implied in the first verse of Sūrah al-Isrā’. Prior to that, the known name for the mosque was Bayt al-Maqdis. Thus, Bayt al-Maqdis and al-Masjid al-Aqsa are used interchangeably.
There’s no authentic evidence that indicates who first built al-Masjid al-Aqsa. But an authentic narration by Abū Dharr al-Gifārī raḍiya Allāhu ‘anhu as reported by Imām al-Bukhārī indicates that it was the second mosque to be built on earth after Ka‘bah, and there was a forty-year interval between the two mosques.
Technically, al-Masjid al-Aqsa does not only refer to the mosque (the prayer hall). It rather refers to the entire sacred sanctuary. However, many people mistake some parts of Bayt al-Maqdis with the entire sacred sanctuary. The truth is, Bayt al-Maqdis or al-Masjid al-Aqsa is a vast piece of land which consists many buildings and facilities. These include prayers halls (mosques), domes as well as minarets, schools, museums, and graves.
The most famous prayer hall is the one most people would like to refer to as al-Masjid al-Aqsa. It’s also called al-Jāmi‘ al-Aqṣā. Similarly, one of the domes is the famous golden dome, known as the dome of the rock, which many Muslims mistake with the entire al-Masjid al-Aqsa.
Therefore, it’s not right to regard the Dome of the Rock only as al-Masjid al-Aqsa. It’s also not right to exclude it from the entire al-Masjid al-Aqsa.
Religion of All Messengers
Before highlighting the facts, which every Muslim should know about al-Masjid al-Aqsa and al-Quds, it’s important to emphasize that all the chosen Messengers and Prophets of Allah had one mission and one message. The mission they had was to guide mankind from going astray to guidance. And the message they all conveyed is that, there’s only One God who is worthy to be worshiped. This is understood from the advice which both Sayyidunā Ibrāhīm and Sayyidunā Ya‘qūb gave to their children, as narrated in Sūrah al-Baqarah, 2:132-133:
وَوَصَّىٰ بِهَآ إِبْرَٰهِـۧمُ بَنِيهِ وَيَعْقُوبُ يَـٰبَنِىَّ إِنَّ ٱللَّـهَ ٱصْطَفَىٰ لَكُمُ ٱلدِّينَ فَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ * أَمْ كُنتُمْ شُهَدَآءَ إِذْ حَضَرَ يَعْقُوبَ ٱلْمَوْتُ إِذْ قَالَ لِبَنِيهِ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن بَعْدِى قَالُوا نَعْبُدُ إِلَـٰهَكَ وَإِلَـٰهَ ءَابَآئِكَ إِبْرَٰهِـۧمَ وَإِسْمَـٰعِيلَ وَإِسْحَـٰقَ إِلَـٰهًا وَٰحِدًا وَنَحْنُ لَهُۥ مُسْلِمُونَ
“And Ibrāhīm enjoined his sons to do the same, as did Ya‘qūb, “My sons, Allah has chosen this religion for you; so do not let death overtake you, except when you are in a state of submission (Muslims). Were you present when Ya‘qūb faced the hour of death and he asked his sons, “Who will you worship after me?” They answered, “We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Ibrāhīm and Ismā‘īl and Isḥāq: the one God; we have submitted ourselves to Him.”
The implication of this common advice is that the religion to which these Messengers called is none but Islam, and the true followers of these Messengers are all Muslims.
The 14 Facts the Muslim Should Know About Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds
The following are the 14 facts the Muslim should know about al-Masjid al-Aqsa and al-Quds.
#1: Bayt Al-Maqdis and Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Are Used Interchangeably
Bayt al-Maqdis has been the name of the mosque until the Prophet Muhammad was sent there in a night journey (al-Isrā’) and ascended to the Heaven (al-Mi‘rāj). The name al-Masjid al-Aqṣā (the Farthest Mosque) came into existence when Allah refered to is as such.
Thus, whether you call it al-Aqsa or Bayt al-Maqdis, they are both legitimate names for the holy mosque.
#2: The Name Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Was Divinely Chosen
When the Propeht ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam returned from al-Isrā’ and al-Mi‘rāj, he told the Makkans about his journey and experience. Almost everyone belied him, save Sayyidunā Abū Bakr and a few others.
The only proof that could support the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu’alayhi wa sallam, at that time, was the descend of Sūrah al-Isrā’.
The revelation did not only support the Prophet’s claim. It also introduced the new divinely chosen name for Bayt al-Maqdis. Allah says:
سُبْحَـٰنَ ٱلَّذِى أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِۦ لَيْلًا مِّنَ ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْحَرَامِ إِلَى ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْأَقْصَا ٱلَّذِى بَـٰرَكْنَا حَوْلَهُۥ لِنُرِيَهُۥ مِنْ ءَايَـٰتِنَآ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْبَصِيرُ
“Holy is He who took His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque [at Makkah] to the Farthest Mosque [at al-Quds]- the surroundings of which We have blessed, so that We might show him some of Our signs. Surely, it is He who is All Hearing, and All Seeing” (al-Isrā’, 17:1).”
#3: Al-Masjid al-Aqsa Has Earned Its Surrounding Blessings
As you’ve read in the verse above, Allah explicitly states that He has blessed the surroundings of al-Masjid al-Aqsa. The immediate surrounding of the mosque is the city in which the mosque is located, and that is al-Quds (Jerusalem).
The surroundings of al-Masjid al-Aqsa and al-Quds goes beyond Palestine to include the surrounding countries which is known as Levant (or Shām in Arabic) and it includes Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
This blessing that has been bestowed upon the land of Bayt al-Maqdis gains it the state of holiness. It is sacred above all lands on earth, except Makkah and Madinah.
#4: Al-Quds Has Earned Sacredness from Al-Aqsa’s
The land is made holy by Allah. Thus, it’s meant to be a place where the true and correct religion of Allah is practiced. Thus, when Sayyidunā Mūsā advised his people to remember the bestowals of Allah upon them, so they’ll be grateful for His bounties, he also directed them to enter the holy land, which Allah has assigned for them. That holy land was al-Quds. For that Allah says in Sūrah al-Māidah, 5:21-22:
وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوْمِهِۦ يَـٰقَوْمِ ٱذْكُرُوا نِعْمَةَ ٱللَّـهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ جَعَلَ فِيكُمْ أَنبِيَآءَ وَجَعَلَكُم مُّلُوكًا وَءَاتَىٰكُم مَّا لَمْ يُؤْتِ أَحَدًا مِّنَ ٱلْعَـٰلَمِينَ * يَـٰقَوْمِ ٱدْخُلُوا ٱلْأَرْضَ ٱلْمُقَدَّسَةَ ٱلَّتِى كَتَبَ ٱللَّـهُ لَكُمْ وَلَا تَرْتَدُّوا عَلَىٰ أَدْبَارِكُمْ فَتَنقَلِبُوا خَـٰسِرِينَ
“Remember when Mūsā said to his people, “O my people! Remember Allah’s favour to you, He has raised up prophets among you, made you kings, and granted you [favours] such as He has not granted to anyone else in the world. O my people! Enter the holy land which Allah has assigned for you. Do not turn back, or you will be the losers.”
But did they obey the instruction and enter? No, they didn’t. Instead, they belied him and followed their heart-desires. Had they entered, the possibility of them turning back was high.
The land being holy has prepared it to be homeland for many Messengers and later on to be used to ascend The Prophet Muhammad to the Heaven.
#5: Al-Quds Was a Homeland to Many Messengers
Many are the Messengers who lived in Bait al-Maqdis and Palestine. It starts with the father of Messengers, Sayyidunā Ibrāhīm and Sayyidunā Lūṭ both of whom are contemporaries. The first son of Sayyidunā Ibrāhīm; Sayyidunā Ismā’īl was born in Palestine before moving to Makkah. The other son of Sayyidunā Ibrāhīm, Sayyidunā Isḥāq was born in Palestine and he lived and died there. Those who lived in al-Quds also include Sayyidunā Ya’qūb, Sayyidunā Yūsuf, Sayyidunā Mūsā, Sayyidunā Dāwūd, Sayyidunā Sulaymān, Sayyidunā Zakariyyā, Sayyidunā Yaḥyā and Sayyidunā Īsā ‘alayhim al-salām.
The children of Sayyidunā Ya‘qūb are referred to as the children of Israel (Isrā’īl).
Since many Messengers lived in al-Quds or in Palestine, we can be certain that abundant revelations came down in al-Quds.
#6: Revelations Descended in al-Quds
Places earn sacredness when they are chosen for the births of Prophets and when they are chosen for Prophets and Messengers to receive revelations. This is what makes Makkah and Madinah and what lies between them holy and special.
The same applies to al-Quds. Not only revelations descended there, Messengers were born and raised there.
#7: The Prophet Muhammad Was Sent to al-Masjid al-Aqsa in a Night Journey
Significant number of Messengers were born and had lived in Bayt al-Maqdis. Rasūlullāh ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam didn’t get that privilege. Perhaps, to fulfil that for him, Allah honoured him with al-Isrā’ wa al-Mi‘rāj and chose for it to take place at Bayt al-Maqdis, al-Quds.
Many happenings in this journey demonstrate the leadership of The Prophet Muhammad over all the other Prophets and Messengers, ‘alayhim al-salām.
In fact, the five times daily prayers were prescribed during that journey.
#8: The Prophet Was Ascended to the Heaven from al-Masjid al-Aqsa
When the Prophet reached Bayt al-Maqdis on that night, he was ascended to the Heaven in the company of Jibrīl. The Prophet had the chance to see many events that will happen to the righteous people in the Heaven. He also had to see many things that will happen to evil people in hellfire.
#9: The Prophet Led the Other Prophets in a Prayer al-Masjid al-Aqsa
After the Prophet reached Bayt al-Maqdis, and before he was ascended to the Heaven, he was honoured to lead all the Messengers and Prophets in a prayer.
This also endorses his leadership and raises his status above all the other Prophets and Messengers, ‘alayhim al-salām.
#10: Al-Masjid al-Aqsa Was the First Qiblah for Muslims
When the Prophet was chosen and sent as the final Messenger, he used to pray facing Masjid al-Aqsa. This means Masjid al-Aqsa was the /qiblah/ for him and his followers. This continued for four years and five months (three years in Makkah before hijrah and 16 months after hijrah.
Imām al-Bukhārī and Muslim report from the narration of al-Barā’ ibn ‘Āzib, raḍiya Allāhu ‘anhu, that
“The Messenger of Allah ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam prayed in the direction of Bayt al-Maqdis for sixteen or seventeen months.”
#11: Al-Masjid al-Aqsa is One of the Three Special Mosques
In Islam, any act of worship must be prescribed. So, are those places in which we conduct our acts of worships. Mosques are the best places to be. However, there are only three mosques which Muslim can purposely travel to, with the intention of worshiping. These three mosques are: The Masjid al-Harām (in Makkah), the mosque of the Messenger (in Madinah) and Masjid al-Aqsa (in Bayt al-Maqdis).
In a ḥadīth reported by Imām al-Bukhārī from the narration of Sayyidunā Abū Hurayrah raḍiya Allāhu ‘anhu, the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam says:
“No journey should be made except to three mosques, al-Masjid al-Ḥarām, Masjid al-Rasūl and Masjid al-Aqsa.”
#12: A Single Prayer in al-Masjid al-Aqsa Equals 250 Prayers Elsewhere
Imām al-Hākim reports that Sayyidunā Abū Dharr al-Gifārī raḍiya Allāhu ‘anhu said: we were discussing, in the presence of the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, which of them was more virtuous, the mosque of the Messenger of Allah or Bayt al-Maqdis (al-Aqsa Mosque). The Messenger of Allah ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:
One prayer in my mosque is better than four prayers there, but it is still a good place of prayer. Soon there will come a time when if a man has a spot of land as big as his horse’s rope from which he can see Bayt al-Maqdis, that will be better for him than the whole world.
We know that a single prayer in the mosque of the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam is equivalent to one thousand prayers elsewhere (except in Makkah). Therefore, one prayer in Masjid al-Aqsa is equivalent to two hundred and fifty prayers elsewhere.
#13: Dajjal Shall Never Enter al-Masjid al-Aqsa
One of the interesting things the Muslim should know about Bayt al-Maqdis and Masjid al-Aqsa is that the Antichrist (Dajjal) shall never be able to enter the mosque. This is understood from a ḥadīth reported by Imām Aḥmad, ibn Khuzaymah and ibn Ḥibbān, in which the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam says,
“He will prevail over all the earth, apart from al-Haram [in Makkah] and Bayt al-Maqdis.”
#14:Dajjal Will be Killed Near Bayt al-Maqdis
The Dajjāl will be killed close to al-Quds. He will be killed by Sayyidunā ‘Īsā ‘alayhi al-salām, as was reported by Imām Muslim in a ḥadīth from the narration of al-Nawwās ibn Sam‘ān, the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:
“The son of Maryam will kill the Dajjāl at the gates of Ludd.”
Ludd (Lod) is a place near Bayt al-Maqdis.
A discussion about al-Masjid al-Aqua is automatically a discussion about al-Quds. And a discussion about al-Quds is automatically a discussion about Palestine.
It’s difficult to separate between the three. A Muslim who takes Makkah and Madinah serious knows or should know that Bayt al-Maqdis is important. It was important to the heart of the Prophet, ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam. So was it to all the guided caliphs, raḍiya Allāhu ‘anhum. To that effect, unlike any other city or country that was conquered during the expansion of Islam, Sayyidinā ‘Umar himself made a journey to Bayt al-Maqdis to collect the keys from the surrendered leaders and priests of al-Quds.
Allah knows best.
Allahu Hafiz 🙂