بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
“Holy is He who carried His servant by night from the Holy Masjid (in Makkah) to the further Masjid (in Jerusalem) whose surroundings We have blessed that We might show him some of Our signs. Indeed He alone is All-Hearing, All-Seeing”. (Surah Al- Isra 17: 1)
When most people hear the words Masjid Al Aqsa they probably, wrongly, think of the central image at the top of this blog. This is in fact Masjid Qubbat al-Sakhra or the famous Dome of the Rock masjid which dominates the landscape of Al Quds (Jerusalem). Some might be the wiser and think of the black domed masjid, the building which we today refer to as Masjid Al Aqsa. Al Aqsa and Al Quds are mentioned directly or indirectly over 70 times in the Holy Quran, but neither of these two buildings existed during the time of the Quran’s revelation. So what was Allah referring to when He referred to Masjid Al Aqsa, which He has blessed and made pure?
The answer is the land itself and its surroundings where these two masaajid (mosques) are located. Within Al Quds (Jerusalem) there is an area referred to as the ‘old city’, where historical events occurred. The place which Allah refers to as Masjid Al Aqsa in the verse I have started this blog post with, is the land on the southeast corner of the old city. This land, which is approximately 35 acres in size, is al Haram al Sharif or al Aqsa Sanctuary. Both the black domed and gold domed masaajid are located in this sanctuary, along with 42 other monuments or buildings. While the masaajid are of great importance, the sanctuary itself- the land- is even greater as that is what Allah has made pure and blessed. When Al Quds was Islam’s first Qiblah (direction of prayer for the Muslims) it was towards this sanctuary that the Muslims prayed. When the Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) was taken to Al Quds as part of the miraculous Journey of Al Isra and Al Mi’raj (to be covered by later posts inshaAllah), it was to this land that he was brought to lead all the Prophets in Salaah (prayer).
This distinction is really important to bear in mind. As Muslims we are not simply attached to the bricks and mortar of our masaajid in Al Quds but it is the Al Aqsa Sanctuary in its entirety, which Allah has blessed for all time, that we are most attached to. InshaAllah I will finally get on to talking about the blessings in the next blog post. Needed to get all that introduction out of the way so we all know what we’re talking about :)