There can be only one choice for the world's most contested area of land, and that is masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. It is no exaggeration to say that for thousands of years, people have been dying for control over it.

For Muslims, it holds a very important place in our heart. It is the 3rd most holy site in Islam. It is the location that the Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was transported to during the journey of Israa and Miraaj. It was the scene for the most extraordinary gathering in the history of mankind – when every Prophet that ever lived were gathered together for a congregational prayer behind Prophet Muhammadṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

And yet, here are some things you may not already know about masjid Al Aqsa:

8. It isn't just one mosque

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Yes – there are multiple mosques on the site that we know as masjid Al Aqsa. We think of masjid Al-Aqsa as the building at the southernmost corner of the Mosque. In actual fact, that is the Qibly mosque – so called because it is the closest to the Qibla. The whole mount is masjid Al Aqsa and is sometimes referred to the Haram Al-Sharif to prevent confusion. But there are other mosques present on the site which are usually connected to historical incidents e.g. the Buraq masjid, the Marwani masjid and more.

7. It is a burial ground

There is no record of how many Prophets and Sahaabas of the Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) are buried there. but there are certainly many. For instance, Prophet Sulaiman'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) is possibly buried there since we know that a Prophet is always buried where he died, and he'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) died whilst supervising the construction of the previous building in some traditions.

6. It was a garbage dump

In the period of time when no Jews were allowed to live in the city, the mainly Roman inhabitants used the area of the masjid as a garbage dump. When UmarraḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) liberated the city, he cleared the trash with his bare hands. He also ended the centuries-old exile of the Jews and invited 70 families of a nearby refugee village back into Jerusalem giving them the right to return after centuries in exile – a favour that our cousins seem to have forgotten.

5. Al Ghazali lived and wrote his magnum opus there

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One of the most famous books in Islamic literature is Ihyaa Ulum Al-Din by the great scholar of Islam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali. He is a man that is revered by all schools of thought for his ability plunge into the depths of the human soul whilst remaining anchored to Quranic and Prophetic teachings. What most people don't know is that Al-Ghazali, for a time, lived in masjid Al-Aqsa and wrote the book whilst there. A building in the masjid marks the site of his old room.

4. It was used as a stable, palace, and execution chamber

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When the first Crusaders took Jerusalem, they found the majority of the Muslim population locked up in masjid Al Aqsa. They slaughtered roughly 70,000 of them and then converted the Qibly masjid into a palace, the Dome of the Rock into a chapel, and the underground chambers into a stable. Muslims who survived the initial massacre were later crucified on a large cross placed near the centre of the masjid. This was the only cross that was broken by the Salahuddin. The base of the cross can still be seen there today (picture above.)

3. It had a legendary mimbar

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Nooruddin Zengi, one of the greatest heroes in the history of Islam, had a special mimbar (pulpit) built to be installed in masjid Al Aqsa when it would be eventually retaken from the Crusaders (you have to admire his supreme confidence). This mimbar was not only beautiful, but it was made without using a single nail or lick of glue. Sadly Nooruddin did not live to see victory, but his protege Salahuddin fulfilled the wish of his teacher, and after liberating Jerusalem for the 2nd time in the history of Islam, installed the mimbar. It is still a work of legend amongst artisans and craftsmen. Unfortunately, this mimbar did not survive the events described in point 1.

2. The Dome of the Rock used to look very different 

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The dome of the Rock – what is likely to be the first dome ever built in the history of Islam – was built by the Umayyad Caliph AbdulMalik ibn Marwan. It started life wooden with either a brass, lead or ceramic cover, but almost a thousand years later during the reign of the Ottoman Caliph Suleiman the Magnificent, the distinctive gold layer was added to the dome along with the Ottoman tiles to the facade of the building.

1. It has been burnt down

Ever wonder what would happen if masjid Al Aqsa was violated, a conquering army flag flown from the dome of the rock and the masjid itself burnt down? Surely the Muslim world wouldn't let that happen?

Think again.

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In 1967, Jerusalem left Muslim hands for the 3rd time and came under the control of Israel. The conquering Israeli soldiers flew their flag from the dome. The Israeli leadership realised that overt control of masjid Al-Aqsa would serve as a constant provocation to the Muslim world. They used the fig leaf of a Waqf in order to placate the Muslims into complacency.

It worked.

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In 1969, an Australian Zionist set fire to the mimbar of Nuruddin and the Qibly mosque itself. The resulting inferno enveloped the entire Qibly mosque. The Muslim world awoke to scenes from the worst of nightmares. Desperate palestinians tried to put out the flames in anyway they could. An entire Ummah hung their head in shame.

Since then, the mosque has been rebuilt and refurbished, but the assaults against the 3rd holiest site in Islam continue to this day. Excavations undermining the foundations of the entire Mosque, unauthorised visits, and daily threats to rebuild the old temple are all currently under way. Masjid Al-Aqsa still waits.

If you liked this, you may also be interested in the other articles in this series:

10 things you didn't know about the Kaaba

9 things you didn't know about the Prophet's Mosque

26 Responses

  1. Dreamlife

    JazakAllah for that.

    Do you have any info about the downstairs section of the Qibly masjid? Some say that a section there was the chamber of Maryam a.s. – but that seems unlikely since the building probably wasn’t around in those times.

    A lot of fascinating stories may exist about the sites there, but our tour guide was adamant that there isn’t proof for many of the stories.

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    • WAJiD

      Walaikum asalaam,

      I do, but I left it out for precisely the reason that your tour guides mentioned. The theories are fascinating though…

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      • Saba Rahim

        I am sorry about my careless and callous remark about Indian Muslims; I withdraw my comment. You are doing a noble service, the best kind of Jehad- ” The ink of a scholar is more sacred …” Thank you for the other information. I think I have developed coping skills to deal with those kind of challenges.

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    • mohammed

      Salam can anyone inform, me of a good tour guide to visit this beautiful mosque. I truly want to go. Also great piece of work fascinating read. Thanks Wajid

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    • rehan

      Allhamdulillah, this is very valuable information about Masjid Al Aqsa. I was totally unaware of facts and figures of it.
      History repeat its self inn shaa allah the day will come again Muslims will perform salah inside of the Masjid e Al Aqsa.

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  2. Alsanussi

    I thought that Imam Al Ghazali wrote Ihyaa Ulum Al-Din in Masjid Alammawi, Damascus.

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    • O H

      “What most people don’t know is that Al-Ghazali, for a time, lived in masjid Al-Aqsa and wrote the book whilst there”

      What I understand from this part of the article is part of the book was written whilst he was in Jerusalem, not the entire book

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    • Zainab

      Stop trying to find faults in everything. Masjid or mosque whatever u call it. Call it with respect in ur heart. That is all that matters

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    • WAJiD

      Salaam Shoheb & Zainab,

      Just to put Shoheb comment in perspective, there was a theory at one time that the word “mosque” was derogatory and developed by Islamophobes. However, there’s been no evidence to back that up so I personally think it’s ok to use the word “mosque” when referring to a masjid in English. But if you don’t – that’s cool too.

      WAJiD

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  3. Muhammed Aslam Khan

    Does anyone know where i can purchase the complete ihya ul uloom in english? As shown above jazakAllah

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  4. O H

    One of the most important articles on MM of late. Wallahi it really saddens me how ignorant and relatively indifferent we Muslims are regarding this sacred site. I didn’t know many of these things! Jazak Allaahu Khair akhi for the great article on the greatest of subjects.

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  5. Maira

    I didn’t know even a single point that you have mentioned. Jazak’Allahu khairun

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  6. archerofmusings

    This article contains a historical mistake which has trailed from orientalist, Gold Zihers, poor attack on Az-zuhri that he helped abdul malik bin marwan to fabricate narrations regarding the Al-aqsa complex so people would stop going to the kabah for hajj. Apart from the indepth academic criticism and the undeniable answers given to Zihers misunderstanding of islamic history one major historical point needs to be corrected;
    waleed bin abdul malik ordered the construction of the dome of the rock. This is is undisputed amongst the leading historians of islamic chronology like Ibn asaakir, at-tabari, ibn al-atheer, ibn khuldoon, ibn katheer and many others. The only person to mention it was abdul malik ibn marwan was ibn khalikaan as reported by ad-dimyari in “The book of creatures”!!
    This obviously is a disproven by all historians as well as holding an un-authentic attribution to ibn khaliqan.
    Adapted from Dr.mustafa sibaiees The sunnah and islamic legislation arabic version (dar as-salam, cairo, 2008, pg 203)

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  7. bmdarwinSam

    Point 7 is not accurate. There is no proof that Suleiman was buried their, yet it is annoying to see you repeat the Israeli hoax about Suleiman grave and the “place of the original building.”

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    • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      Dear bmdarwinSam

      Our Comments Policy requires a valid name or Kunyah as well as a valid email address to be used when commenting. You may also use a blog handle provided your blog is linked, the email address is a valid one, and it is not advertising a product.

      Best Regards
      Comments Team

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  8. WAJiD

    Salaam alaikum,

    @archerofmusings – There is some debate about whether it was Abdul Malik or his Walid that built the dome of the Rock. I was taught and tend to agree with Al Wasiti and Maqdisi who believe it was the former. Like you, I believe that the claim that the intention behind building it was to serve as an alternative to the Kaaba is historical propaganda. That is why I didn’t mention it in the article.

    @bmdarwinsam – There is no proof that Sulaiman (A) was buried there, which is why I laid out my logic in the article. I may be wrong. Allahu Alam.

    Also, I believe you misunderstood what I mean by “original building.” Muslims all agree that the current structure is built on the area of the original Masjid Al Aqsa. This is what I meant. There is only debate about whether the original Masjids and the Jewish temples are one and the same.

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  9. Tariq

    Great job, mashaAllah responding to the comments. I spent 8 wonderful days alhamdolillah at AlQuds, and it really was wonderful to pray at alAqsa. May Allah be pleased with the ummah and save her from Zionist aggression. Ameen.

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  10. waseem

    Salaam,
    need a advice. I hope to travel to alquds in march and also visit jordan. I am travelling from uk. Will I be able to get visa from jerusalam border to cross into jordan. Or should I get visa from uk. And will I be able to travel back across border to fly back from tel aviv. Jzk

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  11. Adam Abdul

    The Muslims want it to share…….
    The Jews want it for themselves…….
    So the utmost consensus comes to no where close apparently……..
    So the Muslims to take heed every time the Jews try to outwit the Muslims but failed vainly…….
    We the Muslims knew the weakness origins of the Jews clearly depicted in The Glorious ………..
    Al Quran Nul Haqeem in The 2 nd Surah : Al Baqarah > The Heifer ( red calf ) ………………………!!!

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    • Hillel Walters

      The Muslims want to share…
      How disappointing that an educated article like this would not mention another not well known fact – that alquds is built on the site that once was the Jewish temple.

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  12. Muhammad Wajid Akhter

    Salaam all –

    JazakAllah khairun for your kind words. As to advice on travelling to Jerusalem, it is worth noting that there is a difference of opinion amongst scholars. One opinion holds that it is a virtuous act since it has been mentioned in hadith as such, whereas another view is that it is unacceptable to travel there as a tourist whilst it is under occupation.

    The second view is the one that Salahuddin and his contemporaries held. It is the view acted upon by Umar (R) and the Sahaaba in general. It is the one I hold too.

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  13. Muhammad Ahmad

    There is one thing you do not know that Israel is digging the Al Aqsa Mosque to reveal the books of magic teach by Harut and Marut which Hazrat sulaiman Buried under his throne. which is first revealed by the Britons and the call it a national treasure to keep the place secret they put the Knights there called FREEMASONS But Hazrat Sala ud DIN aubi (R.A) knew about the treasure so he fought with Crusaders and defeat them. and Sealed the Cursed books known as the jewish Magic KABALA. The Crusader took some of the books with them and then become the world super power for 1000 years. it was first stolen by Eqyptian Pharohs they become the world power too. Now you are beginning to see that why Israel choose the Palestine for there state. they start the digging too But Alas there is no Salah ud din aubi in us now to stop them. for information watch The arrivals series at http://www.wakeupproject.com. it is very sad that we dont even know about history.

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  14. GregAbdul

    My understanding is the Jews have appointed a set of Muslims to control the area. Which means in reality the area is under Jewish control. I have a question because sometimes we do propaganda over history. The Prophet, sws, did Mirajj from al aqua. Did he rise from five different points and all the “mosques” you site in your report? Does anyone pray at the Dome of the Rock? Is there carpet under the Dome?

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    • ridha

      1)when was isra & mi’raj
      2) when was buil al masjed al hyaram …it was only one ))…small one buil by khalif Omar …Mohamed was already expire …so can you understand ???
      THANK YOU IF YOU OPEN YOUR MIND

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