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7 interesting facts about Masjid Al-Aqsa

Al-Aqsa Mosque, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, is the third holiest site in Islam. Its significance is only followed by Masjid-ul-Haram (Grand Mosque) in Makkah and the Majid-ul-Nabvi (Prophet’s Mosque) in Madinah.

  1. It was the first Qibla for Muslims

While Muslims now pray in the direction of the Holy Kaabah in Saudi Arabia, this has not always been the custom.  Before turning to the Kaaba as Qibla (direction to prayer), Muslims used to pray in the direction of the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa now stands. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was later instructed to take the Kaaba as a Qiblah through Surat Al-Baqara.

  1. It is mentioned in the Holy Quran

Al-Aqsa Mosque is one of the five mosques mentioned by the Holy Qur’an by name. The others are the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, Quba Mosque, and Masjid-e-Dirir, also known as mosque of dissent.

  1. It is located in the Old City of Jerusalem

There are in fact multiple mosques on the site that we know as Masjid Al-Aqsa. We tend to think of Masjid Al-Aqsa as the building at the southernmost corner of the mosque. In actual fact, that is the Qibali Mosque. The whole complex is Masjid Al-Aqsa. It is also referred to as the Haram as-Sharif.

  1. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ascended the heavens

The incident of Mairaj (Ascension to Heavens) took place from here . According to Islamic injunctions, Prohet Muhammad (PBUH) travelled on the back of the winged steed Buraq to “the farthest mosque” where he leads other prophets in prayer.

In the next part of the journey, the Prophet ascends into heaven where he speaks to Al-Mighty Allah and Muslims were instructed to offer five obligatory prayers.

‘Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing’. (Quran, 17:1)

  1. The original Al-Aqsa Mosque looked very different

The foundations of Al-Aqsa Mosque are said to have been laid 40 years after the Grand Mosque.  The legendary golden dome is said to be the first ever to be used in Islamic architecture, before becoming a staple of mosques.

Dome of the Rock was built by the Khalifah Umayyah Abdul Malik ibn Marwan. It was originally wooden with brass, lead or ceramic cover.

The iconic dome was built 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 occupied by Israel forces

Masjid Al-Aqsa was destroyed and rebuilt several times even before getting caught in the crossfire of the Israeli occupation.

In the 700s, the mosque was completely destroyed by a series of earthquakes that ravaged Jerusalem. Since the Israeli army occupied Jerusalem in 1967, the site has witnessed several acts of violence.

In 1969, Australian Denis Michael Rohan set fire to the pulpit of the mosque. In 1982, Alan Goodman – a Jewish American Israeli soldier – opened fire at Muslim worshippers in the Dome of the Rock, killing two and wounding 11.

Israeli military forces have also carried several attacks on the site. Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon provoked Jews and Muslims when he visited Temple Mount in 2000 leading to the Second Intifada.

  1. Al Ghazali lived and wrote his greatest work there

One of the most famous scholars in Islamic history, Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, spent a period of his life in Masjid Al-Aqsa where he wrote what is widely regarded as his greatest work, the Ihyaa Ulum Al-Din (The Revival of Religious Sciences). A building in the masjid marks the site of his old room.