The Al-Aqsa Mosque and its significance in Islam

photo by Barbara Kabel, published under GNU Free Documentation License Located in the old city part of Jerusalem, it is the second mosque built on earth after Masjidil al-Haram in Mecca Al-Mukarramah and the third holiest mosque for Muslims. The al-Aqsa Mosque was originally a small prayer house built by the Rashidun caliph Umar, but was rebuilt and expanded by the Ummayad caliph Abd al-Malik and finished by his son al-Walid in 705 CE. Many believe Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) was the one who ordered or built the Al-Aqsa mosque. Later after facing much destruction, 'Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (pbuh) restored the Al-Aqsa. When Abdul-Malik Ibn Marwan held office in the year of 66 A.H., he rebuilt Al-Aqsa and the dome of the Rock. The original mosque was destroyed in an earthquake in the middle of the eighth century and was later repaired by the Abbasids.

Al-Aqsa mosque means "the farthest" mosque in Arabic. It refers to the distance between Mecca and Al-Aqsa mosque. On the 10th year of Prophet Muhammad's (SAAWS) prophet hood, he made an extraordinary journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and to the Seven Heaven on AI-Buraq, a name derived from 'Barq', meaning lightning. While stopping at Jerusalem, he prayed at Al-Aqsa and after returning from the miraculous journey to heaven, he brought the message from Allah saying that Muslims are required to perform five prayers a day.

Previously, Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem was the Qibla, but after sixteen or seventeen months later, it was changed to Ka'bah in Mecca. Based on a hadith reported in Al-Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Al-Bara' Ibn 'Azib: When the Prophet came to Madinah, he stayed first with his grandfathers or maternal uncles from Ansar. He offered his prayers facing Baitul-Maqdis (Jerusalem) for sixteen or seventeen months, but he wished that he could pray facing the Ka'bah (at Makkah). The first prayer which he offered facing the Ka'bah was the 'Asr prayer in the company of some people. Then one of those who had offered that prayer with him came out and passed by some people in a mosque who were bowing during their prayers (facing Jerusalem). He said addressing them, "By Allah, I testify that I have prayed with Allah's prophet facing Makkah (Ka'bahh).' Hearing that, those people changed their direction towards the Ka'bah immediately. [Source]

Al-Aqsa mosque is the one Allah (SWT) refers to in the first verses ofSurah Al Isrâ' (The Night Journey), 17:1
Al-Aqsa Mosque and its significance in Islam

Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless,- in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things).

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 Masjids with the expectations of getting 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)". In another narration the words are, "For three Masjids a special journey may be undertaken: The Sacred Masjid (Ka'bah), my Masjid and Masjid of Jerusalem (Al-Aqsa). (Muslim, Bukhari, Abu Dawud)

From the hadith, we can see the importance of Al-Aqsa mosque to us. We should make an effort to visit Al-Aqsa mosque which is usually left out in our travel plans.

Al-Aqsa Mosque and its significance in Islam

Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem, Israel - view toward east (photo by MathKnight, published under GNU Free Documentation License)

Al-Aqsa Mosque and its significance in Islam

The mosque along the southern wall of the Temple Mount (photo by David Shankbone, published under GNU Free Documentation License)

Al-Aqsa Mosque and its significance in Islam

Interior of the Al Aqsa mosque on Haram al Sharif (Temple Mount) in Jerusalem (photo by Eric Stoltz, published under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License)

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