Al-Aqsa Mosque: Significance and Virtues
By: Khursheed Alam Dawood Qasmi*
What we usually call “Al-Aqsa Mosque” is also known by other names such as: “Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa”, “Al-Haram Al-Qudsi Al-Sharif” etc. This historic mosque is located in the Palestinian city: Jerusalem (al-Quds), which is currently occupied by the occupying Zionist state of Israel. This mosque is the first Qibla of Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Aleihi Wa Sallam) and his Companions (May Allah be pleased with them!) prayed Salaah facing towards Al-Aqsa Mosque for about sixteen or seventeen months. In regard to significance and virtues, the status of Al-Aqsa Mosque is followed by Al-Masjid Al-Haram (situated in Makkah) and Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi (situated in Madinah). This blessed mosque has been mentioned at numerous places in the Glorious Quran and Holy Hadiths. The places around this mosque are called blessed ones. Due to these reasons, Muslims around the world look at Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Quds with great devotion and love.
On the occasion of Miraj (Ascension of Allah’s Messenger Muhammad –SAWS- to the seven heaven), the place where Allah’s Messenger Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him!) was taken to from Masjid Haram is the same Al-Aqsa Mosque. He (SAWS) led all the prophets in Salaah in this Mosque. He (SAWS) departed on his journey to Miraj from this Mosque. This blessed journey of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) from Al-Masjidul Haram to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa has been described in the Glorious Quran as follows:
“Glorious is He Who made his servant travel by night from Al-Masjidul Haram to Al-Masjidul Aqsa whose environs We have blessed, so that We let him see some of Our signs. Surely, He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.” (Surah Bani Israil: 01)
Al-Aqsa Mosque has the honour of being the “First Qibla” of the Muslim Ummah. It means that when the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessing of Allah be upon him!) migrated from Makkah to Madinah, he (SAWS) and his Companions (May Allah be pleased with them!) performed Salaah facing towards Al-Aqsa Mosque and continued to do so for about seventeen months. One of the companions of the Messenger of Allah says: “The Prophet (SAWS) offered Salaah (prayer) facing Baitul Maqdis (Jerusalem) for sixteen or seventeen months; but he wished that his Qiblah would be the Ka’bah (at Makkah)…….” (Sahih Bukhari: 4486)
Al-Aqsa Mosque was built on the earth following forty years of the building of Al-Masjid Al-Haram in Makkah Mukarramah. In this reference, Abu Dharr (May Allah be pleased with him!) says: “I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, which Masjid on earth was built first?’ He said: ‘Al-Masjid Al-Haram (in Makkah).’ I said: ‘Then which?’ He said: ‘Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem).’ I said: ‘How long was there between the two?’ He (SAWS) said: ‘Forty years. And wherever you are when the time for prayer comes, then pray, for it is a Masjid.” (Sahih Muslim: 520)
From this Hadith, it is known that Sayyiduna Adam (Peace be upon him!) founded Al-Aqsa Mosque 40 years following the establishment of “Al-Masjid Al-Haram.” Scholars of Hadith have further explained that just as Sayyiduna Ibrahim (Peace be upon him!) renovated the Kaaba Al-Mushrafah, Al-Aqsa Mosque was renovated by Sayyiduna Yaqub (Peace be upon him!) or Sayyiduna Dawood (Peace be upon him!) and it was completed by Sayyiduna Sulaiman (peace be upon them!).
According to a Hadith, a person performing Hajj or Umrah, by making intention of Hajj or Umrah from Al-Aqsa Mosque, is given the glad tidings of his previous and future sins being forgiven. Umme Salamah (RA), the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) reports that she heard the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) say: “Whoever enters into Ihram, for Hajj or ‘Umrah from Al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) to Al-Masjidul Haram (in Makkah), then all of his previous and future sins will be forgiven” or “Paradise will become obligatory for him.” (Sunan Abu Dawood: 1741)
Al-Aqsa Mosque is one of those three mosques, travelling to them with the intention of worshiping and praying Salaah is the cause of reward. Imam Bukhari (May Allah have mercy on him!) has mentioned this Hadith under different chapters in his Sahih. Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him!) reports that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “Do not set out on a journey except for three mosques i.e. Al-Masjid Al-Haram (situated in Makkah), the Mosque of Allah’s Messenger (situated in Madinah) and Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa (situated in Baitul Maqdis).” (Sahih Bukhari: 1189)
According to a Hadith, if a person offers a prayer in Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, its reward is equal to fifty thousand prayers. Sayyiduna Anas bin Malik (May Allah be pleased with him!) says that the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said: “A man’s prayer in his house is equal (in reward) to one prayer; his prayer in the mosque of the tribes is equal to twenty-five prayers; his prayer in the mosque in which Friday prayer is offered is equal to five hundred prayers; his prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque is equal to fifty thousand prayers; his prayer in my mosque is equal to fifty thousand prayers; and his prayer in the Sacred Mosque (Al-Masjid Al-Haram) is equal to one hundred thousand prayers.” (Sunan Ibn Majah: 1413)
It is also a distinction of Al-Aqsa Mosque that it was from this mosque that the journey on Miraj of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him!) took place. He (SAWS) was given the Salaah as gift in the same journey. This story is mentioned in a long Hadith in Sahih Bukhari. The summary of the portion related to Salaah is that firstly, Allah enjoined fifty prayers on the followers of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) as gift during this journey. The Prophet (SAWS) met Musa (AS). On his suggestion that his Ummah will not be able to perform these fifty prayers and to request for reduction, the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) requested Allah the Almighty to reduce the number of prayers. Allah the Almighty reduced the number of the Prayers until it remained just five prayers for the Ummah of Muhammad (SAWS) which are equal to fifty prayers in reward. (Bukhari: 349) Following the First Crusade, when Christians captured Jerusalem on the 15th July 1099, they changed a lot in Al-Aqsa Mosque. Then Salahuddin Ayyubi conquered Bait al-Maqdis in 538 AH/1187 CE and Al-Aqsa Mosque was cleansed from the myths of Christians. Apart from 88 years, Baitul Maqdis and Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa had been in Muslim possession since the era of caliph Umar Farooq (RA). It is regrettable that for a few years now, Baitul Maqdis and Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa are occupied by the occupying Zionist state of Israel; but even today, Al-Aqsa Mosque is under the administration of Jordanian Ministry of Awqaaf, Islamic Affairs and Holy Places”. May Allah the Almighty frees Quds, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the whole Palestine from the occupation of the cruel, oppressive and occupying Zionists state. May the sacrifice of the Palestinians bear fruitful! Aameen! ●●●●
* Moon Rays Trust School, Zambia, Africa