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What you should know about Masjid al-Aqsa

Every masjid is special and significant for every Muslim because they are considered houses of Allah and there is a great reward for building and maintaining them: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever builds a mosque for Allah, Allah will build for him a house like it in Paradise.” [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī]. However, there are only three masajid that are built by a prophet of Allah or on the foundations where that masjid was built and only three masajid where a continuum of prophets and messengers who visited and prayed in and revelation descended upon, so they are unique and special.

The three masajid that are specifically and historically significant in Islam are the first houses established for worship and signify the continuum of Allah’s prophets and the consistency of Allah’s message. These three masajid are the Ka’bah in Makkah, the first house built for worship by the Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismael, then Masjid al-Aqsa which is in Jerusalem, the second house built for Allah’s worship and the Prophet’s Masjid in Madinah: Abu Dharr reported that he asked the Prophet ﷺ, “O Messenger of Allah, which mosque was first built on the surface of the earth?” He said, “Al- Masjid-ul-Haram (in Mecca).” I said, “Which was built next?” He replied “The mosque of Al-Aqsa ( in Jerusalem) .” I said, “What was the period of construction between the two?” He said, “Forty years.” He added, “Wherever (you may be, and) the prayer time becomes due, perform the prayer there, for the best thing is to do so (i.e. to offer the prayers in time)” [Sahih Bukhari] 

The Prophets’ ﷺ message is fundamentally one, worship one god and do not associate partners with Him in worship. The clearest manifestation of worship is the ritual prayer performed in the places established for worship. Prayer in these three masajid are more rewardable than prayer in any other masajid: 

The Prophet ﷺ said: “A prayer in Makkah (Ka’bah) is worth 1,000,000 times (reward), a prayer in my Masjid (Madinah) is worth 1,000 times, and a prayer in Al-Aqsa Sanctuary is worth 500 times more reward than anywhere else”

Bayhaqi

When you consider the prophet Ibrahim, the Khalil of Allah, and the other great prophets including Dawud and his son Sulayman, Eesa and finally the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ they all prayed in Masjid Al-Aqsa and so by praying there you are following in their footsteps. These are the Prophets celebrated in all of the world religions that are divine in their source, even if parts of their message has been distorted and changed over time as is the case with the Torah, Talmud and the Bible, old testament and gospels. 

Allah transported the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ on a miraclous night journey to Masjid al-Aqsa, the farthest mosque, where he led the other Prophets in prayer. Glory be to the One Who took His servant ˹Muḥammad˺ by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose surroundings We have blessed, so that We may show him some of Our signs. Indeed, He alone is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing. (17:1) Then the obligation to pray was established and the direction of the prayer was Masjid Al-Aqsa for over one year and then it was changed to the Ka’bah in Makkah, the first house built for worship: Al-Bara narrated that: “We prayed toward Bait Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) with the Messenger of Allah ﷺ for sixteen or seventeen months – Safwan was not sure – then it was changed to the Qiblah.” [An Nasa’i]

Consider, in Islam undertaking a journey or pilgrimage for worship is forbidden unless it is to one of three masajid:  The Prophet ﷺ said: “Do not undertake a journey to visit any Mosque, but three: this Mosque of mine, the Mosque of al-Haram and the Mosque of Aqsa” [Sahih Muslim 1397].  They are symbols of the monotheism of Allah and proof of the existence of a long line of prophets. They are in reality some of the true wonders of the world. 

When you realise the close connection of Masjid Al-Aqsa to the history of a continuum of prophets who defended the weak and protected the vulnerable, upheld justice and were given victory over tyranny, the significance of Masjid Al-Aqsa and the liberation of Palestine becomes far greater than an issue of human rights, as it is central to a Muslim’s belief in Allah and His worship.

The Prophet ﷺ said: “When Sulaiman bin Dawud finished building Baitil-Maqdis, he asked Allah for three things: judgment that was in harmony with His judgment, a dominion that no one after him would have, and that no one should come to this mosque, intending only to pray there, but he would emerge free of sin as the day his mother bore him.” The Prophet ﷺ said: “Two prayers were granted, and I hope that the third was also granted.”

Ibn Majah

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