(This post was written after our visit to Palestine in 2009. May Allah protect the believers in Palestine, ease their pain and suffering, and grant them victory against the oppressors. Aameen. )
The old city of Jerusalem, known in Arabic as “Al-Quds” or “Baitul-Maqdis” (“The Noble, Sacred Place”), is one of the most fascinating cities I’ve ever been to and I’ve been to many. Walking through the massive city gates down the steps in to the old city, one feels as though one has just walked into another century. The city exudes historical significance from every brick and one can spend hours imagining the scenes that took place there over the centuries. It is a place where religious Muslims, religious Christians and religious Jews come to visit some of their holiest sites.
The narrow cobbled lanes of Al-Quds are lined with shops, restaurants and stalls. Local women in bright modern attire complete with head-coverings come to shop here. Food is expensive and delicious falafels, being less expensive, are the staple diet of many.
In the evenings, the shops close and the workers return home. The sound of bustling business is replaced by that of cars only allowed in at night.
The Hashimi hotel, where we stayed, is the only Muslim-owned hotel in the old city. It is a quaint hotel where one can meet like-minded people from all over the world. The rooms are small but provide a glimpse into the lives of the people below and the rooftop restaurant offers a great view of the old city including Masjid-Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock. The Dome of the Rock with its impressive gold dome stands opposite the roofed Masjid-Al-Aqsa. It is a beautiful building adorned in mosaic tiles and is built over the stone which Rasulallah SAW is said to have ascended to the heavens from – during the Me’raj. The Jews believe that this is the stone on which Ibrahim AS prepared to sacrifice his son.
There are many gates leading to Al-Aqsa, all with names which denote their historical significance, such as the Bab-al-Qattanin (Cotton Merchants Gate). The term “al-Masjid al-Aqsa” (the Farthest Mosque) does not mean, as some Muslims think, the “roofed al-Masjid al-Aqsa” only but it includes everything that is within the walls of the Masjid al-Aqsa precinct including the Dome of the Rock. The roofed Masjid-Al-Aqsa is said to be built over the original stables of Sulaiman AS which were constructed by his jinn. Ancient trees all around the courtyard provide relief from the hot sun and ablution facilities are in the form of circular wudhu-khanas.
The precinct though, is practically empty except for Jummah salaah when the men fill the main Masjid and the women fill the Dome of The Rock. This is because most Palestinians are not allowed to enter the area on other days. The omnipresent Israeli guards are a harsh reminder of the illegal occupation of this beautiful city and the long-standing oppression of its innocent people. After the Jummah salaah, it is not unusual to see a protest march accompanied by loud proclamations of Allahu-Akbar in the courtyard of Masjid-Al-Aqsa.
Al Buraq Mosque is situated at the southern end of the precinct, between the courtyards of the Sanctuary and the Western Wall. It used to lead to the old gate in the Maghriba Quarter known as Bab-al-Buraq (gate of Buraq) and also Bab-al-Nabi (Gate of the Prophet). Al Buraq Mosque is where some believe the Prophet (SAW) tied Al-Buraq, the white winged creature “whose each stride stretched as far as the eye could see,” that carried him from Makkah to Jerusalem during the Is’ra and Me’raj.
A journey to Masjid-Al-Aqsa may be a difficult one involving many hours spent at border posts being questioned by Israeli guards. However this should not deter one from visiting. Why should one visit Masjid-Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem – Al-Quds? Here are 10 reasons why.
- We have been ordered to do so by our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who said, “There are only three mosques to which you should embark on a journey: the sacred mosque (Makkah, Saudi Arabia), this mosque of mine (Madinah, Saudi Arabia), and the mosque of Al-Aqsa (Jerusalem).” When asked about a person who was unable to travel to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, he said: “He should make a gift of oil to be burnt therein, for he who gives a gift to al-Masjid al-Aqsa will be like one who has prayed therein. The original room where the oil was kept can still be seen under the Masjid.
- Masjid-Al-Aqsa was the first Qiblah for Muslims. The Prophet SAW was only ordered by Allah to change the Qiblah to Makkah in 16 AH.
- Masjid-Al-Aqsa was the site of Is’ra and Meraj where Jibraeel AS miraculously took the Prophet from the Sacred Mosque in Makkah to the Furthest Mosque (Al-Aqsa) in Jerusalem.
- Masjid-Al-Aqsa is the only place on earth where all the Prophets Alaihissalaam performed Salaah in congregation.
- Masjid-Al-Aqsa was the second masjid to be built in Islam – 40 years after the Haram in Makkah.
- Masjid-Al-Aqsa was built by one of the earlier Prophets, possibly Adam AS.
- Salaah in Masjid-Al-Aqsa is 500 times more worthy than salaah anywhere else in the world besides Makkah and Medinah.
- Masjid-Al-Aqsa is mentioned many times in the Quran denoting its high status.
- Over 100 prophets are buried in Palestine and many of our Prophet SAW’s companions too.
- Last but not least, to show our support to our Palestinian brothers and sisters.
So make a trip to Masjid-Al-Aqsa if you can. The rewards will be plentiful in this world and the Hereafter Insha’Allah.