15 June 2008

Importance Of Masjid Al Aqsa In Islam

To Muslims, Jerusalem houses one of the holiest Mosques, the Masjid-al-Aqsa and represents a place of greatest religious significance. This needs to be appreciated by the West before a sincere bridge of mutual friendship is built.

Muslims' call to rule over Jerusalem is not driven by colonist, nationalist or material motives. The love of every grain in the Holy City is sacred to Muslims. As Muslims' respect all the Prophets revered by Judaism and Christianity and their venerated places are also central to the ethos of Islam.

Therefore, it is only by entrusting the custody of the Holy City to the Muslims can the present Judaisation of Jerusalem come to a halt and morally open the city to all the three faiths.

1. Miraaj - The miraculous journey of the holy Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) from Makkah to Masjid al Aqsa (al Isra) and his ascension through the heavens (al Ma'araj) has linked Jerusalem to the Muslims hearts and minds. The Holy Qur'an states:

Glory to Allah who did take His Servant for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah) to the Al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem) whose precincts We did bless (al-Isra 17: 1)

The Lord Almighty had at in His power to have taken the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) from Makkah straight up to the heavens. However, to impress the importance of Jerusalem upon Muslims the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was first taken to Masjid al Aqsa in Jerusalem.

When in Masjid al Aqsa Haram Shareef the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) led Salaah and was followed by all the previous Prophets Alayhis salaam. Hence the whole of Masjid al Aqsa precincts are unique in that this is the only place on earth where all the Prophets Alayhis salaam performed Salaah in congregation.

2. The Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) Alayhis salaam central to all the three faiths migrated to the land of Canaanite around 1805 BC. The Qur'an states:
We said, O Fire! Be thou cool and safety for Ibrahim. Then they planned against him, but We made them the greater losers. But We delivered him and (his nephew) Lot (and directed them) to the land which We have blessed for the nations (Al-Anbiyaa 21: 69-71)

3. The sacredness of Jerusalem is emphasised on numerous places in the Holy Qur'an. The Apostles of Allah, Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) and also Prophet Musa (Mosses) [Alayhis salaam] alluded to it. The Holy Qur'an reports Prophet Musa [Alayhis salaam] telling his people:
O my people! Enter the holy land... (Al-Maida 5: 21)

Further the Holy Qur'an states:
It was Our power that made) the violent (unruly) Wind flow (tamely) for Sulaman. To his order, to the land Which We had blessed... (Al-Anbiyaa 21: 81)
4. Masjid al Aqsa and therefore Jerusalem's importance was further emphasised by the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam):

(a) According to Islamic teachings there are only three places to which it is desirable to undertake a journey for the purpose of Salaah. Abu Huraira [ra] is quoted as saying that Allah's Messenger [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] said,
'set out deliberately on a journey only to three mosques: this mosque of mine (in Medina), the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah) and the Masjid al Aqsa (in Jerusalem) (Bukhari & Muslim)

(b) The virtues of praying in Masjid al Aqsa are exalted:

Abu Darda [ra] is quoted as saying that the Prophet of Allah Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) said,
a prayer in the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah) is worth 100, 000 prayers, a prayer in my mosque (in Medina) is worth 1, 000 and a prayer in Jerusalem is worth 500 prayers more than in an any other mosque. (Bukhari)

As part of another tradition, on the authority of Maimunah bint Sa'd, it is reported that, upon being asked about a person who is unable to travel to the Masjid al Aqsa, the Messenger of Allah [Alayhis salaam] said,
'He should make a gift of oil to be burnt therein, for He who gives a gift to the Masjid al Aqsa will be like one who has prayed Salaah therein.' (Ahmad & Ibn Majah)

(c) The Masjid al Aqsa is the second house of prayer established on earth: Abu Dhar [ra] is quoted as saying,
I asked the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) which was the first mosque on earth? 'The Sacred Mosque (in Makkah),' he said. And then which, I asked? 'Masjid al Aqsa,' he said. I further asked, what was the time span between the two? 'Forty years,' the Prophet [Alayhis salaam] replied. (Muslim)

(d) Abu Umamah al Bahili [ra] reports that the Prophet of Allah [Alayhis salaam] as saying,
'A group of my ummah will remain firm upon the truth, dominating their enemies. They will not be harmed by their opponents until Allah's decree arrives upon them. They asked, 'Oh Prophet of Allah [Alayhis salaam]! Where will they be?' He replied, 'In Bait al Maqdis and its surrounding areas. (Ahmad)

5. The Masjid-al-Aqsa was the First Qibla (the direction to which Muslims faced when praying Salaah): The centrality, historical and cultural significance of Masjid al Aqsa is further emphasised by the fact that Muslims used to turn towards Jerusalem when they prayed. This was practised until 16 to 17 months after hijra, when Allah I commanded in His wisdom, for the Muslims to face Makkah. The importance of Masjid al Aqsa remained and all the worship performed facing Masjid al Aqsa was good and valid.

6. The resting place of Prophets [Alayhis salaam] and Prophet's companions [ra]: The land of Palestine has in it some of the noblest souls the earth has seen. The graves of many Prophet's are in Palestine. Including Ibrahim Alayhis salaam, Yakub Alayhis salaam, Ishaq [peace be upon them] and according to some commentators there are over 100 Prophets buried in Palestine.

Palestine also has the bodies of some of the closest companions of the Prophet e and thus the first generation Muslims. Included in these are the graves of Ubada ibn al Samit, Shaddad ibn Aws ibn Thabit al Ansari and Tamim al Dari [ra].

7. Merits of Performing Haj or Umrah from Masjid al Aqsa: Umm Salamah [ra] narrates that she heard the Prophet [Alayhis salaam] saying, 'whosoever starts his Umrah or Haj from Masjid al Aqsa his wrong actions will be forgiven, both past and future.' In another version, he is reported to have said that Paradise would be his reward. (Targheeb)

8. Freedom of the Holy City. After the battle of Yarmuk the Muslim forces under the command of Abu Ubaydahr alay siege to Jerusalem. The inhabitants consented to surrender on condition the Khalifa, Umar ibn al Khattab (ra) came in person. Umar [ra] travelled to Palestine and formally received the keys to the city in 637 AC. On his arrival, he concluded the famous peace treaty with the people of Holy City. This opened the doors to the Jews, who were denied access for thousands of years and for the first time Jerusalem under Muslim rule became truly an OPEN CITY to all the three faiths. Throughout Muslim rule of over one thousand two hundred years of Jerusalem, members of Jewish, Christianity and Islam found a heaven to prosper from. Muslim rule enabled the city to live up to its rightful title of 'The Holy City' as it encompassed all the believers in One God to go about their business without hindrance.

With these eternal verses, Allah (God), stated in the heart of the Muslim scripture, the Qur'an, the never diminishing significance of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to Islam and Muslims. Al-Aqsa, right in the heart of the Muslim world, is to where our prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be unto him) journeyed at night in a miraculous manner from the city of Mecca, where his call to Islam (submission to God) was still in its earliest stages. At Al-Aqsa Mosque, he led all of the prophets of Allah that came before him in prayer and then ascended to heaven to receive Allah's command to the Muslims to pray five times a day.

Eversince, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the city of Jerusalem have been very special to Muslims all over the world. They pray for it and long to pray in it. And today, with Al-Aqsa being under the Israeli occupation for thirty years, all Muslims pray for its liberation and for the freedom of their Palestinian brothers, who have become the soldiers at the front line of the battle to redeem Al-Aqsa.

Occupation, burning, successive agression, closure and martyr after martyr have become Al-Aqsa'a story in the last thirty years. Al-Aqsa is really a deep wound right in the heart of the Muslim world. In today's unfair reality and materialistic world, Al-Aqsa has become a symbol of the undesired existence of the trouble-making Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims (so they say!).

No wonder then, that when the dream of a historical parasite of opening a tunnel to undermine the foundation of Al-Aqsa Mosque finds its way to reality, Palestinians of all ages and all beliefs spring to the rescue. They are Muslim Palestinians defending their very basic right of existence. Some are Christian Palestinians, also, fighting for the Muslim shrine. Al-Aqsa is more than a building with historical and religious significance, it is an idea, a creed even, that we all have to stand up for what is right and true.

Muslims love Al-Aqsa, pray for it, fight for it and die for it because, as they see it, they are fighting for the promise of a new and higher reality. A reality of peace, justice and mutual
respect. This promised reality is not an imaginary one. It did exist when the Muslims liberated Al-Aqsa from the European Crusaders, allowing them to evacuate Jerusalem peacefully with their belongings and families. This was the Muslims' response to the brutality of the Crusaders when they massacred the Arab inhabitants of Jerusalem, Muslims and Christians alike.

It is in this spirit of a higher reality, that we can understand why Palestinian soldiers were carrying a wounded Israeli soldier, and were trying to get him to the closest medical team. This was their response to the brutality of the Israeli military machine, which did not hesitate to deploy helicopters against unarmed civilians, trying to kill them and to kill their dream, of freeing Al-Aqsa Mosque.

We will continue to believe in Islam's message and its symbol, Al-Aqsa. We can see our promised reality of peace and justice to all, in the eyes of the innocent Palestinian children, as they die for Al-Aqsa Mosque.