Al Aqsa Mosque

Dome of the Rock Wailing Wall

Al Aqsa Mosque

Al Aqsa Mosque

Al Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem

Above is Al Aqsa Mosque, the third most important Islamic shrine in the world. Situated just north of Hezekiah's Tunnel, Al Aqsa Mosque occupies the southern end of the Temple Mount and faces the Dome of the Rock. The largest mosque in Jerusalem, Al Aqsa Mosque covers 42,000 square yards and has a prayer capacity of 5,000.

Al Aqsa Mosque occupies the original site of a church that Justinian I, the Orthodox Byzantine emperor, built in 538 AD. A century later in 636 AD, the first Muslim army reached Jerusalem and conquered it six months later. The construction of Al Aqsa Mosque, which preserved parts of Justinian's church, didn't start until the late 7th century and was completed in the early 8th century.

A few years later in 746 AD, an earthquake destroyed Al Aqsa Mosque. It was rebuilt by 771 AD. Just three years thereafter, another earthquake destroyed Al Aqsa Mosque, so it was rebuilt again. Over the next 240 years, Al Aqsa Mosque was rebuilt three more times after repeatedly being destroyed by earthquakes, which peculiarly never touched, let alone destroy, the Jewish temple when it stood on the Temple Mount.

In 1099 AD, Crusaders captured Jerusalem, renovated Al Aqsa Mosque, renamed it, "Solomon's Temple," and took up residence. In 1187 AD, a Muslim army led by Saladin retook Jerusalem and renovated the Crusaders' residence back into Al Aqsa Mosque.

Why is Islam's third most important shrine in Jerusalem?

After all, Jerusalem is far - over 1,200 kilometers away - from Mecca and has nothing to do with the founder or the founding of Islam. So why was a giant mosque built on the site of Israel's holiest plateau and declared an Islamic "holy" site?

Surah 17:1 of the Koran claims that Allah took Mohammed to Al Aqsa (meaning, "the farthest") Mosque one night: "Exalted is he who took his servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, ..."

The problem with this claim by the Koran is that Mohammed died in 632 AD, four years before the first Muslim army reached Jerusalem in 636 AD and decades before the first Al Aqsa Mosque was even built.

Also, if a Jewish synagogue or a Christian church were to be built at the site of "al-Masjid al-Haram," the mosque in Mecca that is Islam's most "holy" site, and were declared to be a Jewish or Christian holy site, would the Muslims put up with it?

What is the true "holy" site from which to worship God?

The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” (John 4:19-26)

To see if Jesus' claim is true, see Jesus tomb and why was Jesus crucified?

Travel Tip
Non-Muslims can enter the Temple Mount only at certain times and only via the access ramp that starts at the Dung Gate and rises over the Wailing Wall plaza. The security check on the access ramp is tight and you will be searched for both potentially dangerous and non-Islamic religious materials. If anything is found, you will have to leave it with the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint and make a quarter-mile loop to the west to pick it up (you cannot exit the Temple Mount via the access ramp). Trousers and long skirts are advised as upon reaching the top of Temple Mount, those in shorts or short skirts will be forced to either immediately exit the Temple Mount westward or pay 25 shekels ($7) to rent and wear a woman's skirt for the duration of their time on the Temple Mount. Non-Muslims' access into the Dome of the Rock varies from limited to blocked depending on the level of prevailing political and religious tensions.

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