Compiled by QHA Rabbani
Someone inquired from a scholar that he received an email advising him of the status of the al-Aqsa Mosque and differentiating it from the Doom of the Rock. The inquirer asked could he be clarified about the actual situation and advised whether the al-Aqsa Mosque was different from the Doom of the Rock? He further inquired why did there were pictures representing it to be the al-Aqsa Mosque at all Islamic places, as he and many other Muslims were completely unaware of the difference between them.
The scholar replied that the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem was the first of the two Qiblas, and isone of the three mosques to which people may travel for the purpose of worship. And it was said that it was built by Hadhrat Sulaiman (Alaihis Salaam), as stated in some books. And it was said that it existed before Hadhrat Sulaiman (Alaihis Salaam) and that Hadhrat Sulaiman rebuilt it.
This is based on the evidence narrated in al-Saheehayn from Abu Hadhrat Zarr (Radhi Allaho anho), who said that he asked as to which mosque was built on earth first? He was replied, "Al-Masjid al-Haraam [in Makkah]." He asked, 'Then which?' He was replied, 'Al-Aqsa Mosque.' He asked, 'How much time was there between them?' He was replied, 'Forty years.' So, wherever you are when the time for prayer comes, pray, for that is the best thing to do. (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3366; Muslim, 520)
The Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) was taken on the Night Journey (Isra) to Bait-ul-Maqdis (Jerusalem), where he led the Prophets (Alaihimus Salaam) in prayer in this blessed mosque.
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): Glorified (and Exalted) be He (Allah) [above all that (evil) they associate with Him] Who took His slave (Muhammad) for a journey by night from Al-Masjid Al-Haraam (at Makkah) to Al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem), the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, in order that We might show him (Muhammad) of Our Ayaat (proofs, evidences, lessons, signs, etc). Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer? [al-Isra, 17:1]
The Dome of the Rock was built by the caliph Abdul Malik bin Marwaan in 72 AH. It says in al-Mawsooah al-Filasteeniyyah (4/203): The name al-Aqsa Mosque was historically applied to the entire sanctuary (al-Haram al-Shareef) and the buildings in it, the most important of which is the Dome of the Rock, which was built by Abdul Malik bin Marwaan in 72 AH/691 AD, which is regarded as one of the greatest Islamic historical buildings. But today, the name is applied to the great mosque, which is situated in the southern part of the sanctuary plateau.
It also says in al-Mawsooah (3/23): The Dome of the Rock is situated in the middle of the plateau of al-Aqsa Mosque, which is in the southeastern part of the city of al-Quds (Jerusalem). It is a spacious rectangular plateau, which measures 480 metres from north to south, and 300 metres from east to west. This plateau occupies approximately one-fifth of the area of the old city of Jerusalem.
The mosque, which is the place of prayer, is not the Dome of the Rock, but because pictures of the Dome are so widespread, many Muslims think when they see it that this is the mosque. This is not in fact the case. The mosque is situated in the southern portion of the plateau, and the Dome is built on the raised rock that is situated in the middle of the plateau.
We have already seen above that the name of the mosque was historically applied to the whole plateau. This is supported by the words of Shaikh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (Rahmatullah alaihe) in Majmooah al-Rasaail al-Kubra, 2/61: Al-Masjid al-Aqsa is the name for the whole of the place of worship built by Sulaiman (Alaihis Salaam). Some people started to give the name of al-Aqsa to the prayer-place, which was built by Umar bin Khattaab in front of it. Praying in this prayer-place, which Umar built for Muslims is better than praying in the rest of the mosque, because when Umar conquered Jerusalem, there was a huge garbage dump on the rock, since the Christians wanted to show their scorn for the place towards which the Jews used to pray. So, Umar issued orders that the filth be removed and he said to Ka'ab: "Where do you think we should build a place of prayer for Muslims?" He said, "Behind the rock." He said, "You son of a Jewish woman! Are you influenced by your Jewish ideas? Rather I will build it in front of it."
Hence, when the Imams of this Ummah entered the mosque, they would go and pray in the prayer-place that was built by Umar. With regard to the rock, neither Umar nor any of the Sahabah (Radhi Allaho anhum) prayed there, and there was no dome over it during the time of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs. It was open to the sky during the caliphate of Umar, Usman, Ali, Muawiyah, etc. The scholars among the Sahabah and those who followed them in truth did not venerate the rock because it was an abrogated Qibla. Rather it was venerated by the Jews and some of the Christians.
Umar denounced Ka'ab al-Ahbaar (Rahmatullah Alaihe) and called him the son of a Jewish woman because Ka'ab had been a Jewish scholar and rabbi. So, when he suggested to Umar that he should build the mosque behind the rock, that was out of respect for the rock, so that the Muslims would face it while praying, and veneration of the rock was part of the religion of the Jews, not the religion of Muslims.
The Muslims' fondness for the picture of the dome may be because of the beauty of this building, but this does not excuse them from the resulting mistake of not distinguishing between the al-Aqsa Mosque and the buildings that surround it.
This may be one of the plots and tricks of the Jews, because of their veneration for the rock and their facing it in prayer. Or is may be in order to give importance to the rock, so that they can fulfil their desire to build the so-called Temple of Solomon on the ruins of the al-Aqsa Mosque. This is by making the Muslims think that al-Aqsa Mosque is the Dome of the Rock, so that if the Jews start to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Muslims denounce them for that, they will tell them, The al-Aqsa Mosque is fine, and will show them a picture of the Dome of the Rock. Thus, they will achieve their aims and be safe from the Muslims' criticism.
We ask Allah to restore the Muslims' power and glory, and to cleanse the al-Aqsa Mosque of the brothers of the monkeys and pigs, for Allah has full power and control over His Affairs, but most of men know not (cf Yoosuf 12:21). And Allah knows best.