A Brief History of Al-Aqsaa
Linguistically: Al-Aqsaa means ‘the furthest’ and opinions differ as to why the mosque was given this name. Abu Hiyyaan said: “It was given this name due to the fact that it is the furthest of the virtuous mosques from Al-Ka’bah.” On the other hand, Ibn ‘Atiyyah said: “It was not given this name for any reason linked to its virtuousness. Rather, it was given this name to show how amazing it was to have the event of the journey of Israa’ in one night.”
The history of Al-Aqsaa:
· Al-Aqsaa is the second mosque to be built on earth for the worship of Allaah after Al-Ka’bah. Allaah says that which translates as: “Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Bakkah [i.e., Makkah] – blessed and a guidance for the worlds.” (Aal-‘Imraan: 96). It was Ibraaheem and his son Ismaa’eel, peace be upon them both, who built Al-Ka’bah, Allaah says that which translates as: “And [mention] when Ibraheem was raising the foundations of the House and [with him] Ismaa’eel, [saying]: ‘Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing.’” (Al-Baqarah: 127). Al-Aqsaa mosque was built forty years after Al-Ka’bah as confirmed by the Hadeeth of Abu Dharr, may Allaah be pleased with him, when he asked the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam: “Which was the first mosque built on earth?’ he sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam replied: “Al-Haram mosque (i.e., Al-Ka’bah)” Abu Dharr then asked: ‘Then which mosque?’ he sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam replied: “Al-Aqsaa mosque” Abu Dharr further asked: ‘How long between the two?’ he sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam replied: “Forty years”. Due to the relatively short period between the construction of the two Mosques, some scholars hold the view that Prophet Ibraaheem, peace be upon him, built both of them. Shaykh Al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said: “Al-Aqsaa was built at the time of Ibraaheem and Sulaymaan extended it. Therefore, each of the three holy mosques was built by Prophets in order to pray in with their people.” Also, historians mention that the Prophet Ya’qoob, peace be upon him, built the mosque next to the rock from which the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam ascended through the heavens.
· Prophet Sulaymaan, peace be upon him, re-built the structure of Al-Aqsaa mosque, which the Jews used after his death as a temple to worship idols, which they admit in their fabricated Torah.
· In 587 BC Bukhtanassar, the king of Babylon, invaded Jerusalem, seized everything and demolished the structure of Al-Aqsaa mosque. He kept as captives all those who were not killed and took them to Babylon. This was a punishment to the Jews for the corruption that they spread and for their fabrication of their religion. Allaah says that which translates as: “…You will surely cause corruption on the earth twice…” (Al-Israa’: 4).
· In 538 BC the Jews returned to Palestine and reconstructed the structure, and called it the second temple.
· In 20 BC the Roman ruler Hyrodas renovated the structure and this remained through the time of Prophets Yahyaa and ‘Eesaa, peace be upon them both, who were contemporaries; this is confirmed in the Hadeeth where Allaah ordered Prophet Yahyaa, peace be upon him, to convey five things to the children of Israel as the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “He (Yahyaa) gathered the people in Jerusalem until the mosque (Al-Aqsaa) became so full that people had to sit top of its balconies” (Tirmidhi).
· In 70 CE Emperor Titus demolished the structure and burnt down the entire city of Jerusalem. He left the ruins of the structure as they were.
· In 135 CE Emperor Adriano cleared the ruins and constructed a temple in its place for idol worship. He called it ‘Jupiter’, which is the name of one of the Roman gods.
· When Christianity became widespread in Palestine at the beginning of the fourth century CE, Emperor Constantine, who established Christianity there, demolished the Jupiter temple and constructed another structure in its place, which was the structure that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam described to the polytheists of Quraysh to prove to them that he really did make the Night Journey to Jerusalem and through the heavens.
· This structure was the first Qiblah, or direction Muslims face for prayer. Al-Baraa’ ibn ‘Aazib narrated that: “When the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam arrived in Madeenah, he stayed with his maternal uncles and prayed towards Al-Aqsaa mosque for 16 months” (Bukhaari). When the Muslims conquered Palestine, they found that the Romans had turned the structure into a rubbish dump to enrage the Jews. Therefore, when ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattaab, may Allaah be pleased with him, who was the leader of the Muslims at that time, came to Jerusalem, he asked Ka’b Al-Ahbaar, who was one of the conquering soldiers where the location of The Rock was. So Ka’b pointed in the direction of the rubbish dump and ‘Umar started removing the waste with the help of the Muslims.
· ‘Umar, may Allaah be pleased with him, decided to reconstruct the mosque and asked for the advice of Ka’b about where it should be located. Ka’b suggested building it behind The Rock so that it would be in the same location that Prophet Moosaa, peace be upon him, had prayed. But ‘Umar decided against this as he wished to differ from the Jews and so he decided to place it in front of The Rock.
· During the reign of King ‘Abdul Malik Ibn Marwaan the whole structure was renovated. Among the things that where refurbished were the mosque and the dome of The Rock. These were carried out under the supervision of a great scholar by the name of Rajaa’ Ibn Haywah. King ‘Abdul Malik designated the income from seven annual crop harvests specifically to the renovation project which was concluded in the year 73 AH.
· In 154 AH, during the reign of Abu Ja’far Al-Mansoor, an earthquake hit Jerusalem and demolished some parts of the mosque, so he commanded its reconstruction.
· In 158 AH, during the reign of Al-Mahdi some renovations were done to the mosque and its length extended.
· In 198 AH At the time of Al-Ma’moon, some renovations where done to the mosque.
· In 1967 CE the Israelis occupied east Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsaa mosque is located, but kept the territory of Al-Aqsaa mosque under the supervision of the ministry of religious affairs, so as not to enrage Muslims around the world, but it was not long before they started attempting to occupy it to construct their Jewish temple in its place.