Masjid Al-Aqsa has a very special place in the hearts of the entire Muslim community due to its unique and rich history as a place of worship that is so closely intertwined with the lives of many of the Prophets of Islam, as well as for its special status as a Masjid to which travel is recommended and in which reward is increased. It is a special and blessed Masjid of vast size comprising 144,000 square meters in size (covering approximately 1/6th of the entire area of the Old City of Jerusalem) and with capacity to accommodate in the region of 500,000 worshipers.
Why visit Al Masjid Al-Aqsa?
There are many reasons why Muslims should make a sincere intention and their best efforts to visit Al Masjid Al Aqsa – and inshAllah below are 3 of the most important:
Islamic Status of Al Aqsa and its associated reward
Prophet Muhammad (saw) taught us that we should only undertake a special journey to one of three masaajid; Al Masjid Al Haram in Makkah, Al Masjid An-Nabawi in Madinah, and Al Masjid Al Aqsa in Jerusalem. In addition – prayer in each of these blessed masaajid are multiplied in virtue, with one salaah in Al Masjid Al Aqsa receiving at least 500 times the reward of salaah elsewhere.
Al Masjid Al Aqsa has a very special status for Muslims because of its own unique history, including being:
Surah Maidah (5:21): “Remember Musa said to his people: “O my people! Call in remembrance the favour of God unto you, when He produced Prophets among you, made you kings and gave you what He had not given to any other among the peoples. O my people! Enter the Holy Land which God has assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will you be overthrown, to your own ruin”
Surah Al Anbiyya (21:69-71): “We said, O Fire! Be thou cool and [a means of] safety for Ibrahim. Then they planned against him, but We made them the greater losers. But we delivered him and Lot (and directed them) to the land which We have blessed for the nations”
One final point relating to reward is that some shayukh have said that if one remembers Allah at a time when others forget, then inshAllah the reward is greater because it is harder to do so. So imagine the reward one will get for visiting Al Masjid Al Aqsa if one embarks on that journey at a time when the rest of the Muslims are neglectful and / or forgotten to visit this blessed place.
The Importance of Al-Aqsa
The name ‘Masjid Al-Aqsa’ translates as ‘the Farthest Masjid’ because it was a place of worship in the farthest West known to Arabs in the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH); and is the 3rd most holy place in Islam. It was here that in around 621 CE the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) came on the Night Journey from Makkah riding on the Buraq. Masjid Al-Aqsa is not only the Qibly Masjid (with the silver/grey dome) or the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat As-Sakhrah). It is in fact the whole region within the fortified walls in the sacred sanctuary (Haram Shareef) and is also known as Bayt Al-Maqdis or Bayt al-Muqaddas (House of the Holiness).
There are multiple Masjids on the site that we know as Masjid Al-Aqsa. We think of Masjid Al-Aqsa as the building at the southernmost corner of the Masjid. In actual fact, that is the Qibly Masjid – so called because it is the closest to the Qibla. The whole mount is Masjid Al-Aqsa and is sometimes referred to the Haram Al-Sharif to prevent confusion.
The region of Palestine holds the resting places 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 (AS), Yakub (AS), Ishaq [AS] and according to some commentators there are over 100 Prophets buried in Palestine.
GREATER VIRTUE OF PRAYING IN MASJID AL-AQSA
Abu Darda (ra) relates that the Prophet (saw) said, “A prayer in Makkah (Ka’bah) is worth 100,000 times (reward), a prayer in my Masjid (Madinah) is worth 1,000 times and a prayer in Al-Aqsa Sanctuary is worth 500 times more reward than anywhere else”. (Tabarani, Bayhaqi, Suyuti)
Masjid Al-Aqsa was the first Qiblah in Islam. When the Prophet (SAW) moved from Makkah to Madina, the salaah direction changed from Masjid Al-Aqsa to the Qibla direction we know today in Makkah.
MASJID AL-AQSA – THE SECOND HOUSE OF ALLAH (SWT) ON EARTH
Abu Dharr (ra) reported that he asked the Prophet (saw), “O Messenger of Allah, which Masjid was built first on earth”? The Prophet (saw) replied, “The Sacred Masjid of Makkah”. Abu Dharr (ra) again asked, “Which was next”? The Prophet (saw) said, “Masjid Al-Aqsa”. Abu Dharr (ra) further asked, “How long was the period between the building of the two Masjids”? The Prophet (saw) said, “40 years”. Apart from these, offer your prayer anywhere when it is time to pray, although excellence is in praying in these Masjids”. (Bukhari)
THE IMPORTANCE OF VISITING MASJID AL-AQSA
Abu Hurayrah (ra) relates that the Prophet (saw) said, “You should not undertake a special journey to visit any place other than the following three Masjids with the expectations of getting greater reward: the Sacred Masjid of Makkah (Ka’bah), this Masjid of mine (the Prophet’s Masjid in Madinah), and Masjid Al-Aqsa (of Jerusalem)”. In another narration the words are, “For three Masjids a special journey may be undertaken: The Sacred Masjid (Ka’bah), my Masjid and Masjid of Jerusalem (Al-Aqsa). (Muslim, Bukhari, Abu Dawud)