July 07, 2016

8 Things You Didn’t Know About Masjid Al-Aqsa

There can be only one choice for the world's most contested area of land, and that is masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. It is no exaggeration to say that for thousands of years, people have been dying for control over it.

For Muslims, it holds a very important place in our heart. It is the 3rd most holy site in Islam. It is the location that the Prophet was transported to during the journey of Israa and Miraaj. It was the scene for the most extraordinary gathering in the history of mankind – when every Prophet that ever lived were gathered together for a congregational prayer behind Prophet Muhammad.
And yet, here are some things you may not already know about masjid Al Aqsa:
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8. It isn't just one mosque
Description: Al-Aqsa-Compound
Yes – there are multiple mosques 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 Mosque. In actual fact, that is the Qibly mosque – 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. But there are other mosques present on the site which are usually connected to historical incidents e.g. the Buraq masjid, the Marwani masjid and more.

7. It is a burial ground
There is no record of how many Prophets and Sahaabas of the Prophet are buried there. but there are certainly many. For instance, Prophet Sulaiman is possibly buried there since we know that a Prophet is always buried where he died, and he died whilst supervising the construction of the previous building in some traditions.

6. It was a garbage dump
In the period of time when no Jews were allowed to live in the city, the mainly Roman inhabitants used the area of the masjid as a garbage dump. When Umar liberated the city, he cleared the trash with his bare hands. He also ended the centuries-old exile of the Jews and invited 70 families of a nearby refugee village back into Jerusalem giving them the right to return after centuries in exile – a favour that our cousins seem to have forgotten.

5. Al Ghazali lived and wrote his magnum opus there
Description: mutiara-ihya-ulumuddin
One of the most famous books in Islamic literature is Ihyaa Ulum Al-Din by the great scholar of Islam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali. He is a man that is revered by all schools of thought for his ability plunge into the depths of the human soul whilst remaining anchored to Quranic and Prophetic teachings. What most people don't know is that Al-Ghazali, for a time, lived in masjid Al-Aqsa and wrote the book whilst there. A building in the masjid marks the site of his old room.

4. It was used as a stable, palace, and execution chamber
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When the first Crusaders took Jerusalem, they found the majority of the Muslim population locked up in masjid Al Aqsa. They slaughtered roughly 70,000 of them and then converted the Qibly masjid into a palace, the Dome of the Rock into a chapel, and the underground chambers into a stable. Muslims who survived the initial massacre were later crucified on a large cross placed near the centre of the masjid. This was the only cross that was broken by the Salahuddin. The base of the cross can still be seen there today (picture above.)

3. It had a legendary mimbar
Description: 417px-Saladin_Minbar-Aqsa
Nooruddin Zengi, one of the greatest heroes in the history of Islam, had a special mimbar (pulpit) built to be installed in masjid Al Aqsa when it would be eventually retaken from the Crusaders (you have to admire his supreme confidence). This mimbar was not only beautiful, but it was made without using a single nail or lick of glue. Sadly Nooruddin did not live to see victory, but his protege Salahuddin fulfilled the wish of his teacher, and after liberating Jerusalem for the 2nd time in the history of Islam, installed the mimbar. It is still a work of legend amongst artisans and craftsmen. Unfortunately, this mimbar did not survive the events described in point 1.

2. The Dome of the Rock used to look very different 
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The dome of the Rock – what is likely to be the first dome ever built in the history of Islam – was built by the Umayyad Caliph AbdulMalik ibn Marwan. It started life wooden with either a brass, lead or ceramic cover, but almost a thousand years later during the reign of the Ottoman Caliph Suleiman the Magnificent, the distinctive gold layer was added to the dome along with the Ottoman tiles to the facade of the building.

1. It has been burnt down
Ever wonder what would happen if masjid Al Aqsa was violated, a conquering army flag flown from the dome of the rock and the masjid itself burnt down? Surely the Muslim world wouldn't let that happen?
Think again.
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In 1967, Jerusalem left Muslim hands for the 3rd time and came under the control of Israel. The conquering Israeli soldiers flew their flag from the dome. The Israeli leadership realised that overt control of masjid Al-Aqsa would serve as a constant provocation to the Muslim world. They used the fig leaf of a Waqf in order to placate the Muslims into complacency.
It worked.

In 1969, an Australian Zionist set fire to the mimbar of Nuruddin and the Qibly mosque itself. The resulting inferno enveloped the entire Qibly mosque. The Muslim world awoke to scenes from the worst of nightmares. Desperate palestinians tried to put out the flames in anyway they could. An entire Ummah hung their head in shame.
Since then, the mosque has been rebuilt and refurbished, but the assaults against the 3rd holiest site in Islam continue to this day. Excavations undermining the foundations of the entire Mosque, unauthorised visits, and daily threats to rebuild the old temple are all currently under way. Masjid Al-Aqsa still waits.

Source: Muslimmatters

9 Things You Didn’t Know About The Prophet’s Mosque

Seeing a scene of impeccable beauty, we often hear the term “Heaven on Earth!” But there is only one place that literally has the right to proclaim itself as such. There, deep in the mosque of the Prophet  (masjid Nabawi), covered by green carpets and the tears of millions, lies a “garden from the gardens of paradise.” [1] It is a place known to every Muslim who has ever lived, yet there's still much we don't know about it. Here are just some of the interesting facts and mysteries of the Prophet's  Mosque:

9. The first place in the Arabian Peninsula to have electricity
When the Ottomans introduced electricity to the Arabian Peninsula, the first place to be lit up was the mosque of the Prophet . [2] By some accounts, it would be a few more years before the Sultan himself had full electricity in his own palace in Istanbul. [3]

8. The current mosque is larger than the old city
The current mosque is more than 100 times the size of the original building. [4] [5] This means that the current mosque covers almost the entire area of the old city itself. [6] [7] This is evident from the fact that whereas Jannat Al-Baqi cemetery was on the outskirts of the city during the time of the Prophet , [8] it now borders the precincts of the current mosque grounds.

7. There's an empty grave in the Prophet's  room
It has long been the stuff of legend that there is an “empty grave” next to where the Prophet , Abu Bakr  and Umar  are burie1d. [9] [10] [11] This was confirmed, however, when the individuals who went in to change the coverings in the hujrah* in the 1970s noted the presence of an empty space. [12] Whether or not it is meant for Isa  when he returns is a matter of debate. [13]
*Note from author: What is meant by “hujrah” in this case is not the actual burial chamber / original room of Aisha (Ra.) This is enclosed in a pentagonal structure with no doors or windows and has not been visible for centuries. The area meant is the entire grilled area encompassing the chamber and area of other rooms.

6. It was destroyed by fire
The majority of the old mosque, including the original mimbar of the Prophet , was destroyed in a fire that swept through the mosque centuries after the Prophet  died. The fire was so extensive that the roof and even some of the walls of the room of the Prophet  collapsed, revealing his resting place for the first time in 600 years. [14]

5. There was no dome before, now there are two!
For more than 650 years after the Prophet  passed away, there was no dome over his  grave. [15] The first one was built in 1279 by a Mamluk sultan and was made of wood. [16] The green dome that we see today is actually the outer dome over the room of the Prophet . There is an inner dome that is much smaller and has the name of the Prophet , Abu Bakr  and Umar  inscribed on the inside. [17]

4. The dome used to be purple!
Yup – purple. It turns out that the dome has been through various colors and renovations before it reached its current form and colour about 150 years ago. [18]  At one point it used to be white and for the longest period it was a purple-blue colour that the Arabs of Hijaz were particularly fond of. [19] [20]

3. It has 3 mihrabs
Most mosques only have one mihrab, but the Prophet's  mosque has three. The current mihrab is the one used nowadays for the imam to lead prayers. The next mihrab is set back and is called the Suleymaniye or Ahnaf mihrab. [21] It was made on the orders of the Sultan Suleyman the magnificent for the Hanafi imam to lead prayers whilst the Maliki imam lead prayers from the Prophetic mihrab. The Prophetic mihrab completely covers the area that the Prophet  used to lead prayers from except where he placed his feet. [22]

2. What lies in the room of Fatima ?
Items belonging to the Prophet  were housed in his room or the room of Fatima  which was incorporated into his room after a major expansion. [23] When Madinah was under siege during World War I4, the Ottoman commander had many priceless artifacts evacuated to Istanbul, hidden in the clothes of women and children. [24] [25] They can now be seen in the Topkapi Palace. However, intriguingly, some items still remain but are undocumented. [26]

1. It is FULL of secret signs1
Yes, the mosque of the Prophet  is covered with so many subtle signs and secrets that it makes the DaVinci Code look like a cheap puzzle for pre-schoolers. Each pillar, each dome, each window carries a story and indicates the location of events that carry historical and spiritual significance. The people who constructed the Prophet's Mosque realized that it would be impossible to put up signs everywhere as it would distract from the main purpose of prayers. Therefore, they came up with an ingenious way of indicating a location of importance through minor changes in the design of surrounding objects. What are the 
secrets? Well, that is a story for another day insha'Allah.

Description: secret signs in the mosque

The mosque of the Prophet  was never just a mosque. It was the center of the first Islamic community and nation. It was the scene of our greatest triumphs and tragedies. It was a community center, homeless refuge, university and mosque all rolled into one.

Like the Muslim community, it has grown over the years and become more modern with each passing generation. But despite the exponential growth and changes from the simple 
Hijazi date palm trunk interior to the marble and gold clad structure we have today – the inner core remains the same. Perhaps there's a lesson in there for us all.

Source: Muslimmatters

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