Reasons Why Muslims Love Al Aqsa
Palestine in general, and Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Masjid have always been prominent in Islamic thought throughout its history. This has been due to several factors and reasons.
The first reason: Its Sacredness and Sanctity in Islamic Teachings
Its sanctity is matched only by Makkah and Madinah. In the Qur’ān there are many verses implying that the Land of Palestine, the city of Jerusalem, the entire environs are set apart as blessed, as they have received special divine blessings. The land around Masjid Al-Aqsa is referred to 70 times as the blessed land in the Qur’ān amongst which are the following verses:
سُبْحَٰنَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِۦ لَيْلًا مِّنَ ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْحَرَامِ إِلَى ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْأَقْصَا ٱلَّذِى بَٰرَكْنَا حَوْلَهُۥ لِنُرِيَهُۥ مِنْ ءَايَٰتِنَآ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْبَصِيرُ
“Glory be to the One who took His Slave for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Furthest Mosque, whose precincts We have blessed – in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: He is the One Who hears and sees (all things).” (Surat al-Isra’, 17:1)
Thus, Ibn Abbās (RA) states that “whose precincts we have blessed” refers to Palestine and Jordan.
قَالَ رَجُلَانِ مِنَ ٱلَّذِينَ يَخَافُونَ أَنْعَمَ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمَا ٱدْخُلُوا۟ عَلَيْهِمُ ٱلْبَابَ فَإِذَا دَخَلْتُمُوهُ فَإِنَّكُمْ غَٰلِبُونَ ۚ وَعَلَى ٱللَّهِ فَتَوَكَّلُوٓا۟ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ[Mūsa (AS) said:] “O my people! Enter the holy land which Allah has assigned you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then you will be overthrown, to your own ruin.” (Sūrah al-Maidah, 5:23)
The ‘holy land which Allāh has assigned you’ is thus clearly the land of Palestine. Ibn Abbās, however, takes it more restrictively as referring to Jerusalem and the surrounding area.
These are just a few examples amongst many of the sacredness of Palestine in the Qur’ān.
Second Masjid to be established on Earth.
سَمِعْتُ أَبَا ذَرٍّ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، أَىُّ مَسْجِدٍ وُضِعَ فِي الأَرْضِ أَوَّلُ قَالَ ” الْمَسْجِدُ الْحَرَامُ ”. قَالَ قُلْتُ ثُمَّ أَىٌّ قَالَ ” الْمَسْجِدُ الأَقْصَى ”. قُلْتُ كَمْ كَانَ بَيْنَهُمَا قَالَ ” أَرْبَعُونَ سَنَةً، ثُمَّ أَيْنَمَا أَدْرَكَتْكَ الصَّلاَةُ بَعْدُ فَصَلِّهْ، فَإِنَّ الْفَضْلَ فِيهِ ”
Narrated Abu Dhar (RA): I said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! Which mosque was first built on the surface of the earth?” He said, “Al- Masjid-ul-,Haram (in Mecca).” I said, “Which was built next?” He replied “The mosque of Al-Aqsa ( in Jerusalem) .” I said, “What was the period of construction between the two?” He said, “Forty years.” He added, “Wherever (you may be, and) the prayer time becomes due, perform the prayer there, for the best thing is to do so (i.e. to offer the prayers in time). Sahih al-Bukhari 3366
Thus due to these teachings throughout Islamic History, there was a profound attachment to this holy land.
Prophets (AS) who resided there
IF GREAT PERSONALITIES enrich a place, then al-Quds (Jerusalem) is second to none. The greatest Prophets have either lived in or passed by the blessed city of al-Quds (Jerusalem). Hence, the significance of al-Aqṣā Sanctuary and Palestine is further enhanced by both the presence of noble Prophets and major events that occurred during the lifetime of these great men.
Prophet Ibrāhīm (AS)
وَنَجَّيْنَٰهُ وَلُوطًا إِلَى ٱلْأَرْضِ ٱلَّتِى بَٰرَكْنَا فِيهَا لِلْعَٰلَمِينَ
And We saved him and Lut (AS) and brought him to the land upon which We had bestowed Our blessings for all the people of the world. [Sūrah al-Anbiyā’ 21: 71]
Prophet Ibrāhīm (AS) migrated from his hometown of Ur in modern-day Iraq with his wife Sārah (RA) and nephew Lūṭ (AS) and moved towards Palestine and settled there. The particular city of Palestine in which he first settled is a matter of conjecture. However, after a short period, he and his wife Sārah (RA) moved towards Egypt where they encountered a tyrannical leader. The Egyptian tyrant was enchanted by Sārah’s (RA) beauty and tried to seduce her. However, she was protected from him by Allah who debilitated his hand when he tried to touch her. The tyrant begged Sārah (RA) to “break the spell” because he thought she had bewitched him. Sārah (RA) prayed to Allah and the tyrant was cured. Again, he tried to get hold of Sārah (RA) and a second time his hand became debilitated. He once again asked Sārah (RA) to “break the spell” and she prayed to Allah and he was cured. The tyrant was now convinced that Sārah (RA) was a witch and he became scared of her. To safeguard himself from her, he offered gifts and a maid called Hājar (RA) , to escape further spells. Sārah (RA) and Ibrāhīm (AS) returned to Palestine and settled there. Prophet Ibrāhīm (AS) later married Hājar. Although Ibrāhīm (AS) was very old (some say 80 years) Hājar (RA) bore him a son. Thereafter, Ibrāhīm was commanded by Allah to take his wife Hājar (RA) and their young son, Ismāil (AS), to the Arabian Desert (modern-day Makkah) and leave them there. He followed the command of Allah and left Hājar (RA) and Ismāil (AS) in Makkah and returned to Palestine. Throughout his lifetime, Ibrāhīm made several visits to the growing settlement of Makkah to see his son Ismāil (AS) and together they re-built the Ka‘bah. However, Sārah (RA) , who remained in Palestine, also became pregnant in her old age and a second son called Isḥāq (AS) was born. The Holy Qur’ān states:
And We gave him the good news of Isaac, a Prophet and among the righteous ones. [Sūrah al-Ṣāffāt 37: 112]
This good news of the birth of Isḥāq (AS) was given to Ibrāhīm (AS) in Palestine when he was approximately 100 years old. Isḥāq (AS) lived with his father in and around al-Quds (Jerusalem), where he preached, traded, and eventually grew old and returned to the Mercy of Allah. The graves of Ibrāhīm (AS) and Isḥāq (AS) are very near al-Quds (Jerusalem) in the city of Khalīl now called Hebron. Ibrāhīm (AS) re-built the Ka‘bah in Makkah with his first son Ismāil (AS), and the Masjid al-Aqṣā in al-Quds (Jerusalem) with his other son Isḥāq (AS).
When Ibrāhīm (AS) arrived in Palestine, according to Genesis XIV:18-20, a person by the name of Melchizedek who is referred to as the king of Salem, offered Ibrāhīm a tithe (piece of land); however Ibrāhīm (AS) did not want the land for free and decided to purchase this land from the king of Salem. Again according to Genesis XIII:18, Ibrāhīm (AS) built on this land a “tent” to praise Allah and later Isḥāq (AS) re-built it. Isḥāq (AS) was the father of Ya‘qūb (AS), who in turn was the father of Yūsuf (AS). When the children of Ya‘qūb (AS) moved to Egypt, the “house of Allah” slipped out of view. After Ādam (AS), Ibrāhīm (AS) and Isḥāq (AS), are the second group of Prophets who re-built Masjid al-Aqṣā.
Prophet Mūsā (AS)
The progeny of Yūsuf (AS) continued to live in Egypt until the coming of Mūsā (AS) , at which time the persecution of them was intensified. Under the guidance of Mūsā (AS) they escaped to the Holy Land – Palestine.
After Pharaoh began his persecution, Mūsā (AS) with his brother Hārūn (AS) guided the Banū Isrā’īl to flee from Egypt towards Palestine. After crossing the Red Sea, where Pharaoh and his men died, the Banū Isrā’īl began to argue and protest at the lack of water, food and shade. Mūsā (AS) prayed to Allah and all three were provided. Despite these favours, their ingratitude continued and they built a statue of a calf to worship in total contradiction to Mūsā’s (AS) commands. When they arrived on the outskirts of Palestine, Mūsā (AS) commanded them to enter the Holy Land, they nevertheless refused, Mūsā (AS) assured them of victory if they marched forward and he also planned the attack for them. However, the Banū Isrā’īl remained obstinate and said,
قَالُوا۟ يَٰمُوسَىٰٓ إِنَّا لَن نَّدْخُلَهَآ أَبَدًا مَّا دَامُوا۟ فِيهَا ۖ فَٱذْهَبْ أَنتَ وَرَبُّكَ فَقَٰتِلَآ إِنَّا هَٰهُنَا قَٰعِدُونَ
Mūsā, you and your Lord go and fight, we will wait here (5: 24).
Mūsā (AS) was deeply pained and felt dejected with the Banū Isrā’īl and thus he turned to Allah,
O My Lord! I have power only over myself and my brother (Hārūn), so separate us from this rebellious people (5: 25).
Allah brought down His punishment on the ungrateful and recusant,
they shall be forbidden to enter the land for 40 years, while they wander about on earth and grieve not over the rebellious people (5: 26).
The Banū Isrā’īl thus remained wandering aimlessly in the desert and it is narrated that only when all the adult members of the rebellious generation had died, did their descendants cross the River Jordan and move towards Jericho in Palestine.