This year, Muslim Hands are proud to be upgrading the lighting at Masjid Al-Aqsa, we’d like to share some little-known facts about the blessed site and ways you can help.
1. It isn't just one mosque
There are in fact multiple mosques on the site that we know as Masjid Al-Aqsa. We tend to think of Masjid Al-Aqsa as the building at the southernmost corner of the mosque. In actual fact, that is the Qibali Mosque – so called because it is the closest to the Qibla. The whole complex is Masjid Al-Aqsa. It is also referred to as the al-Haram as-Sharif.
2. It’s the only mosque, besides the Holy Kaaba, that is mentioned in the Qur'an
‘Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing’. (Qur’an, 17:1)
3. The original Dome of the Rock looked very different
The Dome of the Rock was built by the Khalifah Umayyah Abdul Malik ibn Marwan. It was originally wooden with either a brass, lead or ceramic cover. The iconic dome we all know was built almost a thousand years later during the reign of the Ottoman Khalifah, Suleyman the Magnificent. The distinctive gold layer was added to the dome along with the Ottoman tiles to the facade of the building.
4. The complex is also a burial ground
Though there is no accurate record of who and how many have been buried here, the burial ground in al-Haram as-Sharif is the resting place for many Prophets and Sahaba of the Holy Prophet (saw).
5. It once held a legendary minbar
Imad ad-Din Zengi, a member of the Turkish Zengid dynasty, had a special minbar built to be installed in Masjid Al-Aqsa. This minbar was not only beautiful, but it was made without using a single nail or bit of glue. Sadly, Imad ad-Din did not live to see the victory, but his protégé Salahuddin fulfilled the wish of his teacher, and after liberating Jerusalem for the second time in the history of Islam, installed the minbar.
6. The site was once used as a dumping ground
When the Romans exiled the Jews from the city, the mainly Roman inhabitants used the area of Masjid Al-Aqsa as a garbage dump. When Umar (ra) opened city to Islam, he cleared the rubbish with his bare hands. He also ended the centuries-old exile of the Jews, giving refugee families the right to reside in Jerusalem once again.
7. Al Ghazali lived and wrote his greatest work there
One of the most famous scholars in Islamic history, Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, spent a period of his life in Masjid Al-Aqsa where he wrote what is widely regarded as his greatest work, the Ihyaa Ulum Al-Din (The Revival of Religious Sciences). A building in the masjid marks the site of his old room.
8. It has been burnt down
In 1969 the entire Masjid al Qibali was burnt down. The mosque has since been rebuilt, but this incident from the not-so-distant past shows just how important it is to look after the third holiest site in Islam.
Muslim Hands has been working with the Al-Aqsa Waqf since 2008, carrying out vital restoration and maintenance work. We've been given the opportunity to complete a lighting project, illuminating the entire Qibali Masjid Grand Prayer Hall with a brand-new state-of-the-art lighting system.