Is the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem the one mentioned in the Qu’uran?


INTRODUCTION: Since 1967, when Israel regained control of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount after the Six-Day War, there has been a concerted effort on the part of the ‘Palestinian’ authorities to stir up religious fervor, using the false claim that Israel is intending to destroy the al-Asqa Mosque while simultaneously advancing their claim that the entire Temple Mount is sacred to Islam. By creating and promoting their own version of “Palestinian history“, they seek to (1) create an Arab connection to the Temple Mount which predates the Jewish one and  (2) incite violence to forcibly remove the Temple Mount from Israeli control.

A lecturer with the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University and expert in military intelligence, Arab political discourse and Arab mass media recently raised some doubt as to whether the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is same al-Aqsa Mosque mentioned in the Qu’uran. If it is not, that would shed a very different light on ‘Palestinian’ claims that the Temple Mount is the 3rd holiest site in Islam.

Jordanian Tourist Map from 1965

Jordanian Tourist Map - only al-asqaLast week, an official Jordanian tourist map from 1965 that is part of a large collection of maps of Israel owned by Chaim Steinberger of New York City was seen, photocopied and written about by Dr. Mordechai Kedar this past Thursday, (August 11, 2016) in the Israeli national news, Arutz Sheva.

At first glance, it seems like an ordinary tourist map of Jerusalem – but this map was drawn by a Jordanian, Abd al-Rahman Rassas who worked as an official surveyor for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the map bears the words:

recommended and approved by the official Jordanian Tourist Authority“.

To understand the significance, it is important to understand the political context under which it was made. It was drawn and published two years before the 1967 Six Day War – when East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were still being illegally occupied by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  This map produced by Jordanians shows the Temple Mount (by its Arabic name al-Haram al-Sharif) as being located on Mount Moriah and indicates the “al Aqsa Mosque” as a building on the southern end of al-Haram al-Sharif – with no notable significance to Islam;

“In other words, thirty years before the peace agreement between Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan, the Jordanians identified al Aqsa as no more than an edifice on the southern end of al-Haram al-Sharif, which in turn is built on Mount Moriah.”

– Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, August 11, 2016

Dr. Kedar sheds further light by mentioning that the al-Aqsa mosque is only mentioned once in the Qu’uran in Surah 17:1, about the al-Isra – the “night journey” that the prophet was to have taken from Mecca;

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 hearing, the seeing.

Surah Al-Isra 17:1, Qu’uran

There were many mosques in and around Ji’Irrana, Saudi Arabia but there are two in particular; one called al-Masjid al-Adna, meaning the “closer mosque” and the other called al-Masjid al-Aqsa, meaning the “farther mosque” and while later commentaries such as the al-Jallalayn maintain that “the furthest mosque” (al-masgid al-aqsa) is in Jerusalem, Dr. Kedar says that according to the Islamic source Kitab al-Maghazi, ibn Umar Wāqidī states that the al-Aqsa mosque mentioned in the Qu’uran is near Mecca on the Arabian peninsula   between Taaf and Mecca, and not on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Furthermore, Dr. Kedar provides an explanation as to how and when the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem came into prominence.

The first Islamic Empire, the Umayyad Empire (661-750 CE) was Sunni  and mercilessly persecuted the Shias.  In 651 CE, Abd allah ibn al-Zubayr was named Caliph (Islamic leader of the Islamic Empire) and inʿ682 CE he prevented the Sunni Umayyads who ruled Damascus from fulfilling the required annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. Since the Haj is one of the five basic Islamic commandments, Abd al-Malik, the Sunni Umayyad Caliph, needed an alternative site for the pilgrimage and settled on Jerusalem, which was then under his control. 

According to Dr. Kedar, in order to establish a basis for the “holiness” of Jerusalem in Islam, the Caliphs of the Ummayad dynasty invented many ‘traditions’ (known as fadha’il bayt al-Maqdis), upholding the value of Jerusalem, which would justify pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the faithful Muslims. Thus was al-Masjid al-Aqsa was “transported” to Jerusalem.

It is apparent when looking at the 1965 Jordanian tourist map, the  al-Aqsa Mosque on the southern end of Temple Mount is hardly mentioned and is certainly was not highlighted as an Islamic holy site. Further support that this was not historically considered an Islamic holy site can be found in an earlier post on this site, titled “Is the Temple Mount Really Islam’s Holiest Site?” Photographs of the Temple Mount taken in the late 1900’s by Felix Bonfils (1831-1885) clearly show the Temple Mount complex (where the al-Aqsa Mosque is) as having been very neglected under Ottoman (Muslim) rule.  

Both of these lend support to the Dr. Kedar’s assertion that the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is not the al-Aqsa Mosque of the Qu’uran.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University and served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena.

Final Thoughts…

It was only after the Six Day War in June 1967 that Arab claims to the Temple Mount began – after East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were in Jewish hands for the first time in 2000 years. Since that time, ‘Palestinian’ authorities have sought to (1) create an Arab connection to the Temple Mount which predates the Jewish one and  (2) incite violence with the goal of forcibly removing the Temple Mount from Israeli control.

If the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount is not the same al-Aqsa Mosque mentioned in the Qu’uran, then it is just another mosque like many throughout the Middle East and the Temple Mount is not Islam’s 3rd holiest site.

This 1956 map produced by Jordanians which shows labels the Temple Mount (by its Arabic name al-Haram al-Sharif) on Mount Moriah and indicates the “al Aqsa Mosque” simply as a building on the southern end of al-Haram al-Sharif – with no notable significance to Islam, seems to support the idea that the al-Aqsa Mosque only became of importance to the ‘Palestinians’ after 1967.

Furthermore, it would account for the tremendous disrepair [see earlier post] of the entire Temple Mount complex under the Ottoman Turks (who were Muslims) – as it was of no special significance to Islam.

UPDATE: Be sure to read our most recent article about how a historic Arab-Muslim document from the supreme authority in Jerusalem blatantly contradicts the Palestinian Authority’s claim that the Temple Mount was never a Jewish site: