Citation for Aqṣā, al-

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Abderrazzaq, Mohammad A. . "Aqṣā, al-." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. May 16, 2022. <>.


Abderrazzaq, Mohammad A. . "Aqṣā, al-." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, (accessed May 16, 2022).

Aqṣā, al-

The third holiest mosque in Islam, al-Aqṣā is part of the sacred site in Jerusalem (along with the Dome of the Rock 492 feet, or 150 meters, to its north) referred to in Arabic as al-Ḥaram al-Sharīf (The Noble Sanctuary) and in Hebrew as Har ha-Bait (The Temple Mount). Al-Aqṣā is also regarded as the second mosque to be established on earth, and is Islam 's first quiblah (the direction to which Muslims perform their ritual prayer; changed during the lifetime of the Prophet Muḥammad towards the present quiblah, the Kaʿaba in Mecca).

Al-Aqṣā 's importance stems primarily from its association with Muḥammad 's mystical night journey (isrāʿ) and ascent (miʿrāj). The Qurʿān refers to his visit to al-Masjid al-Aṣā the “farthest mosque” (17:1), where he was conveyed miraculously from Mecca. According to Islamic tradition, he was conveyed from Mecca to heaven by way of Jerusalem, specifically the site of the mosque. The al- Aqṣā site is also where, according to the Islamic tradition, Muḥammad joined in unity with other prophets (including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus) to perform a congregational prayer, and where Abraham 's covenant with God to spread the teaching of monotheism was established. It is as such that the Islamic tradition encourages Muslims to visit al-Aqṣā, placing emphasis on the spiritual benefit gained in sincere devotion to God and in reflection on the events surrounding Muḥammad 's Night Journey (al-ʿisrāʿ) and ascension (al-miʿrāj). Caliph ʿUmar (d. 644) visited the original site when Muslims took control of the city from the Byzantines in 638. Finding the site desecrated, he personally initiated clean-up and restoration. The Umayyad caliph ʿAbd al-Mālik (d. 705) commissioned the construction of a new mosque to replace ʿUmar 's humble edifice, though it would not be completed until the caliphate of his son al-Walīd I around 709. Destroyed in an earthquake shortly afterward, it was again rebuilt and enlarged by the ʿAbbāsid caliph al-Mahdī (775–785). The mosque 's last major reconstruction came under the caliph al-Ẓāhir in 1033. It remains essentially the same today. Al-Aqṣā was again desecrated by the Crusaders, who conquered Jerusalem in 1099. The Crusader leader Godfrey of Bouillon converted it into his royal residence. The Knights Templar also established their headquarters in the compound. Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn (Saladin) recaptured Jerusalem in 1187 and restored al-Aqṣā as a mosque.

In 1317, the Mamlūk sultan al-Nāṣir Muḥammad updated the sanctuary surroundings, restoring al-Aqṣā 's dome and regilding the Dome of the Rock. Further renovations to al-Aqṣā and the Dome of the Rock were undertaken by sultans al-Nāṣir Ḥasan (r. 1347–1351) and al-Ṣāliḥ Ṣāliḥ (r. 1351–1354), including the building of Muslim schools and monasteries around the sanctuary periphery. Ottoman sultan Sulaymān the Magnificent (r. 1520–1566) also beautified the sanctuary grounds, including placing ablution fountains in the forecourt of al-Aqṣā, laying mosaic and marble tile on the walls of the Dome of the Rock, and building up the waqf (charitable trust) that supports the sanctuary.

Al-Aqṣā and the sacred precinct incurred significant damage during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. In April of 1951, King ʿAbdullah I of Jordan, seen as colluding with Western and Zionist leaders in their partition of Palestine, was assassinated by Palestinian opposition at the entrance of the mosque. Excavation on the Aqṣā grounds since the 1967 Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem continues to fuel tensions between Muslims and Jews. While Jews generally maintain that these excavations are solely for archeological discovery, structural damage to al-Aqṣā 's foundation, presumably as a result of these excavations, has led many Muslims to fear that it is part of a greater campaign to destabilize al-Aqṣā 's foundation and destroy the mosque. There have also been several attempts since 1967 by Jewish extremist groups to destroy al-Aqṣā and the Dome of the Rock, including a plot in 1980 by Rabbi Meir Kahane 's Kach organization. In 1990, an attempt by the Jewish group “Trustees of the Temple” to lay down the foundational stone for the Third Temple led to clashes between Palestinian civilians and Israeli soldiers and resulted in the death of a number of Palestinians. In 2000, the second Palestinian intifāḍah (uprising) was sparked chiefly in reaction to Israeli leader Ariel Sharon 's provocative visit to the Noble Sanctuary. Though the Israeli government frequently bars Muslim males of certain age groups from accessing the mosque and sanctuary, al-Aqṣā today continues to be visited by thousands of worshippers. A Muslim Council currently has full administration of the site. See also DOME OF THE ROCK; ISRAEL; JERUSALEM; MOSQUE; and PALESTINE.


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