Dr. Wasfi Kailani
The Saudi writer Osama Yamani has recently written in the Okaz paper a column that has produced anger and fury in the Islamic world. He repeated a claim that “Al-Aqsa Mosque is not located in Jerusalem and that Jerusalem is not important to Muslims, except for political goals.”
He also claims that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is a creation of the Umayyads. I would like, in this article, to respond to Yamani and others who have come out with similar articles questioning the Islamic nation’s principles and its valued holy places.
Does Yamani also believe that the Caliphate Omar Ibn Al Khattab and Salah Eddin Al Ayoubi and Sultan Suleiman the Great and HM Sharif Hussein and the millions of scholars and pilgrims who sacrificed and struggled to reach al-Aqsa were misguided to the wrong mosque?
Below are some proofs that debunk the claims of Yamani and can attest to the correctness of the faith and the consensus of Muslims about the location of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Yamani says “it is not known to many that the city of Jerusalem’s name was not mentioned during the life of the prophet or his companions. It was known in the old times as the city of Elijah the son of Arm son of Sam son of Noah. The proven name of the city of Jerusalem is Ursalem or Yarushalim (the city of peace).”
We would like to note to Yamani that there are plenty of references in the Holy Quran to Jerusalem. The reference is Bait al Maqdes and it is also mentioned in the hadith when it talks about the importance of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Al-Aqsa Mosque is the first qibla for Muslims and the third holiest mosque in Islam. Al-Aqsa Mosque/Haram al-Sharif and by extension, the entire old city of Jerusalem is the third haram and one of the three most holy places in Islam. It is no less important than the two other mosques as some often claim, it is simply one of them. Al Quds (Jerusalem) was the first qibla of Islam according to some versions 16 years including the period before the duty of prayer was and some say 16 or 17 months after the call for the duty of prayer. This is documented in God’s word in the Surat al Baqarah 2:142: “The fools among the people will say, ‘What has turned them from the direction they were facing in their prayers formerly?’ Say: ‘To God belong the East and the West.”
To Al Quds (Jerusalem) the prophet, Muhammad traveled from Mecca in the miracle of al Isra (Night Journey) to Al-Aqsa Mosque. There our prophet Muhammad guided, as Imam, God’s other prophets in shared prayer, and then our prophet was lifted to the seven heavens and God bestowed on him the five daily prayers that have been part of the Islamic faith for all Muslims since then. This story is well documented in Surat al Isa’ 17:1 and in many True Hadiths.
Jerusalem is mentioned numerous times in the Holy Quran among them. According to Qur’anic interpretations, the following references all refer to locations in Jerusalem as well “Al-Aqsa Mosque”, “Village”, “land”, “holy land”, “al Tur”, “al-Masjid”, and “Zaytoun.”
Al Quds, also namely Beit Al-Maqdes, appears in more than twenty hadiths including Sahih Bukhari, Imam Ahmad, Tabarani, and al Albani.
For over 1,400 years, the tradition for Muslim pilgrims has been that after they completed their Hajj to Mecca and after they visited Al Medina al Munawara they would sanctify the Hajj by visiting Al Quds as Sahih Bukhari said when he said that there are three mosques that one prepared to travel to Mecca, Medina and Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem also is important to Muslims because of its relationship, affirmed in the Holy Quran, with prophets and messengers. This relationship is mentioned in the Holy Quran prophets like Adam, Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, Jacob and especially our lord Issa. The belief in all these prophets and their books is a precondition demanded from every Muslim to prove his true Islam.
The Dome of the Rock, which lies in the center of Al-Aqsa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif compound contains the rock which has the footprints of the Prophet Muhammad. This is the rock from which our prophet ascended to the high heavens and to it our prophet was returned to earth, that is why this is the holiest part of the entire Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which is blessed to all Muslims.
Does the writer want more proof of the relationship between Al-Aqsa Mosque and Beit al Maqdes (Jerusalem)? Does he want interpretations of what appears in the Talmud and the Holy Bible? Does he want an explanation to believe that when the Almighty says in the Surat al Saf “Ahmad”, He is in fact referring to our prophet Muhammad?
Yamani attempts to belittle the efforts of the Ummayad caliphs by claiming that they invented the story of Al-Aqsa for political reasons so that people will divert attention from Mecca’s Kaaba.
This is another claim about the doctrine of the Umayyads and their belief of the value of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem as a religious, political, and civilizational center of the Islamic nation that doesn’t lessen from the value of the Haram in Mecca for Muslims.
If they had not appreciated the importance of Al-Aqsa and Beit al Maqdes from a religious perspective, they could have created great palaces and mosques in Baghdad or in their capital of Damascus, but those two cities simply don’t have the religious importance of Jerusalem in the hearts and heads of all Muslims
Yamani turns to the stories repeated recently that Al-Aqsa Mosque is located in Jaraneh between Mecca and Tayef and this mosque is beyond the valley and therefore is known as Al-Aqsa (far away) mosque and that there is another mosque built by a philanthropic person called Al Dna (nearby) mosque. This all is from the article by Yamani.
These explanations, including the words of Ayyash and the proof of the Quranic interpretation by Hashem Al Bharani and Kafi Kelini and others from the Shiite references, are based on claims that were surely created to defame what the Umayyad caliphs made holy. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all denominations in Shiites, including the current Iranian leadership which gives Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa as well as the Palestinian cause a high level of importance in their political deliberations.
Dr. Husam Eddin Afanahof Al-Quds University, one of the most important researchers in this field, notes that Salafite scholars cited the claim of Al-Aqsa being in Jaraneh using claims made by historians in detailing the history of Mecca and other locations. They have clearly been misunderstood, whether on purpose or out of ignorance. Yamani will find that there are seven Taybah villages. Al-Madinah Al-Munawarah is also called Taybah. Shall we dig which one has the true tomb of our prophet Muhammad?
Thus, we can see clearly that the faraway mosque in Jaraneh is called in reference to the nearby mosque and this has nothing to do with the blessed Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. The claims about the location of Al-Aqsa – that it is in fact located in Jaraneh or in Sinai or near Al Medina or in heaven – were made as a way to help remove Al-Aqsa from the attention of the Islamic world and Muslims.
Those who don’t believe in the prophecy of Muhammad will certainly refuse to accept the miracle of the Isra (night journey) of the prophet.
Yamani’s words might be well received in certain quarters and will be considered a major victory from those repeating these claims because it is helpful to them to question Islamic beliefs, especially when it is done in Islamic newspapers about the holiness of Al-Aqsa and its location.
Muslims will continue to consider Al-Aqsa Mosque and its location in Jerusalem as a central part of their belief in the same way that they believe in the importance of the Kaaba in Mecca.