Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jerusalem Part 4: Al-Aqsa Mosque

I think the Al-Aqsa Mosque takes a back seat to the Dome of the Rock; many visitors flock to the ornate Dome of the Rock that commemorates Mohammad’s night journey.

But what about the Al-Aqsa Mosque?

The Al-Aqsa Mosque is located along the southern edge of the temple mound.

This summer I was fortunate to work with Dan (no last name’s allowed), who is a CSU graduate also. He actually helped inspire me to persue going on the dig; while in my Ancient Israel class he came and spoke to us. Even better, he was my square supervisor at the site, and we recently presented together for the Ancient Israel class our professor is teaching this semester.

The background information aside, Dan had taken a crusades class while at CSU, and he told about an attack the crusaders waged against the Muslims, an attack that did not end at the doors of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but that continued inside and included the slaughter of innocent women and children. These moments in our past are really unfortunate to hear about, but this fact stood out in my mind and is what inspired me to really look into the background of this site.

One fact: did you know it is this Mosque, not the Dome of the Rock, that is the third most holy site in the Islam religion?

Al-Masjid El-Aqsa is an Arabic name meaning furthest Mosque. As told before, ten years after receiving his first revelation, Mohammad spent a night journey that culminated in Jerusalem. It is said the Prophet stopped to pray at the rock now covered by the Dome of the Rock, and was transported up to Heaven to meet God, where he received the commandment to prey five times a day.

Today, Mecca is the direction of prayer, but for 16 months following the Prophet’s journey, Jerusalem was the direction of prayer. And during the Prophet’s life, he instructed Muslims not only to visit the Mosque in Mecca, but also the “furthest mosque” from them, or the one in Jerusalem.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is the second oldest Mosque, and the third most important Mosque in Islam.

I did look up Crusade information, and found the Jews were burned alive in their synagogue at this same time. A gold cross was placed on top of the Dome of the Rock, and it was renamed Templum Domini, while the Al Aqsa Mosque became the Temple Solomonis. The Al Aqsa Mosque was subdivided to serve as a palace for the Knights Templar.

I’m glad I did a bit more research on the site I was fortunate enough to see! Hop everyone enjoyed reading, and happy history all!

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