Holy Sanctuaries Part I

Sanctuaries I Sanctuaries II Sanctuaries III
The Ka’ba (Al-Haram Al-Shareef).

The Prophet’s Mosque (Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi).

Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem.

Imam Ali’s shrine in Najaf.

Imam Al-Husain’s shrine in Karbala.

Imam Al-Kadhim’s and Al-Jawaad’s shrine in Kadhimain.

Imam Al-Ridha’s shrine in Mash’had.

Imam Al-Haadi’s and Al-Askari’s shrine in Samur’raa.

Abu Hanifa

Abdul Qaadir Gaylaani

Sources:   Based on information from several sites on the internet in particular Al-Islam.org.  May Allah bless the writers.

Of the many Islamic holy sanctuaries, many stand out not only as outstanding from spiritual, but also historic and design point of view. For the past 1400 years these hallowed sanctuaries evolved as they went through many historical events of great magnitude. There are numerous such sanctuaries, therefore, because of space limitations, the most erudite of these sanctuaries will be presented.

They will appear in the following order, as per their spiritual significance to all devotees of Islam.

  • The Ka’ba (Al-Haram Al-Shareef).
  • The Prophet’s Mosque (Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi).
  • Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem.
  • Imam Ali’s shrine in Najaf.
  • Imam Al-Husain’s shrine in Karbala.
  • Imam Al-Kadhim’s and Al-Jawaad’s shrine in Kadhimain.
  • Imam Al-Ridha’s shrine in Mash’had.
  • Imam Al-Haadi’s and Al-Askari’s shrine in Samur’raa.
  • Abu Hanifa
  • Abdul Qaadir Gaylaani

These are but a very small sample of holy sanctuaries. They represent certain aspects of our Islamic heritage, thus learning about them and paying homage to them will be out of respect, love, and appreciation for what they stand.


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History and Reconstruction of the Ka’ba

إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِي بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِّلْعَالَمِينَ

“The first sanctuary appointed for mankind was that at Bakka [Mecca] a blessed place, a guidance to the peoples” Aali-Imran, 96

Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail built the Ka’ba. The Ka’ba however, was rebuilt a number of times afterwards, but always by maintaining the original stonework and dimensions. The Ka’ba has a great role in Islam, being the focal point of all prayers as well as a destination for worship and devotion. As translated from the Quran:

جَعَلَ اللّهُ الْكَعْبَةَ الْبَيْتَ الْحَرَامَ قِيَامًا لِّلنَّاسِ وَالشَّهْرَ الْحَرَامَ وَالْهَدْيَ وَالْقَلاَئِدَ

ذَلِكَ لِتَعْلَمُواْ أَنَّ اللّهَ يَعْلَمُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الأَرْضِ

وَأَنَّ اللّهَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

“Allah hath appointed the Ka’ba, the Sacred House, a standard for mankind” Al-Maida, 97

The Ka’ba is nearly in the middle of the Holy Mosque, in the shape of a big, high square structure with a height of 15 meters (45 ft). The door is at its eastern wall, [two meters (6 ft) above the ground] is made of solid gold. The four corners of Ka’ba are the black corner, the Shami corner (the northeastern corner), the Yamani corner (the southwestern corner) and the Iraqi corner. At the top of the northern wall, there is the Mizab, A water drain element which is made of pure gold, dominating the stone of Ismail.

The Black Stone, located at the southeastern part of Ka’ba, is a sign of divine grace. It is a heavy oval stone, of black reddish color. Its diameter is 30 cm, surrounded with a silver frame. The person doing Tawaf is required to kiss the black stone if possible.

The Station of Ibrahim (Maqam Ibrahim) مـقام إبـراهــــيم is the stone upon which Ibrahim (pbuh) was standing while he was building the Ka’ba.

It is circled with silver. the trace of footprints is clear in the stone. The late King Faisal Bin Abd AI-Aziz ordered to make a crystal glass cover over it supported by an iron framework and with a marble foundation.

Station of Prophet Ibrahim

The station of Ismail حجـر إسـمـــاعـيـل is the space to the north of Ka’ba under the Mizab. It is paved in marble as well as being enclosed by a marble parapet. The station was originally a portion of the Ka’ba when Ibrahim originally built it, but when Quraish قـريـش rebuilt the Ka’ba they left the station out, accordingly it is regarded as a part of the Holy Ka’ba.

ZamZam زمــــزم

Prophet Ibrahim was ordered by Allah to leave his wife Hajar and baby Ismail in a valley (without any vegetation or water) at the site of his sacred house (before building the Ka’ba) promising to provide for them. As Ismail cried in thirst Hajar ran from a small rise to another (Safa and Marwa) searching for water desperately. Allah then broke forth a spring at the feet of the crying baby now known as the well of ZamZam. ZamZam well is located under the Tawaf area.

Safa, Marwa and Sa’y ألصـــفا والمـــروه

The origin of this Muslim ritual called “Sa’iy” ســـعي was based on Ismail’s mothers searching for water for her son. Safa is the rocky elevation from which “Sa’iy” starts, and Marwa is the rocky elevation at which “Sa’y” ends

Previously, Safa and Marwa were out of the Holy Mosque, when the Saudi expansion began, the path of Sa’iy was entered within the Holy Mosque. It is 395 meters long (1185 ft) and 20 meters wide (60ft) with a number of doors opening on to it. The original shape of the Safa and Marwa was maintained as it was.

Yamani Corner (Al Rukn AI Yamani) ألـركـن ألـيـمـــاني

Yamani corner is the corner parallel to the eastern corner, in which the black stone is located. It is called by this name because it faces southward towards Yemen.


The Ka’ba’s impact on history and human beings is unmatched. The Ka’ba is the building towards which Muslims face in prayer five times a day, everyday. This has been the case since the time of Prophet Muhammad over 1400 years ago.

Size and reconstruction of the Ka’ba:

The current height of the Ka’ba is 39 feet, 6 inches and total size comes to 627 square feet. The inside room of the Ka’ba is 42.64×29.52 feet. The Ka’ba’s walls are 3.28 feet thick. The floor inside is 7.22 feet higher than the place where people perform Tawaf.

The ceiling and roof are two levels made out of wood. They were constructed with teak which is capped with stainless steel. The walls, are all made of stone. The stones inside are unpolished, while the ones outside are polished.

Scholars and historians say that the Ka’ba has been reconstructed between five to twelve times. As Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail built the Ka’ba, the measurements of the Ka’ba’s Ibrahimic foundation are as follows:

  • the eastern wall was 48 feet and 6 inches (containing the Black Stone)
  • the Hateem side wall was 33 feet
  • the side between the black stone and the Yemeni corner was 30 feet
  • the Western side was 46.5 feet

Following this, it is claimed that several reconstructions took place before Prophet Muhammad’s time.

Reconstruction of Ka’ba by Quraish:

Muhammad (pbuh) participated in one of the Ka’ba’s reconstructions before he became a Prophet. After a flash flood, the Ka’ba was damaged and its walls cracked. It needed rebuilding. This responsibility was divided among the Quraish four tribes. Prophet Muhammad helped with this reconstruction. Once the walls were partially erected, it was time to place the Black Stone (al-Hajar al-Aswad) on the eastern wall of the Ka’ba.

Arguments erupted about who would have the honor of putting the Black Stone in its place. A fight was about to break out over the issue, when Abu Umayya, Mecca’s oldest man, proposed that the first man to enter the gate of the mosque the following morning would decide the matter. That man proved to be the Prophet. On seeing Muhammad the Meccans became ecstatic. “This is the trustworthy one (Al-Amin),” they shouted jubilantly. “This is Muhammad” they repeated. Muhammad was surprised, and as he came towards them they asked him to decide on the dilemma facing them. He agreed.

Prophet Muhammad proposed a solution that all agreed to: Putting the Black Stone on a cloak, the elders of each of the clans held on to one edge of the cloak and carried the stone to its place. The Prophet then picked up the stone and placed it on the wall of the Ka’ba, thus the problem was solved amicably and equitably.

Since the tribe of Quraish did not have sufficient funds, their reconstruction did not include the entire foundation of the Ka’ba as built by Prophet Ibrahim. This is the first time the Ka’ba acquired the cubical shape it has now unlike the rectangle shape which it had earlier. The portion of the Ka’ba left out is called Hateem now.

Construction by Abdullah ibn Zubair:

Yazid’s Syrian army destroyed the Ka’ba in Muharram 64H, one year after he did the atrocities at Karbala to the family of the Prophet However, by the next Haj Abdullah ibn Zubair, (who was contesting Benu Umayya’s Khilaafah) reconstructed the Ka’ba from the ground up.

Ibn Zubair wanted to make the Ka’ba as Prophet Muhammad wanted it, on the foundation of the Prophet Ibrahim. Ibn Zubair said, “I heard A’isha (r) say, ‘The Prophet said: “If your people had not quite recently abandoned the Ignorance (Unbelief), and if I had sufficient provisions to rebuild the Ka’ba, I would have added several feet to it from the Hijr. Also, I would make two doors; one for people to enter therein and the other to exit.” (Bukhari). Ibn Zubair said, “Today, I can afford to do it and I do not fear the people.”

Ibn Zubair built the Ka’ba on Prophet Ibrahim’s foundation. He put the roof on three pillars with the wood of Aoud (a perfumed wood in Arabia with aroma which is traditionally burned to get the good scent out of it). In his construction he put two doors, one facing the east the other facing the west, as the Prophet wanted but did not do in his lifetime.

He rebuilt the Ka’ba on the Prophet Ibrahim’s foundation, which meant that the Hateem area was included. The Hateem is the area adjacent to the Ka’ba enclosed by a low semi-circular wall

During the reconstruction, ibn Zubair put up four pillars around the Ka’ba and hung cloth over them until the building was completed. People began to do Tawaf around these pillars at all times. Therefore Tawaf of the Ka’ba was never abandoned, even during reconstruction.

During Abdul Malik’s time:

In 74H (693AD) Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf al-Thaqafi, the known tyrant of that time, with the approval of Benu Umayya Abdul Malik demolished what Ibn Zubair had added to the Ka’ba from the older foundation of Prophet Ibrahim, restore its old structure as the Quraish had it. Some of the changes he made were the following:

  • rebuilt the Ka’ba in the smaller shape which is found today
  • took out the Hateem
  • walled up the western door (whose signs are still visible today)
  • pulled down the wall in the Hateem area
  • removed the wooden ladder Ibn al-Zubair had put inside the Ka’ba.
  • reduced the door’s height by 7 feet

The structure remained in the same construction for 966 years, with minor repairs here and there.

Reconstruction during Sultan Murad’s time: 

In the year 1039H (1629AD), because of heavy rain, flood and hail, two of the Ka’ba’s walls collapsed. The flood took place on 19th Sha’ban 1039H. It was so severe that the water level in the Ka’ba was about 10 feet from the ground level. As a result the eastern and western walls fell down. When the flood receded the cleanup started. A curtain was put up, and the reconstruction started. The construction which was done under the auspices of Sultan Murad was exactly as the one done at the time of Abdul Malik which is the way the Quraish had built it before Prophethood.

Reconstruction of the Ka’ba in 1996:

A major reconstruction of the Ka’ba took place between May 1996 and October` 1996. This was after a period of about 400 years (since Sultan Murad’s time). During this reconstruction the only original thing left from the Ka’ba are the stones. All other material has been replaced including the ceiling and the roof and its wood.

What is inside the Ka’ba?

The president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) had the opportunity to go inside the Ka’ba in 1998. He describes the following features:

  • there are two pillars inside (others report 3 pillars)
  • there is a table on the side to put items like perfume
  • there are two lantern-type lamps hanging from the ceiling
  • the space can accommodate about 50 people
  • there are no electric lights inside
  • the walls and floors are of marble
  • there are no windows inside
  • there is only one door
  • the upper inside walls of the Ka’ba were covered with some kind of curtain.



Muslims are drawn to Medina, not as a religious duty as in the case of Mecca, but out of love and reverence for God’s last Prophet. For it is in this city the Prophet Muhammad established the first Islamic community, spent the last years of his life, and where he and many of his companions are buried. Known by more than 90 names that generally denote love and devotion, the city is most commonly called Medina (The City ألمديـنــه), short for Medina Al‑Nabiy (City of the Prophet) or Al‑Medina Al‑Munawwarah ألمـديـنــه ألمـنـــوره (the Luminous City), a reference to its association with the Prophet.

Having learned of a plot to murder him, the Prophet escaped Mecca for Yathrib, arriving in the city in September 622AD. This event is known as the Hijrah (emigration). The Prophet’s arrival in Yathrib was a turning point in world history. It marked the establishment of the first Islamic state and the rapid growth of the new faith. From then on, the city became Medina Al‑Nabiy, and the date of the Prophet’s arrival there marked the first year of the Islamic calendar. With the emigration, Medina became a center of activity.

Upon his approach to the oasis in 622AD, the Prophet established the first mosque in Islam at Qubaaقبـآء , a village on the outskirts of Medina, called Masjid Al‑Taq’wa (Mosque of Piety) مســـجد التـقـوى , the mosque still stands, albeit modernized and enlarged.

Once settled in Medina, the Prophet built another mosque adjacent to his house, Called Al-Masjid Al‑Nabawi (the Prophet’s Mosque). The first structure on today’s site was a simple one supported by the trunks of standing palm trees, and the Prophet himself participated in building it. It was in this mosque that the Prophet and his companions prayed, and which soon became the social and economic center of the city and the Islamic state. With the growth of Islam, more mosques were established throughout the city and its environs.

The original mosque, built with mud bricks and tree trunks in 622AD, covered an area of 8,661 square feet. The caliphs Omar and Uthman expanded the mosque in 638AD and 650AD, respectively. Further expansions were undertaken in the early and late parts of the eighth century AD. By this time, the rooms in which the Prophet and his companions Abu Bakr and Omar were buried were incorporated into the mosque and a dome had been built over the rooms.

Expansion During Abdul Malik’s Reign: 

Expansion of the Mosque was needed once more. So far the house of Ali had been preserved but the expansion necessitated that Imam Ali’s house and the houses of Umm Al‑Mu’mineen [wives of the Prophet (pbuh)] to be demolished (by the then Khalifa Al‑Waleed son of Abdul Malik ألولـــيد بن عـبـد الملـك , the ruler of the time) to make room for the expansion. Not a single person from Medina or near areas wished to or had the nerve or the willingness to ever demolish these houses, for so immense was their reverence to Ali and Umm Al‑Mu’mineen [wives of the Prophet (pbuh)]. They all refused adamantly, therefore workers from outside had to be deployed by the Khalifa. Forty men of Egyptian Qub’t and forty Byzantine craftsmen, all of them Christians, were brought for the task of demolishing the houses and expanding the mosque. That took place in the year 78H (See Al-Tibari, Vol. 8, Page 65.).

For many centuries no major additional improvements were made to the mosque, although various Muslim rulers funded renovation work and endowments for the mosque’s operations and upkeep. The last expansion before the modern era was completed in 1849 by Sultan Abdul Majid the Second, bringing the mosque’s total area to a little more than 120,000 square feet. In 1950, Saudi Arabia undertook the largest expansion project the mosque had ever witnessed. It more than doubled the size of the complex to accommodate the ever‑increasing number of Muslims visiting the site, which grew steadily year by year, reaching more than 100,000 in 1955.

Further Expansion:

The establishment of a modern infrastructure and improved accommodations for visitors saw the number of pilgrims to Mecca and Medina increase rapidly beginning in the 1960s. By 1970, the number of pilgrims had reached one million. In 1973, King Faisal Ibn Abdul Aziz ordered that the west side of the mosque be shaded from the sun. Although this project increased the area in which visitors to the mosque could pray, it was only a temporary solution.

A more permanent arrangement for the mosque was needed. A panel of experts headed by King Fahd Ibn Abdul Aziz launched a three‑year study to formulate plans for a major expansion. Once the plans were approved and preparations completed, construction began in earnest in 1985. The project would take seven years of continuous work. Once completed in 1992, it expanded the mosque’s area approximately 15‑fold to 1.78 million square feet, allowing more than 700,000 visitors to pray simultaneously. A similar expansion project for the Holy Mosque in Mecca (undertaken concurrently with that of the Prophet’s Mosque) more than doubled its size, allowing more than one million worshippers to pray simultaneously. The implementation of these two projects cost more than 18.66 billion U.S. dollars.

The expansion project of the Prophet’s Mosque involved new buildings on three sides of the existing structure, and a vast courtyard surrounding it, paved with marble and inlaid with geometric Islamic designs. The new buildings provide extensive roofed prayer areas. Within the new structure there are also 27 courtyards open to the sky. In inclement weather concrete domes slide into place to cover these courtyards. Two larger, open courtyards each has six retractable umbrellas (mechanized electronically) can be opened or closed (depending on the weather).

The retractable domes and umbrellas, as well as the other electrical and mechanical systems in the complex, are monitored and controlled from the computerized automation center in the basement. This center also controls the air conditioning system, one of the largest and most innovative of its kind. Located at a plant 4.3 miles away, the system pumps 17,000 gallons of chilled water per minute through pipes into the basement of the mosque, where it is used to cool air circulating throughout the complex.

The expansion project added six new minarets to the Mosque’s four existing ones. Each of the new minarets is 360 feet high, topped by a 23‑foot brass crescent weighing close to five tons.

Several kinds of marble and granite were used to build the vast, open courtyard plaza that surrounds the new structure. Lights mounted on marble and brass pillars illuminate the entire area at night.

With the completion of the expansion project, the Prophet’s Mosque can easily accommodate the more than two million worshippers that congregate around the Haj season and visit throughout the year.

The City of Medina

As the mosque has expanded in recent decades, so has the city that surrounds it. The City of the Prophet is no longer the small town enclosed by walls that it was at the turn of the century. Today, Medina is a vibrant city of half a million people where the old and the new blend in harmony, complementing each other. The religious and historic sites in and around the city have been preserved and renovated. However the Masjids and Domes of the burial places of:

  • the Imams,
  • wives of the Prophet (pbuh), and
  • famous Sahaaba

were demolished to the ground. They are no more than rubles these days. This took place in 1925 by the Saudi government despite of world-wide protest at the time.

Al-Baqi’i where many Imams and their mother Fatima were buried, as well as many Sahaaba.  These structures were demolished by the authorities of the government around 1925.

Present day picture of the same area:

Al-Baqi’i after its demolition in 1925: Only rubble left

As Medina slowly expanded in every direction, the provision of adequate water supplies was a primary concern. The issue was addressed by not only tapping the aquifers that have traditionally supplied the city with water, but also by laying massive pipes to bring in water from desalination plants along the Red Sea. These projects have met all the city’s water requirements. Furthermore, water recycling has allowed the city to establish more than 60 major parks and playgrounds where residents and their families can relax and take refuge from the heat.

Over the past half century Medina has been transformed into a modern urban center. Once only accessible by caravan trails, the city is now an integral part of the network of modern highways and roads that connect all major urban centers in Arabia. An airport established seven miles northeast of the city connects the City of the Prophet to other cities in the Kingdom as well as the world.

Medina Environs: 

In 1985, King Fahd inaugurated a unique complex near Medina. The King Fahd Holy Quran Printing Complex was built on over 37 acres of land to produce high‑quality copies of the Holy Book in large numbers. Employing some 1,500 scholars, artists and technicians, the facility now produces more than 14 million copies of the Holy Quran in Arabic and six other major languages, as well as 200,000 sets of audio cassettes of the Holy Book each year. These are distributed free to visitors to the two holy mosques and are donated to mosques, religious institutions, schools and universities in the Kingdom. Millions of copies of the Holy Quran are also donated each year to mosques and Islamic centers throughout the world.

Medina continues to cultivate extensive gardens and farms that produce a variety of dates and vegetables. Like the city itself, Medina’s traditional date farms and vegetable gardens have also prospered. Of the 500 varieties of dates produced in the Kingdom, some 120 are cultivated here. Indeed, some of the most popular varieties, including the Ajwa, are grown primarily in the date groves surrounding the city. While the lives of the people of Medina continue to revolve around the Prophet’s Mosque, and in the service of its visitors, the city’s inhabitants now support a dynamic business and commercial sector. Thousands of new stores and shops have been established in recent decades to cater to the needs of visitors and inhabitants alike. In the latter part of the twentieth century, Medina has evolved into a modern urban center while retaining its strong religious and cultural values.



Glimpses of History

The beauty of the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem attracts thousands of visitors of all faiths every year. Many believe it was the site of the Temple of Prophet Suleiman (Solomon), destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, or the site of the Second Temple, completely destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.

For Muslims the area has a special significance, as the site of the Prophet Muhammad’s Night Voyage ألإســـرآء والمــــعـراج , and as the first Qibla (direction of prayer) for Islam.

The Night Journey was in the ninth year of the Prophet’s mission, about 620AD: While in Mecca, asleep, angel Gabriel woke the Prophet up and led him to an awaiting al‑Buraq, a white winged [horse] “whose each stride stretched as far as the eye could see.” Muhammad mounted al‑Buraq and sped with Gabriel northwards to Jerusalem, for the Furthest Mosque.

When they reached Jerusalem the Prophet dismounted and prayed near the Rock. Abraham, Moses, Jesus and other Prophets, peace be upon them all, joined him to pray behind him. This is called Al-Israa’ ألإســـراء .

The Prophet (pbuh) then embarked on the ascension to heaven (Al‑Mi’raaj ألمـعـــراج) in which Allah (swt) commanded him to pray five times a day as well as the revelation encapsulating the beliefs of Islam. The Quran says in Surah 2 (al-Baqarah) Ayah 285:

آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللّهِ وَمَلآئِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لاَ نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ وَقَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ

“The Messenger believes in what was sent down to him

from his Lord. And the believers; each one believes

in Allah and His angels and in His books

and His messengers. We make no division between

any of His messengers, who say: We hear

and we obey. Oh Lord, grant us

Thy forgiveness; unto Thee we return.”

The Dome of the Rock

Jerusalem became known as Al‑Quds, The Holy. Many of the Prophet’s Companions traveled to worship at the blessed spot. According to the authenticated tradition of the Prophet, travel for the sake of worship is undertaken to only three mosques; the Sacred Mosque in Mecca, the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, and the Furthest Mosque in Jerusalem.

In 685AD the Umayya Khalifa, Abdul Malik, عبـد المـلك بن مـروان commenced work on the Dome of the Rock. Essentially unchanged for more than thirteen centuries, the Dome of the Rock remains one of the world’s most beautiful and enduring architectural treasures.

The Dome of the Rock stretches 20 meters (60 ft) across the Noble Rock, rising to an apex more than 35 meters (105 ft) above it. The structure is octagonal and the dome is borne by a double system of pillars and columns. The walls, ceiling, arches, and vaults are decorated with floral images. The dome, on the inside, is covered with colored and gilded stucco. Abdul Malik marked the end of the construction with a dedicatory inscription (still visible) which reads: “This dome was built by the servant of God Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan, in the year seventy‑two” (72H is 691-692AD). The Quranic verse ‘Yassin’ is inscribed across the top in the dazzling tile work commissioned in the 16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent. Inscribed from Surah 36 (Yassin): Ayahs 1‑6 is:

يس وَالْقُرْآنِ الْحَكِيمِ إِنَّكَ لَمِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ

عَلَى صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ تَنزِيلَ الْعَزِيزِ الرَّحِيمِ

لِتُنذِرَ قَوْمًا مَّا أُنذِرَ آبَاؤُهُمْ فَهُمْ غَافِلُونَ

“Yassin. By the wise Quran. Surely you are among those sent on a straight path. A revelation of the Mighty, the Compassionate. That you might warn a people whose fathers were never warned, so they are heedless.”

Al‑Aqsa Mosque

After completion of the Dome of the Rock, construction began at the site of the original timber mosque built in the time of Omar. A vast congregational mosque rose up, accommodating more than five thousand worshippers. Originally commissioned by Abdul Malik ibn Marwan, but was completed by his son Al‑Walid in 705AD. The mosque took 7 years of work by the most skilled artisans and artist of the world. The cost of building totaled all the revenue of 7 years from the country of Egypt. It is a masterpiece.

The building became known as Masjid al‑Aqsa, Al‑Aqsa Mosque, although in reality the whole area of the Noble Sanctuary is considered Al‑Aqsa Mosque (the entire precincts inviolable according to Islamic law).

Every Friday prayer, the Al‑Aqsa Mosque building overflows with thousands of worshippers who must make their prayers outside in the courtyards which is a vast open expanse of the Noble Sanctuary.

Al‑Aqsa Mosque’s Surrounding Structures 

While the Dome of the Rock was constructed as a mosque to commemorate the Prophet’s Night Journey, the building known as Al‑Aqsa Mosque became a center of worship and learning, attracting great teachers from all over the world. It has been modified several times to protect it from earthquakes, which sometimes occur in the area, and to adapt to the changing needs of the local population. The form of the present structure has remained essentially the same since it was reconstructed by the Khalifa Al‑Dhahir in 1033AD. It is said that he did not alter it from the previous architecture except to narrow it on each side.

Surrounding Structures:

The importance of Al‑Aqsa Mosque in Islam is reflected in the wealth of smaller structures which surround the Al‑Aqsa Mosque building and the Dome of the Rock. Constructed both to commemorate and to extend the functionality of the site as a religious and educational center, they are too numerous to mention other than to highlight some of the most significant:

  • Dome of the Chain: Directly east of the Dome of the Rock, the Dome of the Chain was built by ‘Abdul Malik ibn Marwan and marks the exact center of the Sanctuary.
  • Dome of the Prophet:
    Restored in 1538AD by Muhammad Bey, the governor of Jerusalem.
  • Dome of the Mi’raaj: Commemorating the Prophet’s ascension. Restored in 1200AD.
  • Dome of al‑Nahawiah: Built in 1207AD by Amir Hasan ad‑Din, as a school of literature.
  • Dome of the Hebronite: A 19th century building dedicated to Sheikh Muhammad al‑Khalili.
  • Minbar of Burhan al‑Din: Originally built in the 7th century (H), this open‑air pulpit is named after the 14th century Qadhi of Jerusalem.
  • The Golden Gate: Dating back to Umayya times, the Golden Gate’s two vaulted halls lead to the Door of Mercy, Bab al‑Rahmah, and the Door of Repentance, Bab at‑Taubah. Imam al‑Ghazali is thought to have written his “Revival of the Religious Sciences” while living above these gates and teaching in Al‑Aqsa.
  • Musalla Marwan: Just below the paved courtyard in the southeast corner of the Sanctuary lies the vast vaulted subterranean area referred to mistakenly as Solomon’s Stables. The actual construction is Umayya, dating back to the 8th century, its original purpose was to level the courtyard above.
  • Ancient Aqsa: Directly beneath the eastern half of the Al‑Aqsa Mosque building is another subterranean area, leading from the courtyard in front of the Mosque to the Double Gate in the southern wall of the Sanctuary. Sealed for hundreds of years, this gate led to the Umayya palaces which once lay to the south.
  • The Islamic Museum: An extensive Quran collection, and Islamic ceramics, coins and glassware stand together with guns, swords and daggers in the oldest museum in Jerusalem. A unique group of architectural elements help document the history of Al‑Aqsa Mosque.

The Crusaders and Jerusalem (Ayyubi Period 1099‑1250AD)

On 15 July 1099 Jerusalem fell to the Crusaders after a five week siege and the crusaders went on an orgy of killing, a rampage, a massacre of all the Muslims and Jews. Population of 70,000 and up put to the sword, first in their homes, then the Muslims who took protection within the Aqsa and Jews inside their synagogues. Such was the orgy that Crusaders wrote exultantly that the blood ran up to their knees. It is said that the whole population was put to the sword, be it infants, old, women or the infirm. None was spared.

On top of the Dome the crusaders put a golden cross, and the sanctuary was made into a church but defiled with many things, among which was stable for horses and a den of pigs.

Thus Jerusalem’s populations underwent a significant change. Western culture now took center‑stage, with French the day‑to‑day language and Latin the language of prayer.

In 1187 Jerusalem fell to Salahuddin صــلاح الديـن putting an end to the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. He did not avenge or massacre the Christians, instead, he let them leave unharmed, with all their belongings. The golden cross that rose above the Dome of the Rock was toppled to the tremor of the Christians, to be replaced by the Muslim crescent. The city was gradually restored by Salahuddin, who built numerous public structures.

Following Salahuddin’s victory Jews returned to Jerusalem, and were joined by immigrants from the Maghrib, France and Yemen.