Masjid al-Aqsa, as stated in the Qur’an, has got a very special meaning among Islam societies. It is the place where Allah made the prophet Muhammad walk at night in order to show some of His ayat/signs and conveyed the first revelation to the prophet near the last lote tree (a kind of Arabian cherry blossom). However, as time goes by, some legends about the prophet Muhammad’s receival of the first revelation were fabricated and verses of the Qur’an were taken away from their real expressions, so this meaning gained a new attribute with the effects of fictitious stories. Consequently, people’s opinions inclined towards these superstitions. The people making comments based on these groundless rumours claimed that Masjid al-Aqsa towards which the prophet Muhammad was made to walk by Allah is the temple which is located in Jerusalem today. They also asserted that he was bestowed upon the miracle of ascension to the heaven there. They caused these mistakes which they put forward through insistence to be written in the books in this manner. Under the effect of this misinformation and lots of groundless rumors, a distorted comprehension and superstition rose among the Muslims 90-100 years after the prophet Muhammad. It was believed that the prophet Muhammad went from Masjid al-Haram to Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem on foot at the night of the first revelation and there he rose to the sky and talked to Allah and Gabriel. However, people of Mecca living in those times probably knew the place of the first revelation, Cennet’ul –Mevâ (the Garden of Abode) there, lote trees and the lote tree of the uttermost boundary. For this reason, they didn’t ask any questions as to where this place is and they didn’t interpret this phenomenon as the prophet’s ascending to the heaven and talking to Allah and Gabriel.
Very significant topics regarding the night of the first revelation such as the revelation not being delivered to the prophet Muhammad by Gebrail, the prophet Muhammad not rising to the heaven and Cennet’ul-Mevâ (the Garden of Abode) not being a place in Jannah [Heaven/Paradise] in Akhirat [Afterlife], were analysed in our study called Tebyinu’l Qur’an and our other writings. Here, we only focus on where Masjid Al-Aqsa is.
The expression of Masjid Al-Aqsa which only takes place in the first ayah(verse) of Surah Al-Isra means “the farthest masjid”. For a masjid to be referred as this, there should be more than one masjid in the surrounding area; and one of these masjids should be farther to the centre than the others. Otherwise, this expression becomes faulty in regard to semantics.
On the other hand, by means of the phrase “Masjid Al-Aqsa, a side of which We blessed” in the ayah in which the expression of Masjid Al-Aqsa takes place, it is understood that Masjid Al-Aqsa is geograhically almost outside “the blessed place”, in other words, at an edge of this place. In this case, it is necessary to find first where “the blessed place” is and then to determine where the edge of this place is.
In the Qur’an, it is explained where “ the blessed place” is.
Surah Ali-Imran 96:
96Indeed, the first house that was built as a blessing for the mankind and a guide for all universes is the one that is in Mecca.
That is to say, the place is Kaaba, in other words Masjid Al-Haram. Since Masjid Al-Haram means ‘‘the masjid of the forbidden/haram region’’, the borders of the forbidden/blessed region at whose centre Kaaba is situated should be determined so that the edges of this region can be ascertained.
In all the documents the topics of which are Mecca and Kaaba, the borders of the forbidden, blessed region are determined as follows:
-Four miles from Kaaba to Madina road
-Six miles from Kaaba to Yemen road
-Eleven miles from Kaaba to Taif road
-Seven miles from Kaaba to Iraq road
-Nine miles from Kaaba to Ci’rane valley
-Ten miles from Kaaba to Jeddah road
In this case, Masjid Al-Aqsa mentioned in the verse of the Qur’an which is our subject is supposed to be situated almost outside and at the edge of the region whose borders were determined above.
When we take account of the facts that Masjid Al-Aqsa is almost at the edge of the forbidden/blessed region (which is stated in the Qur’an) and that it has to be the farthest masjid to the centre among the masjids situated in that area in regard to semantics, the existence of a masjid with both characteristics can be encountered in the works which mention the history and geography of that period’s Mecca.
According to the information which Vakıdî, one of the first Islam historians, gathered in his book called “Kitab al Maghazî” and the one which el-Ezrakî compiled in his book called “Ehbar al-Mecca”, there are masjids in other places in Mecca aside from Masjid Al-Haram. Even some houses are used as masjids by the people of Mecca. One of these masjids is called Masjid Al-Aqsa(the farthest masjid), since it is located above Valley Ci’rane which is about nine miles’ distance to Mecca. Someone from Quraysh had this masjid built. Once, the prophet Muhammad came to Masjid Al-Haram by putting on his pilgrimage garb here and traveled the Kaaba. After the conquest of Mecca, the Muslims didn’t renew these small masjids. (We published the copy of the third volume’s pages 958 and 959 of the work which is protected at Oxford University in our study called Tebyinu’l Qur’an in the volume 4 on the pages 292 and 293). However, this information which appears only in the old copies of the books whose names we mentioned were removed from the subsequent copies somehow. According to us, this distortion probably resulted from the fact that the information in these works contradicted with the claim that Masjid Al-Aqsa mentioned in the Qur’an is the temple in Jerusalem.
According to us, the fact that the information given in these works was rejected on account of some beliefs such as “Why on earth are there masjids in Mecca and in its surroundings where worshipping idols is prevalent before Islam and before the prophet Muhammad was given the first revelation by Allah?” includes a historical mistake. Because, although Mecca’s people of those days who regarded themselves as members of the prophet Abraham’s religion in the frame of their ancestors’ beliefs got distorted, they made the effort to accomplish their religious duties such as Salah [supporting financially and spiritually; enlightening the community], sajdah [submission], ruku, hajj [pilgrimage] as different from their real meanings in the ways that Allah condemned in the Qur’an. Therefore, it shouldn’t be assumed that Salah [supporting financially and spiritually; enlightening the community] , sajdah[submission] and masjid which means a place where people submit appeared concurrently with the prophet Muhammad’s becoming a messenger. On the other hand, when we mention a masjid, we shouldn’t consider today’s masjids. For example, when Masjid Al-Haram and Masjid Al-Nabawi are mentioned, their current structures shouldn’t be thought. Those masjids were converted into today’s ostentatious styles in Umayyad Dynasty, Abbasi Dynasty, Seljuk, Ottoman, Saudi Arabian periods. Masjids in which people gathered to submitted and established Salah [supporting financially and spiritually; enlightening the community] were just simple constructions with sundried bricks or wooden arbors according to that epoch. What is important is not the shape of that construction but the aim of its usage.
To sum up, Masjid Al-Aqsa which is depicted in the Qur’an is not the masjid in Jerusalem but is an old masjid which is in Mecca, at the edge of the forbidden/blessed region, on the way of Taif, on the slope of a valley called Ci’rane. Now that where Masjid Al-Aqsa in the Qur’an is situated is understood, it is also essential to research what the construction that is located in Jerusalem today and that is called Masjid Al-Aqsa is.
The Masjid in Jerusalem: Bayt Al-Maqdis
The masjid in Jerusalem which is mistakenly known as Masjid Al-Aqsa by the majority was built just near the ruins of the masjid known as “Jerusalem Temple” built by the prophets David and Solomon, after it had been destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Since it was built it has been named as the Ilya Masjid by the Jews and Masjid Al-Muqaddas (the holy house) or Bayt Al-Maqdis by the Arabs for ages:
JerusalemTemple, …The first temple, was built during the sovereignty of the prophet Solomon who is the son of the prophet Dawud David and was completed in 957 BC…The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar the second had the construction destroyed completely in 586 BC. The conqueror of Babylon, Kyros the second(great), allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple in 538 BC. The works were completed in 515 BC. The detailed plan of the second temple which was built as an unostentaious duplicate of the original construction could not reach today’s time. …In 66 AD, the revolt against Rome focused on the temple in a short time and in 70 AD… it resulted in the Roman’s destroying the temple. What has remained from the second temple is just the part of the western wall and the part which is called” Wailing Wall” today. (Ana Britannica, v:19, p:420 – Turkish Edition of Encylopedia Britannica)
As seen, the temple built by the prophets David and Solomon was demolished in 70 and only a single wall of it has remained today. But today, there are two constructions built on some parts of the temple’s ruins in the 6th and the 7th centuries in addition to this wall. One of them is a basilica which was built by a Byzantine Emperor called Iustinianos who reigned between 527 and 565. This construction was converted into a mosque after the caliph Umar had conquered Jerusalem in 638 (Ana Britannica, v:22, p:304,305– Turkish Edition of Encylopedia Britannica). The other construction is Qubbat al-Sakhra which was built by Umayyad Dynasty Caliph Abdul Malik Bin Marwan in 691 nearly in the north of the construction converted into a mosque by Umar (Ana Britannica, v:19,p:411– Turkish Edition of Encylopedia Britannica).
According to some sources, Abdul Malik Bin Marwan named the construction that was converted into a mosque by Umar “Masjid Al-Aqsa” as a strategy in the political struggle with Abd-Allah Ibn al-Zubayr who was proclaimed as a caliph against him so that it would be a corresponding counterpart with Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca.
As seen, it is not possible that the masjid in Jerusalem, which was named as Masjid Al-Aqsa by Abdul Malik Bin Marwan at least 50 years after the revelation of Surah Isra’s first verse, is Masjid Al-Aqsa which is mentioned in the Qur’an. Besides, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Jerusalem and its surroundings are expressed as Edna-l- Arz (close place) in the Qur’an in the third verse of Surah Ar-Rum and those places aren’t called Aqsa (faraway). Furthermore, it is essential to clarify that there is no connection and relationship between the words muqaddas/maqdis/aqsa in regard to semantics or structure as soon as possible in order to prevent a possible misunderstanding.
Nevertheless, when the name given by Abdul Malik Bin Marwan became famous, getting Masjid Al-Aqsa which is mentioned in the Qur’an written as this masjid in the books was the sole way for the ones who fabricated these stories told above and this wasn’t difficult for them. As a result, unfortunately, all the Muslims have accepted this in this way since then and telling, explaining and even thinking its opposite became impossible.
Interestingly enough, Masjid Al-Aqsa takes place in only 3 rumors and there is no expression about where this masjid is even in all these 3 rumors, but, in the rumors in which the temple situated in Jerusalem is implied, this temple is always mentioned as “Bayt Al-Maqdis”.
Before going on with these narrations, we find it beneficial to remind these important points below and we believe that these points should be known thoroughly and correctly by each Muslim.
In hadith terminology, “sahih” doesn’t mean absolutely correct and sound but it means “compatible with the certain rules and criteria determined by the authorities of science of hadith.” According to the rules and criteria of the science of hadith, the hadiths that the people who have justice and zabt (the characteristics of being attentive and meticulous while narrating the hadiths without degenerating and making mistake) bring by transferring from one another; that are reported by means of a chain of narrators uninterruptedly; that are away from being illet (It is a kind of hidden shortcoming which can’t be realized easily by everybody; it gives harm to the structure of the hadith and so leads to weakness) and şazz (narrating a hadith as opposed to common narrations, against the rules of hadiths; that is, the attribute of being unreliable) are called “sahih”. Although the hadiths which are compatible with these rules can be said to be sahih, it can’t be said that they are definitely true and they belong to the prophet Muhammad. Also, some muhaddiths (hadith scholar) accept the hadiths as sahih, while the others don’t regard them as sahih.
Hadith scholars have never criticised the text of the hadiths they narrated. That is to say that, they have never taken into consideration if the hadiths are in accordance with mind, science, the Qur’an, disposition and nature, mutawatir sunnah (informations about the prophet Muhammad reported by a large number of people and true narrations), consensus of Muslim community. They weren’t concerned with the fact that only one person narrated the events which should be known and heard by everybody. They took into consideration only the criteria in the definition of sahih and paid attention to if the narrations are compatible with transferring rules.
Unfortunately, some members of religious denominations distorted the 143th verse of Surah Al-Baqara, the 110th verse of Surah Ali-Imran, the 64th verse of Surah Al-Anfal,the 100th verse of Surah Al-Tawbah, the 18th verse of Surah Al-Fath, the 8th verse of Surah Al-Hashr in accord with their political views and they decided that the people with the title of sahabah (close friends of the prophet Muhammad) are certain to be trustworthy by fabricating various hadiths. Namely, they accepted that all these people are without flaw, defect, lie, shortcoming and hidden intent and clothed all of them with the armor of immunity regardless of the fact that some of them are hypocrites. In that case, nobody could show the courage of questioning the rumor that was put forward. Consequently, nobody interfered with lie and mistake and they surrendered by saying “if he says so, there is wisdom in his action and it is certainly true”. Whereas, human kind is by no means innocent. Also, it shouldn’t be forgotten that people who are called hypocrites in Islam’s literature consist of some of the people who are around the prophet Muhammad and those whom we call sahabah. We shouldn’t ignore the fact that other figures like them can perform every kind of treachery and sly animosity, as in that period.
As a result, by means of this sort of acceptance, both the efforts of degenerating the pure Islam religion were supported thanks to the lies of some people and the sovereignities acquired by those people unjustly and their illegitimate actions were made legitimate. The ones who became silent after their political power had been seized in the lifetime of the prophet Muhammad took their revenge by means of this method in the years to come after the prophet’s death.
The scholars of religion who knew these sophistries mediated the rise of hundreds of new lies and mistakes instead of rejecting them by saying that “this is a lie and mistake” so that they could rationalize them.
After this warning, we can go on our research which is related to where Masjid Al-Aqsa mentioned in the Qur’an is with rumors.
Masjid Al-Aqsa in the Narrations
As stated above, the name of Masjid Al-Aqsa takes place only in three narrations.
The 1st narration:
Sahih Al-Bukhari, 21st book, 1st chapter, 1st hadith: Volume 3/1130
“……He related to us from Abu Huraira, the Prophet said, “Do not set out on a journey for worshipping except for three Masjids, i.e. Masjid Al-Haram, Masjid Al-Rasulullah, and Masjid Al-Aqsa .”
The 2nd narration:
Sahih Al-Bukhari, 21st book, the eighth hadith:
Shube related to us from Abdulmalik Ibn Umeyr. He said: I heard from Quza’a who is under the protecion of Ziyâd, he said: I heard from Abu Said Al-Khudri; he was narrating four things from the prophet which both puzzled and pleased me. The prophet Muhammad said so: “No woman should travel on a journey of two days except with her husband or a Dhi-Mahram. No fasting is permissible on the first day of Eid ul-Fitr and four days of the Eid al –Adha. Besides, there is no prayer after two kinds of prayer: one is after the morning compulsory prayer until the sun rises, the other one is after the Asr prayer till the sun sets. One shouldn’t set out on a journey except for three masjids: Masjid Al-Haram, Masjid Al-Aqsa and my masjid.
According to the determination of Ezraki, Shihab al-Zuhri, who is one of the palace servants, distorted this narration in order to ingratiate himself with the powers that be and to legitimize them. He transformed the prophet’s expression from “One can set out on a journey for only 3 masjids: The masjid of Abraham (Kaaba), my masjid, Solomon’s masjid.” to “One can set out on a journey for visiting only three masjids: These are Masjid Al-Haram, my masjid, Masjid Al-Aqsa.”(Comprehensive information is in Ezraki’s)
Although these two narrations are the same, their narrators are different. While the first narration has its origin from Abu Huraira, the sub-narrator is Abu Said Al-Khudri in the second one. Different narrations of the others about this subject were also distorted by Shihab. According to us, the narration which is put forward as original is also fictitious. Because, in most verses of the Qur’an (Surah Ali-Imran 137, Surah Al-An’am 6, 11, Surah Yusuf 109, Surah An-Nahl 36, Surah Al-Hajj 46, Surah An-Naml 69, Surah Al-Ankabut 20, Surah Ar-Rum 9, 42, Surah Fatir 44, Surah Al-Mu’min 21, 82, Surah Muhammad 10) traveling is ordered. It is impossible for the prophet Muhammad to prohibit or set a limit to these divine orders of Allah.
The 3rd narration:
It can be seen in the 8th volume, on the 134th page of the Hadith Encyclopedia called Kutub-i Sitte which was translated by Prof İbrahim Canan. Almost everybody has this encyclopedia in their hands. (This narration took place in various subjects in Bukhari’s, Muslim’s, Tirmidhi’s, Nasai’s, Ibn Majah’s books repeatedly.)
Ibrahim Ibn Yazid et-Teymi is telling: I was learning the Qur’an at the edge of the courtyard of the masjid. Meanwhile, when I read a verse of the Qur’an related to prostrating, my father was prostrating himself. I asked him: “Why are you prostrating on the road daddy?” He said:”I heard Abu Zarr say so: I asked to the messenger of Allah,”Which masjid was built first on the earth?” He said, “Masjid Al-Haram” .I asked, “Which one was built next?” He replied, “ Masjid Al-Aqsa”. I asked, What was the period in between them?” He replied, “forty years.”He then added: all the earth is a masjid for you, so perform your prayer wherever the time for prayer comes upon you, because there is virtue in it.
This narration took place in Kitabul-Anbiya by Sahih Al-Bukhari in the hadiths 40 and 98. It is also in Abu Zarr’s but the last narrators are different. The name of Masjid Al-Aqsa is mentioned in the texts there, too. The important point that should be taken into consideration in this third narration is that there are 40 years between the constructions of Masjid Al-Haram and Masjid Al-Aqsa. However, this situation isn’t correspondent with the historical facts, because there should be approximately a thousand or a thousand and 200 years between the construction of Masjid Al-Haram which was built by the prophet Abraham (Surah Al-Baqara 127) who lived at the beginning of 2000 B.C.(Ana Britannica, v:16, p:234– Turkish Edition of Encylopedia Britannica) and the masjid built by the prophet David who reigned between the years 1000-962 BC (Ana Britannica, v:9, p:340– Turkish Edition of Encylopedia Britannica) and the prophet Solomon who ascended the throne after him. It can be inferred from this that Masjid Al-Aqsa mentioned in the narrations can’t be the masjid built by the prophets David and Solomon in Jerusalem and also the period of 40 years which is put forward in the third narration is a made-up story. Although this made-up story in the narrations is attributed to the prophet Muhammad, which is unthinkable, who invented these stories is obvious.
In the period when the Qur’an was revealed and in the next years, the masjid in Jerusalem is remembered, written and known as Bayt Al-Maqdis. Indeed, the expression of Bayt Al-Maqdis was used for the masjid in Jerusalem in all the sahih narrations which were attributed to the prophet Muhammad and the Sahabah.
The first narration;
The 95th page of the 17th volume of the book of Kutub-i Sitte prepared by Prof İbrahim Canan:
Meymune RA, the person who was set free by the messenger of Allah, is telling: I said,“O the prophet of Allah!Give us fatwa about Bayt Al-Maqdis.” He said so: “It is the place the place where the people will gather on the day of Qiyamat [Resurrection] and the books will be spread. Go there and perform the prayer in it, because a prayer which will be performed there is like one thousand prayers elsewhere.
I asked again: “What should I do if I am unable to go there?” He gave this answer: “You can donate some oil to be used in the lamps. It is used for illuminating that place. The one who does so is like the one who arrives there.
Note: This narration has a lot of defective points. But we don’t discuss the other matters, since we look through this narration in the frame of our subject, that is, “Bayt Al-Maqdis”.
The Second Narration
The 96th page of the 17th volume of the book of Kutub-i Sitte prepared by Prof İbrahim Canan:
Abdullah Bin Amr RA is telling: The prophet said: “When Solomon, who is the son of the prophet David, completed the construction of Bayt Al-Maqdis, he demanded 3 things from Allah: to arrive at a decision in accordance with Allah’s verdict, sovereignty which won’t be granted to anybody after him; the people who comes to this masjid only to perform the prayer should be purified off sins and they should be as innocent as a newborn babe. Then, he said, the first two of them were given, I hope the third has been given, too.
As seen in the narrations above, the name of the masjid in Jerusalem is not “Masjid Al-Aqsa” in that period but “Bayt Al-Maqdis” .
Bayt Al-Maqdis in Jerusalem has an importance in the history of Islam.
The Narrations Related to Turning Towards Bayt Al-Maqdis:
The 1st Narration;
The pages 26 and 27 of the volume 17 of the book of Kutub-i Sitte prepared by Prof İbrahim Canan.
Al-Bara is telling: We performed the prayer facing Bayt Al-Maqdis together with the prophet for eighteen months. The direction of Qibla was changed towards Kaaba two months after his entering to Medina. While the prophet was performing his prayer in the direction of Bayt Al-Maqdis, he was turning his face towards the sky very often. Allah knew what the prophet felt in his heart of hearts, that is to say, the wish of turning towards Kaaba. One day, Gabriel rose. The messenger of Allah followed Gabriel with his eyes as it was rising between the earth and the sky.He was observing what kind of divine inspiration he will declare .Afterwards, Allah, the Almighty and the Glorious revealed the verse of the Qur’an (Surah Al-Baqarah,144), “We see that you turn your face to the heavens….” We had just performed the second rakah of fard prayer towards Bayt Al-Maqdis . Just as we were bowing, a man came and indicated us that the Qibla was changed towards Kaaba. We changed our directions immediately. We didn’t renew our prayer and we completed the rest of it. The messenger of Allah asked: “O, Gabriel! What will happen to the prayer we performed towards Bayt Al-Maqdis?” Hereupon, Allah revealed the ayah: “And never would Allah make you lose your faith(the prayer you performed towards Bayt Al-Maqdis beforehand)”(Surah Al-Baqarah 143)
The 2nd Narration
The second volume, 154th page of the book Kutub-i Sitte translated by Prof. İbrahim Canan.(This hadith took place four times in Bukhari’s, once in Muslim’s, three times in Tirmidhi’s, four times in Nasai’s.)
… Al-Bara Ibn Azib remarked: “When the messenger of Allah came to Medina, he went near his progenitors who are from Ansaar (the helpers in Medina) or his uncles. Then, he performed his prayer towards Bayt Al-Maqdis for 16 or 17 months, but he was wishing that Qibla’s direction should be towards Kaaba. The first prayer he performed was the asr prayer. A group of people from the companions of Muhammad performed this prayer together with the prophet Muhammad. One of the people who performed this prayer came across with a masjid, when he left there. The congregation there was performing the prayer and they were in ruku. The man told them. “I testify that we performed the prayer with the prophet Muhammad towards Kaaba”. The congregation turned towards Kaaba there. Muslim’s performing the prayer towards Bayt Al-Maqdis was pleasing the Jews. When the faces were turned towards Kaaba, Jewish people weren’t pleased with this situation. The fool Jews started to gossip. Afterwards, this verse of the Qur’an was revealed: “The fools among the people……” (Surah Al-Baqara, 142-145)
The 3rd Narration
The second volume, the 157th page of the book Kutub-i Sitte translated by Prof İbrahim Canan:
Another hadith which Muslim and Abu Dawud related from Enes is so: “ While they were in the state of ruku of the morning prayer towards Bayt Al-Maqdis, a man from Beni Seleme came near them and said: “The direction of Qibla was turned towards Kaaba.” He repeated this utterance twice. The congregation turned towards Kaaba while they were in the state of ruku.
The 4th narration:
The second volume and the 157th page of the book Kutub-i Sitte translated by Prof İbrahim Canan(This narration takes place in Abu Dawud’s and Tirmidhi’s):
Ibn Abbas is telling: When the messenger of Allah changed the direction of Qibla towards Kaaba in accord with the commandment of the ayah, the Muslims asked, “O, the messenger of Allah, what will happen to the prayer of our brothers who performed their prayer towards Bayt Al-Maqdis and are dead now?” Hereupon, Allah revealed that verse: “We made the direction which you turn the Qibla, to separate those who follow the Messenger from those who would turn back on their heels” (Surah Al-Baqara, 143)
As seen, the name of the masjid in Jerusalem is mentioned as Bayt Al-Maqdis in all the narrations. The name of Masjid Al-Aqsa wasn’t mentioned even one single time in one of these narrations. Anyhow, if Masjid Al-Aqsa framed in the Qur’an were actually the masjid in Jerusalem, particularly the prophet Muhammad and then all the Muslims would use the expression of Masjid Al-Aqsa for the masjid in Jerusalem relying on the first verse of surah Isra, they wouldn’t even mention Bayt Al-Maqdis.
Although this was the reality, the ones who wrote haşiye (footnote), tafseer and şerh, (sciences of explanation and interpretation of the Qur’an) for the narrations stated above put forward various interpretations so that they could rationalize the contradiction in the narrations. The original versions of classical books and their translations can be examined to see these interpretations most of which are ridiculous.