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Revisiting The First Qiblah, by Dr Faraz Mughal

The Holy city of al-Quds (Jerusalem), also known as Bayt al-Maqdis ‘the house of purification’, holds great status in Islam. Dr Faraz Mughal explains why.

The Al-Aqsa Sanctuary, where the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhrah) and the Masjid al-Aqsa reside, is the holiest site in Jerusalem for Muslims. It is a site and space where Prophets walked, worshipped and lived. It has been blessed by Allah and referred to in The Qu’ran:
‘Glory be to Him who took His slave on a journey by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa whose surroundings We have blessed, in order to show him some of Our Signs. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. {Surat al-Isra 17:1} Tafsir Al-Jalalayn, (Jalalu’d-Din Al-Mahalli, Jalalu’d Din As-Suyuti). 
The Prophet Muhammad , travelled in his physical and wakeful state to Masjid al-Aqsa on the night journey (al-Isra) and from there ascended to the highest stations of the heavens (al-Miraj). All of the Prophets (~124,000) prayed behind the Prophet Muhammad in Masjid al-Aqsa on that night. Angels have descended with Allah’s message to chosen Prophets in this land.    

Qiblah

Masjid al-Aqsa was the first qiblah of the Muslims. The Prophet would pray towards Jerusalem during his time in Makkah and for a short while upon entering Madinah. However, through revelation the qiblah was refocused towards Makkah. The choosing of this first qiblah by Allah should encourage us to reflect on the status of Masjid al-Aqsa in the religion. It is a masjid not often spoken about when compared to the Masjid of the Prophet and Masjid al-Haram, but it is a masjid as in the hadith (Tabarani) where prayers can be rewarded up to 500 times.      

Ramadan & Eid

From my time in al-Quds this past Ramadan, it became apparent that the Palestinians were delighted that I was here sharing a portion of this blessed month with them. I was regularly asked in good English where I was from and on my reply I was always greeted with the traditional welcome of ‘ahlan wa sahlan’. The local people were always smiling and went about their business with an air of prophetic contentment in what are extremely challenging circumstances.
The third jummu’ah of the month attracted around 250,000 people for the congregation. Praising of the Prophet occurred after the completion of each adhan and unit of prayer in the daily tarawih, highlighting, the great love the people have for the Prophet ﷺ. Walking through the al-Aqsa sanctuary (35 acres) one feels the blessings of the earth and wonders whether you are walking on where Maryam (peace be upon her) beseeched her Lord or where Prophet Dawud (peace be upon him) praised Allah. One of my teachers, Imam Khalid Hussain, upon asking for some advice before departing encouraged me to spend as much time in the sanctuary as possible. It is prudent to remember that the entire sanctuary is blessed and not only the Masjid.
One stares in awe at the beautiful nature of the Dome of the Rock, built in the time of the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (72 AH). The inscribed Sur’ah Ya’sin on the perimeter of the dome is majestic and results in one marvelling at the construction of one of the most glorious pieces of architecture in the world.
It was a joy to see all of the families and the surrounding area making an effort for Eid al-Fitr. The souk was filled with shops and stalls of pastries, sweets, pancakes and kebabs and the streetlights lit up the evening sky. The laughter of the children playing resonated loudly as you make your way through the souk to the masjid gates.    

Imam-al Ghazali

It was an honour to be able to attend classes on the Ihya ulum al-Din {books of love and condemnation of self-delusion} of Imam al-Ghazali by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad in the Al-Aqsa sanctuary. These were held after fajr adjacent to The Dome of the Rock and near the Golden Gate where it is said Imam al-Ghazali wrote part of the Revival of Religious Sciences.

Visiting Al-Aqsa

It is important that Muslims in the West make a collective, concerted and conscious effort to visit Masjid-al Aqsa. It may be easier to travel in groups with those experienced in visiting the area.
Abdullah ibn Umar relates, I asked the Prophet , ‘Apostle of Allah, tell us the legal injunction about (visiting) Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem).’ The Apostle of Allah said, ‘Go and pray there. If you cannot visit it and pray there, then send some oil to be used in the lamps’ (Bukhari).

Resources for seekers

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Prayers on the Prophet for the Night Journey

Poet Novid Shaid reflects on one of the most significant events in Muslim history.

On the 27th night of Rajab, the Prophet ﷺ was taken on the Isra wa Mi’raj – The Night Journey and Ascension to the Heavens. This was a glorious night, as is known to most Muslims, in which the Prophet ﷺ met his Lord and was given the commandment to perform the five daily prayers.

Oh Allah send Your prayers and peace upon him

And upon his companions and kin

By the number of pearls of sweat on al buraq

Which cascaded as the sage ascended him

By the number of prayers the rider invoked

And the flutters of wings of his companions

By the number of sand stones at Al Aqsa

Which intoned his praise as he dismounted

By the number of Prophets that humbly stood

As the chosen one led with equilibrium

And the number of contours in the rock

And the streams of wind as the travellers took off

By the number of times the wise one was hailed

By each Prophet as the levels he scaled

And the number of shimmering branches on Al Muntaha

Ad infinitum they communed Lover and Beloved

From the day You made this life

To the end when we arise

Every day a thousand times!

Resources on the Isra wa Mi’raj, The Night Journey