Short Answer: The entire Noble Sanctuary, including both the Dome of the Rock mosque and over one sixth of Jerusalem’s old city, is considered al-Aqsa Mosque. The entire sanctuary, including both mosques, is of the utmost sacredness and symbolic regard to Muslims across the world. We, as Muslims, should be more concerned with schemes to portray the struggle over al-Aqsa as a Palestinian-Israeli conflict, when in fact it is a Muslim-Zionist conflict.
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Allah has said in the Quran, in Surah Al-Israa’:
Glory be to Him Who made His servant to go in a night from the Sacred Mosque to the Remote Mosque [al-Aqsa mosque] of which We have blessed the precincts, so that We may show to him some of Our signs; surely He is the Hearing, the Seeing. (Quran 17:1)
As Muslims are aware, the reference in this verse is to the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) famous night journey from Makkah to Jerusalem and then on to the furthest limit of the heavens.
It is through this momentous event, coupled with `Umar ibn al-Khattab’s (the second Caliph of Islam) clearing of the al-Aqsa sanctuary of debris and refuse, that al-Haram al-Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary) gained its status as the third holiest site in Islam.
Yes, They Are One in The Same
In answer to your question, the Dome of the Rock Mosque, or Qubbat as-Sakhra, as it is known in Arabic, is the awe-inspiring gold-domed structure in the center of the Noble Sanctuary.
The Dome of the Rock was built around 688-691 C.E. (68-72 A.H.) by the Umayyad Caliph al-Walid ibn `Abd al-Malik.
The building itself covers the Holy Rock from which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) ascended to the heavens on his night journey.
The lower half of the exterior of the Dome of the Rock mosque is covered with marble while the second half is covered with blue qashany squares (mosaic), gorgeously inscribed with the Quranic chapter “Ya Sin,” a work commissioned in the 16th century by the Turkish Caliph Suleiman the Magnificent.
The entire Noble Sanctuary, including both the Dome of the Rock mosque and over one sixth of Jerusalem’s old city, is considered al-Aqsa Mosque.
The classical Hanbalite scholar, Mujir ad-Din al-Hanbali explains in his book al-Uns al-Jaleel:
It is common among people that al-Aqsa is the one located towards the qiblah, the mosque constructed in the foremost area including the pulpit and the big mihraab (prayer niche), while the truth is that al-Aqsa is the name of all what is within its compound inside the walls, the building in the foremost area and others, the Dome of the Rock Mosque, the corridors, etc.; al-Aqsa means all that is within the walls.
The entire enclosed area is considered al-Aqsa Mosque, and thus, prayer anywhere within the enclosed sanctuary will be weighed 500 times more than prayer in a regular mosque, as the above-mentioned hadith explains. And Allah knows best.
The True Issue: Zionist-Muslim Conflict
Some Muslims have mentioned a Zionist strategy to play up the importance of the Dome of the Rock Mosque, particularly in photographs, in order to draw the public’s attentions away from al-Aqsa mosque.
Without commenting on the theory itself, it should be stressed that the entire sanctuary, including both mosques, is of the utmost sacredness and symbolic regard to Muslims across the world.
We, as Muslims, should be more concerned with schemes to portray the struggle over al-Aqsa as a Palestinian-Israeli conflict, when in fact it is a Muslim-Zionist conflict.
On a personal note, Allah blessed me with a trip to the Noble Sanctuary recently, and I feel it my duty to convey the overwhelming sentiment of the Palestinians whom I encountered there.
They desperately want Muslims from every country of the world to visit the mosque for the sake of Allah. Al-Aqsa Mosque belongs to every Muslim – Malaysian, African, Turkish, American, Arab, Bosnian, Indian, Persian, etc.
This is not a Palestinian issue; this is a Muslim issue.
If we neglect al-Aqsa, it will be taken from us, and the usurpers will argue that the Muslims themselves are not concerned about the sanctuary.
Similar to Hajj or any other righteous deed in Islam, if we are not able to go ourselves yet, then we should at least be yearning to undertake this auspicious journey for the sake of Allah to the third holiest site in Islam, when God permits.
Thank you again for your question and please stay in touch.
(from AboutIslam’s archives)