The el-Aksa Mosque

The 17th Sura of the Holy Koran begins:-

In the name of the merciful and compassionate God.
Celebrated be the praises of Him who took His servant for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Remote Mosque, the precincts of which we have blessed, to show him of our signs!

The opening of Sura 17 tells us that Allah took Mohammed on a miraculous night journey from Mecca to the Temple Mount; the "Sacred Mosque" being the Kaaba in Mecca. El-Aksa rendered into English means "the farthest" or "remotest place" and the follow-up reference "whose precincts we have blessed", has been taken to mean the Holy Mountain, i.e. The Temple Mount - where Abraham attempted to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and where both Solomon's and the Second Temple, were built.
The el-Aksa Mosque is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and was the first building to be erected on the Temple Mount by Omar ibn el-Qattab subsequent to the Moslem conquest of 638 CE.

It was an enormous wooden building with no less than 14 aisles on either side of the central nave. The next and first of the permanent structures was by Abd el-Malik and was completed by his son Walid I at the beginning of the 8th Century. This building was destroyed by the great earthquake of 748/9. The dome of one of the next models (1033), was so massive that the structure was unable to sustain it and the entire building collapsed.
The rebuilt one was taken over by the Crusaders in 1099 with the capture of Jerusalem and, because of large basement areas which legend said were the stables for King Solomon's horses and thinking therefore this was the site of his palace, they called it Templum Solomonis - Solomon's Temple. In 1118 when the Knights stationed here formed themselves into a knightly Order, they took the name Templars - hence the Templar Order of Knighthood.
Some rebuilding was undertaken during the Crusader reign (1099-1187) and parts of their work can still be seen both inside and upon the upper reaches of the façade.

Five different buildings have stood on this site and the last major reconstruction took place in the 1940's when most of the interior was renovated.

The el-Aksa Mosque

Photo courtesy of Dr Carl Rasmussen Ph.D

The Kaaba in Mecca
The Kaaba in Mecca - the destination of all Moslems who must make a Haj - or Holy Pilgrimage to this site at least once in their lifetime

To learn more about Mecca and the Haj you can try here

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