Haram Sharif: The Noble Sanctuary
My first prayer ever was performed in 1977 in Masjid Al Aqsa, Jerusalem. That was also the first time I ever told anyone I was a Muslim.
Many people don’t know about the history of the sacred Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. This happens to be the holy month of Rajab of the Islamic calendar during which (apart from prohibiting battles and warfare) the Last Prophet was taken on a miraculous journey from Makkah to Jerusalem. On that illustrious night, on that sacred Mount, he led the great gathering of prophets in prayer, and from there he then ascended up through the seven heavens and experienced the mystical meeting with God Most High. This ascension took place at Al Aqsa, the ‘distant’ place of prostration, which is considered a sacred precinct that includes the iconic Dome of the Rock. The symbolic significance of the city is moral and spiritual, radiating upward to heaven with its angelic light; the miracles which sprung from it are too numerous to count.
But there is also a dark side to its luminous history which demonstrates the ethical responsibilities of those who have lived and continue to live there. The Bible is full of stories of God’s harsh disapproval and promise of destruction for those who disobey His commands and cause corruption in this most holy land; the books of Amos and Isaiah are full of dreadful warnings. And as a clear illustration of this, even after the first destruction of the Temple of Solomon by the Babylonians, we can see that the majority of the Children of Israel refused to accept Jesus, during his initial worldly mission. So within a decade, the city and its temple were destroyed again by the Romans and the Jews were driven out into exile.
The advent of the Last Prophet brought a renewed light to the blessed land. After the Prophet’s passing, peace be upon him, Umar ‘the Just’ was given the keys of the city, and he personally cleansed the holy Mount which had been used as a rubbish dump by the Romans. Upon Umar’s arrival in Jerusalem, a pact was composed, known as the Umar’s Assurance. It surrendered the city and gave guarantees and protection of civil and religious liberty to Christians in exchange for the payment of jizya. For the Jewish community this marked the end of nearly 500 years of Roman rule and oppression. Umar permitted the Jews to once again reside within the city of Jerusalem itself. The Dome of the Rock was built on the orders of Caliph Abdul Malik approximately fifty years later. To this day, the Palestinian people strive to provide loving guardianship to this most holy site.
27th Rajab 1445 (6 Feb 2024)