Islamic History of Al Masjid Al Aqsa
Al Masjid Al Aqsa has a very special place in the hearts of the entire Muslim community due to its unique and rich history as a place of worship that is so closely intertwined with the lives of many of the Prophets of Islam, as well as for its special status as a Masjid to which travel is recommended and in which reward is increased. It is a special and blessed Masjid of vast size comprising 144,000 square meters in size (covering approximately 1/6th of the entire area of the Old City of Jerusalem) and with capacity to accommodate in the region of 500,000 worshippers.
Insha’Allah below we shall set out a very brief summary of the history of Al Masjid Al Aqsa, splitting the information into three sections: 1) From Prophet Adam (as) to Prophet Muhammad (saw); 2) From Prophet Muhammad (saw) to 1917; and 3) From 1917 to the present day.
[Please note: for a more detailed analysis of the history, Prophetic missions and for a comparative study of the significance of Jerusalem as set out in the Torah, Bible and Qur’an, we would strongly recommend the online book “Transcending Jerusalem”. It is v insightful and is written by a Jewish convert to Islam. The book can be found free of charge at www.transcendingjerusalem.com. We are also happy to recommend www.lostislamichistory.com]
From Prophet Adam (as) to Prophet Muhammad (saw)
Al Masjid Al Aqsa was the first Qibla in Islam and it has been a significant and important place of worship for the Prophets of Islam. It was built 40 years after Al Masjid Al Haram in Makkah. There is a difference of opinion amongst scholars as to who exactly built Al Masjid Al Aqsa, with some scholars and historians asserting the view that Al Masjid Al Aqsa was built by Prophet Adam (as), and others opining that it was built by Prophet Ibrahim (as). It has also been rebuilt, renovated and expanded many times in the history of Islam.
It was a well-known place of worship at the time of Prophet Ibrahim (as) and for his son Prophet Ishaaq (as) and grandson Prophet Yaqub (as). When Prophet Yaqub’s son Prophet Yusuf (as) attained a position of power in Egypt, he asked his family to join him and escape the poverty that engulfed Palestine. Biblical sources claim this included his father Prophet Yaqub (as) and Prophet Yusuf’s siblings and their children [Book of Genesis], and that there were 33 in all (Allahu aalam). At this point, as there was no one left amongst Prophet Yaqub’s progeny to look after Al Masjid Al Aqsa (which at the time had the name of “Beteyel” or “House of God”), care for this blessed place was entrusted to the native population of the land (who were also followers of Prophet Ibrahim (as), the Palestinians.
The Israelites who voluntarily emigrated to Egypt seeking a better material life remained there for approximately four centuries and became slaves to the Egyptians. This slavery only ended when Prophet Musa (as) freed them from Firaoun under the command of Allah. However, the Israelites rejected the orders of Allah to return to Palestine and were thus commanded to live in and wander through the desert of Sinai for 40 years. This ended when a new generation was born, containing within it Prophet Dawood (as), who led his generation of believers to Palestine.
Prophet Dawood (as) established his kingdom in part of Palestine, and controlled Jerusalem. His son Prophet Suleiman (as) rebuilt Al Masjid Al Aqsa with the help of the local indigenous population and next to it he built the ruler’s palace. After Prophet Suleiman’s death, his two sons divided his kingdom amongst themselves with each having its own capital. These kingdoms existed for a very short period of time – approximately two hundred years, with the last king of Jerusalem in this dynasty being dethroned in 586/587BC as he tried to resist the Babylonians (led by King Nebuchadnezzar) but failed due to a crippling siege that the Babylonians had placed on the city.
Shortly after the Babylonians took control of Jerusalem, Al Masjid Al Aqsa was destroyed again.
The Persians overthrew the Babylonians (during which time efforts to rebuild Al Masjid Al Aqsa as a place of worship were renewed), but in the period thereafter ownership changed hands numerous times, and Al Masjid Al Aqsa was destroyed, rebuilt and then destroyed again within a century by the Romans in 70AD after a revolt in the city.
By 315-325AD, when the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, the Romans and the people residing in their land (including the Jews) no longer had any regard for Al Masjid Al Aqsa and no longer treated it as a place of sanctity and worship, with the site of Al Masjid Al Aqsa actually being used as a place of waste disposal for the citizens of the city. This is how Al Masjid Al Aqsa remained for the next few hundred years until the Prophet Muhammad (saw) revived once again the spirituality of this blessed place, Umar ibn Al Khattab liberated the city.
From Prophet Muhammad (saw) to 1917
Al Masjid Al Aqsa had a very unique place in the life of Prophet Muhammad (saw) for many reasons. Firstly, as Al Masjid Al Aqsa was central to the lives of many of his fellow Prophets (as) with whom he shared an exceptional bond (as the Islam taught by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a continuation, completion and perfection of the religion and message of monotheism preached by all the prophets of Allah including Prophet Adam (as), Prophet Nooh (as), Prophet Ibrahim (as) (of whom Prophet Muhammad (saw) was a descendant through his son Ismail (as), Prophet Musa (as), Prophet Dawood (as), Prophet Suleiman (as), and Prophet Isa (as) to name a few), Al Masjid Al Aqsa also by definition had a central place in his life and heart. In addition to this, up until the 2nd year of Hijra (623/624AD), the Prophet Muhammad (saw) turned and faced Al Masjid Al Aqsa as the direction for his prayers.
In his lifetime though, the most memorable reason why Al Masjid Al Aqsa has such significance is because it was the place to which he travelled on the night of Israa, and it was the location from which he made his Meraj to the Heavens.
In the books of Hadith, we learn that the Prophet (saw) was at night at home, The Angel Jibrael (Gabriel) then awoke him and led him to a winged white beast named Buraq. It was on Buraq that the Prophet (saw) then made the journey to Jerusalem (a journey that would typically take 40 days) in just one momentous night. On reaching Jerusalem, the Prophet (saw) met and led all the previous Prophets in prayer at the site of Al Masjid Al Aqsa, and then embarked on the Meraj to the Heavens.
The journey of Israa was such a momentous occasion that Allah revealed verses relating to this journey in the Holy Quran – “Glorified be He [Allah] Who did take His servant for a journey by night from Al Masjid Al Haram to Al Masjid Al Aqsa, whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of Our Signs. Verily He is the All Hearing, All Seeing” [17:1].
After the death of the Prophet Muhammad (saw), the second calif of Islam (who was also a companion of the Prophet Muhammad (saww), Umar Ibn Al Khattab, entered and mercifully liberated Jerusalem (accompanied by 40,000 sahaba) on the invitation of the Christian leader at the time, without shedding blood and with the guarantee of protection for the lives, property and places of worship of others within the city who wished to remain there. As Umar’s personality and characteristics closely resembled and matched those of the liberator of Jerusalem foretold within scriptures, the people of the city were quick to embrace and accept his rule.
As mentioned earlier, when he arrived at the site of Al Masjid Al Aqsa in 637/638AD, he didn’t find a place of prayer but rather a plot of land that had been left barren and had been used as a rubbish tip by the Romans. Upon seeing this he took the responsibility to remove the waste with his own hands and to rebuild Al Masjid Al Aqsa. Both the Christians and the Jews were pleased with the arrival of Umar and the Muslims.
In 691/692AD, Abd’ al Malik bin Marwan began constructing what is nowadays known as the Dome of the Rock on top of the rock which some believe was the place where Prophet Muhammad (saw) embarked on his Meraj to the Heavens. However, it must be noted that regardless of whether the rock has importance for this reason, its main significance derives from it being within the boundaries of Al Masjid Al Aqsa and therefore part of Al Masjid Al Aqsa.
The Muslims lost Al Masjid Al Aqsa to the Crusaders in 1099AD and were the victims of one of the darkest and bloodiest days in its history. On arrival into Jerusalem. the Crusaders announced that they would not take any prisoners, resulting in a large proportion of the Muslims fleeing to Al Masjid Al Aqsa in order to seek refuge. The Crusaders later entered the blessed Masjid and massacred thousands of Muslims inside. Al Masjid Al Aqsa was then converted into a palace, and it took 88 years before the Muslims reclaimed it in 1187 under the leadership of Salah Uddin Ayyubi. His reclamation of Jerusalem and Al Masjid Al Aqsa was reminiscent of Umar ibn Al Khattab liberation five centuries earlier, and was a stark contrast to the actions of the Crusaders just a generation prior. Like Umar ibn Al Khattab, Salah UddinAyyubi did not allow a massacre of civilians or soldiers, and after reclaiming Al Masjid Al Aqsa he also used his own hands to clean the blessed land, and famously sprinkled rosewater through the Masjid.
The Muslims once again had unhindered control of Jerusalem and Al Masjid Al Aqsa for a significant period of time – approximately eight centuries – and their rule was characterized by peace, justice and prosperity, with Al Masjid Al Aqsa becoming a great center of learning with scholars from all over the world travelling to study and teach within its blessed precincts. Throughout almost this entire period, the Christians and Jews were provided safety and protection, and their rights were respected as People of the Book.
From 1917 to the present day
For numerous centuries during the Ottoman caliphate, the city of Jerusalem and Al Masjid Al Aqsa were preserved with honor and dignity, with Muslims being in charge of the administration of the city, but in line with Islamic law and the Ottoman millet system, they provided religious freedom and security for the Jewish and Christian minorities. However, all this changed when the Zionist movement in Europe emerged with the aim of creating a Jewish state on Muslim Palestinian land. This Zionist movement which was supported by the British, was further strengthened during World War 1 when the British captured Jerusalem and brought an end to eight centuries of Muslim rule. On arrival into Palestine in 1917 they found a land that was 90% populated by Arabs and with fewer than 56,000 Jews (of which only 5% were native Palestinian Jews, with the majority being those who had fled European persecution in recent decades). The British allowed the Muslims control of Al Masjid Al Haram during this period.
Five years after the British capture of Jerusalem, the first restoration works of the 20th century in Al Masjid Al Aqsa took place, and a couple of years later in 1924 Trans-Jordan took over custodianship of Al Masjid Al Aqsa.
In 1947 prior to Britain passing over the issue of Palestine to the UN, the Jews owned less than 6% of the total land of Palestine. For this reason, when the UN General Assembly recommended (despite this being outside of their competence according to the UN Charter) having a “Jewish state” which would comprise 54% of the Palestinian land, the native Palestinians rejected the proposal.
In 1948 after a war and numerous massacres and atrocities committed by the Zionists, the Jews established “Israel” on 78% of Palestinian land, and captured approximately 85% of Jerusalem. The Jordanian Arab Legion took control of the West Bank – including 11% of the eastern parts of Jerusalem which encompassed the Old City and Al Masjid Al Aqsa.
In 1967 following a further war, Israel illegally occupied East Jerusalem and claimed to unify Jerusalem as part of Israel. This move was, and is still, opposed and unrecognized by the international community. Following its capture of Jerusalem and the protests that followed, the Jewish authorities swiftly handed Al Masjid Al Aqsa back to Muslim control.
Following attempts by prominent Israeli figures to establish Jewish prayers at Al Masjid Al Aqsa and subsequent protests, a law was passed prohibiting Jewish prayer on Al Masjid Al Aqsa. The decision also meant that Jews and foreign tourists could only enter Al Masjid Al Aqsa through the Maghrebi gate.
However, since 1967 many Israeli authorities have passed rulings permitting Jews to offer worship on the site of Al Masjid Al Aqsa and many organizations have been lobbying Israeli officials to start the process of rebuilding a Jewish place of worship on the sacred land of Al Masjid Al Aqsa.
In 1969 a fire that was started by a Zionist extremist destroyed the mimbar that was installed by Salah Uddin Ayyubi. The mimbar was considered one of the most beautiful in the world and was constructed with over 10,000 interlocking pieces of Cedar and other wood, Ivory and Mother of Pearl affixed without a drop of glue or a single nail. Most of the damage from the fire took over 20 years to repair, due to the Israelis not allowing suitable resources into Al Masjid Al Aqsa.
In 1987 four Palestinian men were killed queuing at a checkpoint in Gaza, sparking the first intifada. Intifada literally means “shaking off” and is used to convey the meaning of setting Palestine and Al Masjid Al Aqsa free from Israeli oppression.
In 2000, Ariel Sharon marched on Al Masjid Al Aqsa surrounded by over 1000 security guards and police. This sparked the second Palestinian intifada. Following this visit, restrictions were placed on Palestinians wishing to pray at Al Masjid Al Aqsa, with Palestinian men (especially those between 18-50 years of age), facing bans from praying at certain times. These restrictions continue to this day.
In March 2013 Jordanian King Abdullah II signed an agreement with the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas which maintained and reiterated the status quo that the King of Jordan is the official custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem and that he has the right to exert all legal efforts to preserve them, especially Al Masjid Al Aqsa.
In November 2013 a draft Israeli law was proposed in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) allowing Jews the right to pray on Al Masjid Al Aqsa. This development was the result of 40 years of intense lobbying by nationalists who wish to destroy Al Masjid Al Aqsa in its current form, and replace it with a Jewish place of worship.
In October 2014 Israeli authorities closed Al Masjid Al Aqsa for the first time since 1967. This resulted in mass protests across Palestine and the Muslim world, and was swiftly followed by Al Masjid Al Aqsa being reopened.
To summarize the present day situation:
Israel systematically denies access to Al Masjid Al Aqsa to most Palestinians, has permitted excavation works to be carried out under Al Masjid Al Aqsa damaging the foundations of Al Masjid Al Aqsa, and has permitted Jews to enter Al Masjid Al Aqsa during certain times on most days (despite this being contrary to traditional Rabbinical law for fear of disrespecting such sacred land). In addition to this, Israel maintains a security force on Al Masjid Al Aqsa permanently despite numerous appeals by the Supreme Muslim Council – and yet still fails to prevent Zionist extremists causing damage to Al Masjid Al Aqsa.
Interestingly, the UN Security Council has passed more than 20 resolutions condemning Israel’s annexation of Old Jerusalem, and Israel has been the most frequently condemned state by the UN in its history.
So please make your best effort to visit Al Masjid Al Aqsa and show that this place of worship is blessed and sacred for all Muslims. For specific information on why we should visit Al Masjid Al Aqsa please click on the relevant webpage on this website.
Please note – the information in this “History” section has been taken from numerous books and online sources. For further information please visit www.transcendingjerusalem.com, www.foa.org.uk and www.lostislamichistory.com
Dome of the Rock
Must See: Yes
Sight Type: Religious
The Dome of the Rock is located on top of the Temple Mount in Old Jerusalem. It is a Muslim shrine that was built in 691 CE by Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik. It has been refurbished several times in the ensuing centuries. It is built over a stone that is considered sacred by several religions.
Muslims believe this stone is the place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven. This occurred during the Night Journey to Jerusalem. This is also the place that Gabriel brought Muhammad to pray with Abraham, Jesus, and Moses. This is the oldest Islamic monument in the world, and it contains the oldest mihrab still standing.
Jews believe it was on this rock that Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son. Both Christians and Muslims believe the rock to be the home of Solomon’s Temple that was destroyed. In fact, several subsequent churches, built by the Knights Templar, follow the same design that is found in the shrine.
The shrine is an octagonal shape and the outside is covered in exquisite tile work and white marble. Extensive refurbishing has been done on tile work and it has been kept as true to the original as possible. There are also extensive mosaics on the inside of the shrine. The Dome itself has also been refurbished. The original gold one has been replaced with aluminum and a gift from King Hussein of Jordan covered it in gold leaf making it a truly spectacular sight.
The inside of the Dome of the Rock also has an octagonal shape with an outside ring and an inner circle. This is to represent the circular movement around Ka’ba in Mecca by pilgrims who visit there. The sacred rock is protected by a wooden screen that replaced the wrought iron screen erected by the Knights Templar. That screen is now protected in the Islamic Museum.
There is a fee to visit; the price includes entry into the Dome of the Rock, al-Aqsa Mosque as well as the Islamic Museum. Hours vary and only Muslims may visit at certain times. Non-Muslims have a separate entrance.
When you reach the top, if your clothing doesn’t meet the dress code, you will be loaned a pair of pants to cover your legs or a scarf to cover your head.
Ben Yehuda Street
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
The Jaffa Gate is a 16th Century Ottoman addition to the wall around Jerusalem, which is located on the western side of the old city. It faces the city by the same name. It is the main entrance into that section of the town. It is one of eight such structures that are part of the famous wall around the city. It is also, perhaps oddly, set at a 90 degree angle, and is the only structural opening set as such. No doubt, this was done as a defensive tactic by the builders.
It goes by several different names also: in Hebrew, it is Sha’ar Yafo, and in Arabic, it is called Bab el-Khalil, which means “Gate of the Friend.” You may also hear this place referred to as the “prayer niche of David.”
The Biblical character Jonah left on a sea journey from here. Pilgrims also debarked on their trip to the Holy City. Even in today’s times, this famous old road is still used. It is now a superhighway that will take you to Tel Aviv.
The name for this site is a reminder of the prophet Abraham. Legend holds he was buried there somewhere. Since he lived in Hebron, another name for the opening is the “Hebron Gate.” King David makes this place sacred for Muslims because he is considered an Islamic Prophet. The Crusaders also build an opening they called “David’s Gate.”
Sight Type: Shopping
Ben Yehuda Street is more open pedestrian mall than street. It connects to Jaffa and King George Street forming a triangle in central Jerusalem. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda was a linguist and is credited with reviving the Hebrew language and the street is named in his honor. The Street was a busy thoroughfare even before Israel was a state and as such, it has been the target of several terrorist bombings and attacks. Closing it to vehicular traffic made the Street safer but it is still wise to be wary.
Having given a nod to caution, this Street is really fun and caters to the tourists. The area is a great place to buy a souvenir, grab some great food, have a little sit down and watch the crowds go by. The streets are lined with sidewalk cafés and musicians frequent the area with music, old and new. The locals call the area Midrachov which is a contraction of two Hebrew words meaning Sidewalk Street.
While Ben Yehuda Street is not the most significant street in Jerusalem, or the most attractive, it is certainly not to be missed. The cobblestones certainly add to the charm and the music along with the food and little shops make for a fun atmosphere.
Damascus (Shechem) Gate
Must See: Yes
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
This is one of the structural openings that are part of the wall enclosing Old Jerusalem. This spot gets its name because it is the way you would go to the capital of Syria. It is approximately 135 miles away (or 220 kilometers). It faced the north.
This location also serves as the main entrance into East Jerusalem. By far it is more interesting than many other places in the old town. In many ways, it is the beginning of what one might call a microcosm of the Palestinian world. In this location, vendors bring goods to and from the Old City, families still have picnics, and life continues much the way it has for years upon years. Yet, on the steps of the buildings, you can find Israeli soldiers standing guard. You can become quite taken with the sales people there also, selling their herbs, produce and the like. The women are famous for wearing their embroidered dresses that are a part of their dowry and identity.
The structure has remained pretty much intact since the time of Suleiman the Magnificent. He also happens to be the person who oversaw the gate’s construction between 1537 and 1542. The present size, though, was the result of work commissioned by Roman emperor Hadrian. There was a column that once stood here. This old structure gave birth to the other name for this place: Bab al-Amud (Gate of the Column).
Why You Should Visit:
This is one of the Old City’s prettiest gates with the castellated wall. Very majestic!
There is lots to see, smell and buy once you’re in the Muslim Quarte
King David’s Tomb
Must See: Yes
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
King David’s Tomb is located in Jerusalem on Mount Zion. Although there is serious doubt as to whether this is the actual burial place of King David, the site is still worthy of a visit. This site has been held by Christians, Muslims and Jews over the years, each with claims on the area.
Currently, the Tomb is in Jewish control, and parts are open for public visitation. The entrance is from a church that the Crusaders built during the 12th century. There is beautiful tile work in this first antechamber and the patchwork was done to match the repairs to the Dome of the Rock during the 1500s. In the second antechamber is a mihrab dating from the 1400s when the area was under Muslim control. This room also has wonderful tile work.
The Tomb is also called a cenotaph and this area can be viewed from behind an iron grate in the second antechamber. The original tomb was removed and placed in a stone sarcophagus that was built to encase the tomb. There is no knowledge whether there are any remains in there. An embroidered blue cloth that dates probably from the 1500s covers the sarcophagus. This sits in a niche that is dated from around the 4th century. The black on the walls is from various fighting for this area and also from the candles that have been lit for religious purposes.
Entrance into King David’s Tomb is free; men should have their heads covered. Modest dress is advised.
Why You Should Visit:
King David is an essential part of Jewish identity. At his tomb, you realize that, in a way, he is still alive.
You can take pictures (but try not to upset the people praying).
Be sure to be appropriately covered if you are a woman (and actually, most of the Old City).
Mahaneh Yehuda Market
Must See: Yes
Sight Type: Shopping
Mahane Yehuda Market is often referred to as “The Shuk” by the locals. Literally, the term means open market, and this is the largest of such places in Jerusalem. It’s one of the best places for locals and visitors to mingle. There are over 250 vendors who sell fresh vegetables, fruits, baked goods, meats and fish, cheeses and nuts, and a host of lovely spices and wines. If you are in the mood to shop for something, this is also your location, as it specializes in clothing and shoes, housewares, textiles, and Judaica.
The marketplace has been completely redesigned lately. It now even sports a roof that encloses the market’s open areas. Surrounding the market are juice bars, cafes and coffee houses, and lovely stands where you can experience real falafel and shawarma. The busiest days are Thursday and Friday when the locals are shopping for Shabbat.
Why You Should Visit:
You can’t miss this place if you are a market lover. Lots of choice and lots of great spots to eat.
For the cheapest prices, go later on in the day at sunset. Prices on all perishables go down so that vendors can get rid of the food before the day’s end. All fruit, veggies, breads, etc. go down to almost nothing.
Swing by on a Saturday morning, too – all the stalls will be closed but you get a chance to see the amazing murals painted onto all the security gates. Most people never see them. You’ll get some great photos.
Sun-Thu: 8am-7pm; Fri: 8am-3pm
Must See: Yes
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Mary’s Tomb is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives in the Kidron Valley. This is the traditional place of the burial for Mary, the mother of Jesus according to Eastern Christian thinking. The burial cave was first cut out of rock in the 1st century CE although the date of the cave has never been verified. A cross-shaped church was added with the tomb at its center.
In the 6th century, a church was built on top of the tomb. This was destroyed in 614. The Crusaders rebuilt the church and enlarged it. The Abbey of St. Mary of the Valley of Jehoshaphat was also added. Saladin destroyed the church and monastery in 1187. However, during all of these conquests and destruction St. Mary’s Tomb was left untouched. Because Mary is the mother of Jesus who is considered a prophet to Muslims, the crypt was left untouched, and well preserved over the centuries.
In the 14th century CE the church now standing was built and it is currently occupied by the Greek Orthodox Church. Inside the church are several chapels. The chapel of St. Joseph, Mary’s husband, and the chapel of Joachim and Anne, Mary’s parents are there as well as the tomb of Queen Melisende of Jerusalem. On the other side of the church (east) is the chapel of Mary’s Tomb. There is a mihrab there indicating the direction of Mecca, and Muslims are granted use of this area to pray. There are three holes cut into the wall of the tomb to allow visitors to actually be able to touch the inside.
Why You Should Visit:
The tomb is very well maintained and it is certainly something Christians should like to see.
The church is the only one in the world where you go DOWN the steps to enter.
Admission is free and it is open from 6 until noon, closing for lunch like many Holy Sites and re-opening from 2:30-5pm.
Qaissi @ Arab bazaar
Must See: No
Sight Type: Shopping
What to buy here: Bedouin woven rugs and cushions .
Bedouin woven rugs and cushions make authentic gifts. In Arabic, farmers are referred to as Fellahin, while the Bedouins are those who migrate with their flocks, furnishing their goatskin tents with rugs and cushions.
It is the women who create the rugs, working together to spin, dye, and weave the wool on simple, ground looms. Traditionally a 25 meter length of rug is woven, then cut into pieces and sewn together to form a wider rug. Each region has its own traditional designs. Bedouin rugs are usually woven from 90% sheep’s wool and 10% camel wool. Colors range from white and beige to bright colors.
A bride’s dowry is tied to a traditional rug with a white stripe in the middle, then secured on a horse or camel for the ceremonial trip to her husband’s tent.
Red is the dominant color of most rugs, and some have triangular designs or strips. The rugs are sturdy and last a long time. A typical red patterned rug from Hebron is about 160 x 1 meter and costs about $175.00
Genuine Bedouin rugs can be purchased at Qaissi, at 107 Christian Street, open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily. In the front of the shop foreign rugs are displayed, but let Qaissi take you into the back room where he keeps the Bedouin rugs, which range in price from $150 to hundreds of dollars. From floor to ceiling are rolled up rugs of every size and pattern. You can also purchase striped cushions, or cushion covers, which are easier to transport.
- The border is open Sunday to Thursday from 8:00am to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from 8am to 3pm. These hours do not apply on public holidays where the border is closed.
- At the border itself, there are many different security checks and periods of questioning. The first questioning often occurs in the queue outside the Israeli border terminal. The second round occurs immediately on entering the terminal after personal body scans. The third occurs at the immigration desk. And thereafter subsequent questioning will be in the open waiting area.
Types of questions asked at the borders:
Regardless of which border crossing you choose to travel to, you will inevitably be questioned by security on a number of occasions. The questions usually include the following:
- Names of parents, grandparents, great grandparents?
- Ethnic background?
- Type of employment you work in?
- Any association to charitable or Human Rights organization’s?
- Where do you give your zakat and sadaqah?
- Name of Mosques you attend in your home country?
- Reasons for visiting other countries (esp. if Muslim countries)?
- Purpose of visit to Israel?
- Places intend to visit in Israel?
- Name of accommodation?
- Any contacts in Israel?
- Any contacts in Jordan (if travelling by King Hussein Bridge)?
- How much money travelling with?
Occasionally Israeli security will ask for access to your email account, Facebook account and other social media – and may make this a condition of entry.
UPDATE 2017: In March 2017 Israel passed a law allowing it to refuse entry to individuals involved in BDS or other pro-Palestinian activism. For this reason, it is essential that all your email / social media accounts are free from any posts that may indicate activism.
If you mention that you will be visiting any cities in the West Bank, you will be extensively questioned on this, and will most likely have to spend more time at the border before an entry visa is granted. In addition – the Israelis may limit your visa to West Bank only which can be problematic.
Israeli stamp in the passport:
In the past the Israeli immigration authorities stamped passports, but would on request by the traveler, sometimes agree to stamp landing cards instead. This used to be problematic for Muslim travelers because the moment one requested a stamp on the landing card, this would result in further questioning as to the reasons why (even though the reason is always the same – i.e. Muslim countries may deny entry on future visits). However, since January 2013 a new scheme has been introduced whereby all visitors are given an entry card instead of an entry stamp on arrival. This is the case for all travelers now, so you no longer need to request the Israeli’s not to stamp the passport [this is the situation as at August 2015]. You should keep this card with your passport until you leave as this is evidence of your legal entry into Israel and may be required (particularly at checkpoints, and at any crossing points into the West Bank).
Citizens of the US, EU, Russia, Japan and most western countries are issued a free 3-month tourist visa upon arrival which may be extended by applying at a Israeli Ministry of Interior office. Visitors from most other countries require a visa in advance. Citizens of most Arab and predominantly Muslim countries can individually apply for a visa but it is difficult to obtain one in practice. The most commonly issued visas for these travelers is through organized tour groups, and the application is often handled by Palestinian tour operators based in East Jerusalem. For specific visa guidelines, check the information provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Please visit: http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/ConsularServices/Pages/default.aspx
2. Transport to Jerusalem
Transport to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv:
Tel Aviv is an Israeli city 37 miles from Jerusalem. From the airport there are several transport options available – including bus, train, taxi or service taxi (also called “shuttle taxi”). I would recommend using the service taxi for cost, timing and safety reasons. The service taxi is a taxi that transports between 10 – 15 passengers directly from the airport to their hotel door. The company that operates it is called Nesher and they charge approximately 60 – 70 shekels from Tel Aviv to hotels in Jerusalem. The journey takes approximately 1 hour. Buses are the cheapest option – but as Tel Aviv is an Israeli city, a Muslim traveler may feel uncomfortable using such service as all the passengers will inevitably be Israeli. Private taxis are the fastest option but will cost in the region of around 300 shekels. Since the journey is only slightly quicker than the service taxi, it is not recommended unless timing is essential.
Transport to Jerusalem from King Hussein Bridge / Allenby Crossing:
From the border there are two options available: Service / shuttle taxi, or private taxi. A service taxi costs approximately 40-50 shekels and a private taxi is negotiable and will cost around 300 shekels. The journey takes approximately 45 minutes.
3. TRANSPORT TO OTHER WEST BANK CITIES FROM JERUSALEM
Buses to the main Palestinian cities depart from two bus stations near Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem. The buses depart regularly and usually operate between 6am – 7pm, although often there is no formal schedule in place.
There are two types of bus: blue and green. The blue buses travel to the cities of Bethlehem, East Jerusalem and Hebron, and depart from the bus station next to the tram stop entitled “Damascus Gate”, which is located a few minutes away from the actual Damascus Gate. The green buses travel to Ramallah, Nablus and the northern villages, and depart from the bus station on Nablus Road (approximately 250m north of the blue bus station) next to the Garden Tomb.
Taxis are widely available in all Palestinian cities. Fares are negotiable. West Bank blue and green license plates are not permitted to enter Jerusalem. Israeli operated taxis (with yellow plates) may enter the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the driver’s discretion. If the driver declines it is easy to transfer to a Palestinian taxi at the checkpoint.
[Information courtesy of www.visitpalestine.ps]
6. SAFETY IN JERUSALEM AND THE WEST BANK
Entry to Jerusalem is very strictly guarded, and so one can assume that the city is safe for foreigners. Within the Old City, it is usually even fine for foreigners to wander through the Jewish quarter and have a look at the Wailing Wall – but outside the Old City, it is best to stay in East Jerusalem which is Arab.
I personally have visited many cities in the West Bank and never had any issues. Hebron is worth visiting esp. due to the Islamic history there and the graves of many of the Prophets (pbuh) – for more information please click on the “Other Islamic Sites” tab at the top of the website. Ramallah is often calm and reminiscent of a European city.
7. Other Misc. Points of Interest
Weather in Jerusalem:
The weather in Jerusalem is warm, dry and sunny between May – November with temperatures averaging 20 degrees. Between December – April the average temperature is 10 degrees. The wettest month is January with an average of 90mm of rain.
Shopping in Jerusalem:
The best advice I was given regarding shopping in Jerusalem – is that if you see anything you like in a shop owned by a Muslim or Arab, then buy it. The Palestinians face many hardships and one is related to the restrictions on their business activity. These restrictions have been very effective in stifling their ability to grow a prosperous economy, and therefore any money you spend amongst the Palestinians, if done with the right intention can be a source of sadaqah for you as you will be spending the money to earn the pleasure of Allah by supporting the ummah (and those within the ummah who are very much in need of financial support). The Palestinians are an immensely strong nation, and despite their indescribable hardships can rarely be seen asking for hand-outs. So spending money at their shops etc. is a great way to benefit the people and help them support their large families, without them feeling shy or embarrassed.
Many visitors to Palestine make a point of visiting the refugee camps as it opens ones’ eyes to the appalling conditions the locals are forced to live in, and the poverty they experience as a consequence of the occupation. If you would like to visit the camps, please speak to your tour guide who can arrange to take you.
Other Islamic Sites in Palestine
In addition to Al Masjid Al Aqsa, there are many other sites in Palestine that are of interest to Muslims. A few of these have been mentioned below:
Masjid Umar (Jerusalem)
This is the Masjid where Umar ibn Al Khattab performed Salah after the conquest of Jerusalem. Umar was invited to pray Salah inside the Church of Sepulchre but decided not to, saying “Had I prayed inside the church, the Muslims coming after me would take possession of it, saying that I had prayed in it.” The tradition states that he picked up a stone, threw it outside the Church and prayed at the spot it landed, which is now Masjid Umar. Umar gave a covenant to the non-Muslims in Jerusalem offering assurances as to their safety, and a copy of this is displayed inside the Masjid.
Masjid Ibrahim / Masjid Khalil (Hebron)
Masjid Ibrahim is located in Hebron and contains the graves of four Prophets and their wives. The Prophets whose bodies lie in this cemetery are Ibrahim (as), Ishaaq (as), Yaqub (as) and Yusuf (as). Please note: there is a synagogue directly adjoining the Masjid. The tombs of Yaqub (as) and Yusuf (as) are on the Jewish side.
Tomb of Rahil / Rachel (Between Bethlehem and Gilo)
This is the tomb of one of the wives of Yaqub (as) and the mother of Yusuf (as). Please note: this site is considered the third holiest in Judaism, after the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the Tombs of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Believers in Kabbalah sometimes wrap red string around the tomb and then make it into bracelets that serve as talismans.
Masjid Yunus (Halhul)
This Masjid which is built on the highest peak in the West Bank (Mount Nabi Yunus) located north of Hebron, is believed to contain the grave of Prophet Yunus (as). Please note that there is a difference of opinion as to where Yunus (as) is buried – with some believing he is buried in Mosul, Iraq.
Maqam of Prophet Musa (Approx. 10km from Jericho)
Tradition holds that the famous sultan and liberator of Al Masjid Al Aqsa, Salah Uddin Ayyubi, once had a dream in which he was shown the resting place of Musa (as). This is where the Maqam of Prophet Musa (as) is located.
Bab e Lud (Lod)
Located in the city of Lod (approximately 15km from Tel Aviv), it is believed that this will be the place where Prophet Isa (as) will destroy the Dajjal.
Tomb of Prophet Lut (Located in Bani Na’im – in close proximity to the Dead Sea)
This building houses the tomb of Prophet Lut (as).
This is commonly believed to be the location where the people of Lut (as) were destroyed for their acts of sodomy.
[Much of the information above has been extracted from the website: www.islamiclandmarks.com. For further information on the sites listed above, please visit that website. In addition, please be aware of the following comment on the website: “Please note that some of the places featured on this site cannot be verified for certain. The knowledge of these places has been passed down through the ages and in some cases more than one location make claim to hosting the same historical place. In such instances IslamicLandmarks.com has shown the most commonly believed site. And Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) knows best.”]
Hadith relating to Al Masjid Al Aqsa
Below are a collection of hadith relating to Al Masjid Al Aqsa:
Great Virtue in Praying at Masjid Al-Aqsa
Abu Darda relates that the Prophet (saww) said:
“A prayer in Makkah (Ka’ba) is worth 1000,000 times (reward), a prayer in my Masjid (Madinah) is worth 1,000 times, and a prayer in Al-Aqsa Sanctuary is worth 500 times more reward than anywhere else”
Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
“We were discussing when we were with the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), which is better, the Mosque of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) or Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem). The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “One prayer in my mosque is better than four prayers offered there (in Bayt al-Maqdis), and what a good place of prayer it is. Soon there will come a time when, if a man has a piece of land the size of a horse’s rope from which he can see Bayt al-Maqdis, that will be better for him than the whole world.”
[ al-Hakim, 4/509]
Anas Ibn Malik relates that the Prophet (saww) said:
“A man’s prayer in his house is equal (in reward) to 1 prayer; his prayer in the mosque of the tribes is equal to 25 prayers; his prayer in the mosque in which Friday prayer is offered is equal to 500 prayers; his prayer in Aqsa Mosque is equal to 50,000 prayers; his prayer in my mosque is equal to 50,000 prayers; and his prayer in the Sacred Mosque is equal to 100,000 prayers.”
The Second House of Allah on Earth
Abu Dharr reported that he asked the Prophet (saw), “O Messenger of Allah, which mosque was first built on the surface of the earth?” He said, “Al- Masjid-ul-Haram (in Mecca).” I said, “Which was built next?” He replied “The mosque of Al-Aqsa ( in Jerusalem) .” I said, “What was the period of construction between the two?” He said, “Forty years.” He added, “Wherever (you may be, and) the prayer time becomes due, perform the prayer there, for the best thing is to do so (i.e. to offer the prayers in time)”
[Sahih Bukhari 3366]
A similar Hadith is also narrated in Sahih Muslim (Ref: 520 a), and in Ibn Majah (Ref: 753).
Day 1; Meet and assist and check in Hotel near Masjid Al Aqsa.
Day2; At 0900 after breakfast to visit Salman Al Farsi Maqam (Mohammadi), Rabia AlBasri, Meraj of Hazrat Issa when Kuffar came to kill him, Suleiman, Zakaria, Yahya prophets grave, Palace of Bilquis, Nabi Dawood, Beit Laham (Where Hazrat Issa was born, Grave of Ibrahim, Ishaaq, Yaqub, Yousef, His wife Sara of Hazrat Ibrahim, Rifqa, Liya a.s. Nabi Yunus. Also Prophet Musa a.s.
Day 3; At 0900 visit Masjid Al Aqsa, Church of Holy Sabrika, Masjid Umar Al Khattab, Meraj of Holy Prophet on Buraq spot, Old Masjid Aqsa, Place of worship of Zakaria, Sitta Maryam where she used to worship Allah in that room, Place where Nabi Suleiman passed away, Prophet Yaqub home where he lived with Yusuf and other children. Place where Bibi Maryam was born, Baba Hitta: Where Allah sent Bani Israel, Dome of the Rock.
ALL THESE INTERESTING HISTORICAL PLACES ARE BY WALK (EXCEPT DEAD SEA).
COMPILED BY; M.R. JAFFER
Director KARWAN JAFFER ALTAYYAR.