Al-Aqsa Mosque

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The mosque in 2008, with its recently gilded dome
Party Like It's 632
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Turning towards Mecca

Al-Aqsa Mosque, located in Jerusalem, is the third holiest site in Islam. Its site used to be the direction of prayer for Muslims for twenty-four years, before the qibla was changed to Mecca. It is one of the few mosques mentioned in Qur'an 17:1 which states:[1]

Glory to (Allah) Who did take His Servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Aqsa Mosque, whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of Our Signs, for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things).

The nearby Dome of the Rock is the location from where Muhammad ascended to heaven according to Muslims.[2] The Al-Aqsa Mosque garners considerable controversy in the Orthodox Jewish community due to it, and the Dome of the Rock, occupying the former location of the Temple of Jerusalem — Judaism's holiest site. In the earliest versions of the Qur'an it does not include Jerusalem as the site of the night journey, it merely refers to it Muhammad (–circa 570-632 CE) travelling to "the Farthest Mosque". Later on, after Muslim conquest at the hands of Umar, the second Caliph actually marked the first time a mosque was erected on the site, but the name of the place where Muhammad travelled on the Night Journey is not in the original text, but is a later addition by the caliphs. Some Qur'ans note this by including Jerusalem as a footnote. The original mosque was finished in 705 CE, long after Muhammad was dead, so it boggles the mind he could have travelled there to an Islamic "mosque" several decades before any kind of "mosque" was actually constructed there.


  2. Frontiers of Islamic Art and Architecture, Page 17, Gülru Neci̇poğlu, ‎Julia Bailey, 2008