To investigate the importance of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Islam, we need to clarify how the Prophet’s companions (Sahaba) perceived the reputability of Al-Aqsa Mosque based on their eternal biography and their practical perception of its significance. There are many narratives and evidences that illustrate the companion’s attentiveness and interest towards Al-Aqsa: some of them travelled there when they had the opportunities; few of them chose to reside in its vicinity and even took care of it. In this article, we will discuss some examples of their affinity towards Al-Aqsa. Undeniably, this is a very wide subject, so this article will only attempt to shed some light on them.
Abu Dzarr asks for guidance and follows it
Abu Dzarr Al-Ghifari, who was one of the first men (fourth or fifth) among the great companions to embrace Islam, asked the Prophet (pbuh): “O Messenger of Allah, which Masjid was first built on earth”? The Prophet (pbuh) replied, “Masjid Al-Haram”. Abu Dzarr again asked, “Which was next”? The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Masjid Al-Aqsa”. Abu Dzarr further asked, “How long was the period between the building of the two Masjids”? The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Forty years. but the whole earth is a mosque for you, so pray wherever you are when the time for prayer comes”
Years later – after they have migrated to Madinah – Abu Dzarr brought up the topic again. He said “We were discussing when we were with the Prophet (pbuh), which is better, al-Masjid al-Nabawi or Bait al-Maqdis (Al-Aqsa Mosque). The Prophet (pbuh) said: “One prayer in my mosque is better than four prayers offered there -in Al-Aqsa-, 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 Bait al-Maqdis, that will be better for him than the entire world.”
Abu Dzarr further showed his affinity towards Al-Aqsa when he narrated, “The prophet came to me while I was sleeping in Masjid Al-Nabawi. He woke me up and said, “You are sleeping in the mosque. aren’t you?”, means (You should not sleep in the mosque again). I said, “My eyes overwhelmed me to sleep.” Then he said, “What would you do if they send you out of the mosque one day?” I said, “I’ll go to Sham (Levant), the holy land. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “If they exiled you from it?” I said, “Heaven forbid!”
These conversations are evidences of his love and passion towards Al-Aqsa, thus putting it very high in his priority. His feeling was later translated into action when he took part in the conquest of Al-Quds under the reign of Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab in 15AH/637AD.
The companions and the Rashidun Caliphs liberate Al-Aqsa.
Historical narratives indicate the high attention given by the Rashidun Caliphs to al-Aqsa mosque and al-Quds. For instance, Abu Bakr hastened to send armies to conquer the Levant area (Sham). Perhaps, his care for al-Aqsa is manifested in his message to Khaled ibn al-Walid in the year of 13AH/634AD, while Khalid was in Iraq to join the army conquest in Levant. He wrote to him: “Hasten to your brothers in Sham. By Allah, a village in the land of al-Quds that Allah conquests for us is more precious to me than a great county (Rostaq) in Iraq.”
Then, the conquest was continued by the second Caliph, Omar ibn al-Khattab, who responded to Abu Ubaida bin al-Jarrah’s invitation to receive the keys of Al-Quds by himself. After the victory, he prepared Al-Aqsa mosque and then built the first Musalla-an open space outside the mosque- in the front part of the mosque. (For further details about Al-Aqsa Mosque in the era of the Caliphs click here)
The companions put on ihram for the major pilgrimage (Hajj) or the minor pilgrimage (Umrah) from Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Ihram: Reciting Talbiah or putting on Ihram wearing the prescribed attire, the pilgrim raises his voice while reciting Talbiah.
The companions showed high interest to put on ihram from Al-Aqsa Mosque to get the blessing of the prayer and the visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque and Masjid Al-Haram within one journey, and to get the promised reward from the Prophet (pbuh) by following his sunnah (mustahab).
In the hadeeth narrated by Umm Salamah -the Prophet’s (pbuh) wife- said, “I heard the messenger of Allah (pbuh) says,” “If anyone puts on ihram for hajj or umrah from Al-Aqsa mosque to Masjid Al-Haram, his former and latter sins will be forgiven”. Therefore, many of the companions followed the same way such as Ibn Umar (ra), who was put on to hajj from Al-Aqsa mosque and Saad ibn Abi Waqqas – commander of Al-Qdisiyyah army- who pot on to Umrah from there. The companion Abdullah bin Abi Ammar said, “We put on for Umrah from Bait al-Maqdis (Al-Aqsa Mosque) together with Kaab (ra) and Mu‘adh ibn Jabal (ra) who was our leader (Ameer)”. This indicates that, Ihram from Al-Aqsa Mosque was agreed Fiqh among all the companions. This later was followed by a number of Islamic scholars (fuqaha) and followers (tabi’een) such as; Wakih ibn al-Jarrah, who started ihram from Bait al-Maqdis to Mecca. Even the women put on ihram from Al-Aqsa Mosque like Umo Hakim binti Umayyah ibn al Akhnas who traveled to Bait al-Maqdis just to put on ihram for Umrah after she heard Umm Salamah’s hadeeth.
Companions in the yards of Al-Aqsa
As for the two great companions, Ubada ibn as-Samit and Shaddad ibn Aws, their association to al-Aqsa is very well known; their graves near the Golden Gate graveyard at the east of al-Aqsa were the witness of their undying love. The former was appointed as a judge in Palestine and lived in al-Quds with his family. He was a frequent in al-Aqsa, where he spent the rest of his life as a worshiper, a scholar, and a teacher, until he passed away.
Shaddad ibn Aws also spend the rest of his life residing close to Al-Aqsa mosque in al-Quds, as foretold by Prophet (pbuh). Shaddad used to complain to the Prophet that “The earth is closing in on me.” Prophet (pbuh) said, “Don’t worry. Sham will be conquered and al-Quds will be conquered and you and your sons will be Imams there, if Allah will.” Indeed, Shaddad lived in al-Quds and al-Aqsa as an imam until he passed away, leaving behind a considerable number of progenies there.
Shaddad was not the only companion who was encouraged by the Prophet to live in al-Quds. For instance, the companion Thi al-Asabi was inspired by the Prophet’s words and moved to live near to al-Aqsa. He said “I asked the Prophet (pbuh), “O Messenger of Allah, if we were to stay somewhere after you, were do you command us?” The Prophet said, “Stay in Bait al-Maqdis so that if you have progenies, they’d go to the mosque”
The great companion Abdullah bin Omar (ra), his relation and pertinence to Al-Aqsa mosque was very strong and unique. He used to come from Hijaz to Al-Quds to pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque, and then go back to Hijaz and do not even drink water hoped to be awarded by Sulaiman bin Dawud prayer in the following hadeeth. “When Sulaiman bin Dawud finished building Baitil-Maqdis, he asked Allah for three things: judgment that was in harmony with His judgment, a dominion that no one after him would have, and that no one should come to this mosque, intending only to pray there, but he would emerge free of sin as the day his mother bore him.” The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Two prayers were granted, and I hope that the third was also granted” “The companions then the followers used to travel to Al-Aqsa mosque only to visit and pray without any other intentions”.
In addition, there were many other companions who were attached to al-Aqsa with their hearts and souls: Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, Safiyya bint Huyayy, Muaz bin Jabal, Bilal ibn Rabah, Ayad bin Ghanam, Abdullah bin Omar, Khalid ibn al-Walid, Abu Dzarr al-Ghiffari, Abu al-Darda ‘Uwaymar, Ubadda ibn al-Samit, Salman al-Farisi, Abu Masud al-Ansari, Tamim al-Dari, Amr ibn al-Aas, Abdullah bin Salam, Saeed bin Zaid, Abu Huraira, Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-Aas, Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan, Auf bin Malik and Abu Jumaa al-Ansari (May Allah bless them all).
Female companions and Al-Aqsa Mosque
There are also famous narratives of the female companions’ attention towards Masjid Al-Aqsa. One of them, as reported by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad, is the story of Maymunah Bint Sa’d. She asked the Prophet (pbuh), “O Messenger of Allah, give us a pronouncement about Bait al-Maqdis”. The Prophet (pbuh) replied, “It is the land where people will be raised (Al-Hashr) and gathered (Al-Mahshar). Visit it for prayer as a prayer in it equals to a thousand elsewhere.” She further asked, “if one of us cannot visit it, what should we do?” He said, “if you cannot go for prayer then send some oil to be used for its lamps. [It] will be as if he has prayed in it”.
Therefore, we could see that a lot of the companions gave an exceptional care to Masjid al-Aqsa; they asked about it and some moved to live there. These actions reflect their deep understanding of the sanctity of this place. Muslims are able to earn rewards by visiting Al-Aqsa. Residing close to Al-Aqsa, working on its liberation, learning the Islamic jurisprudence and knowledge related to it, and reviving it with prayers are some of the actions that we need today in our fight to liberate the mosque and restore it to the Muslim rule. So that, Al-Aqsa regains its freedom, significance and position in the Muslim Ummah.
 Narrated by Al-Bukhari
 Narrated by Al-Tabarani and Al-Albani classed it as authentic in the saheeh of Awareness & Apprehension
 Sham was a Rashidun, Umayyad and later Abbasid Caliphate province in the region of Syria. It incorporated former Byzantine territories of the Diocese of the East, organized soon after the Muslim conquest of Syria in the mid-7th century, which was completed at the decisive Battle of Yarmouk
 Taken from “History of Damascus
 Taken form “The Virtues of Bait al-Maqdis” by Ibn Almurjy
 Narrated by Abu Dawood
 Narrated by Ibn Hazm Al-Zahiri
 Narrated by Al-Tabarani
 Narrated by Imam Ahmad
 Narrated by Ahmed, An-Nasa’I and Ibn-Majah
 Narated by ibn-Taimia
 Narrated by Imam Ahmad and Al-Tabarani