Dr. Sharif Abu Shammala
CEO of al-Quds Foundation Malaysia
The Sunnah has an abundance of hadiths and events that indicate the great sanctity of Masjid Al-Aqsa and its significance and holiness, as well as the Prophet’s (pbuh) and his companions’ attention to the Masjid. Nothing is more indicative of this than their prayers towards Masjid al-Aqsa, taking it as their Qibla throughout the Meccan period and nearly one and a half year in the Medinan period.
Abdullah ibn Abbas (ra) narrated that “The Prophet (pbuh) prayed while he was in Mecca towards Bait al-Maqdis, and Kaaba in between his hands, and [he did the same] for sixteen months after they emigrated to Medina, then he changed his direction to Kaaba.”
In another hadith, Abu Dzar (ra) reported that he asked the Prophet (pbuh), “O Messenger of Allah, which Masjid was first built on earth”? The Prophet (pbuh) replied, “Masjid Al-Haram”. Abu Dzar (ra) again asked, “Which was next”? The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Masjid Al-Aqsa”. Abu Dzar (ra) further asked, “How long was the period between the building of the two Masjids”? The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Forty years”.
This hadith signifies the manifestation of Masjid Al-Aqsa’s great holiness, which has been associated with Masjid Al-Haram to be the second Masjid on earth where Allah is worshiped. As such, the Masjid has the honor of the precedence and the association with Masjid Al-Haram.
Furthermore, the Prophet (pbuh) mentioned that Al-Aqsa mosque is one of the three mosques which is specifically prescribed the hardship of travel to pray in, in search of their blessings and a great reward. He (pbuh) said “For three Masjids a special journey may be undertaken: The Masjid Al-Haram, my Masjid and Masjid Al-Aqsa.”
When we talk about the Isra and Mi’raj journey it is inevitable to mention Al-Aqsa mosque and how they are associated. The Sunnah has a plenty of hadiths and events that describe the journey in details such as; traveling on a steed known as (al-Buraq) between the two masjids in a very brief time, the gathering of all the prophets (peace be upon them) there, then the Prophet (pbuh) led them in a congregational prayer. After that, the prophet ascended from al-Aqsa to the heaven, where he (pbuh) received the commandment for the Muslims to pray. Prophet (pbuh) described (al-Buraq) as “a long white beast, slightly bigger than a donkey but smaller than a mule… [W]hen trotting, [it] would place its next step as far as its eyesight could see. I mounted it until I reached Beit al-Maqdis [al-Aqsa]. There I tied it up to the same ring used by the Prophets, then I entered the mosque and prayed two prayers. After that, Gabriel brought me a vessel of wine and a vessel of milk; I chose the latter. Gabriel said, “You have chosen your natural disposition, then we ascended to the heaven.”  -It’s a part from a long hadith narrated in Sahih Muslim. (for further details about Isra and Mi’raj journey)
The journey of Isra and Mi’raj have asserted the association between Masjid Al-Haram and Masjid Al-Aqsa and the significance of Al-Aqsa. However, prophet (pbuh) said in the hadith 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”.
Ihram means: Reciting Talbiah or putting on Ihram wearing the prescribed attire, the pilgrim raises his voice while reciting Talbiah.
Al-Aqsa mosque is one of four mosques that Dajjal will never enter as mentioned in the authentic hadith. This clearly indicates the significance and holiness of these four mosques. Prophet (pbuh) said about Dajjal, “He’ll govern the earth for 40 mornings [days], his power will reach everywhere but he will not enter four mosques; Ka’aba, Al-Nabawi mosque, Al-Aqsa mosque and At-Tur (Mount Sinai)”
In addition, there are a multitude of hadiths that set forth the virtue of praying in Masjid Al-Aqsa. Abdullah bin Umar (ra) narrated that the prophet (pbuh) said: “When Solomon the son of David [peace be upon them] finished building Bait al-Maqdis [Al-Aqsa Mousque], he asked Allah the Almighty for three things: to give him a rule that accords with God’s will, a kingdom never to be attained by anyone after him, and whomever comes to this Masjid only to pray shall be removed from his sins as the day he was born.” Then the prophet (pbuh) said “He was given two of these things, and I hope that he has been given the third”
In this particular hadith, there is an implication toward the significance of Masjid Al-Aqsa and the virtue of praying there. By Allah’s permission the Prophet’s (pbuh) hope shall be fulfilled, similar to how Allah had answered the invocations of Solomon (pbuh).
One of the many blessings of Masjid Al-Aqsa is the doubling of the rewards for prayers established there. Abu Darda’ (ra) narrated that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “A prayer in Masjid Al-Haram is worth 100,000 prayers offered in other places, and a prayer in my Masjid (in Medina) is worth 1,000 times and a prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque is worth 500 times more than anywhere else”.
In another hadith, it was mentioned that a prayer in Masjid Al-Aqsa equals to a quarter of a prayer in Masjid Al-Nabawi. Abu Dzar (ra) narrated:“He asked the Prophet (pbuh) pertaining which prayer is better; in Bait al-Maqdis [al-Aqsa] or in Masjid Al-Nabawi?” The Prophet (pbuh) said: “One prayer in my Masjid 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.”
This hadith indicates that the reward for one prayer in Masjid Al-Aqsa amounts to two hundred and fifty prayers, because a prayer in Masjid al-Nabawi is equal to a thousand prayers anywhere else other than in Masjid Al-Haram. This is known from the hadith when the Prophet (pbuh) said, “a prayer in my mosque is worth a thousand prayers more reward than elsewhere, except in Masjid Al-Haram”.
It is also worth noting that the Prophet (pbuh) paid tribute to Al-Aqsa mosque by saying, “what a good place of prayer it is”, and then revealing that Bait al-Maqdis will be the land of gathering on the Day of Resurrection. From this hadith and numerous others, we can deduce the importance and significance of Al-Aqsa mosque and its situation, such as:
- The companions’ [may Allah bless them] interest and concern in asking about Masjid Al-Aqsa and the reward for praying there.
- The magnitude of the responsibility entrusted upon Muslims pertaining Masjid Al-Aqsa.
- The special significance of Masjid Al-Aqsa in the hearts of Muslims and its great stature in the Sharia.
- The issue of Masjid Al-Aqsa will remain alive in the hearts of Muslims who are working for the Masjid.
- The current plight of Al-Aqsa, which will get more difficult to the point that Muslims will not be able to reside around the Masjid.
Note: there were other narratives that amounted the reward of praying in al-Aqsa to 50,000 prayers, but it’s incorrect according to scholars of hadith.
 Musnad Ahmad, Tirmidhi
 Narrated by Bukhari
 Narrated by Muslim, Bukhari, and Abu Dawud
 Narrated by Imam Muslim
 Narrated by Abu Dawood
 Narrated by Ahmad-musnad
 Narrated by Ahmad, Al-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah, and classed as ‘Authentic’ by al-Albani in the Saheeh of Awareness & Apprehension
 Narrated by Tabarani, Bayhaqi, Suyuti
 Narrated by Al-Bayhaqi and classed as ‘Authentic’ by al-Albani in the Saheeh of Awareness & Apprehension
 Narrated Bukhari and Muslim