The Early History and Establishment of Al-Aqsa Mosque

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Dr. Sharif Abu Shammala
CEO of Al-Quds Foundation Malaysia

Al-Aqsa mosque is the beginning of saintliness and the blessing center (Al-Baraka), which moved to its surroundings, when the second mosque on earth was built, where Allah is worshipped. The mosque’s history is correlated with Masjed Al-Ahram and witnessed to the movement of the Prophets -peace be upon them- who prayed and worshipped to Allah and conveyed his message from its Mihrab  (محراب). In this article, we will shed the light on specific era of the history of al-Aqsa Mosque, to highlight its most important stations of period from the foundation to the era of the Prophet Jesus (Issa) (pbuh), taking advantage from the Islamic sources and tracking its references and content, and what the great scholars of the nation included in their works.

First Establishment

It is clear in the Prophetic Sunnah that the establishment of al-Aqsa Mosque was after Masjed al-Haram for 40 years. According to the hadith narrated by al-Bukhaari and Muslim after Abu Dharr (ra) who said: ” I 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”[1]. This hadith is a base to understand and track the history of al-Aqsa Mosque. As it shows that the construction of al-Aqsa Mosque was shortly after the construction of Masjed al-Haram, because forty years are short comparing to the earliest human ages, or life on Earth

One of the significant matters that is usually discussed while studying the history of the establishment of al-Aqsa Mosque is the identity of its founder. This issue has attracted the attention of Muslim scholars and their investigation, long time ago and recently. In this regard, The Islamic scholar Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani refers to the multiplicity of opinions about that character, “The first one who built al-Aqsa Mosque was Adam (pbuh), while other narrations said, the Angels or Sam bin Noah (pbuh) or Jacob Yaaqub (pbuh)” But he agrees with Ibn al-JawziIbn Hisham and others in their opinion that most probably Adam (pbuh) built al-Aqsa Mosque after Masjed al-Haram.

He says: “The probability mentioned by Ibn al-Jawzi is more accurate, and I found evidences support who said that Adam (pbuh) is the one who founded the two mosques”[2]Ibn Hisham has added more details which strengthen this view, he said; “After Adam (pbuh) finished from building the KaabaAllah ordered him to walk to the Holy Land, Jibril showed him how to build Bait al-Maqdis and then he built it”[3]. It is important to note that what is meant by Bait al-Maqdis, is al-Aqsa Mosque which was mentioned for the first time by this name at the beginning of Surat Al-Isra, then Muslims used to call it Bait al-Maqdis in the later eras, and became the name of al-Aqsa mosque. Al-Aqsa Mosque was the nucleus of Bait al-Maqdis, and the first building in the region exactly like Kaaba which was the first building in its area too[4].

Some people fall into a misunderstanding that may occur regarding the first establishment of al-Aqsa mosque which was built in forty years after Masjed al-Haram, therefore al-Aqsa Mosque, according to the previous hadith, will be built during or after the era of Abraham Ibrahim  (pbuh) because he is the one who built the Kaaba as it mentioned in Quran;

“وَإِذْ يَرْفَعُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ الْقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ الْبَيْتِ وَإِسْمَاعِيلُ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ”

{And remember Abraham and Isma’il raised the foundations of the House (With this prayer): “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing} [ Al Baqarah: 127].

The interpretation of this is that Abraham Ibrahim (pbuh) just renovated the Kaaba because the first establishment of the building was in Adam’s era, after the destruction of the first building, which is mentioned by a number of scholars such as; al-Tabari in his Tafsiral-Razi ‘al-Tafsir al-Kabir’, al-Qurtubi “al-Jam’a Ahkam al-Quran” al-Suyooti “Sharh sunan al-Nisaei”, al-Beghawi, and other scholars. According to al-Tabari, “The bases of the mosque were already existed before that. Others said, they were the bases of a house “mosque” that Allah had brought down to Adam from heaven to earth”[5]. From the previous texts and opinions of a famous group of scholars and interpreters (mufasserin), it is likely that the establishment of al-Aqsa Mosque was by Adam (pbuh).

The Shape and Direction of the First Construction of Al-Aqsa Mosque

The last part of Ibn Hisham‘s previous quotation ” Jibril showed him how to build Bait al-Maqdis” is a very important and unique addition to the history of building al-Aqsa Mosque. It confirms that Adam (pbuh) has built al-Aqsa Mosque according to how he was inspired by Allah the Almighty, by Jibril (pbuh).

One of the most interesting discoveries has been done by the researcher Haitham Al-Rutrout in terms of architecture and history of the honorable Kaaba and al-Aqsa Mosque. He studied the dimensions of Kaaba which was built by Abraham إبراهيم (pbuh) on the bases that built by Adam (pbuh) based on what al-Azraqi presented in his book “The History of Mecca”. Based on this study, the plan of Kaaba was determined and the dimensions of al-Aqsa Mosque were studied as they were during the era of the prophets, before the Umayyad expansion (1 Hijri / 7 AD) which was northward, based on research and modern archaeological discoveries. He concluded the result of his record as follows: “when comparing the architecture of al-Aqsa Mosque with its counterpart of Kaaba, the absolute similarity between them is observed through the ratio of their ribs and the degree of its deviation, as well as the angles between these ribs. In short, the result that can be reached through these architectural comparisons confirms that both al-Aqsa Mosque and Kaaba were built based on the same plan. This may be evidenced by the fact that their plans were founded by one person, or the person who founded them lived for a period of time in the two places and was aware of what they contain”. (See the figure).

The architectural pattern of both the Kaaba during Ibrahim time and al-Aqsa Mosque

The architectural pattern of both the Kaaba during Ibrahim time and al-Aqsa Mosque at the beginning of the 7th century AD

The two plans represent both the Kaaba and al-Aqsa Mosque where the similarity between the plans of the two buildings is observed

Al-Rutrout reveals in his study of the sites of al-Aqsa Mosque and the Kaaba that the direction of al-Aqsa Mosque was in the same direction of the Kaaba, meaning that, al-Aqsa Mosque was built towards the Qibla since its first days. This proves that al-Aqsa Mosque was built after Masjed al-Haram. (See the figure). These important results confirm that the construction of Adam of al-Aqsa mosque was according to very accurate plans that exceed the capabilities of human beings at that time, and it must have been according to the Allah’s Almighty will, which confirms the strong historical, structural and religious relationship between the two mosques.


[1] Narrated by Al-Bukhari

[2] Ibn Hajar al-Askalani: Fath al-Baari, 6, 408-409.

[3] (Kitab al-Teejan fi Muliki Bani Hamir: pp. 22-22)

[4] (Kitab al-Teejan fi Muliki Bani Hamir: pp. 22-22)

[5] Abdullah Maarouf: Almudkhal ila dirasat Bait al-Maqdis

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