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Al-Aqsa Holy Mosque under the Israeli Occupation

Al-Aqsa Holy Mosque under the Israeli Occupation

Al Haram Al Sharif represents the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict because of its religious significance for Moslems and of the Jewish claims of their alleged Haykal (Temple of Solomon) believed to exist underneath Al Haram Al Sharif.

The holiness of Al Haram Al Sharif:

The holiness of Al Haram Al Sharif is owing to its connection with Islamic Faith as the first Qibla (House of Worship) and its being the third mosque after Al Ka'ba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and the Prophet Mohammed's Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Its significance has been reinforced by the incident of Al Isra'a and Al Mi'raj (the night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and the ascent to the Heavens by Prophet Mohammed) as shown in the Holy Qur'an, Text, Translation and Commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Surah (S.) Bani Isra'il (Children of Israel), verse 1:

"Glory to (God) Who did take His Servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque (Al Ka'ba) to the Farthest Mosque (Al Masjidul Aqsa, Jerusalem) 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) ." In addition, Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) says: "The saddles should not be prepared except for three mosques: Al Masjidul Haram (Al Ka'ba), the Prophet's Mosque, and Al Masjidul Aqsa." Moreover, the Prophet replied when he was asked about the history of the building of Al Aqsa by saying: "It was built immediately after Al Masjidul Haram ." The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) added: "The prayers at home are one-fold, at a local mosque is 25-fold, at a central mosque is 500-fold, and at Al Aqsa is 5,000-fold ."

History and Description:

Al Aqsa was given as a name for the whole sacred Sanctuary or Al Haram Al Sharif, including the Dome of the Rock . This part of the city is 140 dunums or 15% of the old city area, which is about 1 square kilometre . It is located in the southeast part of the city, and is surrounded by a wall with 11gates. Seven of the gates are open while the others are closed . Al Haram Al Sharif itself has 14 doors, and 10 of them are open while the others are closed. The open doors are :
North Side: Al Asbat (Al Usoud), Hatteh, Sharaf Al Ahbia' or Faisal.
West Side: Al Ghawanmeh, Al Nather, Al Hadeed, Al Qattaneen, Al Mat-hereh, Al Selseleh and Al Magharbeh.
The closed doors are: Al Sakeeneh, Al Rahmeh, Al Tawbeh and Al Buraq

Al Haram is connected with the other parts of the city through certain paths extending through the city . There are 25 drinking water wells in Al Haram, and 8 of them are in the Dome of the Rock, while the others are between Al Aqsa and the Rock where Al Aqsa's "water fountain" is located . In addition, there are several water facilities called Asbeleh, plural of Sbeel, which are free drinking water fountains, namely Qaitby, Sha'lan, Qasem Basha and Bab Al Habs. The mosque has four minarets, namely Bab Al Magharbeh, Al Selseleh, Al Ghawanmeh, Al Asbat. There are also several domes, namely Al Selseleh, Al Mi'raj, Mehrab Al Nabi, Yousef, Suleiman and Al Nahawy, as well as some floors such as Al Karak, Ala'a El Deen Al Basri and Al Ushaq, also known as "the Lovers". These floors are used by the "Sufis" or mystics for prayers and for teaching during the summer months.

There are several porches on the north and west sides such as the one extending from Bab Hatteh to Bab Faisal, the one parallel to Bab Faisal, the two lower porches under the Deputation building in the northwest sector, two newly built porches above that area, the western porches extending from Bab Al Ghawanmeh to Bab Al Nather, the porch extending from Bab Al Nather to Bab Al Qattaneen, the one extending from Bab Al Qattaneen to Bab Al Selseleh, and the one extending from Bab Al Selseleh to Bab Al Magharbeh. There are also two sundials: the first is located in the western sector, which was made by Mr. Mohammed Taher Abu Al Sa'ud, and the second is located in the southern sector on the bridge of Al Aqsa, which was made by the engineer Rushdy Al.

The Dome of the Rock:

This building is located in the middle of Al Haram Al Sharif , and it was built by the Umayyad Caliph Abdel Malek Bin Marwan in 68-72 H (688-691 CE) (21). The dome of Al Selseleh had been built before as a model for the larger Rock . The Caliph made sure that the Islamic architecture was superior and more grand than the Christian churches in the city . The Mosque of the Dome of the Rock is situated on a hilly area covered with white marble , and it is called the yard or the dish of the Rock. It measures 219 yards northwest and 223.5 yards east-west with a height of 12 yards . There are flights of stone steps leading up to the Mosque. These steps are called Al Maraqi, towered by bridges called the Balances because it is believed that the balances of Doomsday will be held up there, and 9 of these Maraqi are around the Rock.

The Dome of the Rock is an octagon; 4 of its sides face the 4 directions, and the Rock is in the centre and is about 1.5 metres high. It measures 18 metres long by 13 metres wide, covered by a circular dome consisting of four circular fringes covered with marble squares with three marble columns between every two of them. They also carry 16 arches covered with white and black marble. The upper circular part of the Dome is covered with mosaic decorations of plants in harmonious colours, mainly green, blue and gold. The neck has some shells with 16 windows, made internally of glaze and externally of china or "qashany" blocks decorated with circular vents (see figure 1).

The neck is made of wood and lead and used to be covered with copper, however, now it is covered with gilded aluminum. The span between the two layers is 1 metre. The diameter is 20 metres and the height is 35 metres, towered by a 4.5 metre crescent. There is an octagon between the circular part of the building and the external octagon consisting of 8 supports covered with pied marble and 16 coloured marble columns--2 of them between every 2 supports that are towered by complexes covered with mosaics and a strip of Kufian calligraphy.

There are also wooden and bronze inscriptions with gilded ornaments surrounded by frames of pied and colourful marble, especially white and gray. Externally, the building is covered with marble up to the midpoint of the octagon, while the upper part is covered with mosaics and images of plants. There are 7 curves at each side, 5 of them have open windows with coloured glaze and qashany blocks. Each side is 20 metres long and 12 metres high (28). Half of the lower part is covered with marble while the second half is covered with blue qashany squares inscribed with Surah Yaseen by the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman Al Qanouni in 1615 CE (29). The ceiling of the middle and external porches is flat and covered with wooden decorations leaning toward the external octagon and covered with lead sheets, but they are covered with silver aluminum sheets. The neck is covered with qashany decorations outside with a strip containing Surah Al Isra'a (the night journey), which was made in the 15th century. The neck had been covered with mosaics decorated with plant images. There are 40 columns, and 4 large external doors , namely David's door or (Isra'fil), the Paradise door, Al Aqsa door and the west door facing Bab Al Qattaneen.

The person who enters through any door can see the whole interior of the building, especially the columns and the supports . The mosaic covers about 1,200 metres . The animated figures have not been inscribed, and they have been replaced by plants and natural landscapes in accordance with Islamic Faith, which gives more security, tranquility and lends itself to deep contemplation . There are 56 windows, 40 of them are transparent and 16 are opaque, and each one is towered by a holy Qur'anic verse.

The Rock:

It is located under the Dome, in the middle of the mosque; it is a huge irregular rock measuring 17.7 metres north-south, 13.5 metres east-west, and 1.5 metres in height. It is surrounded by a wooden fence, and the prayer area for women with four doors is separated from the men's prayer area by a crossed fence built by the Crusaders.

The Cave:

There is a cave under the rock that is accessible from the south side by 11 steps. It has a square area measuring 4 x 4.5 metres and 3 metres high, with a ceiling opening of 1 metre. There is a marble-covered bridge over two columns next to "Maqam Al Khadr" and Bab Al Khaleel is located on the north side. The floor is covered with marble. The Dome of the Rock is an exquisite masterpiece of architecture, reflecting the grandeur and superiority of the Islamic State . In addition, it is the best example of the creativity of the Umayyad Islamic architects . It has been an attraction for several scholars and researchers ever since Creswell , the professor of architecture in Cairo University, said "the Dome of the Rock has a remarkable significance in the Islamic architecture because it is considered a dazzling and charming masterpiece of Islamic architecture that has attracted the attention of several scholars." He added, "This significance is not owing to its history, but rather it is one of the wonders Man has created so far because of its grandeur, beauty and splendour." Unless this great building receives continuous preservation, it will not remain in such a beautiful and splendid condition. It has been exposed to various natural disasters, but it has been refurbished several times by the Abbasid Caliph Al Ma'moun during the period 216 H-831 CE and also by the Fatemides Caliph Al Taher during the period 243 H-1022 CE . The Dome was invaded and occupied by the Crusaders during the period 492 H-1022 CE, and they changed it to a church and Al Aqsa to stables . Saladin restored it during the period 580 H-1187 CE, and he removed the damage they had done. The Dome had also been refurbished by King Al Thaher Beibers during the period 661 H-1262 CE. Thereafter, King Mohammed Qalawoun did some renovations during the period 718 H-1318 CE, and then King Qatby added the copper doors of the west entrance, and finally the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman Al Qanouny added new tiles in 1542 CE.

Al Aqsa Mosque:

Al Aqsa Mosque refers to the southern area of Al Haram Al Sharif, which is about 500 metres south of the Dome of the Rock. The interior is 80 metres long and 55 metres wide (47), with a dome in the centre of the ceiling. It also has 11 doors: 7 on the north side, 1 on the east side, 2 on the west side, and 1 on the south side . The Mosque was built by the Umayyad Caliph Abdel Malek Bin Marwan during the period 692-705 CE . This Mosque should not be confused with the mosque on the east side built by Omar Bin Al Khattab, the second Rightly-guided caliph, which was also a big mosque, able to accommodate about 3,000 people and covered with wood.

Al Aqsa has 53 marble columns: 14 on the middle porch, 12 on the east porch, 8 under the dome, 11 on the eastern part of the dome, 7 in its western part, and 1 in Maqam Al Arba'een. It also has 49 stone pillars: 4 under the dome, 12 in the western porch, 4 in the eastern porch, 3 in the western part of the dome, and the others are in other places. These pillars are huge square supports, while the columns are smaller and cut from marble with a height of 5 metres and 43 centimetres in diameter in the upper part and 52 centimetres in the lower part. These columns are towered by stone arches with an opening of between 8.91 metres-9.17 metres with a height of 6.26 metres. The Mosque has 7 porches: 3 in the east, 3 in the west, and 1 in the middle . The dome is in the middle at a height of 17 metres, covered with mosaics that made it more splendid and charming. It has 2 layers: the interior has been explained previously while the external layer consists of wood plates covered with lead sheets. The space between them is 75 centimetres at the neck, 2.5 metres in the middle, and 3 metres at the upper part, towered by the Crescent. The neck is the cylindrical part between the dome itself and the arches upon which it lies. It is supported by 4 arches, each of them resting on 2 marble columns and a cylinder. Al Qibleh is under the dome in the extreme south and used to be called Mehrab Da'oud, but it was changed to Mehrab Omar, and there is another area called Mehrab Mu'awwiyya in a closet made of crossed steel. There is also Omar's mosque, built by the Caliph Omar Bin Al Khattab. It is 30 metres long, 8 metres wide, with a Mehrab and 4 small columns; 2 of them are spiral. To the north, there is a large space called Maqam Azeez or Maqam Al Arba'een. Maqam Zakariya is 6 metres long and 5 metres wide.

Finally, there is a women's mosque consisting of 10 bridges built upon 9 well-built pillars. There is a large porch on the north side consisting of 7 bridges, each of them stands at one door. Moreover, there are 137 windows: 7 in the dome made of coloured glaze and slightly transparent, 42 in the middle porch, half of them overlooking the east porch while the others overlook the west porch. Half of these windows are transparent, 43 in the east side (24 of them made of coloured glass), 14 in the west side (2 are large and transparent while 12 are made of opaque glass), and finally 16 in the north side and 24 in the south side (22 of them are made of coloured glass) (54). There is an old building under the present one called the old mosque of Al Aqsa that is a large, long labyrinth consisting of chains of complexes lying upon huge pillars, both cylindrical and square, and another labyrinth called Suleiman's stable under the paved area of the mosque.

Preservation and Maintenance:

The Abbasid Caliph Abu Ja'fer Al Mansour visited Jerusalem in the middle of the 2nd century when he gave his orders to rebuild the Mosque. This task was carried out by his son Al Mahdy in 163 H. The Fatemides Caliph Al Thaher Le'ezaz DeenEllah added more sections during the period 426 H-1034 CE when he made it narrower in the western and eastern sides by removing 4 porches and adding 7 doors on the north side along with other reformations. When the Crusaders invaded the city, they changed it to a storage area for their equipment and a stable for their horses . Saladin Al Ayyoubi restored it during the period 583 H-1187 CE, adding several reformations such as building his own pulpit (58), which was burned by the Jews in 1969 CE. The Ottoman caliphs added more reformations but without any radical changes in the Ayoubian design . Next, several reformations were done during the years 1925, 1938 and 1943 CE (1344, 1357 and 1363 H) by adding the eastern porch . After the ominous burning in 1969, the Jordanian Government started some reformations.

The Jewish Claims Regarding Al Haram Al Sharif: These claims began when the Prophet Da'oud "David" (peace be upon him) entered the city followed by his son Suleiman (peace be upon him). He built his mosque based on the model of Maliki Sadeq's temple. Thereafter, the city became a holy place for the Hebraic tribes, especially after the Babylon Captivity in 586 BC. It also became the centre of the Jewish faith upon which several hymns and carols had been composed and called the Babylon Talmud, replacing the Talmud of Jerusalem . When Korusch became the king of Persia in 538 BC, he allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild their assumed Haykal and the Wall , which was destroyed once more by the Roman emperor Titus in 70 CE. The Jews were scattered all over the world in their Diaspora. Consequently, Jerusalem became the focus of the Jewish Ideology when the Roman emperor Hadrian demolished the entire city in 131 CE and built a new city called "Elia Capitolina". He then allowed the Jews to visit the city once a year on 19 August.

Al Buraq Wall:

This wall represents the southwest part of Al Haram Al Sharif, and it is 47 metres long and 17 metres high and is part of the Islamic Awqaf because it has been connected with Al Isra'a (the night journey), when Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) tied Al Buraq, the animal used to travel with on the journey, to this wall. It is called Kottel Me'marany in Hebrew, which is considered the external wall of the assumed Haykal, which had been demolished by Hadrian . It is also called the Wailing Wall because the Jews used to visit it and wail and lament their past glory and grandeur. The conflict between Muslims and Jews is over a part of this wall measuring 30 metres and a narrow path accessible only through the north side at Bab Al Selseleh. This door (Bab Al Selseleh) separates the path from a complex of Arab houses and Al Buraq mosque on the south side, which had been destroyed by the Jews when they occupied the city in 1967. There is another wall with a separate door close to the residence of Haj Meen Al Husseini, which was confiscated and changed into a synagogue by the Israelis. There have been several skirmishes and confrontations between the Palestinians and the Jews because of the Jewish transgression and arrogance. The most prominent incident was the revolution of Al Buraq in 1929. The Jews brought some tools and equipment to hold a service using the Horn on 23 September 1928, which provoked the Muslims, especially when the Jews put a curtain over the wall and refused to remove it. The police interfered using force, and a lot of Jews demonstrated on 15 August 1929, raising their flag and shouting "the wall is ours".

Muslims demonstrated the following day, Friday, 16 August 1929, after prayers, and destroyed everything they had made. The situation became aggravated, and the skirmishes spread throughout the country on 29 August 1929 . The British mandate forces appointed a committee to investigate the case and decide the ownership of the wall in 1930. The committee carried out several investigations resulting in the Islamic identity of the Wall, which was considered as a part of the Islamic property "Awqaf", including the pavement and Al Magharbeh area, as charitable possessions.

Israeli Procedures used to Control Al Haram Al Sharif:

The Jews have been planning to control Al Haram Al Sharif since the time when Herzl said, in the first Zionistic conference in Basl in 1897, "If I ever control Jerusalem, I will definitely remove all the holy places except the Jewish ones" . This notion has been confirmed by the Jewish historian, Dr, Israel Aldad, when he said in an interview for the Times, "Israel must build The Temple in its original place". When he was asked how, he replied an earthquake might happen and change the whole area . Moreover, Israelis began these procedures as soon as they occupied the city on 5.

June 1967 by doing the following:

The burning: Michael Rohan, an Australian tourist attempted to destroy Al Haram Al Sharif on 21 August 1969 by setting fire to the Mosque. His attempt resulted in the burning down of Saladin's pulpit and 1,500 cubic metres of the southeast part of the Mosque. The total damage was estimated at about one third of the total area, which is about 4,400 cubic metres. The Israeli forces cut off the water supply and prevented the fire engines from arriving on time to extinguish the fire. Repeated attempts by Jews to pray in the Mosque: The first attempt was on 18 August 1969 when 25 Jews broke into the Mosque to pray using their horns and reciting hymns, carols and some verses from the Bible, especially the Zionistic anthem Btar. The second attempt was on 28 December 1976 when an Israeli judge allowed some Jews, accompanied by a group of Israeli MPs, to pray in the Mosque. They belonged to the "Hatehya" movement, and when they visited Al Haram and tried to pray, they were stopped by the guards. They responded by hoisting the Israeli flag and reciting the Israeli national anthem. Repeated attempts to bomb Al Aqsa: There have been several attempts to bomb Al Aqsa. For instance:
The Israeli forces found a store of explosives near Al Aqsa, planted by the terrorist Me'air Kahana and his gangsters in May1980 . The Arab guards caught 49 Jews carrying explosives and arrested them, but they were released the following day on 11 March 1983. Three bombs, used by the Israeli army, were found inside a big pumpkin on 30 January 1984. The Arab guards discovered a large amount of explosives hidden in the branches of a tree, planned to explode when Mr. Helmet Kohl, the German Chancellor, arrived to visit Al Haram in 1985. The armed break-in and shooting down of the worshippers:
A group of extremist settlers from Keryat Arba'a, armed with weapons, broke into Al Aqsa through Bab Al Selseleh and skirmished with the guards. The Israeli soldier, Eli Jethman, broke into the mosque of the Dome of the Rock and shot down 2 guards, which led to the killing of 9 martyrs and 136 injuries. The worst massacre was on 8 October 1990 when the Israeli soldiers shot down 20 martyrs and injured 115 worshippers because a group belonging to the so-called Trustees of The Temple attempted to lay down the foundation stone for their assumed Haykal. Excavations under Al Haram Al Sharif: There have been several attempts to destroy Al Aqsa and erect The Temple in its place, especially on the southern and western sides, and to demolish the Islamic buildings as well as the private houses. These excavations began in 1967 and passed through nine stages:

The First Stage: Excavations began in 1967 and finished in 1968 and included 70 metres of the lower part of the southern wall and the women's mosque, at a depth of 14 metres, which posed a great danger for the neighbouring houses and buildings. These excavations were financed by the Hebraic University and carried out by a team led by Professor Benjamin Meizar. However, they only found Umayyad, Roman and Byzantine ruins.

The Second Stage: The excavations were completed in 1969 and included 80 metres of the wall of Al Haram Al Sharif. It began where the first stage left off and extended north until Bab Al Magharbeh. It ran under a lot of Islamic buildings such as the "Honourable Corner" and the Iman Al Shafi'I Centre. These buildings sustained cracks in the process and were removed on 14 June 1969. They found three Umayyad palaces.

The Third Stage: The excavations began in 1970 and were finished in 1974. They were resumed in 1975 and lasted up till 1988 and included the area under the Legal Court, the oldest Islamic building in Jerusalem, passing through the area under 5 doors of Al Hara, namely Al Qattaneen, Ala'aedeen Al Basry, Al Mat-hereh, Al Selseleh and Al Hadeed, at length of 180 metres. It ran under a lot of houses, facilities and mosques, as well as Qaitby minaret, Souk Al Qattaneen and some schools at a depth of 10-14 metres and a length of 400 metres. This resulted in several buildings cracking such as the Ottoman mosque, Al Jawharia School, AlManjakia School and the lower part of the Islamic court, which was changed to a synagogue. The Israelis declared that they had discovered the path, measuring 500 metres, originally discovered by the German General Conrad Chek in March 1987. The Israelis made a tunnel between Bab Al Ghawanmeh and Al Mujahedeen Way or "the Passion Way" to reach the Roman canal. However, this attempt was stopped by Muslims and was thereafter closed.

The Fourth and Fifth Stages: Excavations began in 1973 and continued till 1974 and included the area under the southeastern part of Al Aqsa at a length of 80 metres and penetrating the southern wall of Al Haram Al Sharif, which leads to the Mosque itself, at a depth of 20 metres. It ran under Omar's Mosque, three doors of the lower porches and the southeast corridors, creating a very dangerous situation.

The Sixth Stage: Excavations began in 1977 in the middle of the eastern wall, between Bab Al Saideh Mariam and the northeast corner, endangering the Islamic cemetery. In addition, the Jews confiscated a lot of land in order to establish the Israeli National Park.

The Seventh Stage: These excavations were aimed at deepening the area of Al Buraq wall adjacent to the western wall to include several neighbouring buildings such as the old Islamic court, Al Tankaria School, the library of Al Khaledia and more than 35 houses inhabited by 250 Palestinians.

The Eighth Stage: Excavations began in 1967 as a continuation of the fourth and fifth stages and included the area behind the walls and the southern area. Its purpose was to explore the burials of the kings of Israel in David's city. The process caused a lot of cracks in the southern walls of Al Aqsa; this has been a controversial issue between Natoury Karta and the Ministry of Religions.

The Ninth Stage: Excavations began on 21 August 1981, the 13th anniversary of the ominous burning crime mentioned above. Israeli forces began a new stage of excavations to re-open the tunnel discovered by the English Colonel Warren in 1876; this tunnel is located between Bab Al Selseleh and Bab Al Qattaneen, below Bab Al Mat-hereh. It ran the length of 25 metres and a width of 6 metres, up to Qaitby fountain. These excavations caused a lot of cracks, so the Islamic Department "Awqaf" interfered and stopped them by blocking the entrance with concrete on 29 August 1981. However, it was re-opened on 24 September 1996 on the eve of an Hebraic holiday.

Significant Dates in the History of Al Haram Al Sharif

636 CE: Jerusalem was conquered by Omar Bin Al Khattab, the second Caliph, and he built his well-known mosque.
685 CE: The Umayyad Caliph Abdel Malek Bin Marwan began to build the Dome of the Rock.
691 CE: The building of the Dome of the Rock was completed.
693 CE: The Umayyad Caliph Abdel Malek Bin Marwan began to build Al Aqsa Mosque, which was completed by his son Al Waleed.
705 CE: Al Aqsa Mosque was completed.
15 July 1099: The Crusaders invaded Jerusalem and changed the Dome of the Rock to a church and Al Aqsa to a stable and they hoisted a cross over them.
2 October 1187: Saladin liberated the city and cleaned the dirt and filth off of Al Haram.
9 February 1924: The British General Allenby occupied the city and Al Haram was ruled by the British Mandate.
16 August 1929: The Revolution of Al Buraq broke out when the Palestinians defended the Wall against the Jews.
16 July 1948: The Israeli fighters raided Al Haram by dropping 65 bombs and hitting the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa.
7 June 1967: The Israeli forces occupied the city and Al Haram has been under the Israeli occupation ever since.
11 June 1967: The excavations were started under Al Haram Al Sharif.
15 August 1967: The chief rabbi of the Israeli army and his followers performed prayers in Al Haram Al Sharif.
21 August 1969: An Australian tourist by the name of Michael Rohan burned Al Aqsa urged by the extremist terrorist parties in the Israeli government.

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