al-Aqsa Mosque

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The al Aqsa Mosque, Al-Jâmi‘ al-Aqṣá (ٱلْـجَـامِـع الْأَقْـصّى‎), was built by abd ul-Malik ibn-i Marwan in 695 CE. The mosque was originally a small prayer house built by the Rashidun caliph Umar, but was rebuilt and expanded by the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik and finished by his son al-Walid in 705 CE. It is mentioned in Quran in the following verse "Glory be to Him Who made His servant to go on a night from the Sacred Mosque to the remote mosque of which We have blessed the precincts, so that We may show to him some of Our signs; surely He is the Hearing, the Seeing".


The Masjid al-Aqsa is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. al-Aqsa Mosque is also referred to as al-Qibli Mosque on account of a particular smaller building within it, the al-Qibli Chapel (also known as the al-Jami' al-Aqsa, al-Qibli, or Masjid al-Jumah, al-Mughata). The small studs to the left are remains of Corinthian Columns. The mosque is topped with a lead sheeted dome of the mosque is also partially visible. Renovations, repairs and additions were undertaken in the later centuries by the Ayyubids, Mamluks, Ottomans, the Supreme Muslim Council, and Jordan.

The axis of the mosque is uncertain, and traditional location of the current structure dates back to the thirteenth century. Even the central axis of the main al-Aqsa mosque has shifted several times during the centuries.

Brief History

circa 636- CE

Rashidun Era
The first mosque built on the site was a crude structure, constructed out of wooden trusses. It was constructed in year 636/637 CE, after the conquest of Jerusalem by Muslim forces.

Umayyad Era
During the Umayyad era first proper building was constructed on the site of the make-shift mosque of Umar. ibn Marwan initiated the mosque project where the Masjid Umar stood; constructed some seventy years earlier. First Umayyad mosque at the site was completed during the reign of ibn Marwan's son al-Walid.

Abbasid Era
The mosque al-Aqsa was majorly renovated during the reign of Abbasid Caliph Abu Jaafar al-Mansour for the first time. After this the central hallway was extensively renovated by the Caliph al-Ma’moun and then al-Mahdi, during their eras.

Fatimid Era
A further reconstruction was executed during the Fatimid period, in the 11th century.

Ottoman Era
The Ottomans also invested a lot of care in al-Qibly Mosque, especially Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent who carried out a comprehensive renovation of the building, as well as Sultan Mahmud II, Sultan Abdul Aziz, and Sultan Abdul Hamid II who furnished the Mosque with carpets and provided it with new lanterns.

British Period
During the British Mandate Period Islamic Higher Council undertook some restoration works in 1922 and 1924 CE. The first renovation in the 20th century was carried out in 1922, when the Supreme Muslim Council under Amin al-Husayni (the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem) commissioned Turkish architect Ahmet Kemalettin Bey to restore al-Aqsa Mosque and the monuments in its precincts. The council also commissioned British architects, Egyptian engineering experts and local officials to contribute to and oversee the repairs and additions which were carried out in 1924–25 by Kemalettin.

Jordanian Period
During the Jordanian era a few of the restoration works were undertaken, premarily in 1952, 1959 and 1964 CE.

Israeli Period
In 1969 extensive restoration works had to be undertaken, due the damage caused by the arson attack. The programme of extensive conservation began with the damaged dome and its paintings. The ribbed aluminium outer covering was replaced with lead to match the original. The 14th-century painted decorations of the dome interior, thought to be irreparably lost, were brought to light and completely reconstructed using the trateggio technique, a method that uses fine vertical lines to distinguish reconstructed areas from original ones.


circa 700 CE

The facade of the mosque consists of fourteen stone arches, most of which are of a Romanesque style. The outer arches added by the Mamluks follow the same general design. The entrance to the mosque is through the facade's central arch. The facade of the mosque was built in 1065 CE on the instructions of the Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir Billah. It was crowned with a balustrade consisting of arcades and small columns. The Crusaders damaged the facade, but it was restored and renovated by the Ayyubids.

circa 700 CE

The Dome of Masjid al-Aqsa is located near the southern end of the central nave of the main prayer hall. The current dome was built by az-Zahir and is constructed out of wood panels plated with lead ename. In 1969, the dome was reconstructed in concrete and covered with anodized aluminum, instead of the original ribbed lead enamelwork sheeting.

circa 700 CE

The mosque along the southern wall of Haram al-Sharif, with lead-sheeted Dome of Masjid al-Aqsa at the top and al-Fakhariyya Minaret to the left is also partially visible. The ruins to the right background are those of a seventh century Umayyad Palace. To the left (western) side the arch of Robinson is also visible in the Herodion Street.


circa 700 CE

The porch of al-Aqsa is located at the top of the facade. The central bays of the porch were built by the Knights Templar during the First Crusade, but Saladin's nephew al-Mu'azzam Isa ordered the construction of the porch itself in 1217. The central main entrance to the prayer hall is third on the right. In total seven entrances lead in to the main prayer hall from this porch.

circa 700 CE

Main Prayer Hall
Interior of the main prayer hall, with minbar and mehrab in the far background, looking towards the qiblah wall (southern wall). The al-Aqsa Mosque has seven aisles of hypostyle naves with several additional small halls to the west and east of the southern section of the building. The mosque's interior is supported by 45 columns. Unlike the Dome of Rock the style of the al-Aqsa or al-Qibli masjid is representative of early Islamic Architecture.

The building’s dimensions are 80 meters in length to the south and 55 meters in width to the west. The stone columns are historic and ancient, while the marble ones were added to the mosque when it was renovated in the early 20th Century; these columns are connected by huge arches that are attached to the mosque’s ceiling.

circa 700 CE

Musallah and Mihrab Zakariyya
The Musallah and Mihrab Zakariyya is a small prayer area located on the eastern side of the main prayer hall. The niche was named in commemoration of prophet Zechariah, and is also said to be the place where Mary was lodged and visited by Zechariah, according to Islamic tradition (Qur’an 3:37), though it is merely a tradition.


circa 1278-1400 CE

The Haram as-Sharif Complex has four minarets, three along the western wall and one near the north-eastern corner. These minarets were added over a span of a century, by various Sultans and Ameers, and are used for the purpose of raising Adhan (call for prayer) five times a day.

The al-Fakhariyya minaret, built in 1278 CE and the oldest of the four al-Aqsa minarets is located on south-western corner. Next minaret added to the Masjid al-Aqsa complex was al-Ghawanima Minaret, constructed in 1297 CE, it is located on the north-western corner. Another minaret was added to the mosque complex, named after the Bab as-Silsilah it was constructed near the middle of Western Wall, over the Chain gate. The al-Asbat minaret was the last to be added to the Masjid al-Aqsa, constructed in 1367 it is located near the north-eastern corner.

Masjid Omar ibn al-Khattab

circa 700 CE

The original Masjid Omar ibn al-Khattab was a small prayer house erected by Umar, the second caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate, after the Muslim conquest of the city of Jerusalem in the early 7th century CE (around 636 CE). It is an oblong building that has two entrances: one in al-Qibly Mosque, the other overlooking al-Aqsa’s eastern courtyards. Today, part of the mosque is used as an emergency clinic.

The facade of the Masjid Omer, located in the south-eastern corner of the al-Aqsa, although believed to be situated on the site marked by the second caliph, it may not be an exact location.

al-Aqsa al-Qadeem (Huldah Gate Tunnels)

circa 1278-1400 CE

Today known as the al-Aqsa al-Qadeem, these are originally approach tunnels used to access the lower platform of the Haram as-Sharif. It is a linear construction that extends from north to south. Eighteen steps lead down from the lower platform of the Haram as-Sharif. The two-corridor structure has a barrel vaulted ceiling, and leads to a two-portal-gate in the southern wall; known as the "Bab an-Nabi" literally meaning the gate of the prophet. In the past these tunnels may have served as a private passage from the adjacent Umayyad Palace.

The area was historically an underground arched access tunnel leading from the western Hulda Gates in the southern wall, up to the Temple Mount Platform. Each arch of the double gate led into an aisle of a passageway leading from the gate into the Mount, and to steps leading to the Mount's surface; when the al-Aqsa Mosque was built, the old steps were blocked, and the eastern aisle lengthened so that new steps from its end would exit (pictured here) north of the Mosque.

1969 Arsaon Attack

circa 1969 CE

On 21 August 1969, a fire was started by a visitor from Australia named Denis Michael Rohan. Rohan was a member of an evangelical Christian sect known as the Worldwide Church of God. He hoped that by burning down al-Aqsa Mosque he would hasten the Second Coming of Jesus, making way for the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount. Rohan was subsequently hospitalized in a mental institution.


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