[Friday Sermon] The Status Of Al-Aqsa Mosque And Palestine In Islam

Image culled from Aljazeera

By Imam Murtadha Gusau

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation. May the salutations of Allah, His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet, his family, his companions and his true and sincere followers until the Last Day – then to proceed:

Dear brothers and sisters, despite spending the last ten years of his life in a city over 800 miles away from Jerusalem, the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) would nevertheless frequently make a point of including Al-Aqsa in his speech. He knew its status in Islam and in the Eyes of Allah, and he knew that the events of the end of times (Al-Qiyamah) will culminate on its soil. The Prophet’s Companion Abu Zar once asked the Prophet (Peace be upon him):

“O Messenger of Allah, which Mosque was built on Earth first?” He said, “Al-Masjid al-Haram (in Makkah).” I said, “Then which [Mosque]?” He said, “Al-Masjid al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem).” I said, “How much time was there between them?” He said, “Forty years.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

Al-Aqsa is therefore no ordinary Mosque for Muslims, and Palestine is no ordinary land also. It served as a venue for the greatest conference to have ever taken place on Earth, one that was attended by every Prophet to have walked the globe, and when the greatest of them—Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)—was made to lead them all in prayer. Ibn Abbas mentions:

“Baitul Maqdis was built by the Prophets and inhabited by the Prophets. There is not the area of a single hand span except that a Prophet prayed in it or an angel stood on it.” [See Ittihaful Akhissa bi Fada’ilil Masjidil Aqsa]

Al-Masjid al-Aqsa was the first Qiblah of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and his Companions, and remained so for around 14 and a half years before it was then changed to the Kaʿabah in Makkah. So distinct was this venue that when the Prophet (Peace be upon him) received his invitation to visit the inhabitants of the heavens, Allah chose Palestine for his ascension, in order to create within the hearts of Muslims the unbreakable link between Makkah and Palestine. Allah Almighty says:

“Glory be to Him who took His servant on a journey by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, in order to show him some of Our Signs. He (Allah) is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.” [Qur’an, 17:1]

The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:

“Do not undertake a journey to visit any Mosque but three: this Mosque of mine, the Mosque of al-Haram, and the Mosque of Aqsa.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

Respected brothers and sisters, since the last Islamic month (Ramadan), the ‘Israeli’ occupiers have taken their boldness and vulgarity to new levels. Horrific scenes unfolded of armed Zionist troops launching an assault on worshippers—including women, children and the elderly—turning the Masjid (Mosque) into a full-fledged war zone. The occupiers besieged those in i‘tikaf, hundreds of whom were left to bleed without medical attention. How relevant are the words of Allah:

“Who are more unjust than those who prevent the name of Allah from being mentioned in His Mosques and strive toward their destruction? It is not for them to enter them except in fear. For them in this world is disgrace, and they will have in the Hereafter a great punishment.” [Qur’an, 2: 114]

Imam Al-Tabari prefers the opinion that the specific connection to this Qur’anic verse is in relation to Al-Masjid al-Aqsa.

Meanwhile, outside the Masjid (Mosque), the Zionist occupiers—neither content with the stolen land “bestowed” upon them by the UN, nor with the stolen land occupied by them in violation of the UN since 1967—raided Palestinian homes and sought to evict tens of families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, named after a personal physician to Salahuddin Al-Ayubi (Saladin), in East Jerusalem. They threw people out of their own homes, usurping them with impunity, as their own security forces watched them doing so in order to “preserve Jerusalem’s Jewish identity”, as they said.

In light of the above, I wish to share a few messages with the key players in this conflict:

  1. A message to the Jerusalemites on the frontlines in Al-Aqsa: You are the salt of the Earth. Your resilience resembles the robust trees standing at the Damascus Gate to the Old City, as you defend on our behalf, bare-chested, with your heads high and hearts certain of Allāh’s promise. After Allah, you are our inspiration whenever our motivation falters, and you are our motivation when despair takes hold. Indeed, the Ramadan TV shows of 2021 are so many, but nothing compares to your confrontation of the occupying forces, charging us with vibes that no show could ever achieve, as we strain our thoughts: “How can I involve myself in this colossal cause?”

No doubt, you are the consciousness of our Ummah, one which our Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) promised that the agencies of repression can never defeat. If this is the gallantry of the third generation of Muslim Jerusalemites, then truly, your enemies have no hope. We wish we had been the soil beneath your feet, for those who live amongst you live honourably, and those who die do so as martyrs whose good deeds are made to forever grow from within their graves.

  1. A message to Islamic scholars, Imams, social media influencers and activists: We call upon you to make al-Aqsa central to your concerns, and not merely as part of a short-term remembrance during a plight. A longer-term strategy is the obligation of the hour. Include al-Aqsa when teaching Aqidah (theology), history, etc., featuring it regularly in your Friday sermons, and including it in your modules and curricula. Wallahi, your position is an Amanah (trust). Your congregation expects such guidance, and the securer of your wage is Allah, not a committee of the Mosque. The same can be said to social media influencers and community activists: use your platforms to mobilise the Muslims in defence of al-Aqsa, each according to their capacity, resources, and sphere of influence.

The celebrated Kurd whom we know today as Salahuddin Al-Ayubi (Saladin) was not parachuted from the heavens, but was the product of Imams who understood their duties towards the Islamic cause of Palestine. These Imams understood what their positions entailed and nurtured Salahuddin Al-Ayubi (Saladin) to look beyond his nationality and the sinful aspirations of the youth, and to see al-Aqsa as central to his being.

Consider how Jewish wedding ceremonies end with the stomping on glass to serve as a reminder, even during the height of personal joy, of their pain and loss of the alleged Temple in Jerusalem. Consider the Western wall of the al-Aqsa compound, known to the Jews as the Wailing Wall, the holiest site for Jewish prayer, where visitors mourn and bemoan the destruction of the Temple. We ask our Imams: for the last, say, ten years, how many times has this topic appeared in your addresses?

I also call upon congregations (followers of Imams) to respectfully encourage their Imams to fulfil this duty.

  1. A message to the general Muslim masses: (A) Make al-Aqsa your number one priority visit: Visit al-Aqsa in groups of families and friends. Inhale from its pure air, prostrate on its blessed land, and supplicate to Allah on its noble sanctuary for its aid. Reading about the Islamic cause of Palestine is one thing, but only a visit in person can illustrate the full extent of what has happened over the decades.

Find a recommended travel agent that offers a full programme, then book your trip. I stand baffled at those of us who have toured every holiday destination, preferring to return home with souvenirs, debts, and a tan over the everlasting deeds offered at al-Aqsa. Such prizes include what the Prophet (Peace be upon him) promised, when he said:

“When Prophet Sulaiman, the son of Dawud, finished building Baitul Maqdis, he asked Allah for three things: judgement that was in harmony with His judgement, and he was given that. And he asked Allah for a kingdom that no one after him would have, and he was given that. And when he finished building the Masjid (of Al-Aqsa), he asked Allah that every person who comes to it intending only to pray there that he emerges free of sin as the day his mother bore him.” [An-Nasa’i]

In another narration, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) added:

“As for two of his requests, Sulaiman was granted them. My hope is that he was granted the third.” [An-Nasa’i]

(B) Be proactive and create solutions: Our history as Muslims is witness to the countless calamities that Allah averted through suggestions that were put forward by ordinary people. Al-Hubab Bin Munzir did not like the site which the Prophet (Peace be upon him) had chosen to camp in before the battle of Badr. He politely asked:

“O Messenger of Allah, this place that you have chosen, is it from Allah such that we should not comment on it? Or is it part of strategy of war?” The Prophet (Peace be upon him) told him that it was the latter, and so al-Hubab made a suggestion: to advance and camp at the nearest well to the enemy so that the Muslims could collect water in containers for themselves, then fill the remaining wells with sand so the enemy would have no water. He did just that.” [See Sirah of Ibn Hisham]

By all means, act upon the suggestions of signing petitions, lobbying your politicians, boycotts, divestments, and attending meetings and conferences. However, you have your own ideas too. Whilst there is always scope for “tell me what I can do for al-Aqsa”, feel empowered to say, “Let me tell you what we can do for al-Aqsa.” Claim the cause as your own. Consider the following:

• We lack literature for children regarding the issue of al-Aqsa and its plight. What can we do about that?

• Few of our scholars are addressing the Judeo-Christian myths surrounding al-Aqsa. How can these myths be addressed innovatively?

• Political interaction for al-Aqsa is increasing, but what about our local councils, many of whom have contracts with ‘Israeli’ businesses or support ‘Israeli’ settlements? How can this be addressed?

• Thousands of NGOs exist in support of settler groups. What ways can our existing NGOs, like Friends of Al-Aqsa, etc, be further empowered, and even replicated?

• Unlike Zionist charity work, most of our charity work for Al-Aqsa is reactive. What ways can we make it proactive?

• What can wealthy businessmen do by way of awqaf for the cause of Al-Aqsa?

• Social media platforms like Instagram are deleting accounts and censoring stories relating to Al-Aqsa’s plight. What alternative strategies can we devise to raise awareness and concern? Think out of the box, voice your opinions, and take the lead on the cause.

(C) Promote optimism: In the last couple of days—and against all the odds—we have witnessed an astonishing series of retreats by the Zionists.

• Last two weeks was scheduled to have the Israeli High Court rule in favour of evicting the families of Sheikh Jarrah. Fearing a further escalation, however, Israel has bowed to pressure and has delayed the forced eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

• Zionist extremists were congregating to storm the al-Aqsa compound in their racist display of a “unified Jerusalem.” The defiance of hundreds of Palestinians sent the nationalists home.

• The subsequent aggressive raids, along with the siege of Al-Aqsa Mosque, was for the purpose of forcefully dispersing the Muslims and re-facilitating the Jewish march. However, despite being under fire and attacked with tear gas and stun grenades, the Jerusalemites persisted in their i‘tikaf, resulting in a full cancellation of the march.

• In recent years, the ‘Israeli’ authorities had installed metal detectors at the entrance to the Mount. The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf called on Muslims to pray outside the Temple Mount and not enter the Mosque complex until the metal detectors were removed. They were subsequently removed.

Undoubtedly, the battle is by no means over, and ‘Israel’ will continue its plotting for a full Aqsa and Jerusalem takeover. But take a moment to recognise the huge achievements to date, despite the sheer aggression of the occupier, the enormous disparity in means, and the collaboration of neighbouring and non-neighbouring Arab states. This bears proof that the smallest of endeavours can reap tremendous results, and proof that the Will of Allah is above every will, and that He alone is the controller of affairs. Allah the Most High says:

“Whenever they kindle the fire of war, Allah puts it out.” [Qur’an, 5:64]

Furthermore, a full-fledged uprising has ignited all across historic Palestine; Jenin, Nazareth, Gaza, Liddah, etc. Prayers for Al-Aqsa’s salvation are bellowing across the skies of Turkey, as the Turkish street demands greater intervention. Political and civil movements are taking place in Kuwait, Jordan, Sudan, Iran, Egypt, Mauritania, Lebanon, Yemen, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and even on the streets of New York, Washington, Norway, and other places, according to Aljazeera report. Meanwhile in the UK, at least 45,000 emails have been sent to MPs as a result of a British NGO to save Sheikh Jarrah. The unifying effects of al-Aqsa’s wounds upon our fractured Ummah cannot be ignored or quantified. Allah Almighty says:

“And Allah has full control over His affairs, but most people do not know.” [Qur’an, 12:21]

(D) Plead from Allah, Al-Qawiyy Al-‘Aziz (The Most Powerful, The Most Mighty): Someone may say, other than Du‘a (Supplication), what can I do for al-Aqsa? Whilst I do not doubt the sincere frustration of the utterer of such a statement, it does illustrate a frustration that may have obscured certain realities, one of which is the following: whilst Du‘a without action is futile, all actions without Du‘a are similarly just as futile. We are witness to the many times that the geography of lands was shifted, the permission of angelic descent granted, and history rewritten via the supplication of a single man or woman.

When the Muslim military general Qutaibah Bin Muslim looked into the enemy lines of the Turks and found himself in awe of their numbers and weaponry, he enquired about the famous worshipper Muhammad Bin Wasi.‘ He was told that he was on the right flank of the Muslim army carrying his bow, whilst pointing his finger into the heavens in Du‘a. Qutaibah said:

“That finger of his (the hands he raised up for Du’a) is dearer to me than one hundred thousand unsheathed swords and strong youths.” [See Siyar A’lam Al-Nubala]

The deafening silence that follows from your heartfelt Du‘a does not mean that it was not heard by the heavens. Rather, end your Du‘a with unwavering conviction that your Du‘a is on its way to its destination. It will become a key player on the al-Aqsa scene in the form of steadfastness in the hearts of the Jerusalemites, or weather conditions that favours them, or fear that is cast into the hearts of their enemies, or angelic descent, or circumstances that only Allah knows of. Dedicate five minutes for this on a nightly basis.

(E) Beware of haste: It is vital to note that the efforts you exert today may only come to fruition many years after your death. You are not more jealous for the Ummah’s causes than Allah is, so do not despair if you do not see your efforts taking off during your lifetime. Your duty is to merely sow the seed with dedication, then it is up to Allah to decide how and when to give life to matters.

Ali Bin Tahir al-Sulami was a jurist of the Shafi‘i school of thought, teaching in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. He authored a book called Kitabul Jihad (The Book of Jihad). This book details the rulings of jihad, explains the Qur’anic verses that address it, and the duties of different categories of people. The book frequently cites al-Ghazali. It was the first scholarly response to the Crusades, which had, by that time, conquered Jerusalem.

The initial public readings of this book were in the year 1105, six years after Jerusalem had been conquered by the Crusaders. One would assume that these readings would be popular due to the urgency of the matter, yet they were poorly attended, and the book was largely forgotten. A year after this, Ali Bin Tahir passed away. He did not live to see much.

Fast forward 81 years to the blessed land of Sham. The night sky should be filled with tension, yet there is a surprising calm, and excitement fills the air. This time, thousands of Muslims have gathered in a hushed huddle to hear a reading of the book. The pin-drop silence is only broken by the weeping sounds of the sincere, or the bellows of the Takbir. Led by Salahuddin Al-Ayubi and his teacher Nuruddin Zangi, a once disparate Muslim community of various ethnicities and languages became united by Islam and inspired into action by the book of Ali Bin Tahir. It was read in the lead to the decisive battle of Hittin, the battle in which Jerusalem was liberated by Salahuddin. One can imagine the reaction of Ali Bin Tahir when, on the Day of Judgment, he is informed, Allah willing, that his book played a key role in the recapturing of Jerusalem.

Dear Servants of Allah, in summary of the above, if we cannot do the small things we are asked to do, we are deluding ourselves if we feel that when the time comes, we will be able to sacrifice more.

And man may behave complacently towards an illness so long as it is clear of his heart. For example, take a smoker: the staining of his fingers may not frighten him, nor the damaging of his gums. In fact, even when some start coughing—a clear sign of respiratory damage—they may still continue smoking. It is only when news is broken to them that their heart is now under threat that a reaction is sparked, spurring them into immediate action.

My great people, wallahi, Palestine and Al-Aqsa Mosque are the heart of this Ummah and a barometer of its health. From Allah’s endless mercy upon us, He has decreed that our Ummah’s illness is at the centre of its heart, creating an unparalleled sense of urgency and fast-tracking our awakening that could not have been achieved otherwise.

Respected servants of Allah, Al-Aqsa is the name of the silver-domed Mosque inside a 35-acre compound referred to as al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, by Muslims, and as the Temple Mount by Jews. The compound lies in the Old City of Jerusalem, which has been designated a World Heritage site by the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, and is important to the three Abrahamic religions.

The site has been the most contested piece of territory in the Holy Land since Israel occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City, in 1967, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, the conflict dates even further back, to before the creation of Israel.

In 1947, the UN drew up a partition plan to separate historical Palestine, then under British control, into two states: one for Jews, mainly from Europe, and one for Palestinians. The Jewish state was given 55 percent of the land, and the remaining 45 percent was for a Palestinian state.

Jerusalem, which houses the al-Aqsa compound, belonged to the international community under the administration of the UN. It was granted this special status for its importance to the three Abrahamic religions.

The first Arab-Israeli war broke out in 1948 after Israel declared statehood, capturing some 78 percent of the land, with the remaining areas of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza coming under Egyptian and Jordanian control.

Israel’s increasing encroachment on the land intensified in 1967, after the second Arab-Israeli war, which resulted in the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, and eventually the illegal Israeli annexation of Jerusalem, including the Old City and al-Aqsa.

The illegal Israeli control of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, violates several principles of international law, which outlines that an occupying power does not have sovereignty in the territory it occupies.

Over the years, the Israeli government has taken further steps towards controlling and Judaising the Old City and East Jerusalem as a whole. In 1980, Israel passed a law that declared Jerusalem the “complete and united” capital of Israel, in violation of international law. Today, no country in the world recognises Israel’s ownership of Jerusalem or its attempts to change the geography and demographic makeup of the city.

Palestinians in Jerusalem, who number around 400,000, hold only permanent residency status, not citizenship, despite being born there – in contrast with Jews who are born in the city. And, since 1967, Israel has embarked on a quiet deportation of the city’s Palestinians by imposing difficult conditions for them to maintain their residency status.

Israel has also built at least 12 fortified Jewish-only illegal settlements in East Jerusalem, housing some 200,000 Israelis, while rejecting Palestinian building permits and demolishing their homes as punishment for “building illegally.”

Dear brothers and sisters, Abu Hurairah reported that Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:

“The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and the stone or the tree would say: ‘O Muslim, O servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; except for the tree Gharqad, for it is the tree of the Jews.’” [Muslim]

Know that, this Hadith mentions an incident to take place in the future related to a conflict between Muslims and Jews. But it does not apply to all Jews at all times. Its contents reflect a situation of conflict. Prophet Muhammad’s statement regarding the Jews addresses those Jews deserving of censure (enemies of the peace) at that certain time. It does not mean that he is censuring Jews simply because they are Jews.

Both Islam and Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) have consistently spoken up for justice, while condemning injustice — regardless of the person or people committing the act. As the Qur’an clarifies:

“O you who believe! Be strict in observing justice, and be witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred. Whether he be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful of them both than you are.” [Qur’an, 4:136]

The Jews that Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) critiques in this Hadith receive censure because they are worthy of censure, not because they are Jews.

And all praises and thanks are due to Allah alone, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.

Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: gusauimam@gmail.com or +2348038289761.

This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Shawwal 09, 1442 AH (May 21, 2021).

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