Notes on al masjid al aqsa in the Qur’an

The ultimate place of worship

This article is from The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation.

al masjid al aqṣā – the ultimate place of worship

The phrase al masjid al aqṣā occurs once, at 17:1. This verse is taken by the Traditionalist – on the basis of no Qur’anic evidence – to denote a journey by Muḥammad into the heavens to negotiate with God the number of prayers the members of the new religion should pray. The episode is central to the religion of Islam and reads like an excerpt from the Talmud. I repeat: there are no Qur’anic grounds for accepting this story.

While I cannot prove definitively what this verse means, I can provide the following:

  • evidence for what al masjid al aqṣa does not mean
  • Qur’anic contextual support for the subject of 17:1
  • a reasoned hypothesis for the meaning of 17:1

The word masjid has been established simply as place of worship.

The genuine historical record excludes the possibility that al masjid al ḥarām has any connection with the city of Makkah and points, instead, to Petra.

The genuine historical record denies al masjid al aqṣā any Qur’anically-based connection with the mosque of that name in Jerusalem since such a mosque was not built until after the Qur’anic revelation. Whether there was a temple at the site at some previous point in history is immaterial, at the time of the revelation there was no temple there – and the site which later became a mosque was at that time used as a place for refuse.

A natural reading of the opening of the chapter does not readily admit Muḥammad as the subject since he is not mentioned. The first person to be named is Mūsā (17:2). On this basis I assume Mūsā to be the subject of 17:1 also – a reading which fits perfectly.

A journey from al masjid al ḥarām in Petra to a likely location for the true Sinai (Jabal al Lawz in Midian) is feasible in one day and night on horse or camel if undertaken at a trot.

Mūsā’s meetings with God on Sinai represent the pinnacle of Man’s interaction with God and the place where this happened readily merits the title al masjid al aqṣā or the ultimate place of worship.

References

17:1.

About the Author Sam Gerrans

Sam Gerrans is an English writer and speaker with professional backgrounds in media, strategic communications, and technologies. He is driven by commitment to ultimate meaning, and focused on authentic approaches to revelation and Realpolitik. He is founder of Quranite.com and author of The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation where his consistent, Qur'an-centric hermeneutical methodology is applied to the text of the Qur’an in its entirety. Read more...

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