On Thursday, the Temple Mount will be closed to Jews due to the Muslim holiday of Lailat al Miraj and will not reopen to Jews until Sunday morning.
The holiday commemorates the “Night Journey” that, according to Islam, the Islamic prophet Muhammad took during a single night around the year 621 CE. In the accounts, Muhammad is said to have traveled on the back of a winged baby-horse-like white beast, called Buraq to “Al Aqsa Mosque” (the farthest mosque). His subsequent ascent into the heavens came to be known as the Miʿraj. Muhammad’s journey and ascent is marked as one of the most celebrated dates in the Islamic calendar.
According to some interpretations of this tradition, the Aqsa Mosque refers to the silver-domed mosque on the southern edge of the Temple Mount Plaza.
The mosque on the Temple Mount was built in 690 CE as a small prayer house erected by Umar, the second caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate. It was rebuilt and expanded by the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik and finished by his son al-Walid in 705. This would place the construction of the original, minimal prayer structure 60 years after the death of Muhammad and 70 years after Islamic tradition has Muhammad traveling to the Aqsa Mosque.
It should be noted that in the account of the Night Journey, the Koran does not mention the name of Jerusalem or, in fact, the location of the Far Mosque, an important detail that was only described in 20th-century interpretations. In fact, the Koran states that after becoming a prophet, Muhammad never left Mecca or Medina.
As such, Sunni Arab nations do not denote the holiday as a national holiday, as they do other Muslim holidays. The suggestion that the Al Aqsa Mosque is, in fact, considered insulting to Sunni Arabs.
This point was explained by Saudi Arabian lawyer and journalist Osama Yamani in an article published in Okaz, a prominent Arabic Saudi Arabian daily newspaper, in November. Yamani explained that Arab Sunnis interpret the tradition of the Aqsa Mosque as referring to a mosque in the city of Al Ju’ranah, near Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and not on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Yamani begins by explaining that during Mohammad’s lifetime Jerusalem was called ‘Ilya’, a name it was given by the Greeks and adopted by the Romans. It was adapted to Arabic. The name ‘Jerusalem’ does not appear in the Koran however ‘Ilya’ appears in some Hadith.
The mosque described in the story about Muhammad’s night journey was called Al-Aqsa (the furthest) Mosque because there is another mosque in the region built by one of Mohammad’s benefactors known as “al-Masjid al-Adna, “the Near Mosque”.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University, frequently refers to the myth that the Aqsa Mosque described in the Koran is located in Jerusalem is “fake news” and insulting to Saudi Arabian Muslims since it would raise the mosque on the Temple Mount to a level of importance that could contest the centrality of Mecca in Islam.
“In early Islam, we see that assigning holiness to the Temple Mount was criticized as an attempt to introduce Jewish concepts into Islam,” Dr. Kedar said. “Today, this narrative describing Mohammad’s Night Journey as culminating in Jerusalem has been revived, advanced by the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey’s President Erdogan, Qatar, and other Islamist movements seeking to unite Muslims and/or Arabs under a caliphate who seek to take over Jerusalem and use it like a crown.”
It is perhaps for this political purpose that the “Palestinian” leaders have increased their incendiary rhetoric recently, with various media reporting under headlines like “Dozens of Israeli Settlers Storm Al Aqsa Complex”,
“Al-Aqsa Mosque is the world’s third-holiest site for Muslims,” the article erroneously claimed. “Jews call the area the ‘Temple Mount,’ claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.”
Some Arab media claimed Jewish visitors to the site “performed Talmudic rituals in front of the al-Rahma Gate chapel and the Dome of the Rock.”
The International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS) called for dedicating Friday, one day after the Muslim holiday, as a day of support for the mosque.