The status of Al-Aqsa Mosque is relevant to the blessed land, about which Allah, Most High, says, (Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far Distant Place of Worship the neighborhood whereof We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He, only He, is the Nearer, the Seer.) (Al-Israa’ 17: 1)
Al-Aqsa is the first Qiblah (direction of Prayer) of Muslims, and the land of Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raj. Our hearts bleed for all the sacrilegious acts been perpetrated against Al-Aqsa. The status of Al-Aqsa is clearly explained in the hadith that reads: “People are not to travel except to three mosques: The Sacred Mosque (in Makkah), Al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem ), and my Mosque (in Madinah).” (Reported by Muslim)
Shedding more light on this issue, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, President of the Fiqh Council of North America, states the following:
The city of Jerusalem was chosen at the command of Allah by Prophet Dawud (David) (peace and blessings be upon him), in the tenth century B.C. After him his son Prophet Sulayman (Solomon) (peace and blessings be upon him) built a mosque in Jerusalem according to the revelation that he received from Allah. For several centuries this mosque was used for the worship of Allah by many Prophets and Messengers of Allah. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in the year 586 B.C., but it was soon rebuilt and was rededicated to the worship of Allah in 516 B.C. It continued afterwards for several centuries until the time of Prophet `Isa (Jesus) (peace and blessings be upon him). After he departed this world, it was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 C.E. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was taken there in his miraculous journey of Al-Israa’ and from there he went for Al-Mi`raj. When Muslims took the city of Jerusalem in 636 C.E. during the caliphate of `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) he ordered for the building of this mosque again and it stands until now as a Masjid for the worship of Allah as it was originally built by our Prophet Sulayman (peace and blessings be upon him).
The significance of Jerusalem is that it is the city of many Prophets of Allah as Makkah is the city of Prophets Ibrahim (Abraham), Isma`il (Ishmael) and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon all of them). The Mosque of Al-Aqsa is one of the ancient mosques and in the Qur’an Allah called it and its land “the blessed surroundings” (Surat Al-Israa’: 1).
When Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was in Makkah and also for about 17 months after his Hijrah to Madinah, he and his followers used to pray towards the direction of Al-Aqsa Mosque. This was to establish in the minds of Muslims the link between the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and other Prophets of Allah (peace and blessings be upon them all). When this principle was established in their minds then Allah ordered Muslims to turn to the Ka`bah and pray towards its direction. Now, we are not allowed to pray to the direction of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, but we must respect and honor the city of Jerusalem and its blessed mosque. It is also the duty of all Muslims to guard and protect this mosque from any harm and damage, for the mosque belongs to those who believe in all the prophets and messengers of Allah.