As social media displays horrific visuals showing catastrophe in Gaza, the public is beginning to understand the extent of Israel’s barbaric aggression. This has led to the large number of human lives lost, and stripping of basic rights in the Old City of Jerusalem. Unfortunately, there remains a bleak sight in the future for Palestinians who notice no sign of it ending to this date.
During the last Friday night of Ramadan in 2021, the world witnessed the firing of stun grenades, tear gas, and rubber coated bullets at defenseless worshippers inside Al-Aqsa mosque and its surrounding area. The brutal violence at this sacred Islamic site (the most important after the Ka’bah and the Prophet’s Mosque ﷺ), was repeated once more at the holiest time of the Islamic year on Eid Al Adha.
This devastating phenomenon raises two questions in mind: Why should Al-Aqsa mosque stay connected to our hearts? How do we respond to this as Muslims? This article briefly investigates the historical and spiritual significance of Al-Aqsa mosque, as well as detailed strategies on how to preserve it through material and spiritual actions in the hopes of reigniting our sense of collective duty to protect it.
On the Importance of Islamic Sacred Spaces
Talking about the critical importance of Al-Aqsa mosque in Islamic history is incomplete without understanding the essence of what a mosque is. A mosque is a house of prayer, a meeting place with Allah ﷻ. It’s a safe haven and peaceful place to perform prayer on Earth – the complete opposite of a war zone. While God has explicitly stated that “Every place on Earth is a prayer ground for a believer,”  a mosque is especially different from a library, restaurant, or parking lot where you can quickly perform salah. There are etiquettes (adab) required while entering a mosque, such as cleanliness, modesty, etc.
Beyond the symmetrical geometry of medieval architecture and its symbols, there is further resonance between the aesthetic design and the higher world. Throughout the centuries, historians have extensively explored the historical development of Islamic architectures, with little focus on it’s geometrical realities and symmetries in the universe. In his Youtube conversation with Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, Dr.Moustafa Al-Badawi stated that this is closely linked to the three dimensions of human beings: the physical, psychological, and spiritual. In his words, “Allah ﷻ told us to do the prayer in a certain physical way, which created a psychological impact, and has a spiritual meaning.”
Other forms of art such as music are also commonly known to have the capability of producing a psychological effect impacting the spiritual state. Likewise, architecture begins with a physical form, which triggers thoughts and concepts, and ultimately connects with the Divine attributes and names of Allahﷻ. Thus, an artistic purpose of this architectural structure includes the goal of introspection and reflection.
The Virtues of Al Aqsa Mosque
Al-Aqsa mosque is the only mosque besides the Ka’bah recorded in chapter 17 of the Holy Quran, where it was mentioned as the spiritual station of Al-Isra and Al-Miraj, the Night Journey and Ascension of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. The Holy mosque was built 40 years after the masjid of Makkah, being the second mosque built on this Earth. Allahﷻ also revealed the high status of this mosque by rewarding a single prayer in Al-Aqsa by the multiplication of 500 deeds, other than in Makkah and Madinah. 
“Exalted is He who took His servant by Night from al-Masjid al Haram to al Masjid al Aqsa, whose surroundings we have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (17:1)
Another important element that contributes to the significance of Al-Aqsa was being the First Qibla, where the commandment to turn towards this mosque in Jerusalem for prayer (2:142-144), before the Ka’abah in Makkah was declared as the qiblah (the direction to which Muslims pray).
How to keep Al-Aqsa Mosque connected to our hearts
We can do this by realizing the powerful forces within: dua changes qadr. By believing that dua is a powerful tool to fight against injustice, our source of weapon to combat this brutality goes beyond the physical world, as commonly focused by materialists and empiricists. Allahﷻ has instilled a powerful force from within to each of His servants. Muslims believe in the Divine wisdom (hikma) of every fortune and misfortune situation, and that every step of the journey we face in our lives, good and bad, is centered around God. Ultimately this life is a pathway to return back to Him. This distressful situation calls us to improve our relationship with our Creator, to raise our hands and shed tears while begging for forgiveness, mercy, and help.
Increase in Material Efforts
Financial aid is an imperative for helping the victims of Israel’s indiscriminate raid towards innocent Palestinian men, women, and children. This can be done by donating to grass-roots community based organisations. Alternatively, there are other routes to be helpful. In the age of controlled media and propaganda, using one’s own social media platform to amplify the message is a great step – although, admittedly a limited one – to consistently draw attention to the issues which are largely ignored by mainstream media. Lastly, education breeds power, and knowledge leads to independence.
Additionally, learning more about the Islamic history will also give an understanding about how civilizations were ruled by service-oriented leaders who showed exemplary results in protecting the deen. Thus, individual piety is inseparable from our commitment to provide service to humanity. It is within our scope of responsibility to safeguard a house of Allahﷻ from crimes against it. Standing in solidarity to act in the face of violence, and providing relief for their suffering will be our greatest da’wah. One way to begin is by becoming the guardians of the Al-Aqsa mosque, to restore peace and harmony in this blessed, sanctified, and holy place of worship.
As Muslims, our observation of reality is both empirical and metaphysical. The multiple layers of conflicts that branched out to decades of bloodshed and suffering has brought clarity in unveiling the face of oppressors and their true intention more than ever today. They are those who have intricately crafted these maze of horrors for the daily lives of Palestinians.
May Allahﷻ continuously illuminate every heart with strength and compassion to help guide Palestinians through these mazes of horrors. And may we continue in sincere effort to eradicate all forms of tyranny in this world. Ameen.
Works cited & further reading
 Sunan al-Tirmidhī 317
 At-Tabarani, Al-Bazaar, Ibn Khuzaymah
 The Sacred Activism – Dawood Walid
 My People Shall Live – Leila Khaled
 Palestine’s Children – Ghassan Kanafan
Photo via Jorge Fernández Salas
About the Author: Khansa Khalisha is a Traversing Tradition writer from Indonesia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Sciences from Gadjah Mada University. Her interests center around metaphysics, martial arts, and poetry. You can find her on instagram here.
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