Micah Ben David Naziri
Ha'Shem is a Verb.

Earthquakes Destroyed Masjid al-Aqsa on the Temple Mount

Image used with permission, from the Tzava Ha'Mashiach (

Unless you are part of the bizarre new wave of historical denialism that has tragically swept so much of the Muslim world (which fantasizes that there was never a historical Kingdom of Israel and Judea), you probably know that the Masjid Al-Aqsa complex in Jerusalem, was built on the ruins of the Jewish Temple.

Yes, the Jewish people — Judeans — had a Temple in the Land of Judea. This region of Judea was also known as the Land of Israel – until the Roman Colonizers renamed it Palestine after the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132 — 135 CE). It was at this time that the Romans expelled the Jewish People from Jerusalem, while many of us nevertheless remained in Judea outside of the city, and have been there ever since.

The Epicenter of Judaism

In Judaism, the site of the Temple itself is regarded as the holiest place on Earth – with or without a physical house of prayer and sacrifice standing. According to the preeminent Torah commentator Rashi (1040 — 1105 CE) — in exegesis of Berashit/Genesis 28:17 — the Temple Mount is a portal — the place where the veil separating the terrestrial from the spiritual planes is thinnest. Our sages accordingly tell us that this site is a conduit or portal through which all prayers ascend.

Although the Temple no longer stands on the Aqsa complex on the Temple Mount, throughout the millennia Jews have gathered at the Wall or Kotel supporting the mountain’s “Western Wall” for prayer. 

While these points might be unnecessary commentary, or obvious factoids to many readers, in this era of widespread historical illiteracy, this background forms an important foundation for the discussion that follows.

The Third Holiest Site in Islam?

Whether you knew the history of the region or not, you probably did not know, that no sooner than the iconic Masjid al-Aqsa was built by the Arab Colonizers of Judea in the city of Jerusalem, it was destroyed by an earthquake, not once, not twice, but three times.

The Masjid al-Aqsa is commonly (and some argue, dubiously), touted as the “Third Holiest Site in Islam.” But just how “holy” is the Temple Mount to Muslims historically? The answer is that its “third holiest” status is more a matter of political calque and circumstance than an accurate statement of historical theology.

Today, in the highly charged contest between Arabs and Israelis over the Land of Israel, it behooves the Arab/Islamic side to maximize the “historic status” of “Palestine” to the Islamic world. The usual basis asserted by Muslims for the claim of Jerusalem as the religion’s tertiary sacred city is the Qur’an’s account of the Night Journey of Muhammad (d. ca. 632 CE), during which it is attested that Allah permitted his ascent to the Heavens from the “furthest place of prostration” or sajdah — literally masjid al-aqsa.

Years after Muhammed’s death, Jerusalem fell early in the violent and remarkably successful military campaigns that erupted out of `Arabia. Though Muhammad’s son-in-law who he likened as unto him as Aaron was to Moses, `Ali ibn Abi Talib (fl. 656 to 661 CE), refrained from any such conquests, the three Caliphs who preceded him took it upon themselves to spread Islam with the sword — including to the Land of Israel, which was at that time controlled by the Byzantine Christians. The Byzantines, who had until then controlled Jerusalem, were weakened from centuries of conflict with the rival Sassanid Empire of Persia. It was not long before Jerusalem was in the hands of the Caliph Umar (r. 634–644 CE).

Background of the Site

Originally built in the 7th century, the collective building complex now known as Masjid al-Aqsa, sits atop the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is also known as the Haram al-Sharif, though this name has fallen out of favor over the past several decades. Today Masjid al-Aqsa includes the Masjid as-Sakhrah, the Dome of the Rock, as well as masaajid and other domes and religious structures, and four encircling minarets.

The origins of the site, relative to the Muslim Caliphate are somewhat confusing, as accounts vary. The discrepancy seems to emanate from different phases of relatively unplanned construction and modification. As noted, the origins of the `Arab appropriation of the site is attested to have first begun with the third Caliph Umar , with some sources attesting to its origins with the the first Umayyad Caliph Mu`awiyah I (r. 661–680), the son of the archenemy of Muhammad, Sakhr ibn Harb ibn Umayy, also known by his kunyah “Abu Sufyan” (d. ca. 653).

It is attested that the original construction of Masjid Al-Aqsa was simply of a small house of prayer on the Temple Mount. The present-day masjid by the same name, located on the south wall of the Al-Aqsa compound, is said to have been built by the fifth Umayyad caliph `Abd’ul-Malik (r. 685–705) or his successor al-Walid I (r. 705 —715). It is probable that this variance in reports stems from the masjid having been initiated by the former, and completed by the latter.

It is reported that the Umayyad Caliph `Abd’ul-Malik completed Masjid Qubbat As-Sakhrah, the “Dome of the Rock” in Jerusalem (ca. 691 — 92 CE). Historians have widely considered the motive in constructing the buildings at the site of the Temple ruins to have been the Caliph’s desire to divert the religious focus of Muslims in the Umayyad realm from the Ka`bah in Zubayrid Mecca (683 — 692).

With Mecca forming the new site of annual Hajj pilgrimage, and the associated funds accordingly pouring in, the Umayyads who were routinely condemned during the Hajj, thus sought to generate similar revenue by claiming the Temple Mount – over which they had control – was the site of the Qur’anic Masjid al-Aqsa.

The Umayyads were concerned to a great extent with, what historian Andrew Marsham terms “imperial monotheism.” Al-Azmed, in The Emergence of Islam in Late Antiquity: Allah and His People, similarly termed the Umayyad concern as one for “the imperialisation of cultic space.” Accordingly, the Masjid al-Sakhrah, the Dome of the Rock, became “the visible emblem of the entry by the Umayyads and their religion into the imperial order of Late Antiquity” (424).

What’s in a Name?

The site of the Masjid al-Aqsa complex – as it became branded by the Umayyads – was seen as Imperial Monuments of the Caliphate. This is evidenced further by the fact that succeeding Abbasid Caliphs removed the names of the Umayyad founders from the inscriptions there, and replaced them with those of their own Caliph al-Ma’mun (813 — 33 CE).

The Aqsa complex of the Temple Mount, it would later be asserted by Muslim historians, must have consisted of the entire hill compound,  Put simply, this is because there was no Masjid standing on this site when the Qur’an was first orated. Thus, if the claim is that Muhammad traveled — in spirit “astrally” or by some miracle, “physically” (as it is alternately proposed) — then it could not refer to any specific building.

Interestingly, a controversial Sa`udi lawyer claimed recently that the true location of the Masjid al-Aqsa is not in Jerusalem. Osama Yamani claims that the Qur’anic reference is to a site located in Al-Ji’rana near Mecca, in Sa`udi `Arabia. Still, the reference to a physical location seems dubious, for reasons that will be explained.

The term, “masjid” did not indicate a building of worship in the original Qur’anic `Arabic. Instead, the word simply means “place of prostration.” But if Jerusalem was the place of “furthest” prostration (17:1), why then does Muhammad say that the entire Earth is a masjid, and why does the Qur’an acknowledge that regardless of whether one turns to the East or to the West, there is the Face of Allah (2:115; 2:142)?

Indeed, the orthodox Sunni collection of Sahih al-Bukhari, quotes Muhammad as saying: “The [entire] Earth has been made a Ritually Pure Place of Prostration — a Masjid — for me” (438).

Yet, such a question, while essentially never openly asked within the Muslim Ummah, would seem to indicate that the Miraj ascent was actually to a distant spiritual realm of prostration, not to any physical, geographical location. Still, the mythology persists and there is a very obvious history behind why that is.

Interesting, a Hadith narration from the progeny of Muhammad states that the Masjid Al-Aqsa, referenced in the Qur’an, is not on Earth, nor within the three dimensions of the physical Universe, but in Heaven – Jannah.

`Ali bin Ibrahim al-Qummi, relying on the isnad chain of narration of Isma`il al-Ju`fi, narrated:

I was sitting in the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, when Abu Ja`far – Imam Muhammad al-Baqir — took a glance at the Heavens and another glance at the Ka`bah.

He then recited the verse: ‘Glorified is [Allah] who took the servant [of Allah] for a journey by night from the Masjid al-Harâm to the furthest Masjid’. He repeated this three times.’

He then turned towards me and said, ‘What do the people of Iraq say about this verse, O Iraqi?’ I said: ‘They say that [Muhammad] was taken for a night journey from the Masjid al-Haram to Jerusalem.’ He then said: ‘It is not as they say, rather he was taken for a night journey from here to here’, pointing to the Heavens. And he added, ‘What is in between them is sacred.’ (Tafsir al-Qummi vol. 2, p 243)

Far from the only narration of Hadith on this matter, another from the family of Muhammad corroborates what the Muslim world has since rejected:

Salaam al-Hannat narrates from a companion of Abu `Abdullah, the great great grandson of Muhammad: “I asked him about the masaajid which have superiority. So he said: The Masjid al-Haram and the Masjid of [Muhammad]. I said: And the Masjid al-Aqsa? So he said: That is in Heaven, to it [Muhammad] did the Night Journey. So I said: Verily the people say that it is Bayt al-Maqdis [namely, the Masjid at the site of the Temple ruins in Jerusalem]? So he said: The Masjid of [the city of] Kufa is superior to [the Masjid build there now].”

While these Ahadith are preserved by the Shi`ah Muslim world, even mainstream Sunni Ahadith state that Muhammad prayed at a masjid on the Night Journey of the Miraj. There is, however, no historical debate over the established fact that there was no physical Masjid building at the Temple Mount when the Miraj was said to have been experienced by Muhammad.

Furthermore, there is no variance in belief that the Night Journey was an astral travel to Jannah — Heaven. What is only in dispute is the mainstream Sunni view that between Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, and Jannah in Heaven, Muhammad was transported to Jerusalem to a masjid at the site of the Bayt al-Muqdis – the Beyt Ha’Miqdash of the Jewish Temple ruins.

Again, there is no debate amongst historians that there was no building whatsoever on the Temple Mount at the time. In fact, the site was sacrilegiously — and intentionally — used by the Byzantine Christians as a literal garbage dump.

The Repeated Destruction of Masjid Al-Aqsa by… Allah?

With all of this in mind, what is the harm in there being houses of prayer established on the site of the Holy Jewish Three Temples?

The problem is that while the liberation of Jerusalem from the Byzantine Christians was indeed a welcome change by the Jews residing in Judea at the time, the Caliphate retained complete control over the holiest site in Judaism, rather than returning this epicenter of Judaism to the Jewish People.

Furthermore, aside from the ethical implications of that refusal of the Caliphate to transfer ownership and control of the site to the Jewish people of the region, it would seem that Nature itself — if not the Creator from which Nature emanates, as the Divine Presence of the Shekhinah — had different plans for the Masjid al-Aqsa complex.

What we know for sure is that shortly after it was completed, in 746 CE, an earthquake destroyed the original Masjid Al-Aqsa. Not to be deterred, however, after being destroyed by the first earthquake in 746, the masjid was rebuilt in 758 by the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mansur. Further expansion occurred in 780 CE under the Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdi, resulting in aisles and a central dome. Despite the architectural reinforcements, the masjid faced destruction once again during the 1033 Jordan Rift Valley earthquake.

Centuries later, earthquakes struck the masjid again in 1837 and once more in 1927, though damages were more quickly repaired than in eras past. In 1922, a major renovation project was commissioned, which reinforced and repaired dilapidated areas of the Aqsa complex and masaajid on the site.

If one was prone to “superstition,” it would almost seem like some unseen force was sending a message that the masjid was not welcome on the site of the Jewish Temple ruins.

Regardless of whether one views these attacks by Nature (or Allah, if you will) Itself on the site of Masjid al-Aqsa, it seems reasonable to at least initiate the natural discussion of why this monument to Caliphate Imperialism and Colonization should remain standing in place of the Temple of Jerusalem and the One and Only God of the prophets of the Bible and of the Qur’an which held such a Temple as sacred.

About the Author
Dr. Micah Naziri was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. The son of a multitude of peoples, Micah has Ashkenazi Jewish, German, Native American and Melungeon Sefardic background. Micah has often said he has “one foot in the masjid and the other in shul.” Spiritually, Micah considers his understanding of Judaism to be “Judeo-Sufi,” or “Istislam” as described by Rabbeinu Bachya ibn Paqudah, in his Medieval Judeo-Arabic work “Guide to the Duties of the Hearts” (Al-Hidayat ila Fara`id al-Qulub), which quoted Muhammad and his son-in-law `Ali profusely – reference each as being “a great chasid” – while fully embracing the Torah as the framework of religious practice for the Jewish people. Dr. Naziri is the founder of the Martial Sufi Tariqah alternatively known as the Taliyah al-Mahdi (2001) and the Jamat al-Fitrah (2005), as well as Hashlamah Project Foundation (2012), and the White Rose Society “reboot” (2016). As the founder of the Hashlamah Project Foundation, Micah uses his education in Near Eastern Languages, Religions and historical models of building bridges between Jewish and Muslim communities, to help reconcile and unite Jews and Palestinian Muslims. He is a prolific author who has penned numerous academic articles, donating 100% of the proceeds to charities working towards social justice. He has also authored a science fiction novel fused with history and politics. His Master’s thesis on the religious milieu of Judaism in Muhammad’s life time, in Arabia, has been published by New Dawn Publications and is available on Amazon, with all proceeds similarly going to charity work. He has served as an editor for written works on Martial Arts and Eastern Medicine, transcribing and creating numerous titles for some of his teachers. He has himself authored several martial treatises using the pen name Seng, Hern-Heng – his Taoist lineage name given to him in 2006 by Huang, Chien-Liang. On that front, he is currently working on a new Taoist translation of the Tao Te Ching (Daodejing) based on the original Mawangdui manuscripts. Micah became well-known for activism confronting an anti-Muslim protester peacefully and reasoning with her outside of a Dublin, Ohio mosque. After nearly 45 minutes of debate and reconciliation, the woman embraced a Muslimah woman from the mosque, and went into the mosque with her and Micah for bagels, coffee and a tour of the house of worship. When she left, the Muslims there gave her a gift bag. Micah became somewhat infamous – loved by some, hated by others – not only for several high-profile, viral protests, but also for teaching free self-defense classes available to all interested parties from historically oppressed communities. Law enforcement, however, have without question been the most hostile to Naziri, as he became a regular protester against police brutality and murder of unarmed African-Americans. Micah has been equally as virally-known as an avowed anti-rape activist, who confronted the Stanford Rapist, Brock Turner at his home in Sugarcreek Township, Ohio, after he was released from his mere three-month jail sentence for raping an unconscious woman. Today, Micah continues activism in the areas surrounding Yellow Springs, and abroad, focusing on weekly protests and vigils supporting families of innocent, unarmed African-American youths, gunned down by local police or vigilante citizens attempting to hide behind gun culture and the Second Amendment, such as in the recent case of Victor Santana – who was recently arrested, charged with murder, and convicted after months of pressure put on Montgomery County prosecutor Matt Heck by protests Micah organized in conjunction with Donald Dominique of the New Black Panther Party. Micah is currently coordinating expanded work with international Hashlamah Project chapters and the Jam`at Al-Fitrah, the name used in the Palestinian Territories for the Sufi Martial Tariqah known as the Taliyah al-Mahdi. He is seeking grant-writing partnerships to grow the Hashlamah Project organization’s efforts – particularly in the State of Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
Related Topics
Related Posts