The low grey building of Al-Aqsa Mosque (Arab for «farthest mosque») is at the edge of the Temple Mount, aside from the magnificent Dome of the Rock, seemingly dimmed against its background. However, it is just Al-Aqsa that is the third important Muslim sanctuary.
Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock is a single religious complex on the Moria Mount. In 950 B.C., one and a half thousand years before construction of the Mosque, the son of David, King Solomon, built there a temple, the greatest for the time, which was named after him – the Temple of Solomon. Jews began to call the mount Zion and later the word ‘Zion’ was associated with Israel itself and Judaism.
The Temple Mount is also a sacred place for Muslims, as, according to Koran, it had immediate relation to events of the ‘night of journey’ (The Lailat al Miraj), which took place in 619, and described in detail in surah Al-Isra, when Archangel Gabriel woke up Muhammad and trans-ferred him on the winged steed Buraq from Mecca to Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount. And from there he was able to ascend to the throne of Allah. That night Muhammad was also taught Muslim prayers and got instructions on establishing a new religion. Actually, it was then that all dogmas of Muslim faith were confirmed and it began to spread all over the world.
Al-Aqsa Mosque was laid down by caliph Omar (or Umar) and consecrated in 693, though under him it was but a small prayer house. In the times of subsequent caliphs the mosque was being extended but was repeatedly damaged during earthquakes. Today`s building of the mos-que was built by caliph Ali az-Zahir in 1035.
Al-Aqsa Mosque has much larger capacity than that of the Dome of the Rock, which is more an architectural monument than a prayer house. Rows of columns divide Al-Aqsa into three equal parts. In the northern wing there is a spot from where prophet Muhammad was taken to the Heavens. It is Makom Aziz. There is also the same place in the Dome of the Rock.
There survived a huge basement within the mosque called the «Stables of King Solomon». They are genuine remnants of ancient stables, which were by the way used according to their intended purpose during the first crusade when crusaders captured Jerusalem. They stored there their weapons and kept horses.