Moulana Hanif Dudhwala, recently travelled to Palestine. Here, he shares his thoughts on this eye-opening journey.
Myself and eight other colleagues embarked on a journey a journey to visit The Holy Lands of Palestine & Jordan.
Upon our arrival at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, we got a warm friendly reception from the officials and were issued with visas for Jordan.
Soon we were travelling through the deserts of Jordan heading towards the King Hussain Bridge border crossing (also known as Allenby Bridge).
Within an hour we had arrived at the terminal and after a few formalities boarded the official border minibus to cross over onto the other side.
After a few kilometres, we arrived at the border check point for entry into Palestine.
There were a few hundred people waiting to enter the terminal. Our baggage was screened, passports checked and soon we were at the immigration desk. This is where the questioning began, why were we here? Which places we were intending to visit?
We had requested that our visas be stamped on a card not our passports. This is an important point to keep in mind as holders of passports with the Israeli visa stamp are usually denied entry into countries like Saudi Arabia.
This request raised more questions but finally we were given the visa cards to fill in.
We were then given a form to complete and requested to take a seat in the waiting room.
It was approx. 2pm and some seven hours later our passports were returned to us with the visas stamped onto our visa cards, the wait had been well worth it.
Our minibus driver drove very fast and within an hour we got the first glimpse of The Qubbatus Sakhrah (The Dome of the Rock).
It was 10:30pm as we entered the Old City of Jerusalem through the famous Damascus Gate, we settled into the Hashmi Hotel, the only Palestinian owned hotel within the Old City.
We made our first entry into Masjid-e-Aqsa for Fajar the next morning. Words will not do justice to the feelings and emotions felt as we entered the courtyard. Fajar namaz was very emotional.
The Masjid is beautifully decorated and there were some 1,500 people for Fajar namaz.
After Fajar we met with one of the Imams who blessed us with his duas and enlightened us with his words of wisdom.
The courtyard which houses Masjid-e-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock is huge, it is spread over 35 acres and the whole area is known as Baitul Muqaddas (The Holy Lands), it can hold up to half a million people.
This whole area and the surrounding land is very blessed as many Prophets resided here. There are many places of great importance and significance within Baitul Muqaddas but four areas stand out from the rest.
Situated at the furthest corner of the courtyard is the Masjid –e- Aqsa, the Masjid with the dark grey dome. It has a capacity of approx. 10,000.
As you step out of Masjid-e-Aqsa, you are directly opposite the Dome of the Rock, a magnificent building which has been built upon the rock from where the Me`raj (Ascension) of our Holy Prophet Mohammad (SAW) began.
The hexagon shape of the building with the gold dome and the inscription of Surah Yaseen all around the exterior adds to the beauty, a unique masterpiece.
It is in the basement area of this Masjid where lies the rock from where the Me`raj began. The Mehrabs of Hazrat Moosa (AS) and Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) are also located here. A point of clarification here is that many people think that the Dome of the Rock (the Masjid with the golden dome) is Masjid-e-Aqsa, this is not the case.
This confusion is due to the reason that the Dome of the Rock dominates the skyline of Baitul Muqaddas & Jerusalem and stands out due to it being constructed at a higher point than Masjid-e-Aqsa, there are some 15/20 steps that one needs to climb to get to the Dome of the Rock, hence this confusion.
However, without a shadow of doubt, the whole area is blessed and that also includes the Dome of the Rock.
The third most significant area is Masjid-e-Marwani, situated on the left side of Masjid-e-Aqsa as you face the Qiblah, this Masjid is built underground in the basement area and can accommodate thousands of people.
One of the most important aspects attributed to Masjid –e-Aqsa is the leading of all the Prophets (AS) in prayers on the night of Me`raj by our Holy Prophet Mohammad (SAW), only Almighty Allah knows the exact location where this took place, we were informed by the local guide that this event took place where the present Masjid-e-Marwani stands.
This Masjid is full of history, it contains the Mehrab (Niche) of Hazrat Zakaria (AS), the Mehrab of Hazrat Maryam (AS), the massive rocks and stones that were carried by the Jinns to help in its construction and it also has a platform indicating the direction of Masjid-e-Aqsa, the first Qiblah.
The fourth most important area within this courtyard is Masjid-e-Buraq.
This small Masjid is named after the fast winged horse which brought the Holy Prophet (SAW) from Makkah to Jerusalem in a split of a second.
The Buraq was tied at this place after which the ascension to the heavens took place.
One of the walls has a small hole, our guide informed us that this is exactly where the Buraq was kept, only Allah knows best.