The Al-Aqsa Mosque (Arabic: المسجد الاقصى, Masjid Al-Aqsa, literally "farthest mosque") is part of the complex of religious buildings in Jerusalem known as either the Majed Mount or Al-Haram ash-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) to Muslims and the Temple Mount to Jews.
Muslim tradition states that Muhammad ascended to heaven from the Mount in 621, making the mosque the third most holy shrine in Islam (see Isra and Miraj.) After the Dome of the Rock (690) the first wooden Al-Aqsa Mosque was constructed by the Umayyads, completed in 710. The structure has been rebuilt at least five times; it was entirely destroyed at least once by earthquakes. The last major rebuild was in 1035.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the largest mosque in Jerusalem; about 5,000 people can worship in and around the mosque. It shows a mixture of styles including Crusader work from when the Crusaders held Jerusalem, during which the mosque was used as a palace and called the Temple of Solomon, in the belief that the mosque was built on the site of the original temple. Al-Aqsa has been at times the target of attacks by Jewish extremists (see Temple Mount for more details), but most attempts were averted by Israel's security services.
Since part of the mosque's extended surrounding wall is the Western Wall venerated by Jews, this relatively tiny spot in Jerusalem can become the source of friction. There have been times when enraged Muslims worshiping at the mosque have hurled rocks downward at the Jews praying below at the Western Wall. A group of Jews known as the Temple Mount Faithful actually have plans to rebuild the ancient Jewish Temple in that area.
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades is named after the mosque, probably in memory of Ariel Sharon's controversial visit to the Temple Mount at the beginning of the Second Intifada (also known as the al-Aqsa Intifada).
- Noble Sanctuary: Al-Aqsa Mosque (http://www.noblesanctuary.com/AQSAMosque.html)
- report of the 1969 conflict (http://world.std.com/~camera/docs/alert/wsj.html) from The Times