|A replica of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Palestine. The edifice lies virtually in the centre of the al-Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, of the original al-Masjid al-Aqsa. Courtesy of the Islamic Civilization Park (Taman Tamadun Islam) in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia.
On account of the mosque institution being as old as man himself, prophet Adam must have been the one who built the first mosque(s) on earth. It is inconceivable that a community of believers, led and managed by prophet Adam, regardless of its size and quantity, could have lived without a mosque, or mosques, no matter what its shape, dimensions and exact functions were. The earliest community of believers could not collectively practice the truth of Islam at all of its necessary levels in the absence of the idea of the mosque. Such would be unfeasible.
Allah says in the Qur'an: "The first House (of worship) appointed for man was that in Bakkah (i.e., Makkah): full of blessing and of guidance for all the
Many people believe that, by virtue of human nature and the inseparability of man,
Allah's words of guidance and Allah's houses on earth (mosques), the very first man on earth, prophet Adam, built the first House of worship referred to in the verse, i.e., al-Masjid al-Haram, or
Ka'bah, or Baytullah (the House of Allah). Having descended on earth, Adam is said to have yearned for the exaltation and praises of Allah by angels he had accustomed himself to in the Garden of Eden, and, therefore, he desired to have a house which will resound with prayers, glorification and praises of Allah on the earth too. Allah fulfilled his wish and sent down Angel
Jabra'il (Gabriel) to guide and help him in laying the foundations of and building al-Masjid al-Haram.
Some people even go further and assert that since Allah did not send Adam to the earth until it was fully equipped and set to accommodate him, lest he shall be unable to smoothly and responsibly carry out his duties as a vicegerent (khalifah), one of the necessary requirements which had to be attended to must have been the existence of a House of Allah, as a consequence of which some angels were assigned to build al-Masjid al-Haram or the
Others, on the other hand, contend that prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son
Isma'il, also a prophet, built al-Masjid al-Haram. Although there might have existed earlier other houses of worship, albeit with no special historical and socio-cultural significance, al-Masjid al-Haram is reputed to have been the first mosque on the earth appointed to man for the purpose. This conclusion rests on the following
Qur'anic verses: "And remember Ibrahim and Isma'il raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer):
"Our Lord, accept (this service) from us: for You are the All-Hearing, the
"Behold! We pointed the site to Ibrahim of the (sacred) House, (saying): "Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in
However, in one hadith (the Prophet's tradition) the companion Abu Dharr is reported to have said:
"I have asked the Prophet (pbuh): "Which mosque was built first on the earth?" The Prophet (pbuh) answered:
"Al-Masjid al-Haram." Then I asked: "And which one thereafter?" He said: "Al-Masjid
al-Aqsa." Then I asked: "What was the interval separating the two?" The Prophet (pbuh) replied:
It does not come as a surprise that this tradition of the Prophet (pbuh) has been causing considerable bewilderment among some scholars who held that al-Masjid al-Aqsa mosque was built by prophet Sulayman (Solomon), who had lived more than a thousand years after prophet Ibrahim, the builder of al-Masjid al-Haram. On that account, the whole matter needed some efforts for reconciliation. As for those who were of the opinion that al-Masjid al-Haram was constructed by Adam, they merely concluded that he, or some of his progeny, was instructed forty years after the completion of al-Masjid al-Haram to proceed to the designated location (later Jerusalem) and build there al-Masjid al-Aqsa. They construed the verses cited by the other group of scholars in a way that conforms with their understanding of the subject. According to them, neither Ibrahim nor Sulayman constructed for the first time the mosques in question. Rather, they only reconstructed or restored what had been formerly instituted and built but disintegrated and even disappeared altogether during their respective eras. Thus, the referred to verses imply nothing but reconstruction, renewal or restoration; so does every
Prophet's tradition in which Ibrahim and Sulayman were mentioned in the connection with the building of al-Masjid al-Haram and al-Masjid al-Aqsa respectively.
As regards those scholars who contended that prophet Ibrahim was the builder of al-Masjid al-Haram in Makkah, they concluded that the first construction of al-Masjid al-Aqsa in what later became to be known as Jerusalem, was undertaken really forty years subsequent to
Ibrahim's completion of al-Masjid al-Haram but, in all likelihood, by Ishaq (Isaac),
Ibrahim's another son, or Ya'qub (Jacob), Ishaq's son and Ibrahim's grandson, and which was later restored, expanded and reconstructed by prophet Sulayman. Even
Sulayman's father, Dawud (David), also a prophet, might have started the (re)construction which, nevertheless, was intensified and completed by Sulayman. Some people even ended affirming, as a way out, that the above tradition (hadith) of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) does not imply the actual construction of the two mosques. Rather, it connotes just a divine decision on having the two mosques as the foremost ones on the earth, as well as on their respective geographical locations and historical and socio-cultural roles and positions.
In the final analysis, it appears - and Allah knows best -- that al-Masjid al-Haram, most likely, was first built by prophet Adam and not prophet Ibrahim, and that al-Masjid al-Aqsa, most likely, was not first built by prophet Sulayman but by someone during prophet
Adam's time. To further corroborate the viewpoint that al-Masjid al-Haram and al-Masjid al-Aqsa were inaugurated and built long before Ibrahim and Sulayman respectively, we shall add that the
Qur'an in this regard says that Ibrahim and his son Isma'il actually "raised (yarfa'u) the foundation of the
House", rather than "laid (assasa or even wada') the foundation of the House". The former phrasing basically indicates the physical rebuilding plus the restoration of the status of al-Masjid al-Haram, while the latter one -- the one that is not employed in the verse in question -- would mean its establishment and construction, for it is generally used when something is instituted or established for the first time. For example, the word assasa is used in the context of the construction of the
"Mosque of Piety" by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), as well as the "Mosque of Mischief" by the hypocrites of Madinah.
) Also, in the verse wherein Allah says that the first mosque appointed for man was that in Makkah, the word used is
wada' in its passive form wudi', thus clearly indicating the commencement of the existence of al-Masjid al-Haram in
Furthermore, in another Qur'anic verse, after Ibrahim, under Allah's guidance, had brought
Isma'il, an infant then, and his mother Hajar to the barren land of Makkah, and after he had found there a dwelling place for them, he left them uttering the following supplication:
"O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House, in order, o our Lord, that they may establish regular prayer: so fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them; and feed them with fruits; so that they may give
The phrase "by Your Sacred House" denotes that the evidence, either physical or conceptual, of al-Masjid al-Haram had already existed at the time when Ibrahim first arrived in Makkah. The rebuilding of the mosque was executed afterwards by both Ibrahim and
Isma'il, after the latter had grown up, during one of Ibrahim's subsequent visits. The Prophet (pbuh) likewise attested to this when he divulged some more information concerning the matter of
Ibrahim's first visit to the barren land of Makkah. In one of his authentic traditions (hadith), he stated that Ibrahim left
Isma'il and Hajar in the immediate vicinity of al-Masjid al-Haram (wada'ahuma 'ind
al-bayt), and while reciting the aforementioned supplication, he faced it, i.e., he faced al-Masjid al-Haram, (istaqbala bi wajhihi al-bayt).
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