Glimpses of History
The beauty and tranquility of the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem attracts thousands of visitors of all faiths every year. Many believe it was the site of the Temple of Solomon, peace be upon him, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, or the site of the Second Temple, completely destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.
For Muslims the area has a special significance, as the site of the Prophet Muhammad's Night Journey, peace and blessings be upon him, and as the first qibla (direction of prayer) for Islam.
Glory be to He
Who carried His servant by night,
from the Holy Mosque
to the Furthest Mosque,
the precincts of which
We have blessed.
so that We might show him
some of Our signs.
Surely He is the All-Hearing,
In the ninth year of the Prophet's mission, about 620 AD, Muhammad rose in the middle of the night to visit the Sacred Mosque in Makkah. After a time of worship he fell asleep near the Ka'aba. The angel Gabriel came to him and woke him from his slumber. He led the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, to the edge of the sacred Makkan mosque. Awaiting them was al-Buraq, a white winged beast "whose each stride stretched as far as the eye could see." Muhammad mounted al-Buraq and sped northwards with Gabriel to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the Furthest Mosque.
When they reached Jerusalem the Prophet dismounted and prayed near the Rock. Abraham, Moses, Jesus and other prophets, peace be upon them all, gathered together to pray behind him. Muhammad was presented a vessel of wine and a vessel of milk. The Prophet chose the milk and Gabriel said, 'You have chosen the true religion'.
The Prophet then embarked on the ascension (Miraj) in which he, peace and blessings be upon him, received the command to pray five times a day and the revelation encapsulating the beliefs of Islam:
"The Messenger believes in what was sent down to him from his Lord. And the believers; each one believes in Allah and His angels and in His books and His messengers. We make no division between any one of His messengers. And they say: We hear and we obey. Oh Lord, grant us Thy forgiveness; unto Thee we return."