The following is an examination of the claims set forth by Islamic Awareness in trying to save the Quran from a serious anachronistic fallacy. Before proceeding into our rebuttal we recommend that our readers first read this article where we document from Islamic sources that al-Masjid al-Aqsa refers to an actual building as opposed to merely a location:
Many Christian missionaries point to concerning the above passage. They claim that:
The Farthest Mosque (Al-Masjid-ul-Aqs-a) was built many years after the death of Muhammad. It is utterly impossible that Muhammad visited it on his Night Journey.
They further add:
The Temple of Solomon had been completely destroyed in 70 AD, i.e. 550 years before the alleged time of the Miraj in 622 AD, the twelfth year of Muhammad's mission. A Temple that didn't exist anymore does not provide any better solution to this problem than a Mosque which wasn't built yet.
As usual, the solution to such a "difficulty" lies in part in an elementary knowledge of the Arabic language as well as an understanding of basic Islamic concepts.
As usual, the Islamic Awareness team begins their article with typical ad hominem slurs. They try to poison the mind of the readers, evidently to prevent them from fairly analyzing the claims set forth by the Christian side so that they can obtain an unfair and unscholarly advantage. To indirectly insinuate that the Christian side lacks both an elementary knowledge of the Arabic language as well as basic Islamic concepts is a cheap debate trick used by those who have no solid rebuttal to present. As we shall see, this is precisely the dilemma of Saifullah &Co., namely that the paper contains much rhetoric but lacks any real substance.
What Is A Masjid?
The Arabic word for "mosque" is masjid. Grammarians classify such words as "ism makān", i.e., "name of place"; it indicates the place where an action takes place. Masjid being derived from the root sa-ja-da (to prostrate), it means "place of prostration". Since a place of worship is a place where believers prostrate to God, "masjid" is a general term to designate any place of worship without any religious distinction. Later, this word was used to designate Islamic sanctuaries in particular, i.e., mosques.
Saifullah &Co. think that by giving us an etymology lesson on the word "masjid" they will then somehow manage to resolve the issue. All that Islamic Awareness has shown is that they are good at attacking straw men. Since the original article never denied that the term masjid could designate a place of prostration we really do not see how this addresses the point made by the Christian side. The argument that was originally posed was that the term al-Masjid al-Aqsa referred to a building. This being the case, the question needed to be answered is what Mosque did Muhammad allegedly visit on his alleged Night Journey seeing that the Jerusalem temple had been destroyed centuries prior and Al-Aqsa Mosque hadn't been erected yet? The Islamic Awareness team has been unable to deal with this problem, as we shall shortly document. In fact, their arguments actually prove that al-Masjid al-Aqsa can only refer to an actual building and not simply the temple site.
The Prophet's(P) night journey was from "the inviolable place of worship" (al-Masjid al-Harām) to "the farthest place of worship" (al-Masjid al-Aqsā). The former is certainly located in Makkah, but what about the latter? The reference to Allah blessing its surroundings (... whose precincts We did bless) suggests a location in the "Holy Land" (cf. 21:81; 7:137; 34:18). Neal Robinson states:
The [Muslim] tradition which identifies it [i.e., al-Masjid al-Aqsā] with the Temple Mount in Jerusalem makes admirable sense in view of the fact that the 'place of worship' (masjid) whose destruction is evoked in v. 7 [i.e., 17:7] is clearly the Temple.
This view is also shared by many western scholars.
If by Temple Mount Western Scholars mean the Temple itself along with its surroundings, then they are correct. If they mean the site itself minus the Temple, then they are incorrect as we have shown and shall demonstrate here. See the related link above.
An excellent example of the usage of the word "masjid" referring to a non-Islamic sanctuary can be seen in the verse 17:7 that describes briefly the destruction of the mosque in Jerusalem (i.e., the Temple) by the enemies of Children of Israel. Allah says in the Qur'ān that the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem was a punishment was inflicted upon the Children of Israel for their tyranny and arrogance.
Seemingly, in their zealousness to refute the Christian argument Saifullah &Co. carelessly overlooked the fact that this argument actually refutes their entire position. That the term masjid in S. 17:7 refers to the Jerusalem temple proves that the use of the same term in S. 17:1 can only be referring to an actual building! Therefore, S. 17:7 proves that the phrase al-Masjid al-Aqsa can only be referring to the actual temple at Jerusalem and not just to the site on which the temple once stood.
In case Saifullah &Co. try to claim that the Quran clearly mentions the destruction of the temple and hence S. 17:1 cannot be referring to an actual building, we only need to remind them that there were two temples erected in Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan, the commander of Nebuchadnezzar's armies, in 587 B.C, burned the first temple. Titus, the Roman general, destroyed the second temple in 70 A.D. Therefore, S. 17:7 does not conclusively prove that al-Masjid al-Aqsa could only be referring to the temple site. S. 17:7 may be referring to the destruction of the first temple by Nebuchadnezzar. The burden of proof rests upon Islamic Awareness to show otherwise.
Nevertheless, the primary meaning of masjid is "place of prostration" and after the advent of Islam the word masjid does not necessarily designate a building but only a location. In support of this argument, we quote in Sahīh al-Bukhārī:
Muhammad Ibn Sinān, i.e., al-cAwqī told us, Hushaym told us; and Sacīd Ibn an-Nadr told me, Hushaym informed us that Sayyār informed us, Yazīd, i.e., Ibn Suhayb al-Faqīr told us, Jābir Ibn 'Abd Allāh told us:
The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "I have been given five things which were not given to any amongst the Prophets before me. These are:
1. Allah made me victorious by awe [by His frightening of my enemies] for a distance of one month's journey.
2. The earth has been made for me [and for my followers] a "masjid" [Arabic: a place for prostration]
3. The booty has been made halāl [lawful] for me [and was not made so for anyone else].
4. Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation exclusively but I have been sent to all mankind.
5. I have been given the right of intercession [on the Day of Resurrection].
So, according to this hadīth, any place on earth is a masjid [a place fit for worship] for Muslims. Therefore, whether there was a building or not when the Prophet(P) made his heavenly trip, it is the location of the "Farthest Mosque" that is intended by the verse and not a building per se because the location where it lies today was blessed by God as mentioned in verse 17:1 "the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless". Therefore, no one can claim that the word "masjid" in the Islamic terminology refers necessarily to a building. Imām Ibn Hajar confirms this opinion in Fath al-Bārī (his commentary on Sahīh al-Bukhārī):
(the earth has been made for me a "masjid")
means a place for prostration, i.e., prostration is not restricted to any particular place of the earth. It may also be a metaphor of a construction built for prayer. This is due to the fact that once prayer is authorized everywhere on earth it becomes like a mosque for that purpose. Ibn al-Tīn said: "The earth has been made for me a masjid and a means of purification" both were given to the Prophet, peace be upon him, while it was only a place for worship for others and was not a means of purification, because Jesus used to walk around and pray whenever prayer was due. Al-Dāwūdī said likewise before him. It was also said that they [the previous generations] were authorized to perform prayer in places known for sure to be pure, whereas this ummah is authorized to pray anywhere on earth except in the places known for sure to be impure. The strongest opinion is that of al-Khattābī who says that earlier nations were authorized to perform prayer in special places like synagogues and churches. This is confirmed by the wording of the narration of Ibn Shucayb "And before me people prayed in their churches." This is a controversial[?] wording but the specificity was established [??]. This is supported by the narration of al-Bazzār from the hadīth of Ibn cAbbās similar to the present hadīth which includes "Prophets did not pray until they reached their chamber".
To say that the primary meaning of masjid is a place of prostration does not rule out that masjid can and does often mean a building in which the act of prostration takes place. Hence, Islamic Awareness chases after red herrings and is attacking a straw man here. Furthermore, it is the Islamic sources that affirm that S. 17:1 is in fact referring to a building and not just the location. See our above mentioned article.
Third, the fact that S. 17:1 clearly distinguishes between al-Masjid al-Aqsa and its precincts conclusively demonstrates that masjid here can only be referring to an actual building.
Finally, again in their zealousness to refute the Christian position Saifullah &Co. seemingly overlooked the following comment made by Ibn Hajar:
The strongest opinion is that of al-Khattābī who says that earlier nations were authorized to perform prayer IN SPECIAL PLACES LIKE SYNAGOGUES AND CHURCHES. This is confirmed by the wording of the narration of Ibn Shucayb "And before me people prayed IN THEIR CHURCHES." This is a controversial[?] wording but the specificity was established [??]. This is supported by the narration of al-Bazzār from the hadīth of Ibn cAbbās similar to the present hadīth which includes "Prophets did not pray UNTIL THEY REACHED THEIR CHAMBER".
If Ibn Hajar is correct, and Islamic Awareness quotes him with approval, then whenever the term masjid is used in reference to the place Jews and Christians worshiped before Muhammad's time it can only be referring to an actual building. Therefore, that al-Masjid al-Aqsa is used in reference to a place used by Jews before the advent of Muhammad again proves that the phrase can only be referring to the temple itself. It cannot be referring to the location of the temple.
Hence, the sources used by Saifullah &Co. actually affirm our position and refute theirs. We appreciate all the help that Islamic Awareness has provided in making our case that much stronger.
Before we close this issue, one should realize that verse 17:1 also speaks of "The Sacred Mosque" which is today in Makkah around the Kacbah. Did a mosque exist there in the time of the Prophet(P)? The answer is that the Kacbah was there but there was no mosque. This further supports the argument that the word masjid in this verse refers to a sacred place in general and does not imply the presence of a "mosque" in the modern understanding.
For Saifullah & Co.'s sake we hope that their position is wrong. If they are indeed correct in what they claim then what will they do with the following hadith:
Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 2, Book 21, Number 281:
Narrated Quza'a: I heard Abu Said saying four words.
He said, "I heard the Prophet (saying the following narrative)." He had participated in twelve holy battles with the Prophet.
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "Do not set out on a journey except for THREE Mosques i.e. Al-Masjid-Al-Haram, the Mosque of Allah's Apostle, and the Mosque of Al-Aqsa, (Mosque of Jerusalem)."
This hadith clearly refers to an actual Mosque and not just a location since the Prophet's Mosque was an actual building. This would also mean that the Mosque of Al-Aqsa was an actual building as well.
Hence, either Saifullah & Co. must now admit that al-masjid al-haram does in fact refer to the Kabah or must conclude that Sahih Bukhari is in error for mentioning a Mosque which did not exist at the time of Muhammad. Yet, to admit that the phrase al-masjid al-haram does refer to an actual building debunks their claim that the reference in S. 17:1 refers to the location as opposed to the actual temple structure. Here are more citations affirming that al-masjid al-haram refers to the Kabah itself:
Muhammad Asad comments on S. 2:125:
... The Temple (al-bayt)- lit., "the House [of Worship]"- mentioned here is the Ka'bah in Mecca. In other places the Qur'an speaks of it as "the Ancient Temple" (al-bayt al-'atiq), and frequently also as "the Inviolable House of Worship" (al-masjid al-haram)... (Asad, Message of the Qur'an [Dar Al-Andalus Limited, 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar reprint 1993], p. 26, f. 102; bold emphasis ours)
Asad also provides the following comment on S. 17:1:
... "The Inviolable House of Worship" (al-masjid al-haram) is one of the designations given in the Qur'an TO THE TEMPLE OF THE KA'BAH, the PROTOTYPE of which owed its origin TO ABRAHAM (see surah 2, note 102) and was "the first Temple set up for mankind" (3:96), i.e., the first ever built for the worship of the One God. "The Remotest [lit., "farthest"] House of Worship", on the other hand, designates the ancient TEMPLE OF SOLOMON- or, rather its site- ... (Asad, p. 417, f. 1; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Abdullah Yusuf Ali comments on S. 17:1 and the phrase al-masjid al-haram:
... Masjid is a place of prayer: here it refers TO THE KAB'AH at Mecca. It had not yet been cleared of its idols and rededicated exclusively to the One True God. It was symbolic of the new Message which was being given to mankind. (Ali, The Holy Qur'an - Translation and Commentary, p. 693, f. 2167; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Mahmoud M. Ayoub states in relation to S. 2:125:
Tabarsi relates that "the House was called al-bayt al-haram [the sacred or forbidden house] because the associators were forbidden to enter it. It was also called al-Ka'bah ["the cube"] because it is a square structure. It is square because it was modeled on al-bayt ma'mur ['the populous house' in the fourth heaven, circumambulated by large companies of angels] which is square. The 'populous house' was made square because it was modeled on the Throne, which is also square. The Throne was made square because the words which Islam is founded on are four: glory to God, praise be to God, there is no god but God, and God is most great" (Tabarsi, I, p. 459). (Ayoub, The Qur'an and Its Interpreters - Volume 1 [State of University of New York Press, Albany 1984], p. 157; bold emphasis ours)
Hence, we see that the argument posited by Islamic Awareness crumbles from beneath their feet.
After delving into irrelevant issues Saifullah &Co. continue:
Concerning early mosques, Creswell states:
... their [i.e., Muslims'] architectural resources, before they started in their career of conquest, were barely enough to give expression to their needs. In other words Arabia constituted an almost perfect architectural vacuum... The first mosques in the great hīras, or half nomadic encampments of the conquest, such as Basra, Kūfa and Fusā, were primitive in the extreme, and in Syria the first mosques were churches that had been converted or merely divided: In fact there is no reason for believing that any mosque was built as such in Syria until the time of al-Walid (705-15) or possibly cAbd al-Mālik (685-705), for over a generation the Arabs remained quite untouched by any architectural ambitions...
It is worth noting that the Prophet(P) disliked extravagance and impressive architecture in buildings, especially mosques. The relative simplicity of early mosques is in fact a historical example of how the Prophet's Companions diligently followed his wishes. This is true to a greater extent even today.
This is the fallacy of irrelevance. To say that Muhammad disliked fancy buildings is not the same as proving that Muhammad and his followers built no mosques at all. The fact is that Muhammad did have a Mosque built, al-Masjid al-Nabi. The Islamic traditions speak of how Muhammad personally involved himself in its construction. We again see the team of Islamic Awareness bringing up irrelevant issues and red herrings. This is nothing more than straw man argumentation.
Al-Masjid Al-Aqsā: A Place Of Prostration For Jews
The Qur'ān refers to al-Aqsā as a masjid, a place of prostration. Was this place used for prostration in early times? Al-Masjid al-Aqsā and the surrounding area (i.e., Dome of the Rock among others) is usually identified with the place where the Temple of Solomon once stood. Bet ha-Miqdash, as the Temple is usually known in Jewish literature, was primarily a place of assembly for the entire people, for purposes of sacrifice, prayer, and thanksgiving. It is in the prayer ritual that prostrations were performed by the priests. Encyclopaedia Judaica provides an interesting account of the prayer ritual by the priests of the Temple.
The priest who had gathered the coals entered the sanctuary first, scattered them over the incense altar, prostrated himself, and departed. Then the priest who was chosen by lot to offer the incense entered, bearing the pan of incense in his hand. He was accompanied by a priest appointed for this task who instructed him in the proper ritual, and he did not offer it until he was told: "Offer the incense!" The officiating priest waited until the space between the hall and the altar was cleared of people, offered up the incense, prostrated himself, and departed (Tam. 6; Kelim end of ch. 1). During the offering of the incense in the sanctuary, the people used to gather in the azarah for prayer, and even outside the Temple these times were set aside for prayer (cf. Luke 1:10; Judith 9:1). After the departure of the priest who had offered the incense, all the priests filed into the sanctuary, prostrated themselves, and went out again.
It is interesting to note that the Temple was considered as the only place of prostration by some Rabbis and that they would refuse to completely prostrate outside the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Jewish concept of worship has extensive vocabulary, out of which hishtahawah, "to prostrate oneself," is the most frequently used in the Hebrew Bible (86 times).
We really do not see how this supposedly establishes Saifullah &Co.'s case since the reference clearly affirms that the priests worshiped and performed their rituals within the sanctuary itself. Islamic Awareness itself affirms this by saying,
... Bet ha-Miqdash, as the Temple is usually known in Jewish literature, was primarily a place of assembly for the entire people, FOR PURPOSES OF SACRIFICE, PRAYER, AND THANKSGIVING. It is in the prayer ritual that prostrations were performed by the priests...
It is interesting to note that the Temple was considered AS THE ONLY PLACE OF PROSTRATION by some Rabbis and that THEY WOULD REFUSE to completely prostrate outside the Temple in Jerusalem
This once again establishes our position since the Jews would not have offered religious services at this location had there been no temple.
Yet Another Problem!
In the same article, the missionaries express another objection:
In Yusuf Ali's commentary on this verse we read: "The Farthest Mosque must refer to the site of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem..." So, it is interpreted to be not the building itself, but only the site, the location where it had been. I might be wrong, but this seems to be contradicted by a hadith and Muhammad's understanding that Al-Masjid-ul-Aqs-a is something that is built, not just a location. Al-Masjid-ul-Haram after all was a building.
Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 636:
Narrated Abu Dhaar:
I said, "O Allah's Apostle! Which mosque was built first?" He replied, "Al-Masjid-ul-Haram." I asked, "Which (was built) next?" He replied, "Al-Masjid-ul-Aqs-a (i.e. Jerusalem)." I asked, "What was the period in between them?" He replied, "Forty (years)." He then added, "Wherever the time for the prayer comes upon you, perform the prayer, for all the earth is a place of worshipping for you."
This hadith actually introduces yet another problem. Abraham supposedly (re)built the Kaaba, (and Abraham lived about 2000 BC) and the Temple was built by Solomon in about 958-951 BC, then Muhammad gave another historically false information based on a major confusion about the time when these people lived.
Firstly, we have already shown that the word masjid does not necessarily refer to a building but rather to a location, i.e., the place of prostration. Secondly, the missionaries try to deceive the readers in the above paragraphs. Indeed, they admit the Islamic opinion that Abraham(P) rebuilt the Kacbah (it was Adam who built it originally according to the Islamic tradition), but for unjustified reason they overlook the Islamic traditions addressing the construction of the farthest mosque, presumably to generate a "contradiction".
The reason why the Christians reject the Islamic traditions is due to the contradictory fables contained therein over the alleged origins of the Kabah. It is interesting that Islamic Awareness appeals to the hadiths to establish their case. They seem to be aware that the Quran debunks the myth of the Kabah being originally built by Adam. Hence, in a desperate attempt at avoiding the contradiction, Saifullah &Co. must appeal to the fables of the Hadith to save them.
They identify the Farthest Mosque with the Temple of Solomon without further justification, and point out an error that they had invented themselves. Let us for example see what Imām Ibn Hajar says about this hadīth in Fath al-Bārī:
Correction. The reason why Christians identify the Farthest Mosque with the temple of Solomon is because Muslim authorities identify it as such. The only temple that ever existed in Jerusalem is the one originally built by Solomon and later rebuilt by the Jews upon their return from the exile. This is a fact which the Holy Bible, secular history and Islamic sources are in agreement. See our article.
His saying (40 years)
Ibn al-Jawzī said: It raises a problem since Abraham built the Kacbah and Solomon built Bayt al-Maqdis [another name of al-Masjid al-Aqsā cf. Hebrew Bet ha-Miqdash] and there are 1,000 years between them. His evidence for saying that it is Solomon - peace be upon him - who built the Farthest Mosque is the narration of al-Nasā'ī from the hadīth of 'Abd Allāh Ibn 'Amr Ibn al-'Ās attributed to the Prophet with an authentic isnād that "When Solomon built Bayt al-Maqdis he asked God the Most High for three things etc." and in al-Tabarānī from the hadīth of Rāfi' Ibn 'Umayrah that "David - peace be upon him - started building Bayt al-Maqdis but God inspired him: I shall accomplish its building with Solomon" and the hadīth has a story. He [Ibn al-Jawzī] said: "The answer to that is that the mention concerns the first construction and the foundation of the mosque and it is not Abraham who built the Kacbah for the first time nor is it Solomon who built Bayt al-Maqdis for the first time. Indeed, we have narrated that the first one who built the Ka'bah is Adam. Then his progeny spread out on earth. Therefore, it is possible that one of them built Bayt al-Maqdis. Later, Abraham (re)built the Ka'bah according to the Qur'ān." Likewise, al-Qurtubī said: The hadīth does not indicate that Abraham and Solomon were the first ones to build the two mosques. It was only a renovation of what had been founded by others.
For the sake of our readers we highlight the following section from Ibn Hajar's citation:
Ibn al-Jawzī said: It raises a problem since Abraham built the Kacbah and Solomon built Bayt al-Maqdis [another name of al-Masjid al-Aqsā cf. Hebrew Bet ha-Miqdash] and there are 1,000 years between them. His evidence for saying that it is Solomon - peace be upon him - who built the Farthest Mosque is the narration of al-Nasā'ī from the hadīth of cAbd Allāh Ibn 'Amr Ibn al-'Ās ATTRIBUTED TO THE PROPHET WITH AN AUTHENTIC ISNAD that "When Solomon built Bayt al-Maqdis he asked God the Most High for three things etc." and in al-Tabarānī from the hadīth of Rāfi' Ibn 'Umayrah that "David - peace be upon him - started building Bayt al-Maqdis but God inspired him: I shall accomplish its building with Solomon" and the hadīth has a story....
These Muslim authorities are in complete agreement with the biblical record. (Cf. 2 Samuel 7:1-17; 1 Kings 5-8; 1 Chronicles 28:1-29:19; 2 Chronicles 2-7)
Therefore, it is not simply a Christian argument that al-Masjid al-Aqsa refers to Solomon's temple but an argument endorsed by Muslims on the authority of their Prophet as well.
After quoting other opinions, Ibn Hajar insists:
But the possibility mentioned by Ibn al-Jawzī is more pertinent. And I found evidence supporting those who say that it is Adam who founded both mosques. For instance, Ibn Hishām mentioned in "Kitāb al-Tījān" that when Adam built the Kacbah, God ordered him to walk to Bayt al-Maqdis and build it and so he did and offered worship in it. And the construction of the House [Arabic: al-Bayt, i.e., the Ka'bah] is famous and we have mentioned earlier the hadīth of 'Abd Allāh Ibn 'Amr that the House was elevated in the time of the flood until God showed Abraham its location. Ibn Abī Hātim narrated from the way of Macmar from Qatādah: God founded the House with Adam when he descended. But Adam missed the voices of the Angels and their prayers. Therefore, God told him: I sent down a House around which [people] will revolve like it is revolved around my Throne, so set out to it. Adam set out to Makkah - He had descended in India, and his steps were enlarged until he reached the House and revolved around it. It was also said that when he had prayed at the Ka'bah, he was ordered to set out to Jerusalem where he built a masjid [mosque] and prayed therein so that it became a qiblah to a part of his progeny.
The first thing that sticks out from Ibn Hajar's claim is the lack of any Quranic reference to establish the assertion that Adam originally founded the two Mosques. In fact, the Quran clearly denies this assertion since it claims that Abraham built the Kabah:
Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the Station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Ismail, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). And remember Abraham said: "My Lord, make this a City of Peace, and feed its people with fruits, - such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day." He said: "(Yea), and such as reject Faith, - for a while will I grant them their pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of Fire, - an evil destination (indeed)!" And remember Abraham and Ismail raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): "Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing." S. 2:125-127
Nowhere will one find Allah asserting that someone else prior to Abraham and Ishmael built the Kabah. This is something that Muslims such as Muhammad Asad gladly acknowledge in light of the Quranic evidence. Here again is Muhammad Asad's comments on S. 2:125:
... The Temple (al-bayt)- lit., "the House [of Worship]"- mentioned here is the Ka'bah in Mecca. In other places the Qur'an speaks of it as "the Ancient Temple" (al-bayt al-'atiq), and frequently also as "the Inviolable House of Worship" (al-masjid al-haram). Its PROTOTYPE is said to have been built by Abraham as the first temple ever dedicated to the One God (see 3:96), and which for this reason has been instituted as the direction of prayer (qiblah) for all Muslims, and as the goal of the annually recurring pilgrimage (hajj). It is to be noted that even in pre-Islamic times the Ka'bah was associated with the memory of Abraham, whose personality had always been in the foreground of Arabian thought... (Asad, p. 26, f. 102; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, 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 prayer). S. 22:26
The following commentary on S. 22:26 is taken from Tafsir Ibn Kathir, abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, Darussalam Publishers & Distributors:
Building of the Kabah and the Proclamation of the Hajj
... Many scholars take this as evidence to support the view that Ibrahim WAS THE FIRST ONE to build the House and that IT WAS NOT BUILT BEFORE HIS TIME... (Tafsir Ibn Kathir-Abridged Volume 6 Surat Al-Isra', Verse 39 to the end of Surat Al-Mu'minun, first edition July 2000, p. 554; italicized and capital emphasis ours)
Clearly, the Quran affirms that it was Abraham and Ishmael that built the original structure of the Kabah. Yet, even this view has problems since both the Holy Bible and secular history deny that Abraham ever settled in Mecca, which means that even this Quranic assertion is a myth! The Holy Bible states that Ishmael and his mother settled in Paran near southern Palestine in northeastern Sinai.
The proof that Paran is located in the region of Sinai and not in Mecca comes from the Holy Bible:
"And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud (of God) rested in the wilderness of Paran." Numbers 10:12
"And afterward the people (Israelites) removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran." Numbers 12:16
"And Moses by the commandment of the Lord sent them from the wilderness of Paran... And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh..." Numbers 13:3, 26
"These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side of Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab." Deuteronomy 1:1
The preceding verses clearly demonstrate that Paran could not possibly be Mecca but a locale near Sinai, since Moses and the Israelites never settled in that part of Arabia.
Noted Christian Apologist John Gilchrist states:
"Secular history knows of only one form of pre-Islamic veneration of the Ka'aba and that is the Idolatry of the pagan Arabs. There is no corroborative evidence whatsoever for the Qur'an's claim that the Ka'aba was initially a house of monotheistic worship. Instead there certainly is evidence as far back as history can trace the origins and worship of the Ka'aba that it was thoroughly pagan and idolatrous in content and emphasis... the Ka'aba was purely a shrine of thriving pagan idolatry." (Gilchrist, The Temple, The Ka'aba, and The Christ [Jesus To The Muslims, PO Box 1804, Benoni Republic of South Africa], p. 16; bold emphasis ours)
That the Kabah was nothing more than a pagan shrine erected for pagan worship can be seen by the fact that there were many other Kabahs erected by the pagans:
Jabir reported that there was in pre-Islamic days a temple called Dhu'l-Khalasah and it was called THE YAMANITE KABA or THE NORTHERN KABA. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said unto me: Will you rid me of Dhu'l-Khalasah and so I went forth at the head of 350 horsemen of the tribe of Ahmas and we destroyed it and killed whomsoever we found there. Then we came back to him (to the Holy Prophet) and informed him and he blessed us and the tribe of Ahmas. (Sahih Muslim, Book 031, Number 6052)
Other Kabahs include:
The banu-al-Harith ibn-Ka'b had in Najran A KABA which they venerated. It is the one which al-A'sha mentions in one of his odes. It has been claimed that it was not a Ka'bah for worship, but merely a hall for those people whom the poet mentioned. In my opinion, this is very likely the case, since I have not heard of the banu-al-Harith ever mentioning it in their poetry. (The Book of Idols Being A Translation From The Arabic Of The Kitab Al-Asnam By Hisham Ibn-Al-Kalbi, Translated with Introduction and Notes by Nabih Amin Faris, 1952; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Footnote # 5 to this section states:
5. See Diwan al-A'sha, ed. Rudolf Geyer, London, 1928, p.122, line 6, where the poet says, "[To visit] the Ka'bah of Najran is an ordinance incumbent upon you; [you would not be released therefrom] until you dismount in front of its gates."
The Iyid had another Kabah in Sindad, [located] in a region between al-Kufah and al-Basrah. It is the one which al-Aswad ibn-Ya'fur mentions [in one of his odes]. I have, however, heard that this house was not a place of worship. Rather it was a celebrated edifice; consequently al-Aswad mentioned it.
A certain man of the Juhaynah named 'Ahd-al-Dar ibn-Hudayb once said to his people, "Come let us build a house (to be located in a spot in their territory called al-Hawra') with which we would rival the Ka'bah, thereby attracting [unto us] many of the Arabs," They deemed the suggestion very grave and refused to heed his behest. Thereupon he said:
"I had wished that a house be raised, Free of iniquity and removed from sin. But those who, when called upon to face a crisis, Steal away and tilde in rite outskirts of Qawdam, Have demurred and refused my request. They clamor and cry, and insist that no one should give them orders, And when entreated they turn away - some withdraw like the mute and the dumb. They withhold their charity and conceal every insult Among their kin, as the mark of the brand [on the mule] is hid."
(Ibid.; bold emphasis ours)
The late Egyptian Professor, Dr. Taha Husayn, considered one of the foremost authorities on Arabic literature, while commenting on the story of Abraham and Ishmael building the Kabah, states:
"The case for this episode is very obvious because it is of recent date and came into vogue just before the rise of Islam. Islam exploited it for religious reasons." (As quoted in Mizan al-Islam by Anwar al-Jundi, p. 170 as found in Behind the Veil, p. 184; bold emphasis ours)
Some attempt to find proof within the Quran for the assertion that Abraham was not the first to build the Kabah. According to some Muslims S. 14:37 establishes that the Meccan sanctuary had existed even before Abraham had arrived there:
"O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy 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 thanks." S. 14:37
This passage allegedly establishes that all Abraham did was to rebuild the Kabah. Abraham is allegedly aware of the existence of the sanctuary right after Hagar and Ishmael first settled in Mecca prior to the actual rebuilding of the shrine.
Yet, when one reads this passage in context a different picture emerges:
Remember Abraham said: "O my Lord! make this city ONE OF PEACE AND SECURITY: and preserve me and MY SONS from worshipping idols. O my Lord! they have indeed led astray many among mankind; He then who follows my (ways) is of me, and he that disobeys me,- but Thou art indeed Oft- forgiving, Most Merciful... O our Lord! truly Thou dost know what we conceal and what we reveal: for nothing whatever is hidden from Allah, whether on earth or in heaven. Praise be to Allah, Who hath granted unto me IN OLD AGE ISMAIL AND ISAAC: for truly my Lord is He, the Hearer of Prayer! O my Lord! make me one who establishes regular Prayer, and also (raise such) among my offspring, O our Lord!, and accept Thou my Prayer. O our Lord! cover (us) with Thy Forgiveness - me, my parents, and (all) Believers, on the Day that the Reckoning will be established!" S. 14:35-36, 38-41
Once the entire passage is read we discover that Abraham's alleged prayer was made after the birth of his two sons Ishmael and Isaac and when he was already old. Furthermore, Abraham's prayer that God make the city one of peace and security is virtually identical to what is recorded in S. 2:125-26 during the building of the Kabah:
Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the Station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Ismail, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). And remember Abraham said: "My Lord, MAKE THIS CITY OF PEACE, and feed its people with fruits,-such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day." He said: "(Yea), and such as reject Faith,-for a while will I grant them their pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of Fire,- an evil destination (indeed)!"
Therefore, in light of the preceding considerations Abraham allegedly offered his prayer only after allegedly erecting the Kabah.
Ibn Kathir agrees. Ibn Kathir on S. 14:37 notes:
This Ayah indicates that this was different supplication than the first one that Ibrahim said when he left Hajar and her son Isma'il in Makkah, before the Sacred House was built. This prayer, it appears, was said after the House was built, begging Allah and seeking His favor, and He is the Exalted and Most Honored... (Tafsir Ibn Kathir Abridged Volume 5 Surah Hud to Surat al-Isra', verse 38, p. 361, first edition July 2000; bold emphasis ours)
Furthermore, Islamic Awareness is quite selective in their citation of the Hadith. The hadiths are not unanimous over the issue of whether it was Adam who originally built the Kabah. Ibn Kathir notes:
... Another topic of debate was about who first built the Ka'bah. Some said the angels did while others said Adam or Sheeth. The majority of those who hold these opinions probably take it from the books of the People of the Scripture that can neither be believed nor rejected without strong support from hadith. (Tafisr Ibn Kathir-Part 1 Surah Al-Fatiah Surah Al-Baqara, ayat 1 to 141, abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib Ar-Rafa'i [Al-Firdous Ltd., London 1998 second edition] p. 238; bold emphasis ours)
Ibn Kathir's suggestion that Muslim claims that the Kabah was built by angels, Adam or Seth are possibly derived from the Jews and Christians is an indirect and implicit admission that such views cannot be derived from the Quran.
Ibn Kathir says elsewhere that the correct view is that Abraham originally built the Kabah. Words in brackets are my own:
It has been said that it was Adam who first built it. Such a statement comes down in a hadith that is marfu' and came on the authority of 'Abd Allah b. 'Amr; Ibn Lahi'a is one of its chains of authorities and he is an authority considered daif, weak.
The most credible of sttaements is that Abraham, al-Khalil, "the true friend", peace be upon him, was the first who built it, as reported above. Simak b. Harb so related, from Khalid b. 'Ar'ara back to 'Ali b. Abu Thalib who said, "Then it collapsed, was rebuilt by al-'amaliqa [the Amalekites], 'the giants', fell down and was built again by Jurhum; thereafter it collapsed and was rebuilt by Quraysh." (Ibn Kathir, The Life of the Prophet Muhammad (Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya), translated by Professor Trevor Le Gassick, reviewed by Dr. Ahmed Fareed [Garnet Publishing Limited, 8 Southern Court, south Street Reading RG1 4QS, UK; The Center for Muslim Contribution to Civilization, 1998], Volume I, p. 119)
The hadiths serve as a source of embarrassment for those Muslims attempting to present Islam with any serious historical credibility. This is due to the mythical nature surrounding the hadiths on the origin of the Kabah. Mahmoud M. Ayoub records many examples of the mythical nature of the pre-Abrahamic origins of the Kabah for us:
... Commentators have disagreed as to whether the foundations of the House were first raised by Abraham and Ishmael or were raised before them. According to some, Adam was the first to build the Scared House, but it was completely destroyed after him until God ordered Abraham to rebuild it.
Tabari relates on the authority of 'Ata' that Adam complained to God, saying, "O Lord I no longer hear the voices of the angels [that is, after he was expelled from Paradise]." God answered, "It is because of your sin; still, go down to earth and build a house for me and circumambulate it as you saw angels circumambulating my house which is in heaven" (Tabari III, pp. 57-58).
Other commentators claim that the foundations meant here are those of a house which God sent down to earth for Adam to circumambulate, but was taken up to heaven during the flood. God ordered Abraham to raise the foundations of the House in the same spot. In another tradition related on the same authority, we are told that "when God made Adam come down from the Garden [he was so tall that] HIS FEET WERE ON THE EARTH AND HIS HEAD TOUCHED THE HEAVEN. HE THUS COULD HEAR THE CONVERSATIONS OF THE DENIZENS OF HEAVEN AND THEIR PRAYERS. Adam, in his loneliness, found in them pleasant fellowship. The angels, however, WERE FRIGHTENED by him and complained to God in their prayers and invocations. GOD THEREFORE REDUCED ADAM'S SIZE, BRINGING HIM DOWN CLOSE TO EARTH. When Adam could no longer hear the angels, he became lonely and complained to God in his prayers. He was directed to go to Mecca. When he reached Mecca, God sent down one of the sapphires of Paradise onto the present spot of the House. Thus God said, 'And remember when we prepared for Abraham a place for the House'" (see Q. 22:26. Tabari, III, pp. 58-59). Others said, "The spot of the House was a red hill like a dome. For, when God wished to create the earth on water, he rolled the earth out from under that hill. Thus the House remained until God granted it to Abraham, who built on its foundations. Its foundations rest on four pillars on the seventh earth." This view is related with minor variations on the authority of Mujahid and many other tafsir masters. (Tabari, III, p. 60; see also pp. 60-64). (Ayoub, pp. 158-159; bold and capital emphasis ours; see also 160-163)
Need we say anything more?
In summary, the verse 17:1 may very well refer to the holy locations in Jerusalem and Makkah because they are blessed regardless of the presence or absence of a building at the time of the heavenly trip of Prophet Muhammad(P). From an Islamic point of view, evidence has been given by eminent Muslim scholars like Ibn Hajar and Ibn al-Jawzī showing that it was Adam(P) who built both mosques for the first time and that the job of Abraham and Solomon(P) was only a renovation/reconstruction of these sanctuaries.
The word masjid from a linguistic point of view refers to a place of prostration and worship. It can also refer to buildings dedicated to that purpose. The verse 17:1 may very well refer to the holy locations in Jerusalem and Makkah because they are blessed regardless of the presence or absence of a building at the time of the heavenly trip of Prophet Muhammad(P) from Makkah to Jerusalem to the Heavens. From an Islamic point of view, evidence has been given by eminent Muslim scholars like Ibn Hajar and Ibn al-Jawzī who have discussed the issue. They have shown that it was Adam(P) who built both mosques for the first time and that the duty of Abraham and Solomon(P) was only a renovation/reconstruction of these sanctuaries. And Allah knows best!
In summary, Saifullah &Co. have failed to establish their case that S. 17:1 possibly refers to the locations of Jerusalem and Mecca as opposed to the actual temple structure. Furthermore, they also have failed to establish that from an Islamic point of view evidence exists to suggest that Adam was the first to build both sanctuaries. Instead, they have been able to demonstrate their ability to selectively cite sources and scholars who are also quite selective in presenting their evidence.
The evidence clearly demonstrates that neither Adam nor Abraham ever built the Kabah. The Quran itself will not allow for the belief that anyone other than Abraham and Ishmael built the Kabah. Furthermore, the early Islamic sources clearly document that during Muhammad's lifetime the terms al-Masjid al-Aqsa and al-masjid al-haram clearly referred to actual buildings and not simply to locations.
In light of the evidence we are left with the exact conclusion made by the Christian side. Namely, that S. 17:1 contains a gross historical error that Muslims thus far have been unable to deal with.
Indeed, the true God does know best. And all that he desires man to know is recorded in the Holy Bible, the only inspired, infallible and inerrant Word of God. In the service of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ forever and ever. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.
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