Al-Aqsa Mosque, also known as Al-Aqsa and Bayt al-Muqaddas, is the third holiest site in Sunni Islam and is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Muslims believe that Muhammad was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to al-Aqsa during the Night Journey, Islamic tradition holds that Muhammad led prayers towards this site until the seventeenth month after the emigration, when God directed him to turn towards the Kaaba. The mosque was destroyed by an earthquake in 746 and rebuilt by the Abbasid caliph al-Mansur in 754. His successor al-Mahdi rebuilt it again in 780, another earthquake destroyed most of al-Aqsa in 1033, but two years later the Fatimid caliph Ali az-Zahir built another mosque which has stood to the present day. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099, they used the mosque as a palace and the Dome of the Rock as a church, but its function as a mosque was restored after its recapture by Saladin in 1187. More renovations, repairs and additions were undertaken in the centuries by the Ayyubids, Mamluks, Ottomans, the Supreme Muslim Council. Today, the Old City is under Israeli control, but the remains under the administration of the Jordanian/Palestinian-led Islamic Waqf. Al-Masjid al-Aqsa translates from Arabic into English as the farthest mosque, for centuries, al-Masjid al-Aqsa referred not only to the mosque, but to the entire sacred sanctuary, while al-Jami al-Aqsa referred to the specific site of the mosque. This changed during the period of Ottoman rule when the complex came to be known as al-Haram al-Sharif. The al-Aqsa Mosque is located on the Temple Mount, referred to by Muslims today as the Haram al-Sharif, at the time of the Second Temple, the present site of the mosque was occupied by the Royal Stoa, a basilica running the southern wall of the enclosure. The Royal Stoa was destroyed along with the Temple during the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE, however, remains identified as those of the Nea Church were uncovered in the south part of the Jewish Quarter in 1973. Analysis of the beams and panels removed from the mosque during renovations in the 1930s shows they are made from Cedar of Lebanon. Radiocarbon dating indicates a range of ages, some as old as 9th-century BCE. These included a mosaic like those used in Byzantine churches, the current construction of the al-Aqsa Mosque is dated to the early Umayyad period of rule in Palestine. However, Arculf visited Palestine during the reign of Muawiyah I and this latter claim is explicitly supported by the early Muslim scholar al-Muthahhar bin Tahir. According to several Muslim scholars, including Mujir ad-Din, al-Suyuti, and al-Muqaddasi, however, the entire Haram al-Sharif was meant to represent a mosque. The bridge would have spanned the street running just outside the wall of the Haram al-Sharif to give direct access to the mosque. Direct access from palace to mosque was a feature in the Umayyad period
Image: Israel 2013 Jerusalem Temple Mount Al Aqsa Mosque (NE exposure)
The mosque along the southern wall of Haram al-Sharif
The doors of the Saladin Minbar, early 1900s. The minbar was built on Nur al-Din's orders, but installed by Saladin
The dome of the mosque in 1982. It was made of aluminum (and looked like silver), but replaced with its original lead plating in 1983.