Abdul Malik ibn Marwan asked for the mosque to be built, but he died before they finished building it, and it was finished by his son Al-Walid I in 705 AD. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is a part of the Al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif, or "The Noble Sanctuary". This area is known as the Temple Mount by Jews, and it is believed to be the location where the Jewish Temple was built. The mosque is the 3rd most important place in Islam. Muslims believe that Muhammad went from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the story of the "Night Journey". Also, some Islamic traditions say Muhammad led prayers there before his ascension.
People have planned to attack the mosque, and some people have actually attacked it. In 1969 Michael Dennis Rohan set the mosque on fire, destroying a lot of the mosque. Some members of the Gush Emunim Underground planned to blow up the mosque, but they never blew it up.
In September of 2000 Ariel Sharon visited Al-Aqsa, and Palestinians who were at the mosque threw objects at the police force that was with Sharon. In return the police shot rubber bullets at the group of Palestinians. Palestinians said Sharon visited the mosque to make people angry, but Sharon said he had gone there with a message of peace. This visit is what some believe caused the Second Intifada.
"Al-Aqsa Masjid" means "the farthest Mosque". The masjid's name comes from a story in the Quran called "The Night Journey". In the story Muhammad goes from Makkah to East Jerusalem, where the Al-Aqsa Masjid is. Then he went up to Heaven (Jannah).
The mosque was first built in 705 AD. The first mosque was destroyed in an earthquake in 748 AD and had to be built again. We do not know when it was built again, but it was probably in 771 AD, and this mosque was destroyed soon after they finished building it. The third mosque was built around 780 AD. In 1033 AD there was another earthquake, and the mosque had to be built again.
East Jerusalem was taken over by the Crusaders in 1099. Instead of taking down the mosque, the crusaders used the mosque as a palace. In 1119 it was changed into the headquarters for the Templar Knights.
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