There is a hadith that reports Muhammad one night, rode on a winged horse that took him from Masjidu’l Haram (the temple of Ka’ba) to Msjidu’l Aqsa (in Jerusalem) and from there to the seventh heaven where he was shown the hell and the paradise and then taken to the presence of Allah. This story that is commonly accepted by All the Muslims and is known as Mi’raj is also confirmed in the Quran
Glory to (Allah)
Who did take His Servant for a journey by night,
From the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque.
– Quran 17:1
Here we are not going to talk about the absurdity of such trip. If God is omnipresent why one would have to go anywhere to meet him. If Muhammad could travel from Mecca to the palce of Allah, riding on a winged horsy, and come back in one night, then Allah’s throne must not be too far from Mecca. I wonder how come no one has found it yet?
Is God inside the universe or outside of it? If inside it, then he is contained by it and therefore cannot be infinite. If outside it, then he must be billions of light years away from us and no winged horsy can reach his throne in one night and come back. This story is simply fairytale.
We are not also going to ask why Muhammad had to stop at Jerusalem before going to Heaven. Is there a gateway to Heaven in Jerusalem?
The problem we want to discuss is that Masjid’ul Aqsa “the Farthest Mosque” did not exist at the time of Muhammad.
First Temple on that site was built in 960 BC, allegedly by Solomon to house the Ark of the Covenant which his father, David, had brought to Jerusalem. The temple was burned to the ground by the Babylonians in 586 BC.
The Second Temple was consecrated in 515 BC, rebuilt by Herod in 20 BC and destroyed by Titus in 70 AD.
When Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattab conquered Jerusalem in 638 AD, he performed a prayer in the site where Temple of Solomon used to stand. It was Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan who built a mosque on that site around 691 A.D.
Muhammad’s alleged Mi’raj took place around the year 621. There is 70 years gap between Mi’raj and the construction of Masjid ul Aqsa. [This is reported in The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, Harper & Row, 1989, p. 46 and 102.]
How could Muhammad mention Masjid ul Aqsa when such a mosque did not exist? Either Muhammad did not know that that temple was destroyed in 70 AD or the Quran is manipulated and “enriched” years after the death of its author, permitting the fables that were constructed around Muhammad after his death to creep into his book.
In my opinion the former is the case. Muhammad was an unlettered man. His knowledge was limited to what he heard from others – story tellers and priests. His references to historic and Biblical stories are sketchy. He throws a name hear and mentions an event there and often makes mistakes. This is to be expected of a man who is not acquainted with books and whose only source of knowledge is hearsay.
Muslims may argue that “Masjid’ means any place of worship (sojda), that is why the prophet refers to the temple of Solomon as Masjid. In that case, all churches, synagogues and the Zoroastrian Ateshkadehs are Masjids. During the time of Muhammad there were many such “Masjids” built in cities much farther than Jerusalem. (i.e farthest from Mecca or Medina) and the Masjid’ul Aqsa actually was not the farthest mosque.
This, is an obvious blunder of Muhammad so much so that many Islamic scholars, including Yusuf Ali are of the opinion that by Masjid’u’ Aqsa, it is intended the SITE of the building and not the actual building.
This apologetic line could have been a way out of the dilemma if it were not for the following hadith, which unequivocally asserts that Masjid’ul Aqsa was an actual building which existed in the time of Muhammad.
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 presents yet another problem. According to Muslims, Masjid’ul Haram (Ka’ba) was built by Abraham who lived in 2000 BC and the Temple of Solomon (the site of the Msjid ul’Aqsa) was built about 958-951 BC. There is a gap of over 1040 years between the dates of the construction of the two buildings.