In order to understand the status of Jerusalem in Islam, one must refer to the basic Islamic sources, namely the Holy Qur’an and the Sunna (the sayings and/or actions by Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him), with their respective supporting text.
The Holy Qur’an: There are many verses (ayat) in various chapters (surahs) that give an indication as to the status of Jerusalem in Islam, notably Surah XVII entitled Al-Isra’ (The Journey by Night), verse 1, wherein Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, ascended to Heaven in 621 CE (Common Era). Moreover, the Prophet, peace be upon him, has said: “Saddles should not be prepared except for three mosques—Al-Haram Mosque (in Mecca), my mosque (in Medina) and Al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem).” The Prophet, peace be upon him added: “Prayers in Al-Haram Mosque are equal to 100,000 prayers; in my mosque 1,000; and in Al-Aqsa 500.” In another incident at the time of the Prophet, Abu Thar (may Allah be satisfied with him) asked Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, “Which mosque had been built first? The Prophet replied: Al-Haram, then Al-Aqsa was built 40 years later.” In another Hadith (a report conveying the sayings, actions or the approvals of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) Abu Umama Al-bahily said that Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “There are still a group of Muslims victorious by Right and superior to their foes until the Orders of Allah come. When asked where are they, the Prophet replied: In Jerusalem and its neighbourhood.”
These aforementioned texts clearly show that Al-Aqsa Mosque is the location of the ascent of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him; the first kiblah for Muslims; one of the three holy mosques to be visited; the second mosque to be built on the globe; and a holy and sacred place where the reward for good deeds and actions are multiplied and sins are forgiven.
Owing to its holiness and status, Muslims consider Jerusalem a holy shrine and a blessed place. They prepared their horses to visit this holy place and pray there; they would begin their pilgrimage from this place; and they have taken care of it throughout history. The Second Righteous Caliph, Omar ibn Al-Khatab began his pilgrimage from Al-Aqsa, as well as Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas, the leader of Al-Qaessia Battle, as well as other Companions, namely Abdallah ibn Omar, Abdallah ibn Abbas and Mahmoud ibn Al-Rabe’ Al-Ansari Al-Khazraji. Furthermore, many Companions and Fiqh (knowledge of the rulings of Islamic law which are extracted from the legislative sources) scholars visited Al-Aqsa, and some of them remained there because of its holiness, which in turn had a great influence on Islamic culture and ideology. Some of the Companions and Fiqh scholars (1) were Abu Obeideh ibn Al-Jarrah, Safia bint Huyay (one of the wives of the Prophet, peace be upon him), Ma’ath ibn Jabal, Bilal ibn Rabah (the Prophet’s Mu’adhan, who refused to make the Adhan [call to prayer] after the Prophet had died until Jerusalem was conquered]), Eyad ibn Ghneim, Abdallah ibn Omar, Khaled ibn Al-Waleed, Abu Thar Al-Ghafari, Abu Al-Darda’ E’weimer, Ubadeh ibn Al-Samet, Salman Al-Faresy, Abu Mas’oud Al-Ansari, Tameem Al-Dary, Umr ibn Al-A’as, Abdallah ibn Salam, Sa’id ibn Zeid, Murra ibn Ka’ab, Shaddad ibn Aws, Abu Hureira, Abdallah ibn Umr ibn Al-A’as, Mu’awia ibn Abi Sufian, Awf ibn Malek and Abu Jum’a Al-Ansari. Moreover, numerous followers and great scholars visited and stayed in Jerusalem, including such individuals as Malek ibn Dinar, Oweis Al-Qarny, Ka’ab Al-Ahbar, Rabe’a Al-Adaweya, Al-Awza’e, Sufian Al-Thawry, Ibrahim ibn Adaham, Muqatel ibn Sufian, Al-Laith ibn Sa’ad, Wakee’ ibn Al-Jarrah, Al-Imam Al-Shafe’e, Abu Ja’afar Al-Jarashy, Beshr Al-Hafy, Thawban ibn Yamrud (2), Thunoon Al-Masry, Salim ibn Amer (3), Al-Sary Al-Saqty, Bakr ibn Sahl Al-Demiaty, Abu Al-Awam (the mu’dhan in Jerusalem), Salama Al-Muqdes Al-Dareer, Abu Al-Faraj Abdelwahed Al-Hanbaly, Al-Imam Al-Ghazaly, Al-Imam Abu Bakr Al-Tartoush, Al-Imam Abu Bakr Al-Araby, Abu Bakr Al-Jurjany (4), Abu Al-Hasan Al-Zahry, and many others. On the other hand, many caliphs visited Jerusalem such as Umar ibn Al-Khatab, Mu’awiah ibn Abi Sufian (5), Abdil-Malek ibn Marwan, Umar ibn Abdil-Aziz, Al-Walid ibn Abdil-Malek, Sulaiman ibn Abdil-Malek (who stayed in Jerusalem for a long time and was about to take it as a capital instead of Damascus), Abu Ja’far Al-Mansur, Khalif Al-Mahdi and many other Ayyoubi, Mamlouki and Ottoman caliphs as well.