We know the now familiar narrative from the Jewish people that Muslims demolished our Solomon temple and built their Masjid al-Aqsa on it. Therefore, Muslims do not have any right to claim this place as their own; that it has always been ours since David and Solomon.
In response to this Jewish claim Maulana Maududi wrote:
“It is proven from historical records that Byzantines [Eastern Roman Empire] demolished the Solomon temple in the year 70 A.D. The complete destruction happened to Jewish people at the hands of the Byzantines in this year when they destroyed all their religious sites and drove the entire Jewish population out of Jerusalem. The Solomon temple was turned into a pile of rubble. Jerusalem became the center of Christianity under the Byzantines. All this happened in the first century, in 70 A.D. And Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was born in the sixth century A.D.” [Maududi, Tarjumanul Quran, September 1969]
Khalifa Umar’s (R) trip to Jerusalem
Byzantines had built their Cathedral in Jerusalem. Historical evidence suggests that Jerusalem was conquered by Muslims during Khalifa Umar’s (R) time. The Patriarch of Jerusalem insisted that the Khalifa himself must come to Jerusalem – only then he will sign the surrender treaty to Muslims. So, Khalifa Umar (R) went there. The details of his trip are well documented in recorded history.
During the treaty negotiations when the prayer time came and Khalifa Umar (R) wanted to pray, the Patriarch offered to arrange his prayer in the Cathedral itself. At this Khalifa Umar (R) said that he does not want to pray in the Cathedral because later generations might demolish it and build a mosque there; that he does not want to set such a precedent.
So, Khalifa Umar (R) started looking for a place to pray outside of the Cathedral’s precincts. But the outside precincts were not only full of rubble but were covered with garbage as well. So, he started collecting that garbage and throwing it away. Please imagine this scene!
The head of the greatest Islamic nation, Amir-ul-Momineen, came to Jerusalem as victor, and here he was personally clearing the garbage thrown by Christians on Jewish sacred site! How magnanimous Khalifa Umar (R) was? Then he found an elevated stone (Qubba) and he offered his prayer there.
The gist of the treaty signed by Khalifa Umar (R) was that there will be complete freedom of religion for all; that all religious sites will be sacrosanct and will be respected; and that Muslims will have the duty to protect these religious sites because the entire holy land was now under their control.
READ MORE: Capture of Jerusalem: The Treaty of Umar
After the treaty was concluded, Muslims built a small mosque as a symbol of respect for the place where Khalifa Umar (R) had prayed. But later, during the Umayyad period (661-750 A.D.), Abdul Malik bin Marwan built a dome on the rock where Khalifa Umar (R) had prayed, and named it Masjid Al-Aqsa because it was the farthest mosque at the time. This is how Masjid Al-Aqsa came into being. The name Masjid Al-Aqsa was written on a stone slab and below it was written the year 72 Hijrah, which visitors could see.
The Jewish claim that Muslims built this mosque where their temple was, is wrong because the Byzantines had demolished it in year 70 A.D. and there was nothing except rubble and garbage. The Byzantines even prevented Jewish people from visiting the holy land.
It is the Muslims who opened the holy land to Jewish people. Muslims told them that they are welcome to visit their sacred sites even though the Byzantines had destroyed them. Though the temple was destroyed by the Byzantines, there was a small wall that was part of the temple where Jewish people started praying and crying at the loss of their temple – and, thus, this wall came to be known as the “wailing wall.”
Therefore, Masjid Al-Aqsa in the Quranic verse (17:1) cannot refer to Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem because there was nothing except rubbles there, let alone there being a mosque. The Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem was built, as noted above, in 72 Hijrah by Abdul Malik bin Marwan.
All historians agree that Byzantines [Eastern Roman Empire] had destroyed Jerusalem and the Solomon temple in 70 A.D. and built their own Cathedral there.
Even during Khalifa Umar’s (R) time there was no Masjid Al-Aqsa and there was no Solomon temple in Jerusalem. So, how could Masjid Al-Aqsa and Solomon temple be there during the Prophet's (PBUH) time?