It was on account of the remarkable historical importance of the al-Masjid al-Aqsa – a mosque associated with a number of major prophets -- that it served as the first qiblah (direction of prayer) to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his followers for about 18 months following the migration from Makkah to Madinah.
After that, the qiblah was shifted towards the al-Masjid al-Haram in Makkah. Having faced in his prayers the two most ancient, and historically speaking the most significant, mosques on earth, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) thus acknowledged the validity and truthfulness of all the previous prophets and messengers and the original messages that had been revealed to them. In point of fact, moreover, believing in the earlier prophets and their original revelations constitutes one of the pillars of the message or the revelation revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Denying any earlier prophet, or any revelation of the original revelations, Islam views as a blasphemous act which rescinds one’s association with Islam and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) rendering him a non-Muslim.
Facing from Madinah, the epicenter of the operations of the last prophet to mankind, firstly the al-Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem and then the al-Masjid al-Haram in Makkah also indicated the ultimate vindication of the two mosques’ spiritual and historical standings and roles at the hands of the seal of prophets, as well as the commencement of their total purification, also at the hand of the last prophet and his followers, of all the impurities with which the two mosques’ names and purposes had been often in history gravely stained and defiled. This was so because as the seal of prophets, Prophet Muhammad’s task was not only to look at the present, as well as to the future, and chart the courses for people’s moral and spiritual fulfillment.
It was also to look back at the past where the tawhidic (God’s Oneness) schemes of other prophets have been corrupted and tampered with, setting the things right and occasionally naming the culprits. That way, the struggles, achievements and legacies of prophets, their followers and whoever wished and contributed any good to the spiritual and civilizational enrichment of mankind have been duly recognized and endorsed. At the same time, the falsehood and deceptive plots of the opponents of prophets and of the truth of Islam which they all brought were unmistakably exposed and resolutely repudiated.
Thus, the direction and tone of the last Allah’s revelation to man were clearly set. The chief objectives of the last Prophet’s mission were also clearly spelled out. According to such objectives, the last Prophet (pbuh) was as much a reformer as an originator. He was concerned as much about the present and future as about the past. He came as much to initiate some new systems of living as to Islamize some existing but flawed ones. Even though he laid a foundation for a new divinely inspired and universal civilization, yet he never failed to acknowledge the righteous aspects of the existing cultures and civilizations that he came into contact with.
Although he strongly rejected the immoral and corrupt aspects of the existing cultures and civilizations, yet whenever needed he never failed to avail himself of their positive and intrinsically innocent contributions to the good of mankind. This was possible due to Islam’s recognition that every community is capable of making a contribution to the wellbeing of human society. The basis for such contributions could be either some remnants of a past prophet’s wisdom and experience, which the people may or may not be aware of, or the human reasoning power supported by the human unadulterated primordial nature which Allah has bestowed upon man as a gift. And finally, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was an Arab operating within an Arab context, but the teachings which have been revealed to him were universal and timeless meant for all people from whatever religious, social, cultural or economic backgrounds they might be.
However, while operating from the Madinah epicenter, and while facing in his prayers firstly the al-Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem and then the al-Masjid al-Haram in Makkah, in the process creating his own mosque in Madinah which in terms of spiritual worth trailed the al-Masjid al-Haram but surpassed the al-Masjid al-Aqsa, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) sent another perhaps most powerful message to the world. That message was to the effect that although Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) acknowledged and endorsed all the former prophets and their original revelations or holy books, it was only his prophethood and his holy book (the Qur’an) that were binding on all people till the end of days. It was only his message that was universal, everlasting and all-encompassing, authenticating and incorporating the tawhidic spirit and essence of all the preceding messages and revelations.
All the past prophets and their holy messages were binding only on a particular group of people and during a particular period of time. It is true that the former revealed books have all been distorted and corrupted beyond recognition, nonetheless, even if such was not the case and they had been preserved in their original forms and existed as such at the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), those holy books and the prophethoods of their holy messengers would still have been subjected to the process of total abrogation by Prophet Muhammad’s mission and his holy book, the Qur’an.
Such was the Will of Allah the Conceiver and Creator of life, the Selector and Sender of all prophets, and the Author and Source of all the holy messages and books (“…The East and the West (i.e., all qiblahs) belong only to Allah; He guides whom He likes to the right path…”, al-Baqarah, 142).
The Prophet (pbuh) once remarked about this verity: “If Musa (Moses) were alive amongst you, he would have had no option but to follow me.” He also said: “By the One in Whose Hands is my soul, if Musa (Moses) were to come to you and you followed him, and not me, you would go astray.” Furthermore, it is a Muslim tenet that prophet ‘Isa (Jesus) was neither killed nor crucified. Allah took him up to Himself. However, when the Day of Judgment draws near, prophet ‘Isa will descend again to the earth to fulfill one of the greatest and most dramatic prophecies.
His descent will signify a great sign of the nearness of the Day of Judgment. While on the earth, for the second time, prophet ‘Isa will follow Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and will live according to the principles and teachings of his Qur’an and the Islamic Shari’ah (law). At the end, after his death, ‘Isa is said will be buried near Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), as yet another attestation to the latter’s status and authority as the final prophet whose precursor prophet ‘Isa was announcing his coming.
By: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design
International Islamic University Malaysia
Posted on: March 18, 2012