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What is the difference between al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock?

There is much confusion between two holy sites in Jerusalem, The Dome of the Rock and Al-Masjid al-Aqsa. However, this is understandable, as the commonly recognized definition of al-Aqsa Mosque has changed over time. Al-Aqsa, the “Farthest Mosque”, is the third holiest site in Islam and Dome of the Rock is the most famous Islamic site located in Jerusalem. Although people will reference Al-Aqsa as a specific mosque, it is actually called Qibly Masjid. 

The confusion comes from historical context. The wider compound upon which both sites, Qibly and The Dome of the Rock, are located has several names. The name of the mount, Masjid al-Aqsa, is also known as Bayt al-Maqdis. Additionally, the area is often referred to as al-Harma ash-Sharif, the “Noble Sanctuary”. However, people will interchangeably use al-Aqsa to refer to both the greater region as well as the specific mosque, Qibly Masjid. 

Below, you can see the physical difference between Qibly (al-Aqsa) and Dome of the Rock. Whenever you hear Masjid al-Aqsa or Qibly Masjid, look for a lead-colored dome. The Dome of the Rock has an unmistakable gold dome. 

al-Aqsa Qibly Masjid Dome of the Rock

Qibly Masjid, located within the greater al-Harma ash-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary, is the most important mosque that lies within Jerusalem. It is central to the Muslim community and it hosts daily prayers along with Friday sermons which draw large crowds. The original dome of Qibly was created with wood and lead enamelwork. However, the dome was reconstructed in 1969 with concrete and anodized aluminum. This aluminum was replaced with lead in 1983 to match the original craftsmanship.

Masjid al-Aqsa Interier JerusalemA view from within Qibly Masjid

The most famous Islamic landmark in Jerusalem, and also the oldest, is the Dome of the Rock. This site, however, is not a mosque, but rather a holy Muslim shrine. It is believed to be where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven during his Night Journey. 

Jerusalem Dome of the Rock

So remember, Qibly Masjid and the Dome of the Rock are two distinct sites! Both are located within the Noble Sanctuary, al-Harma ash-Sharif, also known as al-Aqsa. The Dome of the Rock is a Muslim shrine with a vibrant gold dome, while Qibly Masjid is a mosque with a lead-colored dome. 

Thanks for reading! As this is a hot topic, please leave any thoughts you have in the comments section below!




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  • I also visited the area in March this year. The Dome of rock is not a mosque but a site where Muslims visit as a historical monument where it was said, according to Quran Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. The Mosque is by the right side of the place just some metres away. I took some pictures at the Dome while offered prayer both Zuhr and Asr in the Masjed Aqsa. May Allah grants us more means to revisit these sacred places (God’s sacred mosque in Mecca, prophet’s mosque in Madina and of course the Masjed Aqsa in Jerusalem).

    Sanusi Moyi on
  • Still difficult to catch
    Aqsa masjid is in the hand of Muslims
    But dome of rock ??
    What are yahoodies doing there ?

    dr adeel on
  • Thank you Zef, I love reading anything about Jerusalem and the Holy Lands. Have a blessed day.

    Maraea Cookson on
  • Beautiful explanation I intend visiting Jerusalem some day

    Zarine Bath on
  • Such a great topic to cover and so well explained- thanks Zef!

    Sara on

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