In a recent TV interview, Egyptian novelist and scholar Youssef Ziedan said that the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Palestine is not the Al-Aqsa Mosque referred to in the Quran. Citing ancient scholars, Ziedan said that the Al-Haram Mosque and Al-Aqsa Mosque were "on the road from Mecca to Ta'if." "Neither we nor the [Jews] have anything to do with it," he said. "It's all politics."
Following are excerpts from the interview, which aired on the Egyptian CBC TV channel on December 3, 2015.
TV host: Recent statements, attributed to Ziedan, about the Prophet Muhammad's nocturnal journey [isra], and his ascent to the heavens [mi'raj], caused an uproar in Egyptian religious circles and society.
Excerpts from a video of Youssef Ziedan
Youssef Ziedan: Regarding the concepts of the isra and the mi'raj – the isra is mentioned in the Quran, but its meaning is different than commonly thought. The mi'raj, however, is not mentioned there. I don't know where they got it from.
He also said that the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Palestine has nothing to do with the Al-Aqsa referred to in the Quran. Therefore, it is not the first direction of prayer for Muslims.
Interviewer: Are you telling me that Jerusalem [Al-Quds] is not our holy city?
Youssef Ziedan: Hamiqdash ["the temple"] is a Hebrew word. This is a Hebrew concept. The Christian [name of Jerusalem] is "Aelia." The Al-Aqsa Mosque, in my view, is not the one [in Jerusalem]. It cannot be.
Our ancient religious scholars – Al-Waqidi, Al-Tabari, and many others – said that the Al-Aqsa Mosque… They said that the Prophet Muhammad, after being harassed by Quraysh [in Mecca], went to the city of Tai'f. On the road to Ta'if, there were two mosques: Al-Adna Mosque ["the nearest"] and Al-Aqsa Mosque ["the farthest"]. The Quranic verse [17:1] talks about the Prophet's state of mind. He was confused, just like the prophet Abraham who said: "My Lord, show me yourself that I may look at You"… Sorry, it was Moses. It happened to Abraham as well. Many prophets went through such confusion. The verse says: "Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from the Al-Haram Mosque to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the surroundings of which We have blessed." At that time there was no prayers yet. So it was a place of worship. The place was well known. Otherwise, its location would have been specified. Therefore, Al-Waqidi and others said that these two mosques were on the road from Mecca to Ta'if.
Interviewer: You mean the Al-Haram Mosque and the Al-Aqsa Mosque?
Youssef Ziedan: Yes. The Al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem] did not exist back then, and the city was not called "Al-Quds." It was called Aelia, and it had no mosques.
Interviewer: Do you mean that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is not sacred to Muslims or Christians?
Youssef Ziedan: The Al-Aqsa Mosque represents a political game by [Caliph] Abd Al-Malik ibn Marwan.
Interviewer: So there is no justification for the war [over Jerusalem], and we should just leave Al-Aqsa, which has nothing to do with us?
Youssef Ziedan: Neither we nor the [Jews] have anything to do with it. That's what I'm saying. People should think about this.
Interviewer: Where would that lead us?
Youssef Ziedan: To peace.
Interviewer: So you're saying that [Jerusalem] is not sacred either for the Muslims or for the Jews…
Youssef Ziedan: It's all politics.
Interviewer: So this is a political conflict, and the dream of liberating [Al-Aqsa], and slogans like "millions of martyrs are marching to Jerusalem," are nothing but nonsense, as is the war led by the Jews for their temple and so on?
Youssef Ziedan: They are also lying.