Last Updated: Thu Apr 19, 2012 11:33 am (KSA) 08:33 am (GMT)

Egypt’s grand mufti, Jordanian prince visit Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque

Egypt’s grand mufti Ali Gomaa visited al-Aqsa mosque, located in Jerusalem’s Old City, which is controlled by Israel. (Reuters)
Egypt’s grand mufti Ali Gomaa visited al-Aqsa mosque, located in Jerusalem’s Old City, which is controlled by Israel. (Reuters)

Egypt’s grand mufti visited Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque on Wednesday, a senior Muslim official said, despite claims by an internationally prominent cleric that such visits are a sop to Israel.

Azzam al-Khatib said Ali Gomaa, Egypt’s highest religious authority, “came for a religious visit to al-Aqsa mosque” along with Jordan’s Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed, King Abdullah II’s cousin and advisor on religious issues.

The two men also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Greek Orthodox patriarchate, said Khatib.

All three sites are located in Jerusalem’s Old City, which is controlled by Israel, which considers the city its eternal and indivisible capital.

In Amman, Jordan’s ministry of awqaf and Islamic affairs said the visit was in accordance with a command from the Prophet Mohammed to visit only three mosques on pilgrimage − al-Aqsa and the mosques in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia.

It added that Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas had “called on Muslims everywhere to visit al-Aqsa and revitalize it by filling it with worshippers and pilgrims.”

“This trip ... is seen as an effort to encourage Muslims who are able to visit al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s three holiest sites, and Islam’s first Qiblah (direction of prayer),” it said.

It comes after Qatar-based Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian, said in a religious edict (fatwa) last month that Muslims should not visit Jerusalem “because it requires dealing with Zionist embassies to obtain visas.”

“Such visits might also give legitimacy to the occupation and could be seen as normalization,” Qaradawi said in March.

His fatwa has drawn the ire of Palestinian awqaf minister Mahmud al-Habbash, saying it was “weird and contradicts the Koran and the Prophet’s teachings.”

“The fatwa serves Israeli policies that seek to isolate Jerusalem and Palestinians, who should be supported,” Habbash said.

Earlier this month, the king’s half-brother, Prince Hashim, paid a similar visit to Jerusalem. Also, Jordan’s Interior Minister Mohammad Raud went to the Holy City this week.

The kingdom’s powerful opposition Islamists have denounced such visits.

“In line with Islamic edicts issued by respected clerics and consultations with Christian religious leaders, we consider these trips as acts of normalization that serves the schemes of the enemy,” said Hamzeh Mansur, chief of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, on the party’s website.

“Mosque preachers, thinkers, intellectuals and journalists should intensify their efforts to warn the public against the dangerous risks behind such visits, which must not continue,” added Mansur, who also heads an anti-normalization committee.

Jordan, which has a 1994 peace treaty with Israel, is the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

One of the most sensitive places in the Middle East, the mosque is referred to by Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and is the third most sacred site in Islam. The mosque compound is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and is revered as Judaism’s most sacred site.

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