Islamic tradition tells us that al-Aqsa mosque is near Mecca on the Arabian Peninsula. This was unequivocally stated in “Kitab al-Maghazi,” a book by the Muslim historian and geographer al-Waqidi. According to al-Waqidi, there were two “masjeds” (places of prayer) in al-Gi’irranah, a village between Mecca and Ta’if – one was “the closer mosque” (al-masjid al-adna) and the other was “the further mosque” (al-masjid al-aqsa,) and Muhammad would pray there when he went out of town.
This description by al-Waqidi which is supported by a chain of authorities (isnad) was not “convenient” for the Islamic propaganda of the 7th Century. In order to establish a basis for the awareness of the “holiness” of Jerusalem in Islam, the Califs of the Ummayad dynasty invented many “traditions” upholding the value of Jerusalem, which would justify pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the faithful Muslims. Thus was al-Masjid al-Aqsa “transported” to Jerusalem. It should be noted that Saladin also adopted the myth of al-Aqsa and those “traditions” in order to recruit and inflame the Muslim warriors against the Crusaders in the 12th Century.
“The myth of al-Aqsa” By Dr. Mordechai Kedar