Holiest sites in Sunni Islam

Both Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims agree on the three Holiest sites in Islam being, respectively, the Masjid al-Haram (including the Kaaba), in Mecca; the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, in Medina; and the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, in Jerusalem.

Kaaba and Al-Masjid al-Haram, Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Both the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron have been considered the fourth holiest site in Islam.[1]

Furthermore, Sunni Muslims also consider sites associated with Ahl al-Bayt, the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs and their family members to be holy.


Worshipers flood the Grand mosque, its roof, and all the areas around it during night prayers

The Kaaba (Arabic: The Cube) is the most sacred site in Islam. It is surrounded by the Masjid al-Haram. During the Hajj period, the mosque is unable to contain the multitude of pilgrims, who pray on the outlining streets. More than 2 million worshippers gather to pray during Eid prayers.[2]

According to the teachings of Islam, Allah, used the word mosque when referring to the sites established by ʾIbrāhīm (Abraham) and his progeny as houses of worship to God centuries before the revelation of the Quran. Before Mecca and Jerusalem came under Muslim control between 630 CE and 638 CE, the site of the Kaaba, which (according to Muslim belief) was established by Ibrahim and Ismail.[3]

And when We assigned to Ibrahim the place of the House, saying: Do not associate with Me aught, and purify My House for those who make the circuit and stand to pray and bow and prostrate themselves.

— Quran, Sura 22 (Al-Hajj), ayah 26[4]

And remember Prophet Abraham and Isma'il raised the foundations of the House (With this prayer): "Our Lord!" Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing.

— Quran, Sura 2 (Al-Baqara), ayah 127[5]

Al-Masjid an-NabawiEdit

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (Arabic: المسجد النبوي, pronounced [ælˈmæsdʒidæˈnːæbæwiː]) or the Mosque of the Prophet, located in Medina, is the second holiest site in Islam.

The Mosque was originally the house of Muhammad; he settled there after his migration to Medina, and later built a mosque on the grounds. He himself shared in the heavy work of construction. The original mosque was an open-air building. The mosque also served as a community center, a court, and a religious school. There was a raised platform for the people who taught the Quran. The basic plan of the building has been adopted in the building of other mosques throughout the world.

Subsequent Islamic rulers greatly expanded and decorated the mosque. The most important feature of the site is the green dome over the center of the mosque, where the tomb of Muhammad is located. Constructed in 1817 CE and painted green in 1839 CE, it is known as the Dome of the Prophet.[6] Early Muslim leaders Abu Bakr and Umar are buried beside Muhammad.

Medina is also home to the historically significant Quba Mosque and Masjid al-Qiblatayn.

Al-Aqsa MosqueEdit

Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem, also known as the Haram al-Sharif, or the Temple Mount[7]

Masjid Al-Aqsa ("the Farthest Mosque"), also known as the "Al Aqsa compound", is a holy site in Shia and Sunni Islam and is located in the Old City of Jerusalem, and is widely regarded by Jews as the Temple Mount, the site of the Holy Temple. It includes the Qibli mosque and the Dome of the Rock. It is the third holiest site in Islam. The term Al-Aqsa Mosque was coined in the Quran:

Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose environs We did bless,- in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things).

— Quran, Sura 17 (Al-Isra) ayah 1[8]

Al-Aqsa Mosque is sacred because the "first of the two qiblas" (Arabic: اولى القبلتين) was Jerusalem.[9][10] In Islamic tradition, Al-Aqsa is said to be the "second mosque" (Arabic: ثاني المسجدين), as well as the "third of the holy sanctuaries" (Arabic: ثالث الحرمين), under Islamic Law.[11]

The term used for mosque, masjid, literally means "place of prostration", and includes monotheistic or more specifically Abrahamic places of worship but does not exclusively lend itself to physical structures but a location, as Muhammad stated "The earth has been made for me (and for my followers) a place for praying...".[12] When Caliph Umar conquered Jerusalem after Muhammad's wafat, a prayer house was built on the site. The structure was expanded by the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan and finished by his son al-Walid in 705 CE. The building was repeatedly destroyed by earthquakes and rebuilt, until the reconstruction in 1033 by the Fatimid caliph Ali az-Zahir, and that version of the structure is what can be seen in the present day. This same area was called at later Islamic periods as the Haram al-Sharif or the "Noble Sanctuary".[13][14][15] The Dome of the Rock is almost unanimously accepted to be the area from where Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven,[16] although a few fringe theories claim it had been from a mosque in Medina, Jir'ana or Kufa.[17][18][19]

Although most political references to the Al-Aqsa Mosque date from the 12th century or later due to its occupation by the Crusades, others claim that the mosque's position in Islam is firmly grounded in a number of hadith dating from the birth of Islam.[20]

While Jerusalem is not mentioned by name in the Quran, it is recognized as a sacred site based on several references that have been linked to Jerusalem by later Islamic traditions such as the hadith.[21] Some academics attribute the holiness of Jerusalem to the rise and expansion of a certain type of literary genre, known as al-Fadhail or history of cities. The Fadhail of Jerusalem inspired Muslims, especially during the Umayyad period, to embellish the sanctity of the city beyond its status in the holy texts.[22] Others point to the political motives of the Umayyad dynasty which led to the sanctification of Jerusalem in Islam.[23]

Later medieval scripts, as well as modern-day political tracts, tend to classify al-Aqsa Mosque as the third holiest site in Islam.[10] For example, Sahih al-Bukhari quotes Abu Darda as saying: "the Prophet of God, Muhammad said a prayer in the Sacred Mosque (in Mecca) is worth 100,000 prayers; a prayer in my mosque (in Medina) is worth 10,000 prayers; and a prayer in al-Aqsa Mosque is worth 1,000 prayers", more than in any other mosque. In addition, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, refers to the al-Aqsa Mosque as the third holiest site in Islam (and calls for Arab sovereignty over it).[24]

Umayyad MosqueEdit

Umayyad Mosque (on the right) with the Minaret of Isa (on the left)

Umayyad Mosque in Damascus is considered by some Muslims to be the fourth holiest site in Islam.[25][26][27] One of the four authorized copies of the Quran was kept here, and the head of Yahya ibn Zakariyya is believed to be in the shrine.

The Minaret of Isa in the Umayyad Mosque is dedicated to Isa (Jesus), and it is believed that he will return to the world at the minaret during the time of a Fajr prayer and it is believed that he will pray at the mosque with the Islamic leader of that time Mahdi. It is believed that prayers in the mosque are considered to be equal to those offered in Jerusalem.[25]

Ibrahimi MosqueEdit

Southern view of the Mosque.

Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, West Bank, Palestine, allegedly contains the graves of the Prophet Abraham and some of his family, and is for that reason also considered by some Sunni Muslims the fourth holiest site in the world. It was said that Muhammad himself encouraged the activity, saying "He who cannot visit me, let him visit the Tomb of Abraham" and "He who visits the Tomb of Abraham, Allah abolishes his sins."[28]

Tombs of Biblical prophetsEdit

Other placesEdit

The Eyüp Sultan Mosque, in Eyüp District, in the European section of Istanbul City, Turkey

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Dumper, Michael (2007). Cities of the Middle East and North Africa: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-57607-919-5.
  2. ^ Mecca the Blessed
  3. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 2:21:288
  4. ^ Quran 22:26
  5. ^ Quran 2:127
  6. ^ Encyclopedia of the orient
  7. ^ "Dome of Masjid al-Aqsa". Madain Project. Archived from the original on 19 May 2020. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  8. ^ Quran 17:1
  9. ^ Lindsay, James (2005). Daily Life in the Medieval Islamic World. Greenwood Press. pp. 142–143. ISBN 0-313-32270-8.
  10. ^ a b Wendy Doninger, ed. (1999-09-01). Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. Merriam-Webster. p. 70. ISBN 0-87779-044-2., reviewed on Google books
  11. ^ "Islamic History of Masjid Al Aqsa". Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  12. ^ Bukhari Volume 1, Book 7, Number 331
  13. ^ Oleg Grabar, THE HARAM AL-SHARIF: AN ESSAY IN INTERPRETATION, BRIIFS vol. 2 no 2 (Autumn 2000) "Essay, Oleg Grabar, Copyright©2000 BRIIFS 2, 2". Archived from the original on 2012-10-04. Retrieved 2012-10-04.
  14. ^ Palestinian Encyclopedia Volume 4, pp. 203
  15. ^ Palestinian Encyclopedia Volume 3, pp. 23
  16. ^ "Eyewitness: Inside al-Aqsa". BBC News. 2002-03-20. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
  17. ^ MEMRI: Special Dispatch Series - No. 564
  18. ^ al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi 9th century (Oxford UP, 1966, vol. 3, p. 958-9). Jirana, which Muhammad visited in 630, is about 10 mi (16 km) from Mecca.
  19. ^ The Early Arab Period - 638-1099
  20. ^ Hashimi, Sohail H; et al. (2003-05-07). "Political Boundaries and Moral Communities: Islamic Perspectives". In Allen E. Buchannan; Margaret Moore (eds.). States, Nations and Borders: the ethics of making boundaries. Cambridge University Press. pp. 192–193. ISBN 0-521-52575-6., reviewed on Google books
  21. ^ el-Khatib, Abdallah (1 May 2001). "Jerusalem in the Qur'ān". British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 28 (1): 25–53. doi:10.1080/13530190120034549. S2CID 159680405. Archived from the original on 9 December 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2006.
  22. ^ Talhami, Ghada Hashem (February 2000). "The Modern History of Islamic Jerusalem: Academic Myths and Propaganda". Middle East Policy Journal. Blackwell Publishing. VII (14). ISSN 1061-1924. Archived from the original on 16 November 2006. Retrieved 17 November 2006.
  23. ^ Silverman, Jonathan (6 May 2005). "The opposite of holiness". Ynetnews. Retrieved 17 November 2006.
  24. ^ "Resolution No. 2/2-IS". Second Islamic Summit Conference. Organisation of the Islamic Conference. 24 February 1974. Archived from the original on 14 October 2006. Retrieved 17 November 2006.
  25. ^ a b Janet L. Abu-Lughod (contributor) (2007). "Damascus". In Dumper, Michael R. T.; Stanley, Bruce E. (eds.). Cities of the Middle East and North Africa: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 119–126. ISBN 978-1-5760-7919-5. {{cite encyclopedia}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  26. ^ Sarah Birke (2013-08-02), Damascus: What's Left, New York Review of Books
  27. ^ Totah, Faedah M. (2009). "Return to the origin: negotiating the modern and unmodern in the old city of Damascus". City & Society. 21 (1): 58–81. doi:10.1111/j.1548-744X.2009.01015.x.
  28. ^ Davidson, Linda Kay; Gitliz, David Martin. Pilgrimage: From the Ganges to Graceland: an Encyclopedia, Vol 1. p. 91.


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