The golden dome you see on the internet and news channel is not Al Aqsa mosque. The golden dome is called the dome of the rock which is built by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik.
Dome of the rock has its own importance in Islam, but it is neither the third holiest site in Islam nor it was the first Qibla of Muslims.
Some people referred to this mosque as the Al Aqsa mosque. International media including the BBC and Google maps refers to this mosque as AL Aqsa. This is Al Qibli mosque, not the Al Aqsa mosque.
So What the Al Aqsa mosque is?
The whole compound including the dome of the rock, Qibli mosque, its arenas, gates, fountains, minarets, and many other religious and historic landmarks is the AL Aqsa mosque. The whole area of 550,372 meters square is the Al Aqsa mosque.
Before going into the details, you need to understand the locations of the Dome of the rock, Qibli mosque, inside the Al Aqsa mosque.
Al Aqsa mosque is located on a hill called temple mount in Jerusalem. This picture shows the satellite view of the temple mount. the region highlighted in red is the Qibli mosque and the one highlighted in blue is the dome of the rock. The region highlighted in green is the holiest place for jews. Actually, this is a wall named the western wall.
This picture shows another view of the dome of the rock, Qibli mosque, and Western wall. In the picture, you can see how Jewish and Muslim holy sites are adjacent, which is the reason for clashes between Muslims and Jews in that area.
Why is the Al Aqsa mosque important?
The translation of Al Aqsa mosque in English is the “farthest mosque”. The name of the Al Aqsa mosque is mentioned in the Quran in which it is said that prophet Muhammad traveled from Mecca to “the farthest mosque”, and then up to Heaven on a heavenly creature called Buraq.
There are two main reasons for the importance of the Al Aqsa mosque in Islam. The first is that this mosque was the first Qibla of Muslims. Muslims used to pray towards this site until the 16th or 17th month after Prophet Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina when Allah directed him to instead turn towards the Kaaba in Mecca. The name of the Qibli mosque derived from The word Qibla as it was the first Qibla of Muslims.
The second reason why the Al Aqsa mosque is important because prophet Muhammad was transferred to this place during the Night Journey to heaven known as Miraaj. There is a rock at the center of the dome of rock called Foundation stone. It is believed that Prophet Muhammad started his Night Journey to heaven from this rock.
Some Muslims believe that it is a well-thought plan of the zionists to present the Dome of the rock as Al Aqsa mosque. They wanted Muslims to believe that the only dome of the rock is the Al Aqsa mosque, so when they destroy the rest of AL Aqsa mosque including the Qibli mosque nobody will really care. So far this a conspiracy theory, but could be true.