Al-Isra and the “Temple” in the Islamic Sources: Response to Sam Shamoun, Part III-A

Al-Isra and the “Temple” in the Islamic Sources: Response to Sam Shamoun, Part III-A

Originally posted on the Quran and Bible Blog

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

“Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.”

– The Quran, Surah Al-Isra, 17:1[1]

            After taking more than 2 months, Shamoun has finally worked up the courage to “respond” to my last article (Part II) on Al-Isra, in which Shamoun was completely eviscerated. However, in his three-part rebuttal, Shamoun has basically repeated and recycled the same arguments I refuted in Parts I and II. My response will thus be divided into 3 parts as well and will refute Shamoun’s article “Another Verse That Exposes Muhammad as a Fraud: The Nonexistent Temple, Part 1, 2, and 3”, inshaAllah.[2]

Sam Shamoun – The Fraud, Act 1

            Shamoun begins his rambling session with a “challenge” to Muslims. Appealing to several verses from the Quran that state that it is “explained in detail”, Shamoun poses the following questions:

“Who was the servant that Allah took by night?

Where is the location of masjid al-haram?

Where is the location of masjid al-aqsa?”

So, the “challenge” is to explain the meaning of Surah Al-Isra 17:1 using only the Quran and no other sources, including the Ahadith. First of all, this pathetic “challenge” can be easily answered, as we will see, inshaAllah.

            Second, Muslims are under no obligation to follow some silly standard from a Christian apologist. Shamoun does not get to decide which sources are binding upon Muslims to use or not. Let’s just make that clear. The Quran itself states that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent to “make clear” what is contained therein:

“[We sent them] with clear proofs and written ordinances. And We revealed to you the message that you may make clear to the people what was sent down to them and that they might give thought.”[3]

“And We have not revealed to you the Book, [O Muhammad], except for you to make clear to them that wherein they have differed and as guidance and mercy for a people who believe.”[4]

In this regard, while the Quran contains detailed instructions, it also says that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent to make it “clear” to the people. Ibn Kathir explains this in his commentary on Surah Al-Anaam, 6:126 (Shamoun quoted this verse as well; emphasis mine):

“(We have detailed Our Ayat…) We have explained the Ayat and made them clear and plain, (for a people who take heed) those who have sound comprehension and understand what Allah and His Messenger convey to them…”[5]

            Third, it is rather ironic of Shamoun to demand that Muslims answer his questions using only the Quran (as if his demand is worth anything), and then proceed himself to discuss “what the Islamic sources say”! Well how about that? Shamoun feels at liberty to (mis)quote extra-Quranic sources to his heart’s content but will not allow Muslims to use their own sources.

           However, as I said, his pathetic “challenge” can be easily answered after all. Let us proceed to answer Shamoun’s questions using only the Quran, even though that is not necessary or required at all. However, questions 1 and 2 are actually related, so we can answer them together.

  1. Question: Who was the servant that Allah took by night? Where is the location of Masjid al-Haram?

Answer: The answer is simple. Surah 17:1 says that the “servant” was taken from Al-Masjid Al-Haram. Where is Al-Masjid Al-Haram? It is clearly in Mecca, as Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:191, makes clear:

“And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at Al-Masjid Al-Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.”

This is made even clearer in Surah Al-Fath, 48:24-25, since Mecca and Al-Masjid Al-Haram are mentioned together:

“And it is He who withheld their hands from you and your hands from them within [the area of] Makkah ( مَكَّةَ ) after He caused you to overcome them. And ever is Allah of what you do, Seeing. They are the ones who disbelieved and obstructed you from al-Masjid al-Haram ( الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ ) while the offering was prevented from reaching its place of sacrifice. And if not for believing men and believing women whom you did not know – that you might trample them and there would befall you because of them dishonor without [your] knowledge – [you would have been permitted to enter Makkah]. [This was so] that Allah might admit to His mercy whom He willed. If they had been apart [from them], We would have punished those who disbelieved among them with painful punishment.”

So, since we know that the masjid is in Arabia, and specifically Mecca, then it follows that the “servant” who was taken from the masjid was none other than Muhammad (peace be upon him). As far as I know, there was no other true prophet in Arabia at the time!

            It certainly cannot be Moses (peace be upon him), as the Quran never says that he was in Al-Masjid Al-Haram at any time (though that doesn’t necessarily mean he was never there). Moreover, the Quran states that in the time of Moses (peace be upon him), the Israelites were not allowed to enter the Holy Land because of their refusal to obey Allah’s commands:

“[Allah] said, “Then indeed, it is forbidden to them for forty years [in which] they will wander throughout the land. So do not grieve over the defiantly disobedient people.””[6]

This will lead us to question 2. But we have established that the “servant” was indeed Muhammad (peace be upon him).

  1. Question: Where is the location of Masjid al-Aqsa?

Answer: This is also an easy question to answer. Notice that Surah 17:1 clearly states (emphasis mine):

“Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.”

So the Quran tells us that Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa is located in a land that has been “blessed” by Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He). If we only rely on this verse, it would be difficult to ascertain what specific land this was. But the Quran actually explains elsewhere what land this was. In Surah Al-Araf, 7:137, it is stated (emphasis mine):

“And We caused the people who had been oppressed to inherit the eastern regions of the land and the western ones, which We had blessed. And the good word of your Lord was fulfilled for the Children of Israel because of what they had patiently endured. And We destroyed [all] that Pharaoh and his people were producing and what they had been building.”

This verse clearly states that the Children of Israel had inherited the “blessed” land. This is none other than Al-Ard Al-Muqaddasah, the “Holy Land”, as stated in the following verse (emphasis mine):

“O my people, enter the Holy Land (الْأَرْضَ الْمُقَدَّسَةَ) which Allah has assigned to you and do not turn back [from fighting in Allah’s cause] and [thus] become losers.”[7]

But it doesn’t end there. The Quran explains that this land was first given to Ibrahim (peace be upon him), and that it was “blessed for the worlds”:

“And We delivered him and Lot to the land which We had blessed for the worlds.”[8]

Since Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa is located in a land which was “blessed” by Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He), and the Holy Land is described as a “blessed” land, then it follows that the masjid must be located in the Holy Land, and specifically, in Jerusalem. Of course, this does not mean that Al-Masjid Al-Haram is not part of a “blessed” land. But the Quran does clearly differentiate between the two lands and the two lands.

            So there we go. Questions answered. “Challenge” met. The rest of Shamoun’s arguments in “Part 1” are the same arguments he has repeated ad nauseum, which stems from his confusion over the meaning of the word “masjid” (mosque).

            As previously noted, after challenging Muslims to use only the Quran to answer his questions, Shamoun then proceeded to use other sources to try to…ahem…“prove” that Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa was a literal building. I have already discussed these sources and clearly proven that a “masjid” does not have to be a literal building. Shamoun is just grasping at straws and using a non-sequitur to “prove” his idiotic argument.

            Moving on, Shamoun then issued another “challenge” (and one that I have already destroyed previously):

“Cite a single verse where the Quran employs the term masjid to reference something other than an actual building where people gather to worship. The problem is that they won’t be able to quote such a text.”

Shamoun must have a very poor memory. As I explained in Part 2 of my response,[9] the term Al-Masjid Al-Haram is used in the Quran to refer not just to the Kaaba, but to the land surrounding the Kaaba. For sure, the Kaaba is a PART of the masjid (hence why it is sometimes also referred to as Al-Masjid Al-Haram), but it is not the only part of the masjid. The Kaaba is actually called Bayt Al-Haram (Sacred House), and it is differentiated from the bigger masjid, as demonstrated by the following (emphasis mine):

“O you who have believed, do not violate the rites of Allah or [the sanctity of] the sacred month or [neglect the marking of] the sacrificial animals and garlanding [them] or [violate the safety of] those coming to the Sacred House (الْبَيْتَ الْحَرَامَ) seeking bounty from their Lord and [His] approval. But when you come out of ihram, then [you may] hunt. And do not let the hatred of a people for having obstructed you from al-Masjid al-Haram (الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ) lead you to transgress.”[10]

In other words, while the Kaaba is certainly a masjid (a place of prostration), it is part of an even bigger masjid, Al-Masjid Al-Haram. Even Muhammad Asad, whose commentary Shamoun attempted to use to prove his point, clearly established that Al-Masjid Al-Haram is referring to much more than just the Kaaba. In his commentary on Surah Tawba, 9:28, Asad stated that the phrase “and if you fear privation, Allah will enrich you from His bounty if He wills” means that (emphasis mine):

“[t]his is an allusion to the apprehension on the part of some Muslims (and not only at the time of the revelation of this verse) that an exclusion of unbelievers from living in or visiting Mecca might lead to a loss of its position as a centre of trade and commerce, and thus to an impoverishment of its inhabitants.”[11]

He also clearly states this in note 37 as well, commenting on Surah 9:27 (emphasis mine):

“’The Inviolable House of Worship’ (al-masjid al-haram) is, of course, the Ka’bah and, by implication, the whole of the territory of Mecca: which explains the next sentence.”

Furthermore, Ibn Kathir, Shamoun’s favorite mufassir, related a tradition which clearly establishes that the Kaaba is part of Al-Masjid Al-Haram (emphasis mine):

“Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibn `Abbas said that the Quraysh prevented the Prophet from praying at the Ka`bah in Al-Masjid Al-Haram…”[12]

Hence, the Kaaba is IN the masjid. This is further demonstrated in the following hadith (emphasis mine):

“Narrated Sharik bin `Abdullah bin Abi Namr: I heard Anas bin Malik telling us about the night when the Prophet (ﷺ) was made to travel from the Kaaba Mosque ( مَسْجِدِ الْكَعْبَةِ). Three persons (i.e. angels) came to the Prophet (ﷺ) before he was divinely inspired as an Apostle), while he was sleeping in Al Masjid-ul-Haram ( مَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ).[13]

We can clearly see that the “Kaaba Mosque” is inside Al-Masjid Al-Haram. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not sleeping inside the Kaaba, but rather, outside of it, but he was sleeping within the confines of Al-Masjid Al-Haram. It’s like if I said that I was in Vatican City even though I might be physically inside St. Peter’s Basilica or some other location at the time. That statement would be correct since St. Peter’s Basilica is part of Vatican City.

            Moreover, as I already showed in Part 2, even if the Kaaba was the only part of Al-Masjid Al-Haram (which it isn’t), that does not help Shamoun’s case by any means. The reason is that the Kaaba has another section which is open and only partially encircled by a semicircular D-shaped wall. This is Al-Hatim, and it proves that even the Kaaba is not simply just a “building”, since Al-Hatim is not physically part of the Kaaba, but is still considered part of the Kaaba nonetheless.  Shamoun avoided discussing this little inconvenient tidbit which further refutes his incoherent rambling. So that makes 2 of Shamoun’s challenges that have been met. Alhamdulillah!

            Before closing Part III-A, let me further refute Shamoun’s silly non-sequitur about the use of the word “masjid/mosque”. As we have seen, Shamoun has presented absolutely no evidence for his simplistic understanding of the word. Even though I have sufficiently proven that a masjid does not necessarily mean a building, I can add more scholarly evidence to refute Shamoun’s pathetic argument. This weight of evidence conclusively proves that Shamoun is a liar and the only true fraud.

            Commenting on the meaning of the word “mosque”, Professor Mohamad Rasdi of USCI University explains that (emphasis mine):

“[t]he word ‘mosque’, as understood in the present architectural terminology, is a building used by Muslims for the performance of prayer. However, it should also be noted that the word ‘masjid’ is also used generally in Arabic literature to refer to any place of worship in any religion.”[14]

He further states regarding Al-Masjid Al-Haram and Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa the following (emphasis mine):

[t]he Masjid al-Haram contains the Ka’bah, which is a cubic structure believed by Muslims to have been initially constructed by the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) as the first house of worship of Allah (The Most High). The al-Aqsa Mosque complex comprises of…the Dome of the Rock…”[15]

Notice that he concurs that the Kaaba is contained inside Al-Masjid Al-Haram. He also states that Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa is the entire complex and not just one or two specific buildings.

            Echoing the consensus on the meaning of the word “masjid”, Islamic author Ismail Patel states with regard to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa that:

“[w]hen the Holy Qur’an (in Surah al-Isra) refers to Masjid al-Aqsa (meaning a place of prostration) it is this land of al-Haram al-Sharif (al-Aqsa Sanctuary) that is implied and not any of the buildings.”[16]

            And it is not just Muslim scholars who say this, but non-Muslim scholars as well. We have already seen the views of Professor Uri Rubin and Edward Lane in the previous articles. Here, I present even more scholarly views.

            Writing about the concept of a “mosque”, Robert Hillenbrand of the University of Edinburgh observes:

“What makes a mosque a mosque? The answer is forbiddingly simple: a wall correctly orientated towards the qibla, namely the Black Stone within the Ka’ba in Mecca. No roof, no minimum size, no enclosing walls, no liturgical accessories are required. Indeed, it might very properly be argued that even the single wall is unnecessary. After all, the Prophet himself is recorded as saying, ‘Wherever you pray, that place is a mosque (masjid)’.”[17]

            In his book Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam, Aaron W. Hughes of the University of Rochester states regarding the Prophet’s night journey to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa (emphasis mine):

“…he traveled from the Ka’ba in Mecca to the [sic] ‘the furthest mosque’ (al-masjid al-aqsa), identified with the Temple Mount–where the temple of the ancient Israelites stood–in Jerusalem and with the al-Aqsa mosque, which stands there today, eventually taking its name from the larger precinct in which it was constructed.”[18]

Notice that Hughes states that the building we now know as “Al-Aqsa Mosque” got this name “from the larger precinct”. In other words, the entire compound is Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa. This is in agreement with Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom, who explain that wide-open spaces are also “mosques”, and they refer specifically to the Temple Mount as an example. While discussing the history of decorating mosques, they state that (emphasis mine):

“[i]t was also common in multi-part complexes, such as the tomb complex for the Mamluk emirs Salar and Sanjar in Cairo (703/1303), or spaces that might be considered mosques, such as the Temple Mount (Haram) in Jerusalem.”[19]

           Additionally, the Encyclopedia Britannica defines a “mosque” as (emphasis mine):

“…any house or open area of prayer in Islam.”[20]

It also states regarding the “first mosques” in the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and especially Al-Masjid An-Nabawi that (emphasis mine):

“[t]he first mosques were modeled on the place of worship of the Prophet Muhammad—the courtyard of his house at Medina—and were simply plots of ground marked out as sacred.”[21]

            So we can see a scholarly consensus on this point. To illustrate how bad things have gotten for Shamoun, let us put the two opposing views in table form (this is based on all the scholarly information presented thus far in Parts I, II, and III-A):

A masjid does not have to be a building/Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa refers to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem/Al-Masjid Al-Haram refers to the Kaaba and the land around it A masjid can only be a building/Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa and Al-Masjid Al-Haram refer to physical buildings (i.e., the temple and the Kaaba, respectively)
Muslim scholars Non-Muslim scholars/sources Muslim scholars Non-Muslim scholars Other
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

Hatem Bazian

Ibn Kathir

Ibn Taymiyyah

Ismail Patel

Khalid El-Awaisi

Mohamad Rasdi

Muhammad Asad

Mujir Al-Din Al-Hanbali

Mustafa Abu Sway

Yehia Wazery

Yusuf Ali



Aaron W. Hughes

Edward Lane

Jonathan Bloom

Robert Hillenbrand

Sheila Blair

Uri Rubin

Encyclopedia Britannica


None None Sam Shamoun

As we can see, the scholarly consensus is completely on the side opposite that of Shamoun. Does Shamoun really expect us to take his word for it? Are we supposed to believe his incoherent and logically-flawed argument, while both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars agree on the concept of a masjid? Of course not. Instead of letting his pride make a fool out of him, Shamoun should just admit that he is mistaken. There is nothing wrong in admitting one’s mistakes.

            This concludes Part III-A of my response to Shamoun.

[1] This is from the Saheeh International translation.


[3] Surah An-Nahl, 16:44.

[4] Surah An-Nahl, 16:64.


[6] Surah Al-Maeda, 5:26.

[7] Surah Al-Maeda, 5:21.

[8] Surah Al-Anbiya, 21:71.


[10] Surah Al-Maeda, 5:2.

[11] Muhammad Asad, Message of the Qur’an [Dar Al-Andalus Limited, 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar reprint 1993], p. 361, n. 39,


[13] Sahih Bukhari, 61:79,

[14] Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi, Rethinking the Mosque in Modern Muslim Society (Kuala Lumpur: Institut Terjemahan & Bukut Malaysia, 2014), p. 5.

[15] Ibid., p. 6.

[16] Ismail A. Patel, Virtues of Jerusalem: An Islamic Perspective (Leicester, UK: Al-Aqsa Publishers, 2006), p. viii.

[17] Robert Hillenbrand, Islamic Architecture: Form, Function, and Meaning (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), p. 31.

[18] Aaron W. Hughes, Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), pp. 47-48.

[19] Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom, “Inscriptions in Art and Architecture,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Qur’an, ed. Jane D. McAuliffe (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 170.


[21] Ibid.


Categories: History, Ibn Taymiyya, Islam, Jerusalem, Muhammad, Palestine, Qur'an, Sam Shamoun

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