By Vy Nguyen
On the same night as the Notre Dame fire, nearly 3,000 miles away, the third holiest site in Islam, Al-Aqsa Mosque, was also burning.
In the last few days, the world was struck with the horrible news of the burning of the Notre Dame in Paris. World leaders sent mourning and prayers through Twitter. Citizens shared pictures of themselves at the Paris symbol during past vacations on social media. The whole world is sending its love to Parisians as they struggled to hold up after the destruction of the famous cathedral. Good news is that there have been 600 million euros donated to the reconstruction of the Notre Dame and President Macron also confirmed that the rebuilding process would take 5 years to complete.
But as the notifications on phones blared up for the news of Notre Dame, something was missing. Nearly 3,000 miles away, the third holiest site in Islam, Al-Aqsa Mosque, was burning on the same night as the Paris cathedral.
According to the Palestine News Agency, the fire emerged from the guard’s room outside the roof of the Marwani Prayer Room. Part of the mosque’s structure was damaged, though not significantly. Fortunately, there was not any casualty and the fire brigade response was comparatively fast.
Link to short footage of the fire.
Masjid Al-Aqsa, translated from Arabic to be “the Farthest Mosque”, is referred to as the third holiest site of Islam, behind the Kaaba in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. The name originates from Muslim beliefs that Muhammad was transported from the Sacred Mosque to al-Aqsa during the Night Journey. Located on top of the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the site was initially a small prayer house that was expanded in 705 CE. With a history of destructions by earthquakes, the current structure of the mosque was completed in 1035 CE, making it more than a hundred years older than the Notre Dame.
Photograph of the mosque on fire from the outside (Pakistan Today)
While the fire was not as large and wide-scaled as the one at Notre Dame, the lack of American coverage was indeed questioning. The fire at al-Aqsa was overshadowed by news from Notre Dame; so far, the only newspaper that included articles on the Jerusalem fire is Newsweek.
The mosque may not be on the traveling list of most people, yet it is undeniable that this worship house holds great importance in Islam and deserves just as much attention from the media and the public.
With Holy Week underway and Ramadan in just a few weeks, many are convinced that the fires are parts of a conspiracy or even godly omens. However, there has been no evidence of any link between the two incidents. The source of the two fires was also unrelated; the cause of the fire at al-Aqsa was suspected to be children tampering with fire while French media believed that the fire was due to current renovations, though no official confirmation has been released from both sides.