Al-Aqsa Library

Library of al-Aqsa Mosque
Interior of the library
Interior of al-Khutniyya Library, part of the al-Aqsa Library system

The al-Aqsa Library (مكتبة الأقصى Maktabat al-ʾAqṣā), also known as the al-Aqsa Mosque Library (مكتبة المسجد الأقصى Maktabat al-Masjid al-ʾAqṣā), is the assemblage of books in the al-Aqsa Compound (al-Ḥaram ash-Sharīf).


The library has two components:[1]

Both locations are only accessible from within the compound.

Main library

Sign above the al-Aqsa Library, with the Arabic words "women’s mosque" and the English word "mosque" painted over.
The main library in a plaza between al-Aqsa Mosque (al-Qibli) and the Islamic Museum

The main al-Aqsa library is a general library.[2] It is in a building immediately west of al-Aqsa Mosque (al-Qibli Mosque), inside the compound's south wall. This structure went by many names:

  • the "White Mosque"[3] and al-baqʿa al-bayḍa (البقعة البيضا, lit.'the white place')[4][5] because of its stones' color.[6]
  • the "Women’s Mosque" (جامع النساء Jāmiʿ an-Nisāʾ), muṣallan an-nisāʾ (مصلى النساء "women's musalla")[1] and "women's hall" because of its former use by women.[7][8]
  • the "Templars' Armory", because of its use before c. 1193 as a hall or monastic quarters[9] or refectory[10] or armory by the Templars,[11][12][13] who might have it constructed in the 1160s.[9] After 1193 (during the Ayyubid dynasty), a mihrab was installed in the south wall.[9]
  • the "mosque of Abu Bekr" (Jāmiʿ Abū Bakr):[8][14] possibly a misnomer by 19th-century Europeans.[5]

Its entrance faces the courtyard with the Dome of Yusuf Agha. To its west is the southern section of the Islamic Museum and the al-Fakhariyya Minaret.

In 1922, the Supreme Muslim Council established the dār Kutub al-Masjid al-ʾAqṣā (al-Aqsa Mosque's House of Books, دار كتب المسجد الأقصى المبارك).[15] In 1923, books dispersed throughout the compound were gathered in the an-Naḥawiyya Dome.[16] After inactivity from 1948 to 1976, the library was revived in 1977; books were moved from the Islamic Museum to the Ashrafiyya Madrasa, and then in 2000 to the Women’s Mosque.[17]

Tunnel to al-Khutniyya in front of al-Aqsa Mosque (al-Qibli)

Al-Khutniyya Library

Door of al-Khutniyya underground

The al-Khutniyya Library[18][3] (also al-Khutaniyya[19][2] and al-Khataniyya[20]) (مكتبة الختنية) is a manuscript library.[2] It shares its name with a former zawiya and madrasa, which was named after a scholar, Sheikh al-Khutnī/al-Khatanī (الختني).[21][22] (Not to be confused with the Khātūniyya, north of the Cotton Merchants' Gate.)

It is inside Old al-Aqsa and on top of the now-sealed Double Gate. The library is in a salient (wall projection) attached to the compound's south wall,[18] at 31°46′32.7″N 35°14′8.8″E / 31.775750°N 35.235778°E / 31.775750; 35.235778 (al-Khutniyya Library).[23] Its access is via a tunnel under the al-Aqsa Mosque (al-Qibli Mosque). The tunnel's only entryway/exit is before the mosque's portico, facing north.

This library began in 1998 as the initiative of a mosque volunteer, Marwan Nashashibi (1934-2014), and his wife, Um Adnan.[24] Its collection has texts on jurisprudence, hadiths, hagiography, Sufism and other topics.[23]


Its director (chief librarian) is often also the director (head curator) of the Islamic Museum. [25][26]

It has about 20,000 books, notably on Islamic archaeology. Books are mostly in Arabic and English, with some in French. It has about 2,000 titles of Arabic manuscripts, from the 5th century to the Ottoman period.[15] Only researchers have access to the manuscripts.[10] It also has a large number of Palestinian newspapers and magazines, many dating to the early 20th century.[27]

It has a department dedicated to children and youths in the main library.

See also


  1. ^ a b "الموقع والمباني – مكتبة المسجد الأقصى المبارك" (in Arabic). (Several photos of the buildings from the outside)
  2. ^ a b c Mack, Merav (2014). "Jerusalem's Historical Libraries and Archives". p. 19. The al-Aqsa Mosque Library has been reduced in size since 2007 to allow room to revive the female mosque that used to be there in the past, in the location of in the medieval (Knight Templar) building. This change seems to be related to the change in management. Khader Salameh has left and is currently the director of the Khalidi library. Sheikh Hamed abu Tair is the head of the manuscript library (Khutaniyye) as well as the general library.
  3. ^ a b "A Guide to Al-Aqsa Mosque (Al-Haram Ash-Sharif)" (PDF). The Hashemite Fund, Amman; Department of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, Jerusalem; PASSIA, Jerusalem. 2015. p. 11. [in the small blueprint of the mosque:] White Mosque (Women's Mosque) (The spelling Khutniyah is on pp. 17 and 36 (also al-Khutni for the sheik).)
  4. ^ An 1865 map with the label Al Baka'at al Baidha (bottom center)
  5. ^ a b Wilson, Charles William (1865). Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem. p. 41. To the west of Al-Aksa is the building called by Catherwood and others, the Mosque of Abu Bekr, but the Sheikh of the Haram knew nothing of this name, nor did any of the educated Moslems living at Jerusalem, they invariably called it Al-Baka'at al-Baidha (the white corner or place), sometimes adding "of Solomon".
  6. ^ "Southern Wall". Madain Project. It was called White mosque due to the colour of the stone used, it was majorly used by women.
  7. ^ Serageldin, Ismail; et al. (1989). Space for Freedom. Aga Khan Award for Architecture. ISBN 978-0-408-50049-4. The annex building next to al-Aqsa was converted to an Islamic museum and library. […] The women's mosque which is presently used for offices will be integrated with the complex and restored. [page number N/A in the limited preview]
  8. ^ a b Hawari, Mahmoud (2007). Ayyubid Jerusalem. Archaeopress. p. 57. ISBN 9781407300429. Jāmiʿ al-Nisāʾ. Converted c. 590/1193 {anno Hegirae / CE}. Other names: Jāmiʿ Abū Bakr. Modern name: Maktabat al-Aqsa (the al-Aqsa Library).
  9. ^ a b c "Women's Mosque". Institute for International Urban Development (I2UD).
  10. ^ a b Natsheh, Yusuf (2001). "The al-Aqsa Mosque Library of al-Haram al-Sharif". Institute for Palestine Studies.
  11. ^ Baedeker, Karl (1894). Palestine and Syria. K. Baedeker. p. 51. the Knights Templars, who used it as an armoury or something of that sort […] This part of the building is now the women's mosque, the 'white mosque'.
  12. ^ Le Strange, Guy (1890). "Palestine Under the Moslems". Alexander P. Watt for the Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund. pp. 110–111. the Templars' Armoury, sometimes called Baka'at al Baida, and incorrectly Al Aksá al Kadîmah ('the Ancient Askâ'). [Page 111: …] the Jâmi’ an Nisâ, ‘the Mosque of the Women’ (the Templars' Armoury)
  13. ^ Necipoğlu, Gülru, ed. (1999). Muqarnas. Vol. 16. Brill. p. 14. ISBN 9004114823. "[…] the Armoury of the Templars." Now this would be the White (or Women’s) Mosque
  14. ^ such as on this 1888 map: mosquée d’Abou-Bekr
  15. ^ a b "Archives and Libraries of Jerusalem". Palestinian American Research Center.
  16. ^ Nussiebeh, Mazen (2007). "Islamic libraries in Jerusalem" (PDF). Al-Aqsa Journal. 10 (1): 23.
  17. ^ Abu Harb, Qasem (2016). "12. Digitisation of Islamic manuscripts and periodicals in Jerusalem and Acre". From Dust to Digital. Open Book Publishers. pp. 377–415. ISBN 978-2-8218-7626-2.
  18. ^ a b Grabar, Oleg; Ḳedar, B. Z. (2009). Where Heaven and Earth Meet: Jerusalem's Sacred Esplanade. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-72272-9. A southern annex, built by the Crusaders over the southern salient in the city wall, was converted and endowed in 1189 as a zawiya ([…] a residence for a Sufi shaykh and a meeting place for his followers), known as al-Khutniyya or al-Khatuniyya
  19. ^ ʻAsalī, Kāmil Jamīl (1997). Jerusalem in History. Kegan Paul International. p. 190. ISBN 978-0-7103-0559-6. [map] Al-Khutaniyya. See also: preview at (free acount needed).
  20. ^ Mack, Merav; Balint, Benjamin (2019). Jerusalem: City of the Book. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-24521-9. al-Khataniyya library
  21. ^ Official guide (2020). "دليل" (PDF) (in Arabic). The Hashemite Fund, Amman; Department of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, Jerusalem; PASSIA, Jerusalem. p. 117. المدرسة / الزاوية الختنية [structure number 129]
  22. ^ "The Khataniyeh Zawia and the Dual Carriageway at al-Aqsa Mosque". The Palestinian Museum Digital Archive. the Khatania Zawia that includes a school and a library, named after Sheikh al-Khatani. […] Al-Zawiya al-Khutaniyyeh)
  23. ^ a b "تعريف بالمكتبة – مكتبة المسجد الأقصى المبارك" (in Arabic). (The 1st photo shows how the al-Khutniyya Library is in a structure outside of the al-Aqsa Compound's south wall.)
  24. ^ AbuSharar, Salam (April 6, 2022). "Volunteer's dream of Al-Aqsa Library comes true". Anadolu Agency. Nashashibi and his wife began to promote the idea of establishing a library in 1998 in the southern corner of the mosque compound and called it Al-Khataniah Library. […] A couple of years later, the Al-Khataniah Library was attached to the main library in the mosque, which was established in 1923 in the southwestern corner of the compound. Both libraries are now affiliated with the Jordanian Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs to manage them.
  25. ^ Mack, Merav; Balint, Benjamin (2019). Jerusalem. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-22285-2. Khader Salamah [also: Salameh], former director of the al-Aqsa Mosque Library and Islamic Museum.
  26. ^ Borchardt, Karl; et al. (2017). The Templars and their Sources. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-315-47528-8. ʿAdil Effendi Jaber, a professor of law […] in 1922 he became the first director of the newly established al-Aqsa Library and of the Islamic Museum. [pages are unnumbered in the preview]
  27. ^ Matusiak, Krystyna; Abu Harb, Qasem (2009). "Digitizing the Historical Periodical Collection at the Al-Aqsa Mosque Library in East Jerusalem". The Al-Aqsa Mosque Library holds one of the largest collections of Palestinian historical newspapers and periodicals.

Coordinates: 31°46′33.132″N 35°14′6.216″E / 31.77587000°N 35.23506000°E / 31.77587000; 35.23506000

External links

  • Media related to al-Aqsa Library and al-Khutniyya Library at Wikimedia Commons
  • Official website (in Arabic)
  • Short news clips on YouTube (about 5 minutes): The clips switch back and forth between the two libraries and some interviews (in Arabic)
  • Library's collection of manuscripts: 12th–19th century