Al Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem
Al Aqsa Mosque, JerusalemIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Egypt's grand mufti visited the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on Wednesday, AFP reported, citing a senior Muslim official.

The official, Azzam al-Khatib, told AFP that Ali Gomaa, Egypt's highest religious authority, “came for a religious visit to Al-Aqsa mosque” along with Jordan's Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed, King Abdullah II's cousin and advisor on religious issues.

The two men also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Greek Orthodox patriarchate, Khatib said.

Jordan's ministry of Islamic affairs said the visit was in accordance with a command from the Prophet Mohammed to visit only three mosques on pilgrimage -- Al-Aqsa and the mosques in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia.

The ministry’s statement added that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had “called on Muslims everywhere to visit Al-Aqsa and revitalize it by filling it with worshippers and pilgrims.”

The statement was referring to comments Abbas made at a conference in Qatar in February, in which he accused Israel of trying to remove Jerusalem’s Arab and Christian character, and called for Arabs to march on Jerusalem.

The statement added, “This trip ... is seen as an effort to encourage Muslims who are able to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam's three holiest sites, and Islam's first Qiblah (direction of prayer).”

The visit comes despite the fact that Qatar-based Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian, recently said in a religious edict that Muslims should not visit Jerusalem “because it requires dealing with Zionist embassies to obtain visas.”

AFP quoted Qaradawi’s edict as having said that “Such visits might also give legitimacy to the occupation and could be seen as normalization.”

Earlier this month, noted the report, the Jordanian king's half-brother, Prince Hashim, paid a similar visit to Jerusalem. Jordan's Interior Minister Mohammad Raud also visited Jerusalem this week.