Shaikh Ibn `Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) said:
“There is not in the world a land that is sacred (haram) except these two Sacred Sites: The Haram of Makkah, and the Haram of Madeenah. As for what is said by some: “Haram of Al-Aqsaa” and “Ibraaheem’s Haram”, then this is not correct and has no evidence to support it.”
See Ash-Sharh al-Mumti` (7/215)
From the places of virtue that Allaah has extolled and mentioned their excellence to the exclusion of others is the city of Makkah: the place of safety, security, the place where revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) began, and from where he was appointed as the Messenger to mankind. It is the city which Allaah swears by in the Qur’aan:
لَا أُقْسِمُ بِهَٰذَا الْبَلَدِ
I swear by this city, Makkah –
وَأَنتَ حِلٌّ بِهَٰذَا الْبَلَدِ
And you, [O Muhammad], are free of restriction in this city.
Ibn Katheer (rahimahullaah) said:
This is an oath of Allaah (the Most High) by Makkah “Umm al-Quraa” (the mother of all towns), due to the fact that living in it puts one in a state that indicates the greatness of the city itself wherein the people are in a state of Ihraam, living in a sanctity. Allaah sated:
وَهَٰذَا الْبَلَدِ الْأَمِينِ
“And by this city of security (Makkah).”
There are many narrations that show the excellence of Makkah and its Sacredness:
1. Within Makkah is the Ancient House (Al-Bayt Al-`Ateeq) for the worship of Allaah alone. It was was the first place of monotheistic worship built for mankind. Allaah sated:
إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِي بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِّلْعَالَمِينَ
Verily, the first House of worship appointed for mankind was that at Bakkah (Makkah), full of blessing, and a guidance for all of creation.
(Aali `Imraan: 96)
Bukhaaree (3366) and Muslim (520) report in the two Saheeh collections from Abu Dharr (radiyallaahu `anhu) that he said:
“I asked the Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) regarding the first Masjid that was made in the world?” So he said: “The Masjid al-Haraam.” I asked: “Then which one after that?” He said: “Masjid al-Aqsaa.” I asked: “What was the time period between them?” He replied: “Forty years.”
Ibnul-Qayyim (rahimahullaah) said:
This hadeeth is difficult to comprehend for those who do not know its intent, a person may say:
“It is known that Prophet Sulaimaan Ibn Daawood (`alaihimas-salaam) was the one who built Masjid al-Aqsaa and there was between him and Ibraaheem over a thousand year gap.”
So this shows the ignorance of such a person. That is because Sulaimaan (`alaihis-salaam) merely rebuilt and renovated the Masjid al-Aqsaa – he did not not establish it or build it in the first place. Rather the one who originally built it was Ya`qoob Ibn Is-haaq (salallaahu `alaihimaa wassallam), and that was after Ibraaheem (`alaihis-salaam) built the Ka`bah at Makkah.
(See Zaad al-Ma`aad, 1/50)