Editor's Picks

05 February 2009

Story of Jerusalem

 Al-Aqsa Mosque

Jerusalem is one of the three holiest cities for Muslims, next to Mecca and Al-Madinah. It is the city where many of the prophets of Islam including Abraham and Jesus, preached and respected Jerusalem, Palestine, was the first “Qibla”, (direction to which Muslims faced when praying), during the entire Meccan period and the first 16 months of the Madeenah period. Muslims consider prayers in Jerusalem’s Masjid Al-Aqsa to be equivalent to 500 prayers in any other ordinary mosque.
Jerusalem is extremely important to Muslims and they will never accept for it to be occupied by military force. The tradition in Islam states that the area of Jerusalem and of Mecca will be connected together at the end of time, the Day of Judgment. The Holy Lands will be the special point of proximity to Heaven on this future date.

The Night Journey ( Al-Mihraj )

For Muslims the area has a special significance, as the site of the Prophet Muhammad's Night Journey, peace and blessings be upon him, and as the first qibla (direction of prayer) for Islam.
Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless,- in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things).” (Quran 17:1)
In the ninth year of the Prophet's mission, about 620 AD, Muhammad (pbuh) rose in the middle of the night to visit the Sacred Mosque in Makkah. After a time of worship he fell asleep near the Ka'aba. The angel Gabriel came to him and woke him from his slumber. He led the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, to the edge of the sacred Makkan mosque. Awaiting them was al-Buraq, a white winged beast "whose each stride stretched as far as the eye could see." Muhammad mounted al-Buraq and sped northwards with Gabriel to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the Furthest Mosque.
When they reached Jerusalem the Prophet dismounted and prayed near the Rock. Abraham, Moses, Jesus and other prophets, peace be upon them all, gathered together to pray behind him. Muhammad (pbuh) was presented a vessel of wine and a vessel of milk. The Prophet chose the milk and Gabriel said, 'You have chosen the true religion'.
The Prophet then embarked on the ascension (Mihraj) in which he, peace and blessings be upon him, received the command to pray five times a day and the revelation encapsulating the beliefs of Islam

Place of faith of Jerusalem

Islam recognizes all the Prophets and Messengers of Allah. The Quran has mentioned many Prophets by name. Their stories and teachings are told at varying length throughout the Quran. Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Zechariah, John the Baptist (Yahya) and Jesus - peace be upon them all - are among the honored Prophets and Messengers of Allah according to Islam.
Jews and Christians also recognize Prophets David and Solomon as great kings and patriarchs of ancient Israel. However, in Islam they are honored as Allah's great Prophets. The Quran not only narrated their stories, but also restored their honor by removing some of the charges and allegations that were made against their characters by earlier communities.
Since the city of Jerusalem is historically associated with these Prophets of Allah, it naturally becomes a city sacred to Muslims. Islam considers itself a continuation of the same spiritual and ethical movement that began with the earlier Prophets.
Historically and theologically it believes itself to be the true inheritor of the earlier traditions of the Prophets and Messengers of Allah. It is for this reason that the Quran called for Palestine - the land associated with the lives of many of God's Prophets - al-ard al-Muqaddasah (the Sacred Land; 5:21) and called its surroundings barakna hawlaha (God's Blessed Precincts; 17:1).
The sacredness of the city of Jerusalem, according to Islam, is in its historical religious reality. This is the city that witnessed the life and works of the greatest Prophets and Messengers of Allah. Here the Divine Grace touched the earth repeatedly. Allah's great Prophets and Messengers lived and moved in its valleys and its streets. Makkah and Madinah are blessed cities in Islam because of their association with the Prophets Abraham, Ishmael and Mohammed. In a similar way Jerusalem is blessed and important in Islam because of its association with other Prophets of Allah, namely David, Solomon and Jesus.
Jews and Christians do not recognize Ishmael and Mohammad as God's Prophets and Messengers, so they do not consider Makkah and Madinah as sacred cities.
However, Muslims believe in Prophets Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus, and so they must recognize the sacredness and importance of Jerusalem in Islam.

Jerusalem in the early history of Islam

Jerusalem came under Islamic rule during the reign of the second Caliph Umar (mayAllah be pleased with him) in the year 638.It was a peaceful conquest. The ruling patriarch of the city, whose name was Sophronius, offered the keys of the city to the Caliph himself.Upon entering the blessed city, the Caliph asked about the location of the mosque of David (al-Masjid al-Aqsa) and the blessed Rock from where the Prophet went in Miraj. The site was a desolate place at that time. Romans had destroyed the so-called Second Temple in the year 70 CE and no non-Christian or Christian ruler of that city after that ever tried to build any place of worship there. 
According to historians, it was a garbage dump, a dunghill for the people of Jerusalem.Umar, upon learning this was the site of the Masjid of Jerusalem and the place from where the Miraj took place, cleaned the place with his own hands and put his forehead in payer on that ground. The Masjid al-Aqsa was later built in that area. In 691 CE the Dome of Rock and a more elaborate mosque were constructed. Those were, perhaps, the first most expensive and expansive sacred monuments built in thehistory of Islam.
Jerusalem was always held in great esteem by Muslims. The Prophet said, "Journeys should not be taken (with the intention of worship) except to three mosques: the Sacred Mosque in Makkah, my Mosque in Madinah and Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem." On the basis of this Hadith, Muslims always considered it as a religious deed to visit the city of Jerusalem, its mosque and its sacred and blessed precincts. Often pilgrims made it a point to visit Jerusalem on their way to Makkah and Madinah.
Muslim rulers and philanthropists built many hospitals, schools, and religious centers in and around the city. They purchased land in and around the city and dedicated it as a Waqf (endowment) for religious purposes. The whole city is virtually Waqf land that is non-salable and nontransferable.
Many Muslim scholars also migrated and settled in the city. The Al-Aqsa Masjid was a great seat of learning. Thousands of pious people and scholars included provisions in their wills to be buried in Jerusalem. There are thousands, perhaps millions of Muslims' graves in the city of Jerusalem.
Muslims also recognized the rights of Christians and Jews who hold the city dear to their hearts and sacred in their faiths.
Under Islamic rule they were given permission to settle there. When the Caliph Umar made the treaty with the Christian Patriarch Sophronius it was agreed, at the request of the Christian patriarch, that "No Jews will live with them in Aelia (Jerusalem)." But later, due to Muslim tolerance, this rule was relaxed and Jews were allowed to come and settle in the city.
After the re-conquest of Jerusalem by Salahuddin in the time of the Crusades, Jews were again permitted by Muslims to come back and live in the city. The Crusaders during their 90-year rule (1099 - 1187) had banned both Jews and Muslims from that city

City of Jerusalem

The Savagery of the Crusaders
While members of all three religions were living in peace and harmony in Palestine, the Christians in Europe decided to organize the 'Crusades.' Following a call by Pope Urban II on 25 November 1095 at the Council of Clermont, more than 100,000 people from all over Europe set out for Palestine to 'Free the Holy land from the Muslims' and find the fabled wealth of the East. After a long and wearying journey, and much plundering and slaughter of Muslims, they reached Jerusalem in 1099. The city fell after a siege of nearly five weeks, and the Crusaders moved in. And they carried out a savagery the like of which the world has seldom seen. All Muslims and Jews in the city were put to the sword. In the words of one historian, 'They killed all the Saracens and the Turks they found... whether male of female." One of the Crusaders, Raymond of Aguiles, boasted of this violence:
Wonderful sights were to be seen. Some of our men (and this was more merciful) cut off the heads of their enemies; others shoot them with arrows, so that they fell from the towers; others tortured them longer by casting them into flames. Piles of heads, hands and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was necessary to pick one's way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon, a place where religious services are normally chanted ... in the temple and the porch of Solomon, men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. 
In two days, the Crusader army killed some 40,000 Muslims in the barbaric ways just described. The peace and harmony in Palestine, which had lasted since Omar, ended in terrible slaughter. The Crusaders violated all the ethical laws of Christianity, a religion of love and compassion, and spread terror, allegedly in the name of Christianity.

The Rise of Saladin
The most famous of the Muslim military heroes was Saladin (SALAH AD-DIN YUSUF IBN AYYUB). In the late 12th century he succeeded in uniting various parts of the Middle East and Mesopotamia and in overtaking the Christian armies of the early crusades through a combination of shrewd diplomacy and decisive attacks.
Saladin was born in Takrit, Mesopotamia (in modern Iraq) to a Kurdish family. As a youth, his pursuits tended more toward the religious and scholarly than toward the military, but this changed when he joined the staff of his uncle, a military commander. By age 31 Saladin became commander of the Syrian troops and vizier of Egypt.
In the following years, Saladin used his considerable talents to bring the Muslim territories of Syria, Egypt, northern Mesopotamia, and Palestine under his control. Then, in 1187, he launched Jihad against the armies of the European crusaders, who had conquered Jerusalem 88 years before. In contrast to the European conquest of Jerusalem, Saladin's capture of the city was far more civilized and less bloody.
By 1189 the crusaders occupied only three cities in the entire Middle East. Saladin's conquest sparked the Third Crusade, which was led by the famed military leader Richard I (the Lion-Hearted). The clash between these two great powers ended in a draw, but a treaty was drawn up that allowed Christians to visit holy sites in the area. Saladin died a peaceful death in Damascus in 1193.
Muslim sultan of Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine, founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, and the most famous of Muslim heroes. In wars against the Christian crusaders, he achieved final success with the disciplined capture of Jerusalem (Oct. 2, 1187), ending its 88-year occupation by the Franks. The great Christian counterattack of the Third Crusade was then stalemated by his military genius.
On 2 October 1187 Saladin and his army entered Jerusalem as conquerors and for the next 800 years Jerusalem would remain a Muslim city... Saladin kept his word, and conquered the city according to the highest Islamic ideals. He did not take revenge for the 1099 massacre, as the Koran advised (16:127), and now that hostilities had ceased he ended the killing (2:193-194). Not a single Christian was killed and there was no plunder. The ransoms were deliberately very low.
When Saladdin recaptured the city from the Crusaders, Jerusalem regained once again its glory, where Christians were guaranteed rights of worship, Muslim places of worship which had been desecrated were restored, even a small Jewish community returned to the city, and Jewish culture has seldom flourished as they did under Muslim rule, that's how the spiritual significance of Jerusalem has been absorbed by all three religions.
Muslims on the other hand have an obligation to honor other religions. There is recognition, a respect for both Judaism and Christianity as people of the book, mentioned in the holy Quran. I guess it would be a pity for Jerusalem, the supposed city of peace, were to be transformed into a city of war as a result of Israeli plans, which ignore its significance for Muslims.

Print Friendly and PDF