Then, after eight years of Abdallah bin al-Zubayr’s rebellion, the Umayyads succeeded to transfer the Hajj back to Mecca, at which point the tales about Jerusalem were dropped. Salah al-Din (Saladin) brought them up again in the 12th century, when the Muslim commander wanted to rouse up his fighters in preparation for the battle with the Crusaders. After Jerusalem was liberated, it’s high status was again abandoned, mainly to avoid undermining the hegemony of Mecca and Medina.
The story of Muhammad’s night journey to Jerusalem is very important to Islam, because it gives Islam legitimacy as a valid religion, a religion that was not intended to coexist in peace with other religions, but rather to replace them, to destroy them and to build itself upon their ruins. Therefore Arabs “Islamized” the important figures that appear in the Torah and in the Bible, built mosques on top of synagogues, churches (in Ramle, Damascus, Istanbul, Cordoba, Temple Mount in Jerusalem and more), and monasteries, and formulated laws to denigrate Jews and Christians. The yellow patch is a Muslim invention of the ninth century. Many of the Islamic concepts of philosophy and religious law are taken from Jewish and Christian sources.
According to the Islamic approach, the Jews, and after them the Christians, distorted and falsified the holy writings, so Allah became angry with them (according to the Qur’an, Chapter 1, Verse 7), removed the prophecy from them and gave it to Muhammad; According to Islamic approach, Judaism and Christianity have lost their meaning as religions. Moreover, these religions have no holy places, and Jewish or Christian claims of ownership on any holy site are false and invalid according to Islam. So the Muslims are not at all impressed by the Jewish claim that Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish kingdom, whether during the First or Second Temple period, because of this simple claim: David and Solomon were Muslims! And it’s no wonder: according to the Qur’an (Chapter 3, Verse 19) “Allah’s religion is Islam”, and so, Islam has Islamized the G-d Himself.
It is for this reason that the Israeli demands for sovereignty over Jerusalem is a contradiction to a very foundational belief of Islam, the belief that Judaism has finished its role in the world. Therefore it is strictly forbidden for a Muslim to allow a Jew to control the place from which Muhammad (according to the Islamic legend) rose up to heaven, and this is why the Palestinians are so insistent about getting their hands on Jerusalem. Jews can live under the auspices and control of Islam, but not to conquer a land that was under Muslim control, and of course not to rule in the city from which Muhammad rose to heaven. Furthermore, control over Jerusalem would give the Palestinians Islamic legitimacy, almost as much as the religious legitimacy that the king of Saudi Arabia has because of his custodianship for Mecca and Medina. And on the contrary, if they surrender Jerusalem to the Jews, they will be accused by many Muslims of betraying Islam.
Muslims who are faithful to their religion know that Islam is not intended to live side-by-side with the previous religions, Judaism and Christianity, but rather to replace them and to be built upon their ruins. And so the battle between Islam and Judaism is a battle between “Din al-Haqq”, the religion of truth, which is Islam, and “Din al-Batil”, the obsolete religion, which is Judaism and Christianity. But Watching what has been happening in Israel for the last sixty three years causes them to shudder: the Jews have returned to their land and conquered it from the Muslims. Then they conquered Jerusalem, and the next step will be the building of the Temple, and then Judaism will again become a relevant and living religion. What, then, will be the fate of Islam, the faith that is supposed to replace Judaism and Christianity? The return of the Jews to their land and to their city is seen by Muslims as a theological danger much more than a territorial, nationalistic, or political problem.
The unbreakable connection between religion and politics in Islam has turned the theological problem into a political problem, therefore the question of the holiness of Jerusalem in Islam is expressed politically: In the past, Muhammad tried to solidify his religious and political status among the Jews by praying toward Jerusalem, the Caliphs from Damascus artificially made Jerusalem a place of pilgrimage as a result of a political competition with Mecca and Medina, and Salah al-Din used it to arouse his fighters. So too, the Palestinians today have adopted Jerusalem as the seal of religious approval for their state, which is not at all certain to arise. They know that if they dare to leave the site of the Temple in the hands of the Jews, that the Islamic fundamentalists, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda will rise up and accuse them of treason. This is the reason that their spokesmen say again and again, that without Jerusalem as its capital they will not establish a Palestinian state.
About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.
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