A fine thread running through many of our columns is that the legitimacy of Islam’s religious claims to Jerusalem is in inverse proportion to the volume and frequency with which they are made. Now comes along a renowned Muslim Egyptian scholar, of all people, to corroborate our point.
Prof. Youssef Ziedan, a specialist in Arabic and Islamic studies and a prolific author, has given a series of interviews to Egyptian television stations in recent days, in all of which he emphasizes one issue: There is actually no connection between Jerusalem and ancient Islam.
When Islam was founded during the 7th century, Ziedan says, Jerusalem was a holy city to the Jews, while the Mosque of Omar was not even built until 74 years after Muhammad’s death. The reason it was built, he maintains, had nothing to do with the sanctity of Jerusalem but rather because the builder “had a cause” – he wished to detract from the centrality of Mecca in Islam.
Again, this is not KeepJerusalem saying this. Prof. Ziedan is the director of the Manuscript Center and Museum in the Library of Alexandria, a well-known public lecturer in Egypt, a university professor, a columnist, and the author of more than 50 books.
Jerusalem was not known as Al-Quds (City of the Sanctuary) during Muhammad’s times, according to Ziedan. Let us add that when Islam finally did get around to calling Jerusalem by that name, it was because of the Holy Temple, our Beit HaMikdash. How ironic it is that the Muslim name for what is supposedly their third-holiest city – Al-Quds – is an abbreviation of the Arabic term for the Holy Temple, Bet Al-maKDeS. Thus, the name the Arabs use for Jerusalem for the purpose of “Arabizing” it is actually one that perpetuates its Jewishness.
“Al-Aksa is not ours,” according to Prof. Ziedan, “and though its name comes from the word ‘extreme,’ it does not refer to the far mosque on the Temple Mount, but rather to a mosque that is the ‘further’ of two mosques in Mecca.”
As has been well publicized, while Yerushalayim is mentioned directly in the Bible approximately 650 times, it is not mentioned even once in the Koran. Muslims actually turn their backs on the holiest spot in Jerusalem when they pray, so that they can face Mecca. In fact, the Wikipedia entry on “Caliphate” – the worldwide Muslim-religious government Muslims hope to revive – mentions Jerusalem only once, in passing.
Today, when much of the Muslim word is once again thinking worldwide Caliphate dominion with its capital in Jerusalem, we must make sure not to be fooled: Whenever Muslim “religious” ties to Jerusalem are reawakened, it means Islam wants to conquer Jerusalem for political or military reasons.
This phenomenon first occurred in Muhammad’s own lifetime: Seeking to win over the Jews living near his hometown of Medina, he announced that prayers would be directed toward Jerusalem. As soon as he was rebuffed, he redirected Muslim prayers toward Mecca. When the Muslims later conquered the Holy Land, they totally ignored Jerusalem and established their capital in Ramle.
Twice more this pattern repeated itself in later centuries, including during the 12th-century Crusades. Jerusalem briefly became the focus of jihad and religious longing – all because then-Muslim leader Salah a-Din needed to inflame his warriors against the Christian Crusaders.
The same thing is now happening once again. Until 100 years ago, Jerusalem remained way in the background for the Muslim world, but when Jews began returning to their homeland, Muslims again awoke and “remembered” the holy city as a pinnacle of its religious aspirations. Again, however, its interests are simply to rid the Middle East of Israel – as statements by current PA and Hamas leaders indicate.
It’s noteworthy that when the PLO was founded in 1964, its original charter did not even mention Jerusalem.
As Prof. Ziedan has told his Egyptian listeners, angering many Muslims in the process: “The religious aspect of the [Israeli-Arab] conflict is nonsense…. The only reason why Muslims insist on the sanctity of Jerusalem is simply politics.”
On a related note, just last week the Israel Antiquities Authority announced the unearthing of further evidence of Jewish history in Jerusalem – from many centuries before the founding of Islam. An impression of the royal seal of the biblical King Hezekiah, who reigned between 727–698 BCE, was discovered at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount. On it is ancient Hebrew script reading, “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz, king of Judah.” Other artifacts with Hebrew names were found together with it.
Along with these developments, we must redouble our efforts to make sure that Jerusalem remains united, in word and deed, under Jewish-Israeli rule. To take part in bus tours of critical parts of Jerusalem, or to receive updates on the battle to keep Yerushalayim, send an e-mail to [email protected] or visit the Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech website at www.keepjerusalem.org.