Does Islam recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital city?
According to Palestinian Media Watch, since 2009, the Palestinian Authority has been engaged in an unprecedented anti-Semitic campaign, where they deny the Jewish connection to the holy city of Jerusalem and Israel’s right to declare the City of King David as its eternal capital city. In the framework of this hateful campaign, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al Habbash proclaimed that Al Buraq (the Western Wall) and its adjacent plaza is Islamic Waqf (an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law). Furthermore, PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi stressed: “No part of Jerusalem can be recognized as Israel’s capital city.” Official PA TV, which is controlled by Abbas, even broadcast Al Quds Open University President Younis Amr declaring that Jerusalem has Christian and Islamic significance only: “It is not connected at all to the Jewish religion.” Furthermore, systematically, Palestinian officials deny that a Jewish Temple ever existed in Jerusalem and that the Jewish people have any historic attachment to the Holy City. However, are such anti-Semitic ahistorical beliefs truly in accordance with the Islamic faith?
Dr. Qanta Ahmed, a prominent Muslim intellectual, wrote an article for the Times of Israel, where she claims that the Quran never mentions the Muslim claim to the Holy Land, let alone the city of Jerusalem. To the contrary, she stressed that the Quran stressed that the Holy Land including the city of Jerusalem is designed for the followers of Moses, meaning the Jewish people. The Quran in Surah Al-Ma'idah 5:20-21 declares, “And [mention, O Muhammad], when Moses said to his people, ‘O my people, remember the favor of Allah [God] upon you when He appointed among you prophets and made you possessors and gave you that which He had not given anyone among the worlds. O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned to you and do not turn back and [thus] become losers.’”
In fact, Saied Shoaaib, a Muslim writer and researcher, noted in a report for the Gatestone Institute: “There is a consensus of interpretation among the most respected Sunni and Shiite Muslim scholars of past centuries -- such as Al-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Ibn Abi Zayd, Mahmud al-Alusi, Al-Baghawi -- that according to the Quran God gave to the Jews the land from the Nile to the Euphrates, territory that includes not only Jerusalem and Palestine but a large part of Egypt and Iraq, and all of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.”
For example, Quranic Commentator Imam Abu Abdullah al-Qurtubi, who lived from 1214 to 1273, cited the following Hadith in his Encyclopedia of Quranic Rules, “Verily Solomon son of David raised Bayt al-Maqdis [i.e., Beth ha-Mikdash, the First Temple] with gold and silver, with rubies and emeralds, and Allah caused human beings and spirits to work under his command until the raising of the house was completed. Afterwards, a Babylonian King destroyed Bayt al-Maqdis and brought its treasures to the land of Babylonia until a King of Persia defeated him and ransomed the Children of Israel. They rebuilt Bayt al-Maqdis for the second time [the Second Temple] until it was destroyed for the second time by an army led by a Roman Emperor.”
Another Quranic Exegete and Jurist, Imam Muhammad ibn Jarir at-Tabari, who lived from 838 to 923, wrote in his History of Prophets and Kings, “When Jacob awoke, he felt blissful from what he had seen in his trustful dream and vowed for God’s sake that if he returned to his family safely, he would build there a Temple for the Almighty. He also vowed to perpetual charity one tenth of his property for the sake of God. He poured oil on the Stone so as to recognize it and called the place Bayt El, which means ‘the House of God.’ It became the location of Jerusalem later. In Jerusalem on a huge Rock, Solomon son of David built a beautiful Temple to expand the worship of God. Today on the base of that Temple stands the Dome of the Rock.”
Given that Islam historically recognizes the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel including Jerusalem, how did we arrive at the present situation, where Palestinian officials are systematically denying tenets of their own faith? According to an article prominent Middle East scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar wrote in Yedioth Achronot, “Islam rediscovered Jerusalem 50 years after Mohammad's death. In 682 CE, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr rebelled against the Islamic rulers in Damascus, conquered Mecca and prevented pilgrims from reaching Mecca for the Hajj. Abd al-Malik, the Umayyad Calif, needed an alternative site for the pilgrimage and settled on Jerusalem, which was then under his control. In order to justify this choice, a verse from the Quran was chosen (17, 1 = Sura 17, verse 1) which states: ‘Glory to Him who caused His servant to travel by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts we have blessed in order to show him some of our signs. He is indeed the all-hearing, the all-seeing.’”
From the Umayyad period forward, many Muslims began to believe that the Farthest Mosque was in Jerusalem and that Mohammed journeyed on top of a magical horse called Al Buraq, who took him to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount from where he ascended into heaven together with the Angel Gabriel. According to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, in 691, about sixty years after Jerusalem was conquered by the Arabs, the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik created a structure for the Dome of the Rock. The Al-Aksa Mosque was founded in 705 by the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid, son of the founder of the Dome of the Rock, Abd al-Malik. Only from the Umayyad period forward did Jerusalem become the third holiest city in Islam so that Muslims could gain “legitimacy over other older religions,” as Dr. Kedar explained.
However, Imam Mohammed Tawhidi, the President of the Islamic Association of South Australia, wrote in the Jerusalem Post, “There are still a large number of Muslims who believe that ‘the Farthest Mosque’ is a reference to a mosque in the heavens, not on earth” and that the mosque that Mohammed visited in the Quran was not located in Jerusalem. He believes that this view is reinforced by the fact that the Al Aqsa Mosque did not yet exist when Mohammed was alive.
Nevertheless, despite the Umayyad’s political moves, for hundreds of years up until 1967, when the city of Jerusalem was united under Israeli rule, the Jewish connection to Jerusalem was firmly recognized in the Islamic faith. Only in recent history there have been attempts to cover this history up by the Palestinian leadership and the terror groups that support them, who seek the destruction of Israel. According to Arutz Sheva, Professor Khaleel Mohammed, an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at San Diego State University, stated: “When the Muslims conquered Jerusalem, it should have been left open for the rightful owners to return. It is possible that Jewish beliefs of the time only allowed such return under a Messiah but that should not have influenced Muslim action... The Muslim occupation was something that was not sanctioned by the Quran. How honest is contemporary Islam with this? Given the situation in the Middle East, politicking, etc. stands in the way of honesty.” However, historical revisionism cannot conceal the truth indefinitely. As Winston Churchill once stated, “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it but in the end, there it is.”