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Guest Impressions

Jerusalem in Islam

"And We appointed the Qiblah to which thou was used to, only to test those who followed"

In the Name of Almighty Allah

the Messenger from those who would turn on their heels [from the faith]. Indeed it was [A

change] momentous, except to those guided by Allah. And never would Allah make your

faith of no effect. For Allah is to all people most surely full of kindness, Most Merciful."

[Surah Al-Baqara verse 143]

 

Ummatal Muslimeen! Makkah was the scene of the primary encounter between Almighty Allah Jallah Wa'ala and man. Jerusalem the secondary. It, and Palestine generally, is the setting for the second act of the drama, the role of the Jews, the younger line, pending the restoration of the older with the birth of the Beloved of Almighty Allah - Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam. Because of the importance of its role, Jerusalem is known in Arabic as Al-Quds [The Holiness] or Bait al-Maqdis or Al-Bait-al-Muqaddas [both meaning The Sanctified House]. The sanctity is not confined to the Temple Mount alone but applies to the entire surrounding area. [Surah Al-Isra verse 1]. Because it was the site of the Mi'raj [the ascension of Nabee Muhammad Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam], Jerusalem is classed as one of the three holy places of prayer in the world. Chronologically, it has priority  because up to the second year after the Hijrah, Muslims prayed towards Jerusalem.

 

The foundation of the city was due to David A.S. but because of his having shed so much blood he was not allowed to found a temple [haikal] as a permanent home for the Ark of the Covenant, since this honour was reserved for his successor Solomon A.S. This sanctuary [mihrab] is that referred to in the Most Holy and Glorious Qur'an: [Surah Al-Imram verse 37] and [Surah Maryam verse 11].  It was finished about 1004 BC. The Temple was constructed of cedar wood from Lebanon [whose slopes were at that time covered with cedar forests] by Phoenician craftsmen and builders, following the ancient semitic pattern of three-fold division into areas of increasing sanctity, with the Holy of Holies occupying the innermost.

 

This Temple and the City of David [which does not correspond to the site of the present-day Jerusalem] were destroyed in the Babylonian invasion of 587 BC. when the Jews were carried off into exile in Babylon. When the Persian emperor Cyrus permitted the Jews to return in 537 BC. the Temple was restored. Finally it was rebuilt in splendour by Herod the Great. One of the greatest religious buildings in history, this was demolished only seven years after its completion, by Titus, son of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, in 70 CE., when Jerusalem was taken by storm after a long siege. Not a stone of the Temple survives except, perhaps, only the platform that supported it, a vast terrace round about Mount Moriah, which had to be artificially extended. Not only the Temple but Jerusalem itself was destroyed and by imperial edict Jews were forbidden to reside there.

 

Later, a Roman city [Aelia Capitolina] was built nearby by the Emperor Hadrian, though not occupying the site of the previous Jerusalem or David's City. This Roman foundation  is the site of the present-day Jerusalem. Sulaiman the Magnificent's walls, built in the 16th century, stand on Roman foundations. When, under Constantine, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, the sites associated with the ministry of Jesus A.S. were searched out and identified. Since, in his great building programme, Constantine was only concerned with Christian associations he neglected the Temple, whose overthrow had been in any case predicted by Jesus [Luke 21:6], and the site remained buried in debris. The great Muslim victory on the Yarmuk in the 13th year after the Hijrah [August 636 CE], under Khalid Ibn al-Walid, settled the fate of Palestine. Caliph Umar R.A. came from Madinah to the encampment at Jabiya to conclude the terms of Jerusalem's surrender and to annex the First Qiblah to Dar al-Islam.

 

The inhabitants of Jerusalem surrendered on terms agreed by Hazrat Umar R.A: they were granted security for their lives, property, churches and crucifixes; the churches could not be used as houses, demolished or reduced in size; and all Christians were to retain their liberty on condition of the payment of tax. The conquest of Jerusalem took place in 15 AH [636 CE]. After entering the city, Hazrat Umar R.A. requested to be shown the site of the Temple, which he recognised from the Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam's descriptions in his conversations with him. Hazrat Umar R.A. then commanded the debris to be cleared away, and gave orders for the building of a Masjid  [Al-Masjid al-Aqsa] on the southern edge of the platform, very cleverly placing the Masjid before instead of behind the Rock, so there could never be any confusion between the two Qiblah's.

 

Jerusalem had been the site of the first Qiblah. As such it signified continuity of tradition, further reaffirmed in the Isra and Mi'raj, but, after an interval, in 2 AH, the Qiblah was altered to Makkah, which reassumed its importance at the heart of Islam. Another reason for the First Qiblah may have been to cure the Arabs of false Jahili pride. It was only when they had been purified of this disease after years of praying towards Jerusalem that Makkah was allowed reassume its original centrality.

 

"Glory be on Him Who carried His slave by night from the Sanctified Masjid

[Al-Masjid al-Haram] to the Farthest Masjid [Al-Masjid al-Aqsa], whose precincts

We did bless - in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the

One Who hears and sees [all things]."

 

Ummatal Qur'an! Properly, Masjid-al-Aqsa is not the structure on the southern edge but the entire Temple area. A Masjid normally consists of two portions: a covered [Masquf] area and an open courtyard [Sahn].In the case of  Masjid -Al-Aqsa the Temple platform forms the courtyard and the building to which the term is usually restricted is the sanctuary. The Dome of the Rock [Qubbat as-Sakhra] is therefore a shrine standing in the courtyard of the Masjid, and Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa comprises the entire area. Jerusalem is doubly sacred to Muslims on account of its being the site of our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam's ascension [Mi'raj] as well as the first Qiblah. One night, when our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam was staying at the house of Umm Hani, he awoke and went to the Ka'aba, where he laid down in the Hijr and fell asleep.

 

Thence he was transported [Isra] on a mystical steed named Al-Buraq to Jerusalem, scene of the former prophethood, now superseded. There, the prophets of the Bani Isra'eel prayed with him as the Imaam, thereby acknowledging his leadership [Imamah] and pre-eminence.  Remounting his steed after prayer, our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam ascended into heaven from the Rock. The significance of the Isra lies in our Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam establishing contact with the previous tradition, and then transcending it in the Miraj which means ladder, hence ascent. In the course of his ascent the mysteries of the Seven Heavens were successively revealed to him, until at last he reached the Lote-Tree of the Uttermost Boundary, the closest man can come to Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata'ala.

 

"Behold, the Lote-Tree was shrouded [In mystery unspeakable] [His] sight never swerved,

nor did it go wrong! For truly did he see, of the signs of his Lord, The Greatest."

[Surah Al-Najm verses 17 & 18].

 

Al-Tabari comments: "The Lote-Tree is rooted in the Throne, and it marks the limit of knowledge of every knower, be he archangel or prophet, all beyond it is a hidden mystery, unknown to any save Almighty Allah Jallah Wa'ala."  It seems that, like Nabee Moosa Alayhis Salaam and the burning bush in Sinai, the Divine Light encompassed the Lote-Tree, and our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam beheld it without his eyes wavering in terror. It was during this auspicious journey that Salaat [prayer] took its definitive form; indeed it is recorded that this was how our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam saw the Angels worshipping Almighty Allah Azza Wajjal. Likewise, during the journey, the number of daily prayers was limited to five. Our Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam made his descent the way he had come, via Jerusalem, and on the way back to Makkah saw several southbound caravans. On his arrival he was able to describe them and predict approximately when they should arrive in Makkah.

 

Although Hazrat Umar R.A. had built a Masjid adjacent to the Rock it was not until the reign of the Omayyad ruler Abd al-Malik that a building was erected over the sacred site in 691 CE. This is a centrally designed building which, like the Ka'bah in Makkah, expresses a vertical ascent. The Dome of the Rock, four of whose eight sides face the cardinal points of the compass, stand on the Qiblah axis of Masjid-al-Aqsa. The oldest Muslim structure in the world, it remains one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Cresswell wrote that it 'follows that every part of the building is related to every other part in some definite proportion, and the extraordinary harmony of its interior is the first thing to strike the observer.' Since the zionist usurpation in 1967 this marvelous and sacred Islamic structure, one of the architectural masterpieces of the world, has several times been exposed to the gravest danger.

 

"What social relations should you hold with men whose hearts are filled with rancour -

who hate both Allah and men of God? Surely you cannot offer love and friendship to

such as seek to destroy your faith, and you. Seek protection for you and yours from Allah

and not from Allah's sworn enemies. But deal kindly and justly with all: it may be that those

who hate you now may love you: For Allah can order all things. But look not for protection

to those who are bent on driving you out." [Surah Al-Mumtahinah].

 

And Almighty Allah knows best

 

Baarak - Allaahu Feekum wa-Sal-Allaahu wa-Salam 'alaa

Nabiyyinaa Muhammad Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam.

 

Was Salamualaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu.

 

Abdul Hamid.

 

 

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