Islamic, Christianity, and Judaism Beliefs for Jerusalem

Islamic, Christianity, and Judaism Beliefs for Jerusalem

Jerusalem is known to be one of the oldest cities in the world and is the focal point of the three monotheist religions of the world—Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The following provides some facts on the underlying beliefs of the three religions. These are extracted from the e-book, “Jerusalem is OURs”

  • Jerusalem was Islam’s first Qibla (direction for prayers) and it was from Jerusalem that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) ascended to the heavens in the famous event that has come to be known as “Al-Israa wal Me’raj”.
  • According to Judeo-Christian historical accounts, during the biblical times, Jerusalem was the capital of the entire Kingdom of Israel (1020 BCE – 931 BCE).
  • The “City of David” is considered to be the oldest part of Jerusalem from which Jerusalem eventually flourished into a full-fledged city.
  • Jewish scriptures extensively discuss “Temple Mount” in Jerusalem, a sacred site in Jewish history. According to Jewish texts, the background and rationale behind the construction of the Temple was the realization of King David (referred to as Prophet Dawud in the Quran) that he, the earthly and visible king, lived in a magnificent house, but the invisible King of kings, his God, dwelt in an aging tent called the Tabernacle of Moses. Other than this realization, King David ultimately realized that other nations had temples of their own, while Israel, the chosen people of God, did not have a temple dedicated to Him.
  • According to Jewish texts, upon David’s death, his son King Solomon (b. 1011 BCE – d. 931 BCE) ordered the construction of the Temple on Temple Mount. This temple is therefore also commonly referred to as the Temple of Solomon. The site of Temple Mount is also referred to as the Al-Aqsa site, Haram Al-Sharif and the Noble Sanctuary. Jews also refer to that site as Mount Moriah.
  • In the Hebrew Bible (The First Book of Kings (1 Kings 6)) it says: “The temple which King Solomon built for the LORD was sixty cubits long, twenty wide, and twenty-five high. The porch in front of the temple was twenty cubits from side to side, along the width of the nave, and ten cubits deep in front of the temple. Splayed windows with trellises were made for the temple, and adjoining the wall of the temple, which enclosed the nave and the sanctuary, an annex of several stories was built. Its lowest story was five cubits wide, the middle one six cubits wide, the third seven cubits wide, because there were offsets along the outside of the temple so that the beams would not be fastened into the walls of the temple.”
  • According to Judeo-Christian accounts, in 586 BC, the Temple of Solomon (known also as the First Temple) along with other parts of the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians. Forty-eight years later in 538 BC, Cyrus the Great (b. 600 BCE – d. 530 BC) who was a Persian emperor rebuilt the Second Temple. Centuries later, the same Temple underwent a massive reconstruction project under Herod the Great (b. 74 BCE – d. 1 BC) in the year 20 B.C, and became known as Herod’s Temple. Finally, in the year 70 CE, the Romans destroyed the Second Temple during the great siege of Jerusalem. The remains of Herod’s Temple is the perimeter wall known today as the Western Wall. The Western Wall in Jerusalem, also known as the Wailing Wall or simply Kotel, is not only the Jewish holiest site, but for Jews is the remaining symbol of Jewish identity as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
  • Jesus of Nazareth, who is called by such names as Jesus Christ by Christians or Eesa in the Quran and other Islamic literature, was born in Bethlehem in the year 5 BC, but spent most of his life in Jerusalem, the center of Judaism.
  • The Islamic rule in Jerusalem began with the conquest of Jerusalem by Umar Khattab’s forces. Later, under the rule of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (b. 646 CE – d. 705 CE), the Dome of the Rock was built in 688 CE followed by the copula of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the year 728 CE. (Read more about the life of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab here)
  • When Umar’s forces conquered Jerusalem, Christian Bishop Sophronius was the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Sophronius, who was of an Arab descent, is venerated as a saint in the Catholic as well as the Eastern Orthodox Church. Seeing little hope to resist, the Christians in Jerusalem decided to surrender at the hands of Caliph Umar’s forces. However, the Bishop demanded that the city keys would be handed over to the Muslims without resistance only if Caliph Umar personally received the city keys.
  • After the surrender by Christians, Caliph Umar was taken to the Church of Holy Sepulcher and was offered the opportunity by the Christian leadership to pray in the church. Caliph Umar, in view of Muslims, acted with prudence and refused to pray inside the church. He feared that future Muslim generations might decide to follow his footsteps and demand that the church be converted into a mosque. The Caliph therefore preferred to pray outside and a mosque was later built in his name called the Mosque of Umar. This mosque is currently located opposite to the southern courtyard of the church.
  • The Crusades were holy wars fought between the Muslims and the Christians in the period from 1095 CE to 1272 CE, to gain control of Jerusalem and surrounding areas. The principal proponent of the Crusades was the Latin Christian Europe, particularly the Holy Roman Empire and the Franks of France. For the Latin Christian Europe, the Holy Land held a significant role because it is the locus of the birth, ministry, believed crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
  • During the earlier crusades, Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock were desecrated and looted. A golden cross was placed on top of the Dome of the Rock and renamed as “Templum Domini” (The Temple of the Lord) and Al Aqsa mosque was called “Templum Salomonis” (the royal palace of Solomon).
  • Like Muslims, Jews too face in a certain direction when praying. The Talmud records the following on this topic: “A blind man, or one who cannot orient himself, should direct his heart toward his Father in Heaven, as it is said, “They shall pray to the Lord” (Kings I 8). One who stands in the diaspora should face the Land of Israel, as it is said, “They shall pray to You by way of their Land” (ibid). One who stands in the Land of Israel should face Jerusalem, as it is said, “They shall pray to the Lord by way of the city” (ibid). One who stands in Jerusalem should face the Temple…One who stands in the Temple should face the Holy of Holies…One who stands in the Holy of Holies should face the Cover of the Ark…It is therefore found that the entire nation of Israel directs their prayers toward a single location.”
  • The Amidah (central prayer of the Jewish liturgy) contains prayers that states: “Return in mercy to Jerusalem your city, and dwell in it as you have promised. Rebuild it soon in our day as an eternal structure, and quickly set up in it the throne of David. Blessed are you, O Lord, who rebuilds Jerusalem.” The Amidah ends with a meditation for the restoration of the Temple – “And may the grain-offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasing, as in former days and ancient times” (Malachi 3:4)
  • Talmud also states, “Ten kabs (measures) of wisdom descended to the world: nine were taken by Palestine and one by the rest of the world. Ten kabs (measures) of beauty descended to the world: nine were taken by Jerusalem and one by the rest of the world.” (Talmud: Kiddushin 49b)
  • The Church of the Nativity is in the city of Bethlehem, which is 6 miles south of Jerusalem. This church is one of the oldest operating churches in the world. For Christians, the site is quite significant as it is believed by Christians to be the birth site of Jesus.
  • Some Christians believe that toward the end of times, the global population will convert to Christianity as a result of evangelization. Jesus will appear at the end of the Millennium to lead his people into the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem.
  • According to Christian beliefs, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the site where Jesus’s crucifixion site. According to Islamic beliefs, Jesus (Eesa) was not crucified. Ibn Kathir, a renowned Islamic scholar, in his interpretation of the Quranic verses provides the following account: “Allah’s Prophet `Isa (Jesus) could not live in any one city for long and he had to travel often with his mother, peace be upon them. Even so, the Jews were not satisfied, and they went to the king of Damascus at that time, a Greek polytheist who worshipped the stars. They told him that there was a man in Bayt Al-Maqdis (Al-Aqsa) misguiding and dividing the people in Jerusalem and stirring unrest among the king’s subjects. The king became angry and wrote to his deputy in Jerusalem to arrest the rebel leader, stop him from causing unrest, crucify him and make him wear a crown of thorns. When the king’s deputy in Jerusalem received these orders, he went with some Jews to the house that `Isa (Jesus) was residing in, and he was then with twelve, thirteen or seventeen of his companions. That day was a Friday, in the evening. They surrounded `Isa (Jesus) in the house, and when he felt that they would soon enter the house or that he would sooner or later have to leave it, he said to his companions, “Who volunteers to be made to look like me, for which he will be my companion in Paradise” A young man volunteered, but `Isa (Jesus) thought that he was too young. He asked the question a second and third time, each time the young man volunteering, prompting `Isa (Jesus) to say, “Well then, you will be that man.” Allah (God) made the young man look exactly like `Isa (Jesus), while a hole opened in the roof of the house, and `Isa was made to sleep and ascended to heaven while asleep.
  • The Church of the Annunciation is located in the town of Nazareth, a town in northern Israel. The church is an important holy site for the Roman Catholic Christians because according to their beliefs it is the place where the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary (Jesus’s mother) that she will conceive a child named Jesus.

Al-Aqsa Significance to Muslims

  • Al-Aqsa was the first qiblah (direction of prayers) for Muslims. The religious significance of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Islamic traditions is rather deep. In fact, the term “Al-Aqsa Mosque” refers not only to the mosque itself, but to the entire area that is called the Temple Mount. Some refer to the entire area of Temple Mount as “Al-Aqsa” or the “Al-Aqsa Site” or “Haram Al-Sharif” and the mosque at the site as “Al-Aqsa Mosque”.
  • Prophet Muhammad’s famous trip / ascension to the heavens and skies was from the Al-Aqsa site. This site was chosen to be important enough that the prophet was first brought to Al-Aqsa from Makkah and then taken from Al-Aqsa to the heavens for a night journey. The Quran states, “Glorified (and Exalted) be He (Allah), Who took His slave (Muhammad) for a journey by night from Al-Masjid-al-Haram (at Makkah) to the farthest mosque (in Jerusalem), the neighborhood whereof We have blessed, in order that We might show him (Muhammad) of Our Ayaat (proofs, evidences, lessons, signs, etc.). Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer.” (Quran: 17:1)
  • Islamic teachings have specifically designated Al-Aqsa as the third holiest site in Islam.
  • According to Islamic traditions, Al-Aqsa was the second house of worship built on earth following the mosque in Makkah. According to a Hadith (saying) of Prophet Muhammad as quoted by Abu Dharr (Narrated in the books by al-Bukhaari, 3186 and Muslim, 520): “O Messenger of Allah, which mosque was built first on earth?” He said, “Al-Masjid al-Haraam (in Makkah).” I said, “Then which?” He said, “Al-Masjid al-Aqsa. (in Jerusalem)” I asked, “How much time was between them?” He said, “Forty years. So wherever you are when the time for prayer comes, then pray.”
  • The religious significance led to Muslims in history flocking the city and thus Islamic history became more intertwined with events in Jerusalem, making Al-Aqsa site / Haram Al-Sharif hold an important place in Islamic history.
  • According to prophesies of Prophet Muhammad, the Holy Land will be the site of significant events toward end of times, especially when Muslims and the world will go through hard times during the time of the Anti-Christ.

More facts on Jerusalem and the references in the Quran, Bible, and Torah about the city are covered in the e-book, “Jerusalem is OURs”

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Note: Click here to read more Islamic stories from the Quran and get access to best Dua books in these publications.


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13 comments… add one
  • Bianca

    A very balanced an informative article. Shukran.

  • kahar

    tahanks for the article.simple and very informatif

  • Shazia

    Really learned a lot. keep up your efforts to educate others. Thanks.

  • NIJU

    Islamic view point clearly explained.

  • Mohammed Imran

    Assalamualekum, masha Allah a very brief and knowledgeable history of masjid al Aqsa, indeed many muslim are unaware of the facts of masjid al Aqsa though it is one of the three blessed place in this world by almighty Allah ta ala

  • abu ammar mangorangca

    The piece is a nice review based on biblical sources. Here is one based on hard historical facts by the journalist historian Juan Cole:

    Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the American Israel Public Affairs Council on Monday that “Jerusalem is not a settlement.” He continued that the historical connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel cannot be denied. He added that neither could the historical connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem. He insisted, “The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today.” He said, “Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital.” He told his applauding audience of 7500 that he was simply following the policies of all Israeli governments since the 1967 conquest of Jerusalem in the Six Day War.

    Netanyahu mixed together Romantic-nationalist cliches with a series of historically false assertions. But even more important was everything he left out of the history, and his citation of his warped and inaccurate history instead of considering laws, rights or common human decency toward others not of his ethnic group.

    So here are the reasons that Netanyahu is profoundly wrong, and East Jerusalem does not belong to him.

    1. In international law, East Jerusalem is occupied territory, as are the parts of the West Bank that Israel unilaterally annexed to its district of Jerusalem. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907 forbid occupying powers to alter the lifeways of civilians who are occupied, and forbid the settling of people from the occupiers’ country in the occupied territory. Israel’s expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, its usurpation of Palestinian property there, and its settling of Israelis on Palestinian land are all gross violations of international law. Israeli claims that they are not occupying Palestinians because the Palestinians have no state are cruel and tautological. Israeli claims that they are building on empty territory are laughable. My back yard is empty, but that does not give Netanyahu the right to put up an apartment complex on it.

    2. Israeli governments have not in fact been united or consistent about what to do with East Jerusalem and the West Bank, contrary to what Netanyahu says. The Galili Plan for settlements in the West Bank was adopted only in 1973. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin gave undertakings as part of the Oslo Peace Process to withdraw from Palestinian territory and grant Palestinians a state, promises for which he was assassinated by the Israeli far right (elements of which are now supporting Netanyahu’s government). As late as 2000, then Prime Minister Ehud Barak claims that he gave oral assurances that Palestinians could have almost all of the West Bank and could have some arrangement by which East Jerusalem could be its capital. Netanyahu tried to give the impression that far rightwing Likud policy on East Jerusalem and the West Bank has been shared by all previous Israeli governments, but this is simply not true.

    3. Romantic nationalism imagines a “people” as eternal and as having an eternal connection with a specific piece of land. This way of thinking is fantastic and mythological. Peoples are formed and change and sometimes cease to be, though they might have descendants who abandoned that religion or ethnicity or language. Human beings have moved all around and are not directly tied to any territory in an exclusive way, since many groups have lived on most pieces of land. Jerusalem was not founded by Jews, i.e. adherents of the Jewish religion. It was founded between 3000 BCE and 2600 BCE by a West Semitic people or possibly the Canaanites, the common ancestors of Palestinians, Lebanese, many Syrians and Jordanians, and many Jews. But when it was founded Jews did not exist.

    4. Jerusalem was founded in honor of the ancient god Shalem. It does not mean City of Peace but rather ‘built-up place of Shalem.”

    5. The “Jewish people” were not building Jerusalem 3000 years ago, i.e. 1000 BCE. First of all, it is not clear when exactly Judaism as a religion centered on the worship of the one God took firm form. It appears to have been a late development since no evidence of worship of anything but ordinary Canaanite deities has been found in archeological sites through 1000 BCE. There was no invasion of geographical Palestine from Egypt by former slaves in the 1200s BCE. The pyramids had been built much earlier and had not used slave labor. The chronicle of the events of the reign of Ramses II on the wall in Luxor does not know about any major slave revolts or flights by same into the Sinai peninsula. Egyptian sources never heard of Moses or the 10 plagues & etc. Jews and Judaism emerged from a certain social class of Canaanites over a period of centuries inside Palestine.

    6. Jerusalem not only was not being built by the likely then non-existent “Jewish people” in 1000 BCE, but Jerusalem probably was not even inhabited at that point in history. Jerusalem appears to have been abandoned between 1000 BCE and 900 BCE, the traditional dates for the united kingdom under David and Solomon. So Jerusalem was not ‘the city of David,’ since there was no city when he is said to have lived. No sign of magnificent palaces or great states has been found in the archeology of this period, and the Assyrian tablets, which recorded even minor events throughout the Middle East, such as the actions of Arab queens, don’t know about any great kingdom of David and Solomon in geographical Palestine.

    7. Since archeology does not show the existence of a Jewish kingdom or kingdoms in the so-called First Temple Period, it is not clear when exactly the Jewish people would have ruled Jerusalem except for the Hasmonean Kingdom. The Assyrians conquered Jerusalem in 722. The Babylonians took it in 597 and ruled it until they were themselves conquered in 539 BCE by the Achaemenids of ancient Iran, who ruled Jerusalem until Alexander the Great took the Levant in the 330s BCE. Alexander’s descendants, the Ptolemies ruled Jerusalem until 198 when Alexander’s other descendants, the Seleucids, took the city. With the Maccabean Revolt in 168 BCE, the Jewish Hasmonean kingdom did rule Jerusalem until 37 BCE, though Antigonus II Mattathias, the last Hasmonean, only took over Jerusalem with the help of the Parthian dynasty in 40 BCE. Herod ruled 37 BCE until the Romans conquered what they called Palestine in 6 CE (CE= ‘Common Era’ or what Christians call AD). The Romans and then the Eastern Roman Empire of Byzantium ruled Jerusalem from 6 CE until 614 CE when the Iranian Sasanian Empire Conquered it, ruling until 629 CE when the Byzantines took it back.

    The Muslims conquered Jerusalem in 638 and ruled it until 1099 when the Crusaders conquered it. The Crusaders killed or expelled Jews and Muslims from the city. The Muslims under Saladin took it back in 1187 CE and allowed Jews to return, and Muslims ruled it until the end of World War I, or altogether for about 1192 years.

    Adherents of Judaism did not found Jerusalem. It existed for perhaps 2700 years before anything we might recognize as Judaism arose. Jewish rule may have been no longer than 170 years or so, i.e., the kingdom of the Hasmoneans.

    8. Therefore if historical building of Jerusalem and historical connection with Jerusalem establishes sovereignty over it as Netanyahu claims, here are the groups that have the greatest claim to the city:
    A. The Muslims, who ruled it and built it over 1191 years.
    B. The Egyptians, who ruled it as a vassal state for several hundred years in the second millennium BCE.
    C. The Italians, who ruled it about 444 years until the fall of the Roman Empire in 450 CE.
    D. The Iranians, who ruled it for 205 years under the Achaemenids, for three years under the Parthians (insofar as the last Hasmonean was actually their vassal), and for 15 years under the Sasanids.
    E. The Greeks, who ruled it for over 160 years if we count the Ptolemys and Seleucids as Greek. If we count them as Egyptians and Syrians, that would increase the Egyptian claim and introduce a Syrian one.
    F. The successor states to the Byzantines, which could be either Greece or Turkey, who ruled it 188 years, though if we consider the heir to be Greece and add in the time the Hellenistic Greek dynasties ruled it, that would give Greece nearly 350 years as ruler of Jerusalem.
    G. There is an Iraqi claim to Jerusalem based on the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests, as well as perhaps the rule of the Ayyubids (Saladin’s dynasty), who were Kurds from Iraq.

    9. Of course, Jews are historically connected to Jerusalem by the Temple, whenever that connection is dated to. But that link mostly was pursued when Jews were not in political control of the city, under Iranian, Greek and Roman rule. It cannot therefore be deployed to make a demand for political control of the whole city.

    10. The Jews of Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine did not for the most part leave after the failure of the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans in 136 CE. They continued to live there and to farm in Palestine under Roman rule and then Byzantine. They gradually converted to Christianity. After 638 CE all but 10 percent gradually converted to Islam. The present-day Palestinians are the descendants of the ancient Jews and have every right to live where their ancestors have lived for centuries.

  • Jazakumullahu-khair. Its such a great history to write upon which enlighten more muslims to learn and know more about Islam and the history of such great places, indeed being aware of what the unbelievers are trying to claim. I hope this will encourage people to be curious to know about Islam and come out of their iqnorance. Ma’assalam

    • bigboss

      yeah no doubt about it mashallah.very informative

  • Iqra

    A very informative and knowledgeable article for every one. GOD bless you and keep it up

  • Anonymous

    Am very glad to recieve such a wonderful write up.May ALLAH(s.w.a) bless as u continue making such effort

  • ghazala lari

    jazak allah wa khairin.

    its really informative.

    thanks for sharing this piece of information.

  • Najia

    assalamalaikum. thank you so much for a well-written, informative article and for abu ammar mangorangca’s addition to it. it has helped my understanding of the situation a lot.

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