Significance of Jerusalem and Haram Al-Shareef in Islam
To Muslims, Jerusalem houses one of the holiest Mosques, the Masjid-al-Aqsa and represents a place of greatest religious significance. Muslims call to rule over Jerusalem is not driven by colonist, nationalist or material motives. The love of every grain in the Holy City is sacred to Muslims. Muslims respect all the Prophets revered by Judaism and Christianity and their venerated places are also central to the ethos of Islam.
To quote a few Quranic verses and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) with regard to Jerusalem will indicate the importance Masjid al Aqsa and therefore Jerusalem has assumed upon the Muslims hearts.
Prophet Muhammad’s Night Journey (Israa wal Me’raaj)
1. The miraculous journey of the holy Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) from Makkah to Masjid al Aqsa (al Isra) and his ascension through the heavens (al Ma’araj) has linked Jerusalem to the Muslims hearts and minds. The Holy Quran states:
Glory to Allah who did take His Servant for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah) to the Al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem) whose precincts We did bless (al-Isra 17: 1)
Prophet Muhammad’s travel to the heavens
The Lord Almighty had it in His power to have taken Prophet Muhammad from Makkah straight up to the heavens. However, to impress the importance of Jerusalem upon Muslims the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) was first taken to Masjid al Aqsa in Jerusalem.
Prophet Muhammad Leading Prayers for all Prophets
When the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) reached al Aqsa (Haram Shareef), he led prayers in congregation that was attended by all the previous Prophets Alayhis salaam. Hence Masjid al Aqsa is unique in that this is the only place on earth where all the Prophets Alayhis salaam performed Salaah in congregation.
Prophet Ibrahim’s Migration to the Land of Canaanite
2. The Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) Alayhis salaam who is central to all the three faiths, migrated to the land of Canaanite around 1805 BC. The Quran states:
We said, O Fire! Be thou cool and safety for Ibrahim. Then they planned against him, but We made them the greater losers. But We delivered him and (his nephew) Lot (and directed them) to the land which We have blessed for the nations (Al-Anbiyaa 1: 69-71)
Sacredness of Jerusalem in Islam
3. The sacredness of Jerusalem is emphasized in numerous places in the Holy Quran. The Apostles of Allah, Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) and also Prophet Musa (Mosses) [Alayhis salaam] alluded to it. The Holy Quran reports Prophet Musa (Moses) [Alayhis salaam] telling his people (Children of Israel):
O my people! Enter the holy land… (Al-Maida 5: 21)
Further the Holy Quran states:
(It was Our power that made) the violent (unruly) Wind flow (tamely) for Suleiman. To his order, to the land Which We had blessed… (Al-Anbiyaa 21: 81)
Prophet Muhammad’s Sayings on Jerusalem
4. Masjid al Aqsa and therefore Jerusalem’s importance was further emphasized by the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam):
(a) According to Islamic teachings there are only three places to which it is desirable to undertake a journey for the purpose of Salaah. Abu Huraira [ra] is quoted as saying that Allah’s Messenger [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] said,
‘set out deliberately on a journey only to three mosques: this mosque of mine (in Medina), the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah) and the Masjid al Aqsa (in Jerusalem) (Bukhari & Muslim)
(b) The virtues of praying in Masjid al Aqsa are exalted:
Abu Darda [ra] is quoted as saying that the Prophet of Allah Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) said,
a prayer in the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah) is worth 100, 000 prayers, a prayer in my mosque (in Medina) is worth 1, 000 and a prayer in Jerusalem is worth 500 prayers more than in an any other mosque. (Bukhari)
(c) The Masjid al Aqsa is the second house of prayer established on earth: Abu Dhar [ra] is quoted as saying,
I asked the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) which was the first mosque on earth? ‘The Sacred Mosque (in Makkah),’ he said. And then which, I asked? ‘Masjid al Aqsa,’ he said. I further asked, what was the time span between the two? ‘Forty years,’ the Prophet [Alayhis salaam] replied. (Muslim)
Jerusalem was the First Qibla for Muslims
5. The Masjid-al-Aqsa was the First Qibla (the direction to which Muslims faced when praying Salaah): The centrality, historical and cultural significance of Masjid al Aqsa is further emphasised by the fact that Muslims used to turn towards Jerusalem when they prayed. This was practiced until 16 to 17 months after hijra, when Allah commanded in His wisdom for the Muslims to face Makkah. The importance of Masjid al Aqsa remained and all the worship performed facing Masjid al Aqsa was good and valid.
Jerusalem is the resting place for the Prophets of Islam
6. The resting place of Prophets [Alayhis salaam] and Prophet’s companions [ra]: The land of Palestine has in it some of the noblest souls the earth has seen. The graves of many Prophet’s are in Palestine, including Ibrahim Alayhis salaam, Yakub Alayhis salaam, Ishaq [peace be upon them] and according to some commentators there are over 100 Prophets buried in Palestine.
Palestine also has the bodies of some of the closest companions of the Prophet and thus the first generation of Muslims. Included in these are the graves of Ubada ibn al Samit, Shaddad ibn Aws ibn Thabit al Ansari and Tamim al Dari [ra].
Starting Hajj or Umrah from Masjid Al-Aqsa
7. Merits of Performing Haj or Umrah from Masjid al Aqsa:
Umm Salamah [ra] narrates that she heard the Prophet [Alayhis salaam] saying, ‘whosoever starts his Umrah or Haj from Masjid al Aqsa his wrong actions will be forgiven, both past and future.’ In another version, he is reported to have said that Paradise would be his reward. (Targheeb)
Caliph Umar’s Trip to Jerusalem
8. Freedom of the Holy City.
After the battle of Yarmuk the Muslim forces under the command of Abu Ubaydahr lay siege to Jerusalem. The inhabitants consented to surrender on condition that the Khalifa, Umar ibn al Khattab (ra) came in person. Umar [ra] traveled to Palestine and formally received the keys to the city in 637 AD. On his arrival, he concluded the famous peace treaty with the people of Holy City. This opened the doors to the Jews, who were denied access for thousands of years and for the first time Jerusalem under Muslim rule became truly an OPEN CITY to all the three faiths.
Throughout Muslim rule of over one thousand two hundred years of Jerusalem, members of Jewish, Christianity and Islam prospered in Jerusalem. Muslim rule enabled the city to live up to its rightful title of ‘The Holy City’ as it encompassed all the believers in One God to go about their business without any hindrance.
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