Is Jerusalem Sacred for Muslims?

by Hagai Mazuz and Harold Rhode (Hudson NY)

Israel and the Palestinians Arabs are once again negotiating their future relationship. One of the most difficult issues they confront is the status of Jerusalem.

On September 22, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated Saudi King Abdullah on the occasion of his country’s national day. She reserved special praise for Abdullah’s support of the Arab Peace Initiative (API), which calls for an Israeli withdrawal from all territories gained in 1967 and for East Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state. She suggested that this plan would serve as a philosophical basis for the ongoing talks. “As we continue working to support direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the principles enshrined in the Arab Peace Initiative are more important than ever,” Clinton wrote.

Jews and Christians know that Israel’s claim to Jerusalem is rooted in the ancient Jewish connection to that city. Israel’s declaration of independence speaks of both “natural and historic right.” Jerusalem is the centerpiece of that historic right.

What about the Muslim claim?

For Muslims, Jerusalem is thought to be sacred for two reasons: First, Muslims were initially commanded to pray toward Jerusalem. But when the Jews refused to convert to Islam, Muhammad changed the prayer direction toward Mecca. Second, Muslims believe that Muhammad ascended to heaven and back from “the Rock” which much later after his death was interpreted to mean what is today the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

Interestingly, Islamic sources from the first 50 years or so after Muhammad’s death make clear that Jerusalem had absolutely no holy status for Muslims.

Some centuries later, Ibn Taymiyya (1263–1328) another important Muslim cleric with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Koran and Hadith, wrote extensively about Jerusalem, and how there were only two holy cities in Islam – Mecca and Medina. He eventually became the intellectual godfather of Wahhabism, the dominant Islamic doctrine of the Saudi government. He claimed that Muslims must rid themselves of all non-Muslim innovations and return to the early Islam of Muhammad and the first four caliphs. The rulers of Ibn Taymiyya’s time saw him as a threat and imprisoned him. Even so, he did not recant.

Ibn Taymiyya went to great lengths to explain that the veneration of Jerusalem in nothing more than the “Judaization” of Islam. He wrote that after the second caliph ‘Umar conquered Jerusalem in 637 he and his aide Ka’b al-Aḥbār [a Jewish convert to Islam], went up to view the Temple Mount. ‘Umar asked his aide: “Where do you think I should build a place of prayer for Muslims?” Ka’b replied: “Build it behind (i.e., north of) the Rock.” Angrily, Umar said to Ka’b: “Oh you son of a Jew, is your Jewishness dominating your view?” ‘Umar was accusing Ka’b of Judaizing Islam by saying that they should build a place to pray north of the Rock where the Jewish Temple had once stood. If they had done so, they would have been bowing down both towards the Rock and Mecca. That is why ‘Umar decided to build the place to pray on the southern part of the Temple Mount – the place today known as the Aqsa Mosque. ‘Umar’s choice of location meant that the Muslims bowed down only to Mecca and that their backs (rear ends) were facing the Rock.

Ibn Taymiyya wondered how Muslim clerics could have accepted Ka’b’s attempts to incorporate Jewish traditions into Islam, because Ka’b did not cite any of Muhammad’s companions as the source of his claim.

Ibn Taymiyya also accused Ka’b of fabricating Muslim traditions and incorporating Jewish writings, i.e., the Bible, Talmud, etc., into Islam. Ibn Taymiyya admitted that the original prayer direction was Jerusalem but he emphasized that Muhammad and the Muslims abandoned that tradition in order to differentiate themselves from the Jews.

Later, Ibn Taymiyya discussed the first caliphs and showed that when they ruled over today’s Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel, neither they nor any of the early governors nor any clerics made any attempt to build any structure over the Rock on the Temple Mount. This demonstrated, according to Ibn Taymiyya, that they did not attach any importance to it; as the early rulers and companions of Muhammad knew his views and his religion better than later generations of Muslims, no later scholar could disagree with them nor with the traditions they observed. They clearly did not attach any Islamic significance to today’s Aqsa Mosque nor to the Temple Mount in general. How then, Ibn Taymiyya reasoned, could we who never knew them nor Muhammad have the right to disagree? There is no way we could know more about Islam than they. We therefore have no right to sanctity al-Aqsa because they did not do so.

In order to further strengthen his argument against Jerusalem’s sanctity, Ibn Taymiyya wrote that during Muhammad’s night journey to heaven from Jerusalem, there is no mention of the (Temple) Rock in the story. Therefore, since the Rock is not even mentioned, it has no importance in Islamic tradition.

So we see that according to the intellectual godfather of the Saudis, the Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Rock have absolutely no Islamic religious significance. As he proved, these are nothing more than Judaic traditions that have penetrated Islam, and, as non-Muslim innovations, must be expunged from Islam.

So how did Jerusalem become holy in Islam? In the 680s, a civil war erupted among the Muslims. The caliph who ruled from Damascus wanted to put down a revolt by the people who controlled Mecca, the place of pilgrimage. In order to weaken them, he decided to build a counter-pilgrimage site and at the very least siphon off people who during the pilgrimage might have decided to take up the rebel’s cause. He therefore chose to build a dome over the Rock in Jerusalem and to encourage people to make pilgrimages there instead of to Mecca. That is when Jerusalem became holy in Islam. So in essence, Jerusalem’s sanctity to Muslims stems from a local revolt which occurred some 50-plus years after Muhammad’s death.

The Saudi regime follows Ibn Taymiyya to a tee. Those who disagree with his philosophy do so at their own peril. When a Saudi editor published an article questioning something that Ibn Taymiyya had written, he wasquickly fired on the orders of the information minister. So it is rather curious that the Saudis have included, as one of the basic principles of their plan for peace between Israel and the Arabs, the idea that East Jerusalem must be the capital of a Palestinian state. Why have they rejected their godfather’s stance on Jerusalem? Ibn Taymiyya must be turning over in the grave.

16 thoughts on “Is Jerusalem Sacred for Muslims?”

  1. Jerusalem is sacred to Muslims primarily because of Muhammad’s ‘abduction’ by the archangel Gabriel to the ‘farthest mosque’ (Masjid Al-Aqsa) in Jerusalem, in what is known as ‘Al Isra wal Mi’raj (the Night Journey)’. The flight has a special religious significance in Islam because Muslims believe that this magical mystery tour confirmed Muhammad’s standing among the prophets. The original direction of prayer to Jerusalem (qibla) relates to the prophet’s journey and his imaginary stay at the ‘farthest mosque’.
    Jerusalem was traditionally a holy city for many Arabs who (like M.) saw themselves rooted in biblical Judaism, the descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s eldest son.

    1. Soloview:

      “the ‘farthest mosque’ didn’t exist at the time of Muhammad. Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran, not even once, and Muhammad’s child wife, Aisha, said the profit didn’t go anywhere that night. She said he (the profit of Islam) was snoring like a walrus beside her.

      All in their own scriptures……

  2. What about the Muslim claim?

    Nothing of substance. But as Jews regard it as their holiest site, Muslims must have it, just to show that their religion is superior, and therefore, they must have it.

    So it was in Spain and India. In India the situation still prevails, and in Spain, it is starting up again.

    This continuous Jihad at all level, from the footbaths, to the minarets, halal this and halal that, bombs, air travel security, crime of all kinds, will never stop until all Muslims are required to leave the West. When that happens, then you will see the entire Muslim population of the West, suddenly become vehemently moderate, with respect for human rights, equality for women, and even gays.

    But, one must always remember Taqqiya and Hudna.

  3. Think of just two words Taqiyya, and the Timeline.
    Historically only Jews and Christians have any religious claim to Jerusalem. First the Jews have been there for a long long time, far longer than any of us. Secondly, Jesus was born a Jew and Christians believe his message was to change the Jewish religion to a more inclusive one. One that welcomed women and of course gentiles. The new religion of Jesus spread around the then world with great and gentle success.
    When the thieving bands of the followers of Mohomad came along, it did not fit well with them. So they had to challenge the Jews and Christians in general, and what better way than to supplant their evil in the heart of the Jewish and Christian territory. They have no right to one centimetre of Israel and particularly Jerusalem.
    Remember the Crusaders may not have had the best of intentions, but they never went to Jerusalem with the idea of throwing our the Jews – it was Saladin and his band they were after. And of course any booty that came along was ok too. The Jews were always the money lenders and until modern times it was not permitted for Christians to charge interest on loans. The Crusaders were the capatilists of the Middle Ages. The Kings and Queens of Europe had to borrow from them, and thereby began the hatred of Jews. Sad, but true. Knights Templer took over some of these monetary services, and became obscenely wealthy and bingo – they had to go. It is about world order and gold, nothing else. Power and money.
    Whatever Islam is saying Taqiyya.

  4. Let’s face it, the “ideology of war” wants to claim every important holy site in the world as theirs. Look at Ground Zero in NY. If they could build a mosque right on Ground Zero they would. Perhaps some day in the far-(I hope) future they will.
    It is the Islamicx way to conquer and build mosques as their points of strategic planning and parayer. What was a bedouin tent has become a monstrosity of luxurious evil.
    There will be no peace in the world until Islam rules it. Then there will be war among the various sects arguing about how to divide the booty.

  5. Jerusalem has not, never ever will be “sacred” to muslims. Lies and deception full of delusions of grandeur.

  6. I realize this article and it’s posts are old. Unfortunatly the topic seems to go on and on and on. Why? Why do we in the west, christians muslims and jews think that there is a solution to be found? Why? There is no means on the planet to bring an end to what is going on PERIOD …Who had it first and who likes it better might work if we were in kindergarden but in reality muslims in this century believe it to be sacred. The fact that is was a dream by aisha testamony is like salt in the wound personally. The only soultion for Arabs is the destruction to Israel and Jeruslame the capitol of Palestine. Thats no secret, they refuse every proposal that has ever been presented. There was a minute there when i had some hope for peace when the two state agreement was reached and Israel withdrew from occupied territory except the gaza strip of course because it was hijacked by the hamas. RIGHT …Does anyone really believe that bullshit? The real problem is Israel the united states and any other country thinking that we can reason with these “arabs” it is not an option they are not willing to compromise for peace. The arabs know that jerusalem is holy to christian and jew they dont give a f***! The problem is we care about their claim to jerulsalem. The only peace the world will ever have in the middle east already exists we have peace treaties with the countries that are capable of it. Instead of giving the palestinian government money for the people lets break it down and give every individual in palestine a share have every other civilized society in the world open their country offer them citizenship and give them a reasonable amount of time to choose anywhere they want to go. It might not be ideal to have to leave but according to the majority they have nothing and Israel is commiting geneside so why would they want to stay? Anyone left after the vacate time alloted be shot on the spot. no questions just killed because no decent human being with good intentions that dreams of a peaceful future will stay.

  7. @suzi fisher

    Why should the world take in the Palestinians when their own Muslim brothers (you know the ones that care sooooooooooo much about the Palestinians; remember it is allegedly because of the poor Palestinians who are the causation of all of the killing and terrorism for much of the last 40 years by there Muslim brothers?) have never really wanted them either?

    The Palestinians are the golden goose. And no one is gonna want to loose that golden goose, be it Islama- facist or the lefty Marxist. Yasser Arafat made a good living off them and he was not even a Palestinian.

  8. Why should we take them? Because GOD has opened his heart to us and we want to open ours to him. Would GOD close the door on a child because his own parents didn’t want him? No he wouldn’t. Not all muslims are bad some are good people ignorant of the truth. They have been raised to believe islam and It’s not like they had a choice of another faith. How can we as christians or jews have the audacity to extend our arm and expect mercy compassion and forgivness from GOD yet refuse to extend mercy compassion and forgivness to another? Which sounds like the path to eternal life in the kingdom of heaven and which is the path of a hypocrate on the self righteous highway to HELL?

    1. Do you invite Satan in your bed, Suzi?

      Do you sleep with rattlesnakes?

      Sharks Are Not Misunderstood Dolphins, and Islam Is Not a Religion of Peace….

      Have you heard of Arabia? The ‘Arab world?’

      The richest people on the planet who have absolutely no money for their fakestinian brothers?

      Any idea why they haven’t followed their Islamic obligations and resettled their muslim brothers?

      “Israel is commiting geneside”

      Who the hell told you that? The Pal-Arabs are among the fattest people in the world and they have multiplied by a factor of 7 (!) since Israel became a state in 1948.

      How can you spew such a vomit!

  9. @suzi fisher

    Oh, Suzi, Suzi…Suzi,

    Your naivete and your aspirational hope in the goodness in others is sweet. Dangerous, but sweet.

    You are right there are good and decent Muslims. They are called Apostates and they have the advance intellect to break free from the chains called Islam.

    Your understanding of Islam is blinded by your faith. In today’s world and with the vast opportunities to access a pluralistic world view that is attainable via the internet, books, media, movies, etc. your argument on Muslims inability of being “ignorant of the truth. They have been raised to believe islam and It’s not like they had a choice of another faith,” is a false statement.

    In today’s world Muslims have an opportunity to a broader and worldly understanding of a different experience. Especially those Muslims that have been exposed to the plurality of others (faith & cultures) whilst born and raised in a Western Society (or India/China, etc.).

    If you are going to follow a path, you are forgetting the teachings of Wisdom, Knowledge and Prudence that I suggest you study.

    Normally, I do not respond to discussions with either biblical or koranic quotes, basically because I do not care enough and I am lazy. But you are a walking victim waiting to happen, so I will leave you with 2 quotes.

    1.) The Bible says in Proverbs 4:6-7, “Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”

    2.)Aesop Fable: See the parable Scorpion and the Frog (or Turtle; it varies)

    Good Luck. You are going to need it.

  10. Sheik,

    Can you please find my post?



    You also said, “The richest people on the planet who have absolutely no money for their fakestinian brothers?”

    Do remember a few years ago, when there was data release that showed only something like two Arab countries gave money to the Palestinians-it was a few hundred thousands pounds/dollars. Very, very low amount.

    Arabs spend more money on luxurious cars, then on the aid they give to the Palestinians.

  11. I am aware of how evil islam is however i am also aware of a collective consciousness. I believe where thought go energy flows, so I choose to try to bring a positive frame of mind and ask myself what can I do to make a difference? One that will benefit all of mankind as a whole.

  12. Why are those Palestinians and Moslems from Asia, Middle East, Africa are still spreading their anti-Israel sentiments? The Palestinians should solve their own problems and not depend on aid to solve their Palestinian community problems, inflicted and provoked by their own Palestinian community demands.

  13. @suzi fisher,

    All noble aspirations.

    You speak of Islam. I infer to Muslims who, providing the odds are in their favor and it is always their intention to see you as an opportunity.


    The Palestinians are merely a convenient tools to manipulate the world and project their rage through.

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