by Zafar Bangash (Reflections, Crescent International Vol. 36, No. 7, Sha'ban, 1428)
The month of August included the anniversaries of three important events in Islamic history, two reflecting Islam’s glory and the third the Muslims’ current impotence.
On August 10, Muslims celebrated the great event of Isra’ wal Mi‘raj, the Prophet’s night-journey from Masjid al-Haram in Makkah to the Masjid al-Aqsa in al-Quds (Jerusalem), and from there to heaven and into the divine presence (al-Qur’an 17:1 and 53:2-18). This journey, on the night of Rajab 27, confirmed Islam’s firm link with the Masjid al-Aqsa and al-Quds, which had been the Muslims’ first qibla until Allah’s revelation changed the direction of the qibla to the Ka‘aba in Makkah. It was also on Rajab 27 that al-Quds and the Haram al-Sharif were liberated by Salahuddin Ayyubi in 1187CE, from the Crusaders who had desecrated its sanctity for 88 years by using it as a stable. The third event was the burning of Masjid al-Aqsa by an Australian zionist, Dennis Michael, on August 21, 1969, which mark the depth of Muslim decline and the failure of the Muslim nation-States to defend Islam’s holy places from such vandalism.
In this coming month, meanwhile, Muslims will begin the fast of Ramadan (see p. 4 for Ramadan moon data). It was in this month that the noble Qur’an was first revealed to Allah’s beloved Messenger (saw) in the cave of Hira just outside Makkah. Both the descent of the Qur’an from the Lawh Mahfuz (the “Well-Guarded Tablet”, Q. 85:22) and the beginning of revelation occurred in this month. Thereafter, the Qur’an was revealed to the noble Messenger of Allah over a period of 23 years. Several other events in Islamic history are also associated with this month: the Battle of Badr and the liberation of Makkah from the clutches of the mushrikeen, for instance.
It is to Masjid al-Aqsa and the plight of the Palestinians that we must turn our attention. As this Ramadan approaches, the Palestinians are being subjected to unprecedented levels of suffering, including physical and verbal abuse, and numerous forms of humiliation. These are compounded by mass starvation and deliberate killings, all in the name of “security” for the zionist occupiers of Palestine. Today 53 percent of Palestinians are under 18 years of age. A third generation of Palestinians, therefore, are growing up knowing nothing but brutal occupation. Poverty is so widespread that children as young as three years old are forced to beg in the streets, often standing all day in the burning sun. At night they sleep in fields, cemeteries, mosques, drainage canals or even on the streets.
While the world’s attention is deliberately kept focused on the US-Israeli fiction called the Middle East peace process, the zionists are busy stealing more land, in both Jerusalem and the West Bank, as part of their relentless drive to deprive the Palestinians of their historic rights. Since the zionists occupied Jerusalem—one half in 1948 and the rest in June 1967 through military aggression—they have relentlessly pursued a systematic policy of bringing in zionist settlers while pushing Palestinians out. The illegal wall—rightly dubbed the apartheid wall—that the Israelis are building is designed to steal more Palestinian land. It has separated farmers from their fields and in many instances families from each other.
Over time, facing no effective opposition, the zionist strategies for seizing control of al-Quds, have become ever more brazen. Palestinians under the age of 55 are now denied entry into the Haram al-Sharif, the holy sanctuary that houses both Masjid al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, to pray. Those living outside Jerusalem are told they cannot enter. Meanwhile Zionist settlers—illegal squatters would be a more appropriate term for them—have in recent weeks started to force their way into the Haram al-Sharif under the pretext of “offering prayer”, protected by gun-toting Israeli soldiers. This is a new and more dangerous development that will have far-reaching consequences. The zionists have no business there; this is a mischievous attempt to create a pretext to lay future claims to the holy precincts, as they did with the external wall of the Haram al-Sharif, which the Jews call the Wailing Wall. It was the Muslims who permitted Jewish worshippers to pray there, and now Muslims are forbidden to go near it. A similar process of creeping annexation is underway elsewhere in the holy precincts.
For decades the zionists have tried to undermine the Haram al-Sharif by digging tunnels below it on the spurious pretext of archaeological investigations into its supposed Jewish origins. This is a thinly disguised attempt to weaken the foundations of the Haram, so it may eventually collapse. This is what the zionists are hoping for; once destroyed, by what they will claim to be no fault of theirs, they will prohibit its reconstruction and say that Muslims have no further claim to the site of their first qibla. This is not mere speculation; precisely the same policy is already being used to drive Palestinians out of the rest of al-Quds. Palestinians are not permitted to repair their historic homes in Jerusalem today, let alone build new ones, while no such restrictions exist for Jewish settlers.
Muslims must take immediate note of this disturbing development and take steps to prevent the creeping annexation of Masjid al-Aqsa by the zionists. Crying after the fact will be of little help in reclaiming the holy sites.