by Yusuf Dhia-Allah (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 43, No. 9, Muharram, 1436)
While Rabbinical law prohibits Jews from trespassing on the sacred soil of al-Haram al-Sharif, the Zionist thugs are trampling on their own law to grab even the holy site.
Zionist encroachments on al-Haram al-Sharif in al-Quds (Jerusalem) that houses the two holy masjids — al-Masjid al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock — have become quite brazen in recent weeks. Palestinian men under 50 have been barred from entry onto the sacred site resulting in clashes with heavily armed Israeli police and soldiers. Armed Zionist squatters (aka as settlers) also attack Palestinians when they try and prevent Zionist encroachment.
What has added urgency to the matter is the fact that a bill filed some six months ago in the Israeli Knesset is reportedly being considered for a vote. Knesset members Miri Regev (Likud) and Hilik Bar (Labor) are signatories of the bill that calls for Muslims and Jews sharing space for prayers. Bar retracted his signature several days later, after his party pressured him to do so but Regev as chairwoman of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee and member of the ruling Likud party, carries considerable weight, and has stayed put.
While the Zionist regime claims there are no plans to put the bill to a vote in the Knesset, it has prompted Palestinian leaders and Jordanians to take steps. Khaled Meshaal, head of Hamas’ Political Bureau issued a call to the Palestinians and members of the broader Arab and Muslim Ummah to take note of the issue and to rise up for the defence of al-Masjid al-Aqsa. He issued the call from Doha, Qatar on October 16. He accused the Zionists of trying to occupy the sacred site.
Jordan’s ambassador to Israel Walid Obeidat also approached the Israeli Foreign Ministry regarding the bill after Palestinian and Arab media reported that it would be put to a Knesset vote this month (November). Obeidat said his country was very concerned by the reports, and asked the Israeli regime to clarify the matter.
In his call, Meshaal said, “We call on all our people inside the country to hurry up to al-Aqsa to defend it.” He went on, “We call on the people to be angry and to send a message of painful anger to the world that the Palestinian people, the Arab and Muslim Ummah, will not be silent at the Israeli crime.”
The Hamas leader dismissed allegations that his call amounted to a declaration of war. He said, “Nobody wants a war, but it’s our right to resist and preserve our rights. We are under occupation… We have been resisting for one hundred years and will continue.” Meshaal then added, “Al-Aqsa is worth us becoming martyrs for, and anyone who can carry a weapon in the region should go and defend it, as this is the true meaning of jihad.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied that Israel plans to encroach on the holy site. He said he would continue to scrupulously maintain the protection of holy sites and the right of all religions to worship in their holy places. Netanyahu is a compulsive liar; he is adept at twisting words and their meanings. For instance, when US President Barack Obama told him that Israel should stop settlement construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem because it was hindering “peace” with the Palestinians, Netanyahu accused him of “ethnic cleansing” of the Jews! It takes chutzpah.
The Zionists are taking advantage of the turmoil in the Muslim world — instigated incidentally by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia — in places like Syria and Iraq. With the Muslims’ attention diverted to these crises, Israel is using such turmoil, according to Meshaal, to take over al-Masjid al-Aqsa. The Zionists are masters at creeping annexation. This is what they have been doing in the West Bank as well as al-Quds (Jerusalem) for decades. Zionist squatter camps on the West Bank have turned Palestinian villages into Bantustans while Jerusalem is being emptied of the Palestinians.
The Zionists’ creeping encroachment on al-Haram al-Sharif is part of a larger plan to first set foot there under the pretext of offering prayer and then gradually annexing the entire sanctuary. Since the Zionist occupation of the whole of Jerusalem in 1967 — they had already occupied the western half of the city in 1948 — there have been several incidents that point to their nefarious designs.
The bill before the Knesset calls for separate space for Jews to worship on the Haram al-Sharif. It also calls for separate prayer times for Muslims and Jews. This is what the Zionists have imposed on the Ibrahimi Masjid in al-Khalil (Hebron) where the Brooklyn-born American terrorist Baruch Goldstein perpetrated a bloodbath during Fajr (early morning) prayers on February 25, 1994. He murdered 29 Palestinian men and children on the spot using a sub-machine gun while they were praying and wounded at least 100 more. Following this bloodbath in the month of Ramadan, the Zionist occupation army clamped a curfew on the Palestinians (but not the Zionist murderers) and by the end of the day, the Palestinian death toll had climbed to more than 100. The gun-toting Zionist squatters were free to shoot and kill Palestinians.
Exploiting the turmoil caused as a result of the bloodbath, the Zionist regime imposed a “solution” on the Palestinians. They were restricted to a small area of the masjid (mosque) and allowed to be present there only at the designated times for the five daily prayers. The rest of the time, the Zionist squatters were given a free hand to roam there with guns and intimidate the Palestinians. This is what has happened to the Ibrahimi Masjid in al-Khalil. The Zionists want to repeat the same process in al-Haram al-Sharif.
What is the Jewish religious position on al-Haram al-Sharif? Until a few years ago, the Chief Rabbinate in Israel strictly prohibited Jews from praying or even walking in the area for fear of desecrating the “holy of holies” in Jewish religious tradition. There is in fact a board erected near al-Haram al-Sharif prohibiting Jewish trespassing of the sacred site.
Observant Jews instead only pray at the outside wall. In recent years, however, there appears to have been a change in policy. While publicly claiming that Jews are not to set foot there, the Rabbinate seems to have relaxed its prohibitions somewhat under pressure from the Zionist squatters, a rabidly racist and warlike lot, that come mainly from North America and Europe.
Muslim religious scholars dispute the site’s importance to Judaism arguing that “Judaism survived thousands of years without the Temple and without Jerusalem,” according to Ikrema Sabri, an imam at al-Aqsa Masjid. “This place has been an exclusive Muslim house of worship almost without interruption for 14 centuries. We as Muslims cannot succumb to Zionist myths and whims.”
Imam Sabri’s position is borne out by historical facts. When Prophet Yusuf (a) settled in Egypt following his ordeal brought on by his stepbrothers, he invited his father, Prophet Ya‘qub (a) and all his brothers to settle with him in Egypt. Al-Masjid al-Aqsa, which was built by Prophet Ibrahim (a) about 20 years after the building of the Ka‘bah in Makkah, was left in the care of his son Prophet Ishaq who left it to his son Ya‘qub (a). But when Prophet Ya‘qub (a) and his family relocated to Egypt, al-Masjid al-Aqsa was handed over to the care of tribes that resided there. One of the main tribes was the Philistines, from whom the name Palestine is derived. The Hebrew prophets and their progeny stayed in Egypt for nearly 400 years and the Temple Mount as they called it (its real name was Beteyel, meaning the House of God) was never viewed as being of importance to them much less being central to Judaism. There is also no evidence to suggest that al-Masjid al-Aqsa is built on the site where the first Temple was built.
A great deal of myth is interwoven into the narrative about the Temple Mount despite the fact that it was destroyed repeatedly by invading forces. The Babylonian King Bakht Nasr (Nebuchadnezzer) attacked Jerusalem in 587bc and destroyed the temple (Beteyel). The Israelis were enslaved and suffered greatly for many years. The story of Nebuchadnezzar is narrated in detail in the Bible in the Book of 2 Kings, 24–25. The Torah also says that the Israelis were enslaved in both the Nile (Egypt) and in the Euphrates (by the Babylonians).
The fate of Banu Israel (Children of Prophet Ya‘qub – a) became precarious when the pharaohs of Egypt enslaved them. It was not until Allah (swt) commissioned Prophet Musa (a) who led them out of slavery and across the Red Sea into the Sinai Peninsula. When Allah (swt) ordered them to enter Palestine, they refused, incurring Allah’s (swt) wrath, which punished them to wander in the desert for 40 years. During this time, Musa (a) died and Allah (swt) raised another Prophet, Dawud (a), who was a soldier in the army of Saul. Because of his courage, Dawud (a) was made king and entered Palestine to establish his kingdom there.
It was Sulayman, son of Dawud (a) who rebuilt the Temple with the support and help of the indigenous people, principally the Palestinians. The father-son rule, however, lasted a mere 73 years. Thereafter, his sons divided the kingdom and power once again slipped from their hands. A chain of prophets emerged among their progeny but Banu Israel constantly bickered, arguing with the prophets and refusing to abide by divine teachings.
There were several phases of destruction and rebuilding of the Temple, the last being the Romans’ destruction in 70ce. No trace of the Temple has ever existed since that time.
What is the Muslims’ position on al-Masjid al-Aqsa? It is mentioned in numerous places in the Qur’an and served as the first qiblah (direction of prayer) for Muslims for many years. The best-known ayah (verse) about al-Masjid al-Aqsa is the one that describes the Prophet’s (pbuh) night journey from al-Masjid al-Haram in Makkah to al-Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem,
Glorified be He [Allah] who transported His servant [Muhammad] by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa whose surroundings He has blessed, so that We may show him of Our [Allah’s] signs… (17:01).
It is for this reason that al-Masjid al-Aqsa holds such immense significance in Islamic religious tradition as well as history. It is known as the first qiblah of Muslims — the direction toward which Muslims face to offer their salah — as well as the third holiest site in Islam. It is built on the site where the noble Messenger (pbuh) led all the earlier Prophets (a) in prayer before his mi‘raj (ascension to Heaven) to the point referred to in the Qur’an as Sidrah al-Muntaha (53:10–16).
Muslims liberated Jerusalem during the khilafah of ‘Umar (ra) in the year 638ce. The Christian Patriarch, Sophronius had insisted that he would hand over the keys of Jerusalem only to the ruler of the Muslims. The second khalifah, ‘Umar, was on a campaign in the Golan Heights and when word reached him, he hurried to Jerusalem to take possession of the keys without causing any bloodshed in the city.
When he entered the city, ‘Umar (ra) located the place where the noble Messenger (pbuh) had led all the Prophets (a) in prayer before his ascension to Heaven on mi‘raj. After cleansing the place thoroughly, ‘Umar (ra) led the Muslims in prayer and a makeshift masjid was erected there. This simple structure later developed into what is called al-Masjid al-Aqsa and has been in Muslim care and curatorship ever since.
There is also another, more impressive structure that was built on al-Haram al-Sharif. This is called the Dome of the Rock and has a huge golden colored dome. The Ummayyad ruler ‘Abd al-Malik built this about 50 years later over the rock where the Heavenly steed, al-Buraq, was tethered when the Prophet led the other Prophets (a) in prayer. After mounting al-Buraq, the Prophet (pbuh) started to ascend on his mount, and the rock followed. The Angel Jibreel (a) asked the noble Messenger (pbuh) to order the rock from rising. The noble Messenger (pbuh) put his foot on the rock ordering it to stop. To this day, there is a footprint on the rock and it remains suspended except for very thin metal rods underneath it. This is the place where the Dome of the Rock Masjid exists.
The Muslims lost al-Masjid al-Aqsa and Jerusalem to the Crusaders’ occupation in the year 1099ce. Muslim rulers surrounding Palestine had become corrupt, much like the rulers today and had lost the will to defend Islam or Muslims. It was not until another 88 years that Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi liberated al-Masjid al-Aqsa and Jerusalem from the clutches of the Crusaders.
Unfortunately the decline in Muslim rule and corruption in their ranks led to the loss of al-Masjid al-Aqsa one more time.
Unfortunately the decline in Muslim rule and corruption in their ranks led to the loss of al-Masjid al-Aqsa one more time. It occurred in several phases. When the Ottoman Sultanate was defeated and dismembered, the British colonialists took control of Palestine and in typical colonial style started to disburse Muslim lands to others. The Europeans had never tolerated Jews in their midst; the frequent pogroms against them are a constant reminder of the Europeans’ intolerance. In 1918, when Britain occupied Palestine, they conspired to hand it over to the Zionists as a permanent homeland totally ignoring the rights of the indigenous Palestinian people. At the time the Zionist State was created in Palestine in 1948, more than 60% of Palestinian land was handed over to the Zionists. The rest was grabbed by the Zionists in 1967 together with East Jerusalem that houses al-Masjid al-Aqsa as well as the Dome of the Rock.
This is where the situation stands today: al-Masjid al-Aqsa, indeed the entire Haram al-Sharif is under Zionist occupation and threat of destruction. Even while Muslims throughout history provided sanctuary to the Jewish people after they suffered persecution elsewhere, the Zionists have turned out to be the worst kinds of oppressors in history. They act with impunity and are extremely hostile toward the indigenous Palestinian (Muslim) people. Heavily armed, they shoot at the slightest pretext and have no regard for Palestinian life.
The corrupt Muslim rulers are totally subservient to the imperialists and Zionists. Reposing hope in them to rescue the Muslims is a waste of time. It would require a figure like Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi to emerge among Muslims to liberate al-Masjid al-Aqsa and Palestine from another group of Crusaders, this time of the Zionist variety.
Until then, Muslims can pray and prepare for that day. A good starting point would be to become better acquainted with their history, especially relating to Palestine and al-Masjid al-Aqsa, which seems to have been largely forgotten.