A religious war is raging around Jerusalem, with Muslims claiming the Temple Mount as their sole property and demanding sovereignty over the city. However, the basis for their claim – which is universally accepted by foreign governments – is actually non-existent. One Israeli politician warns that this fraudulent appropriation of the eternal Jewish capital is merely a prelude to Islamic plans for Europe and America.
The crux of the Muslim claim to Jerusalem is the al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. Often referred to as the third holiest site in Islam, it is purported to be the site of a miraculous overnight journey by Muhammad from Mecca to Masjid al-Aqsa, “the furthest mosque” in Arabic, though it is unlikely the site of this miracle is al Aqsa in Jerusalem.
This is partially because “the furthest mosque” is understood by Koranic scholars to be a metaphor, meaning between heaven and earth, and not a specific location. Even as a geographic reference, Israel, referred to in the Koran (30:1) as “the closest land” (adna al-ard), is an unlikely candidate.
In fact, while Jerusalem is mentioned in the Bible 669 times, and the word Zion, a synonym for Jerusalem, is mentioned 154 times, neither word appears even once in the Koran.
Another blemish on the theory of the mosque’s correlation to the Prophet is that at the time of Mohammed’s journey, there were no mosques in Israel and the modest beginnings of al Aqsa would not arise until several decades after his death.
It is also significant that despite being covered in mosaics and Arabic calligraphy, there are no references to Mohammed’s alleged journey to the site at the famous mosque.
While Muhammed initially usurped the Jewish practice of praying towards Jerusalem, as he did many other practices, reasoning, “We have more claim over Moses than you” (Ibn Abbas Number 222), he later established that prayer should be towards Mecca (qibla) as a test for the sizeable Jewish population of Medina to clearly reveal, by the direction they faced while praying, the true believers of Islam.
According to Muhammed, a true Muslim turns his back on Jerusalem while praying.
The Dome of the Rock is often mistakenly called al Aqsa. Ignorance about the Temple Mount in Islam is so prevalent that even several Islamic websites have tried to educate their public. JustIslam noted that “many people have picture in there (sic) homes showing the wrong mosque!! It is one of the three (sic) most sacred places.”
In fact, the site of the Dome of the Rock, built by Khalif Umar after the death of Muhammed, was chosen precisely because it was the site of the Jewish Temples and not for its significance to Islam. It predates al Aqsa Mosque and, though later incorporated into the mosque compound, its construction had nothing to do with the story of Muhammed.
The spot was chosen upon the advice of a Jew – Ka‘ab al-Aḥbār, a Yemenite rabbi who converted to Islam and led the Arabs to the location of the ancient Foundation Stone, enabling them to erect the Dome of the Rock over it.
The site was largely insignificant for Muslims until Israel conquered the Temple Mount in 1967. Photographs from the 1950’s show a neglected, broken-down compound, with weeds growing up between the stones and very few visitors.
Today, the Palestinian Authority demands Jerusalem as its capital as a non-negotiable point of the peace process, despite there being no precedent for Jerusalem as an Islamic capital.
In 2001, Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, described the history of Muslim ambivalence towards Jerusalem, pointing out that during the British mandate, “the British government recognized the minimal Muslim interest in Jerusalem during World War I.”
Britain decided not to include Jerusalem in territories to be assigned to the Arabs because, as chief British negotiator Henry McMahon put it, “there was no place … of sufficient importance … further south of Damascus to which the Arabs attached vital importance.”
Pipes also related a piece of history which illustrates how little the Arabs valued Jerusalem. In 1917, “Jamal Pasha, the Ottoman commander-in-chief, instructed his Austrian allies to ‘blow Jerusalem to hell’ should the British enter the city,” he wrote.
When Breaking Israel News asked Pipes for an update on how this theory is playing out today, his answer was grim. “A fourteen-century-long pattern suggests that so long as Israel controls Jerusalem, Muslims will respond by focusing on the city and wanting to seize it,” he theorized. “The knife-intifada is this moment’s tactic toward that end; after it duly fails, one should expect another – and another after that.”
Moshe Feiglin, chairman of the Zehut party in Israel and former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, saw a more universal and insidious threat in the Arab snatch for Jerusalem. “This is part of the Islamic culture and their concept of a national entity, which is unlike the Western concept or that of the Jews. The Muslims believe that if they can conquer it, culturally and then physically, the city belongs to Islam, even if it has no historical or religious connection to Islam.”
Jerusalem is on their agenda now, but soon Islam will come for other cities, Feiglin warned. “Just as they relate to Jerusalem, they are already relating to New York and cities in France.”