Our extended family’s plan for a destination reunion over the summer holidays hit a snag earlier this year when al-Quds (Jerusalem) was included in the itinerary, with some yearning to visit the sacred city while others — that would be me — refusing to do so while the city is under Zionist occupation.
Al-Quds is fast becoming a hot travel destination for Muslims, and it is not surprising why. It is the site of al-Masjid al-Aqsa, one of Islam’s three holiest masjids, the first qiblah or direction of prayers, and Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) ascension to the heavens in the Night Journey (al-Isra’ wa-al-Mi‘raj).
Muslim travel to Jerusalem got a boost in 2014 when a group of Islamic scholars issued a joint ruling at a “Road to Jerusalem” conference in Jordan that said visiting al-Quds is permissible as long as doing business with Israelis is avoided. American scholar Yasir Qadhi, for example, takes groups on a 5-night “sacred journey” to al-Quds in the winters for some “iman-boosting” and to witness the “political and economic and social difficulties of that region,” according to his Facebook page.
Citing hadiths, Qur’anic ayat, and religious claims (Qadhi considers visiting al-Quds fard kiffayah, or a communal obligation), some Islamic institutions have been pulling out all stops to highlight the religious significance of al-Quds to the Muslim masses. On the other hand, other scholars, starting with Imam Khomeini in 1967, consider it haram to engage in any type of relations with Israel, including the purchase of visas to visit al-Quds.
Regardless of the tactic employed, this focus on al-Quds is exactly what is needed right now as Israel plans for another war, the Zionist state accelerates its annexation of more colonized territories, and its staunchest ally, the United States, prepares to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv on May 14 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israeli colonization of Palestine. In fact, after returning from a trip to Israel in March, US Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warned that this next war will be “really bloody” as Israel plans to attack civilian areas in Southern Lebanon, including schools and hospitals.
Palestinian liberation organizations are preparing to fight back. Leaders of Hamas (who, by the way, also say Muslims should not visit al-Quds under Zionist occupation) have called for a third intifadah and anticipate that thousands will protest this move at the Gaza-Israeli border in May. Sit-ins are already underway.
But Israeli and American analysts are banking that Muslim and Arab reaction will be minimal and temporary. “After two months [international opposition] fades away and 20 years later and 40 years later, [the territory is] still ours,” Israeli education minister Naftali Bennet said during an address to students in New York in February. As far as masjids in America are concerned, he is right.
“Mosques are not doing enough,” says Palestinian activist Abbas Hamideh, founder of al-Awda, an Ohio-based Palestinian refugee support group that has been fighting for the Palestinian right to return to their homeland for 18 years. “They are afraid of raising their voices.”
“The imperialists and the Zionists are planning a war. What do we do? Bury our heads in the sand like ostriches?” asked Imam Muhammad al-‘Asi, one of the few imams who regularly champions the Palestinian cause in his khutbahs, during Friday prayers in February. “Don’t react! Prepare yourselves. The first step is to think about what is being planned before it’s too late.”
Living in a country considered the lifeline of Israel, Muslims in America have a special responsibility toward Palestine. With or without the blessings of their local masjids — Muslims need to strategize, organize, and execute plans to end their government’s support of Israel, the quickest way to end the Zionist occupation. “Could the occupation continue without the United States?” Gideon Levy, columnist for the Israeli daily Haaretz, asked at the “Israel Lobby and American Policy” conference in Washington. “Even not for a few months.”
By moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, Trump has helped return the spotlight on the struggle of the Palestinians. “What Trump has done is a great threat that Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims can turn into the greatest opportunity,” Hizbullah General Secretary Sayyid Hasan Nasrullah recently said.
What can your community in the West do to help liberate Palestine? Keep reading to learn from some God-conscious individuals, groups, and even a masjid:
Educate: Most Americans don’t know the truth about the Israeli occupation, thanks to a biased media. Organizing lectures and teach-ins, writing letters to the editor, and sharing information on social media are all ways of building awareness about the plight of the Palestinians. The Zainab organization in Seattle held a seminar called “Inqilab & al-Quds, the Capital of Occupied Palestine” on the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
Last month activist ‘Ali Salam launched Insight Media, “a hub for God-conscious, revolutionary music from around the world from a wide array of genres… both Muslim and Christian.” Hip-hop duo Blak Madeen’s song Windows includes the following lyrics, “Falestine, we in the role of David, and our goal is saving a soul so sacred, no hatred.” Also, Former Pink Floyd star Roger Waters paired with Palestinian group Trio Joubran and released a song in March called Supremacy that objects to Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Support: Those brave souls (few and far between) who put their careers and even lives on the line to support Palestinian liberation must be supported when the anti-Semitic accusations come flying. Al-Awda recently organized a rally outside a California courthouse to support San Francisco State University Professor Rabab Abdulhadi charged with anti-Semitism by the pro-Israeli Lawfare Project. Her charges were dismissed in February.
Expose: Most Americans have no idea that America gives Israel $10.1 million of taxpayer’s money every day. They also don’t realize how many policy decisions are made because of the Israeli lobby’s grip on politicians and influence in the media. One organization that is relentlessly trying to change this is If Americans Knew, which was founded by journalist Alison Weir and aims to expose how Americans suffer from their government’s support for Israel.
Exchange: For those who love anything interfaith (you know who you are), this is the perfect time to discuss with Christians the significance of al-Quds not only in the past but also in the future. Israel relies on the support of Christian Evangelicals who believe Jews must rebuild their temple in Jerusalem (on the spot where Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven) before the return of Jesus (a) as part of dispensationalism, a form of biblical interpretation derived from the teachings of John Nelson Darby of Ireland. “I stand with Israel” is a popular bumper sticker, at least, in the South. Not only are some Christians ready to stand with Israel but apparently they are also prepared to die for Israel. American Lt. Gen. Richard Clark said that there are American ground troops who are ready to die defending Israel. He said this while in Israel for February’s largest joint US-Israeli military drill called Operation Juniper Cobra, which for the first time simulated defending Israel on three fronts: Gaza, Syria and Lebanon.
Rally: Palestinian activists are planning to rally on May 15 in major cities across the world to commemorate the 70th anniversary of al-Nakbah, or the catastrophe of Zionist colonization. The Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad launched in Beirut a campaign called “The 70th Anniversary of the Nakbah” to “activate the role of Palestinians abroad” as well as unite institutions “in support of Palestine, which is gaining importance in conjunction with Trump’s efforts to transfer his embassy to the city of Jerusalem.”
More Muslims must come out to protest the oppression of the Palestinians (and all others around the world) on al-Quds Day, the last Friday of Ramadan, after jumu‘ah (congregational) prayers. Initiated by Imam Khomeini in 1980, and endorsed by the Organization of Islamic Countries in 1988, al-Quds Day rallies take place annually all over the world, including Malaysia, Austria, Nigeria, South Africa, Pakistan, Britain, Canada, and the US.
“The issue of Quds is not a private or personal issue”, said Imam Khomeini. “It is neither the exclusive problem of one country nor a present-day problem of all Muslims. Rather, it is a phenomenon concerning the monotheists and faithful people of all ages — past, present, and future.”