The plight of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) under Zionist occupation is one of the most serious issues facing Muslims in the world today, and is also inseparable from the wider issue of western hegemony over Muslim lands, societies and minds. But Muslims’ familiarity with contemporary issues is often not matched by their awareness of the importance of Al-Quds in Islam, let alone an understanding of the perspectives of the Jews, the Christians and other parties.
This book seeks to correct both these failures, by presenting and comparing the history and importance of Al-Quds in the classical Judaic traditions and in Islamic teachings. It has two particular qualities which Muslim readers will welcome: firstly, it is written from firmly within an Islamic perspective, thus avoiding the inevitable question-marks which arise when approaching such issues through the works of non-Muslims; and secondly, it is calm, unemotional and objective in its tone, giving a reassuring sense that the presentations of others’ points of view are not unduly coloured.
After an introduction summing up Al-Khateeb’s objective in writing the book, the first section of it consists of a short survey of the history of the region from the Canaanite period (c. 18-19th centuries BC), through to the contemporary state of Israel and the Palestinian struggle. This section, which is concluded with a chronology of the history of Jerusalem, provides a context for the comparative studies which follow.
These consist of two sections: chapters 3 and 4 compare the sanctity of Jerusalem in Judaism and Islam respectively. The section on Judaism critically assesses Jewish history in view of their own sources, as well as of subsequent Qur’anic clarifications of the same events. It shows how the sanctity of Al-Quds was not in fact affirmed in the original Jewish religious literature, but actually developed in early Jewish history, through the periods of the Prophets Dawud and Sulayman (peace be upon them) and culminating with the concentration of priestly activity there during the reign of king Josiah (7th century BC). The Islamic section covers the references to Jerusalem in the Qur’an and the ahadith, the status of Al-Quds as the first qibla of Islam, the Isra’ and Mi’raj, and the position of Al-Quds in subsequent Muslim history.
The second comparative section, consisting of chapters 5 and 6, compares the role of Jerusalem in the Judaic and Islamic eschatological traditions. Al-Khateeb surveys the different interpretations of Muslim scholars, and compares them to earlier, Judaic traditions.
In his conclusion, Al-Khateeb looks at the use of ‘Isra’iliyyat’ (Jewish traditions) in Islamic scholarship. He also looks at the contemporary situation of Al-Quds, and the way that it has been abused by different religious traditions at different times.
His conclusion is clear: that it is only under Islamic rule, exemplified by the covenant of Umar ibn al-Khattab when he liberated Al-Quds, that the lands that are sacred to three distinct monotheistic religious traditions can be ‘A City of Peace’, insha’Allah.
Muslimedia: November 1-15, 1999