ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS
Dr Mordechai Kedar
November 10, 2014
The importance of Jerusalem for Jews and Christians is beyond dispute, since the connection of this city to Judaism and Christianity is part of universal concepts about history and theology. However, when it comes to modern politics, we hear over and over that Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims demand that Jerusalem become the capital of the future Palestinian state, owing to its holiness to Islam. The question is how and when this city became holy to Muslims.
When the Prophet Muhammad established Islam, he introduced a minimum of innovations. He employed the hallowed personages, historic legends and sacred sites of Judaism, Christianity, and even paganism, by Islamizing them. Thus, according to Islam, Abraham was the first Muslim and Jesus and St. John (the sons of Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron) were prophets and guardians of the second heaven. Many Biblical legends (“asatir al-awwalin”), which were familiar to the pagan Arabs before the dawn of Islam, underwent an Islamic conversion, and the Koran as well as the Hadith (the Islamic oral tradition), are replete with them.
Islamization was practiced on places as well as persons: Mecca and the holy stone – al-Ka’bah – were holy sites of the pre-Islamic pagan Arabs. The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and the Great Mosque of Istanbul were erected on the sites of Christian-Byzantine churches – two of the better known examples of how Islam treats sanctuaries of other faiths. Jerusalem, too, underwent the process of Islamization: at first Muhammad attempted to convince the Jews near Medina to join his young community, and, by way of persuasion, established the direction of prayer (kiblah) to be to the north, towards Jerusalem, in keeping with Jewish practice; but after he failed in this attempt he turned against the Jews, killed many of them, and directed the kiblah southward, towards Mecca…….