Islamization of Jerusalem

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The Islamization of Jerusalem refers to the transformation of the city that followed the Islamic Conquest of Jerusalem by Umar ibn Al-Khattāb in 638 CE. The remodulation was grounded on a foundational narrative in early Islamic texts that emphasized the city's cosmological significance within God's creation.[1] It has been argued that the central role Jerusalem assumed in Islamic belief began with Muhammad's instruction to his followers to observe the qibla by facing the direction of Jerusalem during their daily prostrations in prayer. After 16 months, the direction of prayer was changed to Mecca in present-day Saudi Arabia.[2]

View of Jerusalem with the Haram al-Sharif in the foreground.

Jerusalem importance rose in Islam in 682 CE, when Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr rebelled against the Islamic rulers in Damascus, conquered Mecca and prevented pilgrims from reaching Mecca.[3]

Although Jerusalem is not mentioned by its name in Quran, it is mentioned in later Islamic literature and in Hadiths, as the place of Muhammad ascension to heavenly sanctuary.[4] According to early Arab historian and the biographer of Muhammad, Al-Waqidi, the 'further mosque' (al-Aqsa) are one of two located in the village ofin al-Gi'irranah between Mecca and Ta'if.[3] The identification of Al Aqsa with Jerusalem came later, during Umayyad Caliphate in the late 7th century[5]

Under the Caliphates

In 638 the Islamic Caliphate extended its dominion to Jerusalem.[6] With the Arab conquest, Jews were allowed back into the city.[7] While the majority population of Jerusalem during the time of Arab conquest was Christian,[8] the majority of Palestine population about 300,000-400,000 inhabitants, was still Jewish.[9][citation needed] In the aftermath the process of cultural Arabization and Islamization took place, combining immigration to Palestine with the adoption of Arabic language and conversion of the part of local population to Islam.[10] According to several Muslim scholars, including Mujir ad-Din, al-Suyuti, and al-Muqaddasi, the mosque was reconstructed and expanded by the caliph Abd al-Malik in 690 along with the Dome of the Rock.[11][12] In planning his magnificent project on the Temple Mount, which in effect would turn the entire complex into the Haram al-Sharif ("the Noble Sanctuary"), Abd al-Malik wanted to replace the slipshod structure described by Arculf with a more sheltered structure enclosing the qibla, a necessary element in his grand scheme. The Jewish background in the construction of the Dome of the Rock is commonly accepted by historians. A number of scholars consider the construction of the Dome as the Muslim desire to rebuild Solomon's Temple or Mihrab Dawud. Grabar and Busse claimed that this was the primary Islamic legitimization for the sanctity of the Dome of the Rock, while the Al-mi'raj traditions were transferred to the rock only later.[13] An early Islamic tradition from the converted rabbi Ka'ab al-Ahbar states "Ayrusalaim which means Jerusalem and the Rock which means the Temple. I shall send you my servant Abd al-Malik who will build you and adorn you. I shall surely restore you to Bayt Al Maqdis, its first kingdom and I shall crown it with gold, silver and gems. And I shall surely send you my creatures. And I shall surely invest my throne of glory upon the rock, since I am the sovereign God, and David is the king of the Children of Israel."[14]

Under the Rashidun Caliphate

The Rashidun caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab signed a treaty with Monophysite Christian Patriarch Sophronius, assuring him that Jerusalem's Christian holy places and population would be protected under Muslim rule.[15] When led to pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site for Christians, the caliph Umar declined to pray within the church in order not to establish a precedent that might be exploited later by some Muslims to convert the church into a mosque. He prayed outside the church, where the Mosque of Umar (Omar) stands to this day, opposite the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

According to the Gaullic bishop Arculf, who lived in Jerusalem from 679 to 688, the Mosque of Umar was a rectangular wooden structure built over ruins which could accommodate 3,000 worshipers.[16]

Under the Umayyad Caliphate

The Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik commissioned the construction of the Dome of the Rock in the late 7th century.[17] The 10th century historian al-Muqaddasi writes that Abd al-Malik built the shrine in order to "compete in grandeur" with Jerusalem's monumental churches.[16] Over the next four hundred years Jerusalem's prominence diminished as Arab powers in the region jockeyed for control.[18]

Under the Fatimid Caliphate

In 1099, The Fatimid ruler expelled the native Christian population before Jerusalem was conquered by the Crusaders, who massacred most of its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants when they took the solidly defended city by assault, after a period of siege; later the Crusaders created the Kingdom of Jerusalem. By early June 1099 Jerusalem’s population had declined from 70,000 to less than 30,000.[19]

Under the Ayyubid dynasty

In 1187, the city was wrested from the Crusaders by Saladin who permitted Jews and Muslims to return and settle in the city.[20] Under the Ayyubid dynasty of Saladin, a period of huge investment began in the construction of houses, markets, public baths, and pilgrim hostels as well as the establishment of religious endowments. However, for most of the 13th century, Jerusalem declined to the status of a village due to city's fall of strategic value and Ayyubid internecine struggles.[21]

Under the Mamluk Sultanate

In 1244, Jerusalem was sacked by the Khwarezmian Tartars, who decimated the city's Christian population and drove out the Jews.[22] The Khwarezmian Tartars were driven out by the Ayyubids in 1247. From 1250 to 1517, Jerusalem was ruled by the Mamluks. During this period of time many clashes occurred between the Mamluks on one side and the crusaders and the Mongols on the other side. The area also suffered from many earthquakes and black plague.

Under Hashemite rule

The Arab Legion in the process of destroying the synagogue.

Jordan, although mandated by the UN to let Israeli Jews visit their holy sites, refused access to them. They also led a systematic destruction of the Jewish Quarter including many ancient synagogues.[23] Under Jordanian rule of East Jerusalem, all Israelis (irrespective of their religion) were forbidden from entering the Old City and other holy sites.[24] Between 40 000 and 50 000 tombstones from ancient Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery were desecrated.[25] In the Old City of Jerusalem, the Jewish Quarter was destroyed after the end of fighting. The Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue was destroyed first, which was followed by the destruction of famous Hurva Synagogue built in 1701, first time destroyed by its Arab creditors in 1721 and rebuilt in 1864.[26][27][28] On its part, Israeli authorities destroyed part of Mamila Muslim cemetery, near the armistice line.[29] Altogether, the Jordanians destroyed 56 Synagogues in Jerusalem, while the remaining synagogues were used as toilets, stables and chicken coops.[30] All Jewish inhabitants from the parts of city occupied by Jordan, including residents of Old City Jewish Quarter were expelled. Christian charities and religious institutions were prohibited from buying real estate in Jerusalem. Christian schools were subject to strict regulations.[citation needed]

An Arab Legion soldier in ruins of Hurva Synagogue.

Islamization of the Temple Mount

Muslim authorities have sought to appropriate and Islamicize the Temple Mount for exclusive Muslim use.[31] Originally an Israelite and subsequently Jewish holy site, as the location of the First and Second Temples, the site was subsequently the location of a Byzantine church and later of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

At the time of the Muslim conquest, the Temple Mount may have been the site of a Byzantine public building, perhaps a church, with an elaborate mosaic floor, some of the remains of which have been discovered by the Temple Mount Sifting Project.[32] In 682 CE, 50 years after Muhammad’s death, ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr rebelled against the Caliph of Damascus, conquered Mecca and stopped pilgrims from coming south to the Hajj in Mecca.[citation needed] ‘Abd al-Malik, the Umayyad Caliph, responded by creating a new holy site.[citation needed] He chose sura 17, verse 1, “Glory to Him who caused His servant to travel by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We have blessed, in order to show him some of Our Signs, He is indeed the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.”[citation needed] And designated the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as the "Farthest Mosque" mentioned in that verse.[citation needed]

Dome of the Rock

The Islamization of the Temple Mount climaxed at the end of the seventh century, with the construction of the Dome of the Rock in the early 690s when Abd al-Malik was developing his program of Islamization. It was built over the Foundation Stone, the site of the historic Jewish Temple.[33] The al-Aqsa mosque was built at the southern end of the mount in the 8th-century.

Throughout the entire period of the Muslim conquest until the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, various structures were built on the mount including memorial sites and gates.[34]

From the 13th-century onwards, after the Muslims had regained control of the city, building projects in Jerusalem and around the Temple Mount sought to further establish the city’s Islamic character.[35]

After the conquest of the city by Saladin, non-Muslims were permitted to set foot on the Temple Mount.[36]

Al-Aqsa Mosque

It is unknown exactly when the al-Aqsa Mosque was first constructed and who ordered its construction, but it is certain that it was built in the early Umayyad period of rule in Palestine. Architectural historian K. A. C. Creswell, referring to a testimony by Arculf, a Gallic monk, during his pilgrimage to Palestine in 679–82, notes the possibility that the second caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate, Umar ibn al-Khattab, erected a primitive quadrangular building for a capacity of 3,000 worshipers somewhere on the Haram ash-Sharif. However, Arculf visited Palestine during the reign of Mu'awiyah I, and it is possible that Mu'awiyah ordered the construction, not Umar. This latter claim is explicitly supported by the early Muslim scholar al-Muthahhar bin Tahir.[11]

Post 1948 period of Jordanian rule to 1967

An Arab Legion soldier in ruins of Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue.

Destruction of Temple Mount antiquities, 1995–2001

Between 1995 and 2001, the Islamic Waqf carried out extensive construction work in order to build the biggest mosque in the region named Marwani mosque, with a capacity of 10,000 worshipers in an area of about 5,000 square meters. During unsupervised construction, the Waqf obliterated many of the antiquities at Solomon's Stables section of Temple Mount. The original Herodian structure was converted into a mosque. The structure stones were stripped of its original surface.[37] At eastern Hulda gate, the Waqf destroyed the original Herodian ornamentation and later plastered them and painted them over.[38] Tens of truck loads of dirt were dumped into Kidron Walley. Thousands of artifacts from the First Temple period until today[when?] were later rescued in the operation named Temple Mount Sifting Project. The findings included some 1000 ancient coins, Israelite bullas with ancient Hebrew inscriptions, 10,000-year-old tools like a blade and scraper, as well as Hasmonean, Ptolemaic and Herodian artifacts, ancient stones with signs of Second Temple destruction and other important artifacts.[39] The Waqf justified its action by calling the site a "mosque from the time of Adam and Eve" and by rejecting Jewish historical connection with the site.[40]

See also


  1. Zayde Antrim, Routes and Realms: The Power of Place in the Early Islamic World,Oxford University Press, 2012 p.48
  2. Yitzhak Reiter, Marwan Abu Khalaf,'Jerusalem’s Religious Significance,' at Palestine-Israel Journal, Vol.8, No.1, 2001.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mordechai Kedar The myth of al-Aqsa Ynet 15 September 2008
  4. Historic Cities of the Islamic World edited by Clifford Edmund Bosworth P: 226
  5. Reiter, Yitzhak. Jerusalem and Its Role in Islamic Solidarity. p. 16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Jerusalem: Illustrated History Atlas Martin Gilbert, Macmillan Publishing, New York, 1978, p. 7
  7. Gil, Moshe (February 1997). A History of Palestine, 634–1099. Cambridge University Press. pp. 70–71. ISBN 0-521-59984-9. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Nimrod Luz. "Aspects of Islamization of Space and Society in Mamluk Jerusalem and its Hinterland" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-10-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Israel Cohen (1950).Contemporary Jewry: a survey of social, cultural, economic, and political conditions, p 310.
  10. Lauren S. Bahr; Bernard Johnston (M.A.); Louise A. Bloomfield (1996). Collier's encyclopedia: with bibliography and index. Collier's. p. 328. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Elad, Amikam. (1995). Medieval Jerusalem and Islamic Worship Holy Places, Ceremonies, Pilgrimage BRILL, pp.29–43. ISBN 90-04-10010-5.
  12. le Strange, Guy. (1890). Palestine under the Moslems, pp.80–98.
  13. Medieval Jerusalem and Islamic Worship: Holy Places, Ceremonies, Pilgrimage By Amikam Elad P:161
  14. Medieval Jerusalem and Islamic Worship: Holy Places, Ceremonies, Pilgrimage By Amikam Elad P:162-3
  15. Runciman, Steven (1951). A History of the Crusades:The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Penguin Books. Vol.1 pp.3–4. ISBN 0-521-34770-X. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. 16.0 16.1 Shalem, Yisrael. "The Early Arab Period – 638–1099". Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies, Bar-Ilan University. Retrieved 2008-07-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Hoppe, Leslie J. (August 2000). The Holy City: Jerusalem in the Theology of the Old Testament. Michael Glazier Books. p. 15. ISBN 0-8146-5081-3. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Zank, Michael. "Abbasid Period and Fatimid Rule (750–1099)". Boston University. Retrieved 2007-02-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Hull, Michael D. (June 1999). "First Crusade: Siege of Jerusalem". Military History. Retrieved 2007-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Main Events in the History of Jerusalem". Jerusalem: The Endless Crusade. The CenturyOne Foundation. 2003. Retrieved 2007-02-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Abu-Lughod, Janet L.; Dumper, Michael (2007). Cities of the Middle East and North Africa: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 209. ISBN 978-1-57607-919-5. Retrieved 2009-07-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Jerusalem: Illustrated History Atlas Martin Gilbert, Macmillan Publishing, New York, 1978, p.25.
  23.!OpenDocument. Archived from the original on September 28, 2008. Retrieved May 25, 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Martin Gilbert, Jerusalem in the Twentieth Century (Pilmico 1996), p254.
  25. Meron Benvenisti, City of Stone: The Hidden History of Jerusalem P: 241
  26. "האתר הרשמי של עיריית ירושלים". Retrieved 2015-10-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Balint, Benjamin (2010-03-10). "Benjamin Balint: Rebuilding the Hurva in the Holy Land - WSJ". Retrieved 2015-10-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Reinventing Jerusalem: Israel's Reconstruction of the Jewish Quarter After 1967 By Simone Ricca P:105
  29. The Meeting of Civilizations: Muslim, Christian, and Jewish edited by Moshe Ma'oz P.103
  30. The Jerusalem Question and Its Resolution: Selected Documents edited by Rût Lapîdôt, Moshe Hirsch P.384
  31. Raphael Israeli (2003). War, peace and terror in the Middle East. Psychology Press. pp. 21–. ISBN 978-0-7146-5531-4. Retrieved 3 October 2010. During the process of the Islamization of Jerusalem, a mosque was built on the site...The Islamicized Mount became the destination of Muhammad's isra’...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "Was the Aksa Mosque built over the remains of a Byzantine church?,", Etgar Lefkowitz, November 16, 2008, Jerusalem Post.
  33. Matthew Gordon (2005). The rise of Islam. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-313-32522-9. Retrieved 3 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. Mahdī ʻAbd al-Hādī; PASSIA. (2007). Documents on Jerusalem. PASSIA, Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs. p. 247. ISBN 978-9950-305-19-9. Retrieved 3 October 2010. The Islamization of the Temple Mount culminated at the end of the seventh century, with the establishment of the Dome of the Rock above the Foundation Stone and the construction of the al-Aqsa mosque in the south of the Temple Mount.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Hava Lazarus-Yafeh (1 December 1981). Some religious aspects of Islam: a collection of articles. Brill Archive. p. 69. ISBN 978-90-04-06329-7. Retrieved 3 October 2010. In the same way, when Jerusalem was taken back under the leadership of Saladin in 1187, and particularly from the 13th-century and on, a great deal of building activity began around the Temple Mount and in the whole city — obviously so as to establish its Islamic character.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. "Entering the Temple Mount - in Halacha and Jewish History," Gedalia Meyer and Henoch Messner, PDF available at [1], VOl 10, Summer 2010, Hakirah.
  37. Archived from the original on May 19, 2014. Retrieved October 1, 2012. Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. Archived from the original on May 19, 2014. Retrieved October 1, 2012. Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. "First Temple Artifacts Found in Dirt Removed From Temple Mount - Israel News - Haaretz Israeli News Source". 2006-10-19. Retrieved 2015-10-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. "Artifacts from Temple Mount Saved from Garbage (October 2005)". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2015-10-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>