Since the mid-20th Century, there has been an unending struggle between Jewish Israelis and Muslim Palestinians over the rule of the geographic region. Muslims recognise Islamic-Palestine as the only legitimate country, while the majority of the Jewish people believe Israel is a legitimate state. Every year, and during the Month of Ramadhan, Muslims protest against what they call “The Israeli Occupation of Palestine”, or what has been referred to as “the world’s most intractable conflict” (1)
I am not a politician, and all the political and diplomatic arrangements that lead to the creation of Israel are irrelevant to me, simply because I am a religious individual that views such situations through the lens of geography and Islamic history.
The Torah had existed long before the Bible, with Moses and Jesus both arriving in Jerusalem to preach their scriptures centuries before Prophet Mohammad. Therefore, it cannot be historically nor geographically considered appropriate to believe that Mohammad had come with Islam to Jerusalem before them. Islam was always a minority religion in comparison with the two well established religions: Christianity and Judaism. Citizens of Jerusalem converting to Islam would have changed their own faiths alone, and not the history of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem was home for the adherents of the Jewish faith, and then Christians. Thus, how did Islam arrive in the region? Islamic scripture mentions that Prophet Mohammad arrived in Al-Aqsa Mosque (the Farthest Mosque) during his prophet-hood. However, there is little evidence that this Mosque is actually in Palestine; as there is a large number of Muslims who believe “The Farthest Mosque” is an indication to a Mosque in the heavens, not on earth; because the current Islamic shrines in Palestine did not exist during the time of Prophet Mohammad.
The Islamic Invasion of Palestine
Islam officially came to Palestine in the year 636, four years after Prophet Mohammad’s death, and during the reign of the second Caliph of Islam Omar Ibn al Kattab. The Islamic Caliphate conducted an attack onto Jerusalem which was ruled by the Byzantine Romans, who were placed under a four month siege commencing in November of that year. (2) After four months of hardship and butchery, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius, surrendered Jerusalem to Caliph Omar in 637.
The Aqsa Mosque’ that was built by Caliph Omar during his Caliphate, 73 years after the demise of Prophet Mohammad. Today, many Muslims mistakenly believe that it was built by Prophet Mohammad himself, when this is clearly not the case.
The Mosque in Jerusalem with the golden dome is known to Muslims as ‘Qubbat al-Sakhrah’ (Dome of the Rock), it was also built by Caliph Omar, and reconstructed by the Umayyad Dynasty.
By the 9th Century, the Fatimid Dynasty – a Shia Islamic Caliphate, invaded Palestine and massacred Christians in Jerusalem for siding with the Romans of the Byzantine; whom had attempted to regain their conquered land. The notorious Caliph of the Fatimid Islamic Caliphate, Al-Hakim, caused much damage to the entire region, even killing John VII, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. After the defeat of the first Crusaders, Muslims became the Majority. The entire Mediterranean coast was captured, followed by a series of massacres of the Christian people and a genocide that spread all the way to Damascus and Beirut. (3)
Islam became the established religion of Palestine by the 9th Century, and developed into becoming the majority religion of the region throughout the Mamluk Era, between 1250-1516.
Therefore, our early Islamic Caliphs did not enter Palestine as preachers and convert its nation into Islam. We Muslims inherited Palestine after it had been invaded multiple times by our former Caliphs. The citizens of Palestine may convert to Islam, but in no way can Palestine ever be considered Muslim land.
Attempts to Achieve Peace
If we were to briefly review the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a political lens, we would come to find that Palestine has always had the chance of being an independent state of their own; in fact, this was an offer made to them by Israel, not once, but five times. (4) It is without doubt that Islamic regimes such as the current Islamic government of Iran along with its allies, Hizbullah for instance, have benefited a great deal from the current tensions in the region. By using the excuse of a “potential Israeli invasion” of the whole of the Middle East “Just as they did with Palestine”, they have used their country’s wealth to develop nuclear powers that threaten the safety of the entire region; while the statistics of poverty rise throughout the country.
My good friend and prominent Palestinian Imam Sheikh Samir Asi and I work together in bridging between the Jewish and Muslim communities of the world. We believe in establishing peace amongst all human beings regardless of their religions. We must condemn the terrorism that took place in the history of our religions, and strive for a better and much safer tomorrow.
A Muslim and Non-Muslims alike may reject Israel being a state, but cannot deny the fact that the entire region, including Palestine, is in fact Jewish land.