Jerusalem is the holy city where the three revealed religions meet and a sacred land from where the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) made his miraculous ascent to heaven, Where the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was born and lived, the Prophet Solomon (pbuh) erected the holy temple, and many other prophets lived, where they struggled for Allah’s cause, and where they were martyred.
All these features make Jerusalem, and the area surrounding it, a sacred place for Jews and Christians, as well as for Muslims.
When the Prophet Moses (pbuh) freed the Israelites from Pharaoh’s oppression and led them out of Egypt, it was to these lands that he brought them. That makes it a holy region for Jews.
It is believed that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was born in a town in this region, called Nazareth. This makes the region sacred for Christians.
The reason why Jerusalem is sacred for Muslims is that the city is home to the holy al-Aqsa Mosque. Almighty Allah refers to the al-Aqsa Mosque by name in the Qur’an, and reveals that He has made this place of worship sacred:
Glory be to Him Who took His servant on a journey by night from the Masjid al-Haram to the Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, in order to show him some of Our signs. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. (Surat al-Isra’, 1)
The miracle of night journey revealed in the Qur’an, in other words, our Prophet (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) being taken from the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca to the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and back in one night, is one of the greatest miracles in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah bless him and grant him peace).
The Mosque was also the first direction where Muslims faced to perform the daily prayer. Our Prophet (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) and his people faced the direction of the al-Aqsa Mosque when performing the daily prayers for years, until Kaaba eventually replaced this location.
The city of Jerusalem being a sacred spot in Islam has led to Muslims attaching a special importance to it in all periods.
As a result, Muslims have always brought peace, tranquility, justice, and tolerance to these holy lands, throughout the history of Islam.
Islamic Rule In Jerusalem
Jerusalem was the Jewish capital until 71 AD.
But in that year, Roman armies carried out a major attack on the Jews and exiled them from the region after enormous savagery.
As the period of the diaspora began for the Jews, Jerusalem and the area surrounding it were abandoned.
However, following the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity during the reign of the Emperor Constantine, Jerusalem again became a focus of interest.
Christian Romans constructed churches in Jerusalem and let Jews settle in the region. Palestine remained Byzantine (Roman) territory until the 7th century. Persians occupied the region for a short time, but Palestine was then restored to Byzantine rule.
For the injustices and oppression they suffered under Byzantine rule to come to an end, the people of Palestine waited for years while also undergoing various forms of poverty.
The greatest turning point in the history of Palestine came with the conquest of the region by Muslim armies in 637 AD. This conquest meant that Palestine, which for centuries had been the scene of wars, exile, plundering and massacre, finally attained peace and security.
Palestine was captured by Hazrat Omar (pbuh), the second caliph. Hazrat Omar’s entry into Jerusalem and the tolerance, maturity, and gentleness he displayed towards the different faiths there, heralded a joyous new age. The dominion of Islamic moral values was the beginning of an age in which the different faiths in Palestine could live together in peace.
In her book Holy War, the British historian and Middle East expert, Karen Armstrong, describes Omar’s capture of Jerusalem:
The Caliph Omar entered Jerusalem mounted on a white camel, escorted by the magistrate of the city, the Greek Patriarch Sophronius. The Caliph asked to be taken immediately to the Temple Mount and there he knelt in prayer on the spot where his friend Mohammed had made his Night Journey. The Patriarch watched in horror… Next Omar asked to see the Christian shrines and, while he was in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the time for Muslim prayer came round. Courteously the Patriarch invited him to pray where he was, but Omar as courteously refused. If he knelt to pray in the church, he explained, the Muslims would want to commemorate the event by erecting a mosque there, and that would mean that they would have to demolish the Holy Sepulchre. Instead Omar went to pray at a little distance from the church, and, sure enough, directly opposite the Holy Sepulchre there is still a small mosque dedicated to the Caliph Omar.
The other great mosque of Omar was erected on the Temple Mount to mark the Muslim conquest, together with the mosque al-Aqs,a which commemorates Mohammed's Night Journey. For years, the Christians had used the site of the ruined Jewish Temple as the city rubbish dump. The Caliph helped his Muslims to clear the garbage with his own hands and there Muslims raised their two shrines to establish Islam in the third most holy city in the Islamic world. (Karen Armstrong, Holy War, MacMillan, London, 1988, pp. 30-31)
The Muslims brought “civilization” to Jerusalem and all of Palestine. Savage and barbaric beliefs were abandoned. The just, tolerant, and peace-loving culture of Islam now dominated the region.
Following its rule by Omar, Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in Palestine for centuries in peace and tranquility.
One decree of protection issued by Omar is an excellent example of the tolerant and just conception of Islamic moral values:
This decree is for the protection of all members of the local people, sick and healthy, good and wicked, of their religions, souls, property, churches and synagogues. In the same way that churches are not to be ruined, neither are the houses and nothing will be taken from them. None of the people will suffer the slightest harm. The elements written in this book are guaranteed by Allah and His Prophet and are the responsibility of the caliphs and believers.
Peace and tranquility continued in Palestine for as long as Muslims ruled the region. At the end of the 11th century, however, an invasion force entered the region from the outside and plundered the civilized lands of Palestine with a hitherto unseen barbarity and savagery, the Crusaders.