Historical Relevance of Palestinian Tragedy

  August 08, 2021   Read time 3 min
Historical Relevance of Palestinian Tragedy
Over the centuries, Islam and Palestine have been intimately linked in the imagery and history of Muslims. Palestine has been bestowed with Islamic holiness, as well as religious significance for Christian and Jewish people, for a host of reasons and historic events.

Jerusalem, and in particular al-Masjid al-Aqsa (the furthest mosque), is the first place to which Muslims directed their prayers when the Prophet Muhammad started preaching Islam in Arabia in the early seventh century. Bait al-Maqdes, or Jerusalem, is the third holiest place in Islam after Mecca and Medina in Arabia. It is frequently referred to in the Quran, and is given numerous mentions in the sayings – Hadith – of the Prophets.

Most of the stories about God’s messengers as related in the Quran have specific geographical references to Palestine. One full chapter in the Quran, sourat al-Isra, is dedicated to the Prophet Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, and his ascension there to heaven to meet God. This is a chapter passionately embraced by Muslims the world over as one of the most astonishing divine stories. On the very rock where the Prophet set off on his journey to heaven, the Dome of the Rock was built, adjacent to the spot where the Jews say the Old Temple of Solomon was built.

The Christian and Jewish religious significance of Palestine is also recognized in Islam. Jesus Christ, who was born in Palestine, and Moses, who migrated to it, are considered by the Quran and Muslims to be two of the five most highly regarded prophets of God (the other three being Muhammad, Ibrahim and Ismail).

Added to its religious sacredness, Palestine has long occupied a geo-strategic position, linking the African and Asian parts of the Middle East, offering a long coast and rich passage on the Mediterranean between the Arabian peninsula, Egypt and Greater Syria. Because of its religious and strategic significance Palestine was destined to be the field of wars and invasions. Muslims conquered Palestine and brought it under their control in 638 AD. Since then Islam has been a central feature of the political, cultural and emotional foundation of this ancient tract of land.

The Western Crusaders from 1097 onward for 200 years fought war after war to gain control over Palestine, and in particular Jerusalem, and bring it within Christendom. The Muslims, who at that point already had ruled Palestine for over 400 years, had long allowed people of other religions to live in peace in their lands. Muslims had long welcomed pilgrims of all religions, and had made accessible all of the historical shrines of religious significance to themselves and others: Christians, Jews, Persians, Orthodox Christians, Coptics and many others. Palestine was part of an ancient area, sacred to many people.

After 400 years of open exchange, and to the humiliation of Muslims, the Crusaders ruthlessly took Jerusalem, slaughtered its Muslim inhabitants and succeeded in ruling there for 70 years. When Saladin defeated the Crusaders in 1187 AD he entered the imagination and history of Islam as one of its most prominent heroes, whose successes signified the end of Muslim disgrace and defeat. The name of Saladin brings to Muslims and Palestinians memories of glory, and for many of them it emphasizes the inevitable will and capacity to rise from the ashes. Perceived as brutal foreign invasions launched by European Christians, the Crusades are still seen by many Arabs and Palestinians as the original blueprint for the Zionist invasion, which also had it roots in Europe.