2 Al Quds-The HolyIn Arabic, since the Middle Ages, Jerusalem is referred to as Al-quds: “the Holy (City).”For Muslims, Jerusalem is one of three “holy cities:” Mecca, Medina, and Al Quds.
3 Mecca-Medina-Al QudsMecca represents the origins of Islam in the biography of its founder, the prophet Muhammad. Pilgrimage to the Kaaba in Mecca is one of Islam’s “five pillars.”Medina was the first capital of the umma or nation of Islam.But what does Jerusalem represent to Muslims and in the Islamic tradition?
4 MECCAIn 610 C.E. Muhammad Ibn Abdallah begins to recite what were to become the suras of the Qur’an, teaching that Allah, the high god of the Arabian pantheon, was none other than the God of Jewish and Christian monotheism.
5 MEDINAMedina becomes the first city organized on the basis of the new dispensation when, in 622, the prophet and his companions are driven out of Mecca (their message having caused civil unrest). The city of Yathrib, better known as Medina (meaning “the city”) later served as the first capital of the Muslim empire.The year of the flight from Mecca, known as the Hijra, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar (A.H.= after the Hegirah/hijra).
6 The first qibla of prayer In contrast to the real biographical and political meaning of Mecca and Medina, Jerusalem’s role for the early Muslims is more ephemeral or spiritual.In order to turn the attention of the newly converted Muslims away from the pagan shrine in Mecca, the prophet commands the believers to turn to the city that once housed the great temple of Allah, or bayt al-maqdis.After 622, in Medina, however, the Muslims are told to turn toward Mecca in prayer.
7 Al QudsThough no longer the qibla of prayer, the city of the “holy house” (madinat bayt al-maqdis) or (later) Al Quds continues to be important to Muslims today. But why?Jerusalem fell to the Arabs in 635 or 638 but it was not a major strategic position. There is nothing sensational in the early accounts of the conquest, as recorded by Muslim historians.
8 J’lem in the Qur’anJerusalem is not mentioned in the Qur’an.What is mentioned is a “Night Journey” (al-isra, Sura 17:1).
9 The Night Journey (al isra) Glory be to Him, who carried His servant by night from the holy mosque (masjid al-haram) to the further mosque (masjid al-aqsa) whose surroundings We have blessed, so that We might show him some of Our signs. He is the all-hearing, the All-seeing. (The Holy Qur’an, Sura 17:1)
10 Al-masjid al-aqsaMuslims understand the “distant sanctuary” or “further mosque” (al masjid al aqsa) of Sura 17:1 to refer to the area in J’lem Jews refer to as the “Temple Mount,” i.e., the Herodian platform that once supported the Jewish temple.Originally, the qur’anic verse most likely referred to a mystical ascent to heaven. Tradition still affirms this mystical ascent (al miraj) but distinguishes it from the “night journey” (al isra) that took the prophet from Mecca to Al Quds.
11 Al miraj: The AscentThe ascent (al miraj) authenticates Muhammad as a prophet.On his path he encounters the other prophets (esp. Moses).Muhammad is given command of 50 prayers (then reduced to 5).Upon return to Mecca, Muhammad proves that he had been taken on his night journey (predicts arrival of caravan).
12 Like biblical prophets Isaiah (ch. 6) and Ezekiel (ch Like biblical prophets Isaiah (ch. 6) and Ezekiel (ch. 1-3), apocalyptic figures (e.g. Enoch), and the Hekhalot mystics of Jewish tradition, Muhammad is given a mystical vision of God and a tour of paradise and hell.In this, as in many other respects, early Islam absorbs and reworks well-known spiritual traditions. While to moderns this may appear as a kind of plagiarism, in late antiquity stepping into existing traditions and unveiling their true meaning was a form of authentication.
13 Jerusalem under the Umayyad Caliphs Under the Umayyad rulers of Damascus, Iliya begins its (partial) transformation into madinat bayt al-maqdis.In 688, Caliph Abd al Malik commissions the first monumental building of Islam: the Dome of the Rock.In architectural beauty and ideology, this building communicates to the Byzantines of Syria-Palaestina (and beyond) that a new age has begun.
20 The Herodian platform with its many buildings and holy places, is referred to as Al Aqsa or al-masjid al aqsa. The second largest building (here in a 15th century Muslim manuscript from the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris) is the “Friday Mosque,” which is also often referred to as the “Al Aqsa Mosque.” The entire area is also known as the Noble Sanctuary or Al-haram ash-sharif. Christian sources often refer to the Dome of the Rock as the “Mosque of Omar” though it is neither a mosque nor was it built by or for the Caliph Umar who, according to legend, is said to have refused to pray in Constantine’s Martyrium (Church of the Holy Sepulchre), yet prayed next to it.