A Brief History of Jerusalem

Before the death of Prophet Muhammad in 632 CE, the people of the city of Jerusalem had begun converting to Islam. This effectively began with the conversion of Tamim Al-Daari in 631 CE and many individuals from his clan, according to “Jerusalem in Islamic Consciousness: A Textual Survey of Muslim Claims and Rights to the Sacred City,” by as Dr. Hatem Bazian of the University of California at Berkeley. This started a trend that grew to include numerous Arabic-speaking tribes and families that inhabited historic Palestine.

The city of Jerusalem at the time already contained one holy Muslim site, the Al Aqsa mosque, which is regarded as the third holiest site in Islam. Muslims believe this mosque was built 40 years after the Prophet Abraham built the Kabah in Mecca. Noted Muslim American scholar Dr. Muzzamil Siddiqui has said Al Aqsa is important to Muslims not just because the Prophet Muhammad took his Night Journey from there but also because of its importance to earlier prophets historically associated with Jerusalem, such as Solomon and David.
The current Al Aqsa mosque standing today actually was rebuilt in the 7th century, according to Siddiqui. Another sacred site in the Al Aqsa complex – the Dome of the Rock – was also erected during that same time frame.

During the immediate decades following Muhammad’s death, Muslim armies defeated The Byzantines, who had conquered the Romans and driven them out of the Holy Land. It was the Romans who, in 70 AD, destroyed the Jewish temple and expelled the Jews from Jerusalem. They remained expelled until Caliph Omar ibn Khattab conquered the Byzantines and gained control of Jerusalem and Palestine. Omar allowed the Jews to re-enter Jerusalem and guaranteed them freedom of worship. The Jewish Virtual Library also confirms that Jews had been prohibited from Jerusalem for at least 500 years, a prohibition that ended under Omar’s rule.

Jerusalem remained under the control of various Muslim empires until the early 20th century when the collapse of the Ottoman Empire meant the end of the Islamic Caliphate.

During the centuries of Caliphate rule over Jerusalem, the region’s inhabitants never questioned the authority of the Muslims over Jerusalem, according to Bazian. Muslim rule continued unabated except for about 88 years during the reign of the European Crusaders.
The Crusades were a bloody, horrifying time when European Christian forces killed Muslims and Jews by the tens of thousands. Some historical reports state Crusaders’ horses walked through streets so filled with blood, it reached the knees of their steeds.
Saladin conquered the Crusaders in 1187 and reclaimed Jerusalem and Palestine for the Muslims.

Centuries passed and Jerusalem remained under the careful watch of Muslims who allowed the freedom to practice the diverse faiths that originated in the Middle East. In fact, the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – one of the holiest shrines for Christians – have been in the hands of the same Muslim family since the days of Saladin. Even today, the Nuseibeh family opens the church in the morning and locks it up at night.

The peace in the future British Mandate of Palestine was soon broken by the start of World War I, which quickly engulfed the Arabian Peninsula as Arab forces, with British support, overran Ottoman strongholds.

The end of World War I marked the end of Muslim rule of Jerusalem, but not the end of Muslim dominance as the British only became rulers of the land, not inhabitants. During the Mandate period, Jews from Europe and elsewhere began immigrating to Palestine.

In 1947, under strong pressure from Zionist Jews, the United Nations partitioned Palestine, giving 54 percent of it to the Jews, who owned about 6 percent of the land. This partition, up through the May 15, 1948, declaration of the state of Israel, spelled doom for the Palestinian people. During the Nakba – Catastrophe – Zionist Jewish militants killed 13,000 Palestinians, forced 750,000 Palestinians into exile and depopulated and destroyed 531 villages, according to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe in “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.”

From 1949-1967, West Jerusalem was an All-Jewish sector while Arabs – under the Jordanians controlled East Jerusalem. However, the 1967 Six-Day War changed that when Israeli Forces proceeded to occupy all of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula.

Israel has claimed a united Jerusalem as its capital, a claim not recognized internationally and refuted by the United Nations in Resolution 303.

American Muslims for Palestine, 2010