Monday, July 31, 2006

The Problem with Al-Aqsa Mosque (al Masjid al Aqsa) and False History

Here is a picture of where the the Al-Aqsa Mosque stands today. Take a close look at the picture; the walls which create the platform upon which the Mosque stands are the walls to the old Jewish Temple. Normally, and this is how it was in the past, there was something inside the walls, not on top of it. The Mosque, literally and figuratively, rests on top of the site of the Temple. Here is a (rendered) picture of where the Beit Hamikdash, or Temple used to be. Al-Aqsa Mosque was built on this site in the 7th Century and today is the cause of many problems.

While we are all scrambling to understand the core reasons of the problem in the Middle East, coming up with interesting theories, many valid, some not, many have ruled out historical events as the culprit.

The building of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque are the causes of the problem, par excellence. The erection of the Dome of the Rock (the gray dome to the left) and the Al-Aqsa Mosque (the golden dome to the right), with the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade acting in its name in the 7th Century was completed to establish political control over Jerusalem. They act as an encroachment and obstacle to Jews, now for Israelis, and now for peace, for both political and religious reasons. This should be deemed intolerable violation and probably deserves a UN Resolution on its own.

Both are built on top of the site of the Temple, i.e., the Temple which was the center of Jewish religious and political life from when King David built it some three thousand years ago to its destruction in the year 70 of our millennium. Even after its destruction it remained the location of pilgrimage and central Jewish theology. Jewish tradition holds that it is the location where Abraham, long before King David lived, went to sacrifice Isaac, one of his sons. This is known as the Akeidah, or “binding.”

In 715 of this millennium, the Damascus-based (Syria) Ummayad Dynasty had the Al-Aqsa Mosque built on the site of the Temple Mount. Their reasons for doing so were political, and according to an article written by Daniel Pipes, the “Umayyad rulers sought to aggrandize Syria at the expense of Arabia (and perhaps also to help recruit an army against the Byzantine Empire).”

Muhammad himself changed the direction of prayer (qibla) from Jerusalem to Mecca in his lifetime, and later Muslim religious tradition had to create reasons to bring Jerusalem back into the religious sentiments of Muslims. In the attempt to achieve this, which was largely successful, the Ummayads built the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the site of the Temple in Jerusalem. They inferred a claim, very loosely based on Qur’anic Scripture, that Muhammad’s Night Journey took place at the Temple Mount and that he tied his horse, ”Al-Buraq,” which means “Lighting” due to his incredible speed, to the Kotel Ha-ma'aravi Pipes notes that passage 17:1 in the Qur’an reads, “Glory to He who took His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the furthest mosque. (Subhana allathina asra bi-‘abdihi laylatan min al-masjidi al-harami ila al-masjidi al-aqsa.)” and “When this Qur'anic passage was first revealed, in about 621, a place called the Sacred Mosque already existed in Mecca.” “Al-masjid al-aqsa” literally means “the furthest mosque,” which the Ummayads interpreted as referencing Jerusalem. However, Pipes explains that “Elsewhere in the Qur'an (30:1), Palestine is called ‘the closest land’ (adna al-ard).” How could the furthest mosque be located in the closest land? If the land was the closest then the mosque in it would also be the closest. Pipes also notes that “The ‘furthest mosque’ was apparently identified with places inside Arabia: either Medina or a town called Ji‘rana, about ten miles from Mecca, which the Prophet visited in 630.” It is most likely here where Muhammad had his Night Journey. There were also no mosques in Jerusalem, or anywhere in Palestine either at this time.

The mosques were built for political purposes and continue to serve those purposes of trying to bring Jerusalem under exclusive Muslim rule. The latest fad and historically false expression of Muslim domination over “Palestine” is Palestinian nationalism, which insists that an undivided Jerusalem is to be the capital of the Palestinian state, at the cost of blood and tears. Jerusalem was largely a backwater in Islamic politics, but as Pipes states, “This neglect came to an abrupt end after June 1967, when the Old City came under Israeli control. Palestinians again made Jerusalem the centerpiece of their political program. The Dome of the Rock turned up in pictures everywhere, from Yasir Arafat's office to the corner grocery. Slogans about Jerusalem proliferated and the city quickly became the single most emotional issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The PLO made up for its 1964 oversight by specifically mentioning Jerusalem in its 1968 constitution as "the seat of the Palestine Liberation Organization."

Can we imagine trying to split Mecca up in the same way and for the same political reasons? Pipes’ article, which is very good and stunning in the clarity of its information and research, can be found here.

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