What is the significance of Jerusalem to Jews and Muslims?

Jerusalem is perhaps the only city in the world which has drawn the attention of the world community so much, especially among the followers of three major monotheistic religions in the world: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. The city being a religious center has generated a lot of political and historical importance; however, its religious position has always been at the root of every controversy.

This controversy revolves around the argument that which of the three religions has the greatest affinity and attachment to the place and who is rightfully entitled to rule over it. As Ibrahim Abu Lughod stated in “Jerusalem – Islamic Perspective II”:

“In all probability one would never be able to gauge the degree of attachment that an individual community feels toward the city, for attachment is psychological and thus highly subjective.”

Significance for Muslims

While Muslims recognize the religious significance of Judaism and Christianity and their affiliation to the place, they stress that this attachment is included in the doctrinal view of the city. Indeed, it’s not only the Muslims in Palestine and neighboring Arab states but Muslims all over the world who have a multifaceted interest in the land of Palestine. Muslims carry a special place for the city in their hearts and has a strong emotional association to it. After Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem is considered the third holiest city in Islam. The roots of its religious significance lie in the fact that it was the first Qibla for Muslims, the place which Muhammad SAW himself and his followers faced to pray, the direction being changed to Mecca a year and a half later.

Muslims also derive their significance of the place from its association with Prophet Muhammad SAW’s accession to heaven, the miraculous nocturnal journey he made from earth to the skies which included a stop in Jerusalem. The Dome of Rock is known to be the site from where Muhammad SAW ascended. The religious significance of the city of Jerusalem was also highlighted during the rules of Umayyad and Abbasid; the first Umayyad caliph Mu’awiyah decided Jerusalem as the capital of caliphate and not Damascus. The successive Muslim rules, up to Mamelukes and Ottomans, considered Jerusalem to be equally significant and the city enjoyed the status equal to that of Mecca and Medina.

Significance to Jews

Jerusalem is a holy city for Judaism. Jews consider its soil and air to be holy and sacred, mentioning the city’s name in prayers. King Solomon made Jerusalem the capital of Judaism by building the Temple there in the 10th Century BC. The Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC and exiled most of the Jews from the place. The destruction and building of the Temple and the exile and return of Jews continued for almost 1000 years when Christian Crusaders allowed them to return.

Interestingly, with the increase of Jews in Palestine at the time of Spanish Inquisition, they build Tsfat as its religious capital instead of Jerusalem and for a hundred years, Tsfat played a more prominent role in Jewish history than Jerusalem.

§ 12 Responses to What is the significance of Jerusalem to Jews and Muslims?"

  • Wil Helm says:

    This is a complete twisting and misrepresentation of facts. Although the historical events took place at the times indicated, the author unfortunately completely misrepresents the historical sequence.

    Before I explain, I would like to note that the word Masjed in Arabic means Mosque. Al Masjed Al Aqsa (The Aqsa Mosque) is mentioned specifically in the Quran. Muslims prayed in the direction of Al Masjed AL Aqsa, Jerusalem, in the early years of Islam; then changed the direction of prayer to Mecca later. In the documented history of Prophet Mohamed, he said that muslim are to pay religious tribute and visits to three Mosques: The one in Mecca (Kaaba), The one in Medina (Mohamed’s Mosque) and Al Masjed Al Aqsa. So the name Al Masjed Al Aqsa and the Mosque itself were known to Muslims and part of Islam long before what the author claims to be during the time of Caliph ‘Abd-al-malik. They were know and part of Islam some 80 – 100 years earlier than the author claims.

    • ROBINSON says:

      A few questions to you, does the Quran say that the Furthest mosque is in Jerusalem? NO. The reason why the Muslims prayed towards Jerusalem was not because the furthest mosque was in Jerusalem, they prayed towards Jerusalem the city only. Did the Quran say that Jerusalem is a Holy city? NO. Did the quran ever ask Muslims to pray towards the Al-Aqsa? NO. The only time the Quran mentions the Al-aqsa is when the prophet made a night journey to it.
      Glory to He (God) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless (Yusuf Ali’s translation). „
      —[Qur’an 17:1
      You will never find any verse referring to Al-Aqsa before this incident. And by the way, it is the islamic scholars who translate this verse to mean Jerusalem. So it was humans, not God who commanded Muslims to consider Jerusalem as an important place. Its a fact that you alluded to when you mentioned
      “In the documented history of Prophet Mohamed, he said that muslim are to pay religious tribute and visits to three Mosques: The one in Mecca (Kaaba), The one in Medina (Mohamed’s Mosque) and Al Masjed Al Aqsa. ”

      Since this “documented history of the prophet” was written many years after his death by scholars who no doubt were employed by Muslim rulers, definitely they would like to add some details to justify their political masters ventures. Lastly, Jerusalem is only mentioned by name in the Hadiths, the Hadiths are not the word of God and they compiled by people who lived many years after the prophet’s death(100 years to be exact) who did it under political patronage. The term “al-Aqsa” is vague any mosque could be considered the furthest mosque, it was Muslims who purposely impose their own meaning to this word to suit their own political agenda, both today and yesterday.

  • Rajive says:

    Early Muslims pray in the direction of jerusalem,
    ‘masjid qiblathain’ in saudi is the proof of this event,
    A quranic verse said that ‘ oh prophet, Allah knows your desire to change the qiblah to a holly place as in your mind’

  • jett says:

    it was the city of david and christ.

  • Maya says:

    Robinson although the mosque of al-aqsa wasnt mentioned in the quran like you said before this time(the verse n your comment) it is were the prophet muhammad (pbuh) took his journey to god. When he was rising a huge stone followed him, and he then tol it to stop and it was just there hanging, until this mosque was built over it. Now how do you expect muslims to not fight over that land were some of their prophets were born and died and were miracles occured. Till this day if you go to the aqsa mosque the roc will still be there.

    • Roger Cole says:

      You have to be pretty dumb to fight for centuries over a rock, whether or not there is a fairy tale attached to it.

    • Misti says:

      Masjid Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock are two separate and different buildings. This is a common misconseption, but if you research it you will find them to be in different locations in the city.

  • Jay says:

    I think Robinson is a smart person but his smartness needs some tuning. The Prophet of Islam did face the farthest mosque Masjid Al Aqsa which he said was in the land of Israel. The Prophet made his night journey from that same mosque means he did visit the land of Israel. You seem very obsessed with disconnecting the arabs from that land. Are you saying the jews are 1st people to live on that land? NO…who were the people that the jews met on that land when they were taking from Egypt?

  • Steve Kelly says:

    So factually inaccurate. No mention whatsoever of the Second Temple, constructed 80 years after the destruction of the first by the Jewish Prophets Isiah and Nehemiah, which stood for over 500 years until 70 AD. According to this article the Crusades happened before the foundation of Islam and the life of Mohammed – 1000 years after 586 BC being 414 AD. Most likely the author cut the second temple period out entirely as a millennium after 70 is only 26 years before the first Crusade.
    As for Tzfat, that city has been considered one of four holy cities in Judaism, with Hebron Tiberias and Jerusalem, I guess it’s perfectly ok for some religions to have multiple holy cities, but when it’s Jews that’s somehow a detriment. Tzfat was a holy centre since antiquity, being one of the five cities equipped with beacon fires to announce festivals and new moons.

  • Lisa says:

    The al Aqsa mosque was built ca. 715 CE, about 80 years after Muhammad’s death. The al-Aqsa mosque was named to coincide with the al Aqsa mosque named in the Quran in order to retroactively establish a link, which is a bogus link. The fact is, during Muhammad’s life, there were no Muslims nor any mosques in Jerusalem which was under Byzantine control. Thus, the only houses of worship in Jerusalem were churches, such as the Church of St Mary constructed by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It’s highly doubtful Muhammad would have flown on his fictional winged donkey, al Buraq, overnight to Jerusalem in order to ascend to heaven from the base of a Christian church. No wonder, even the Meccans laughed at Muhammad’s fairy tale night journey

  • Ighoyota ohahimire says:

    Yes pple livd in palestine b4 abraham came. I tink it was cld canaan then. D jews livd wit pple in palestine untl dy went to egypt. Joshua led d conquest after dy crosd d river jordan. Dy didnt destroy all setlements as dy had peace treaty wit some tribes. Bt it became clear dat Jerusalem became d jewish kapital, nd it remains it. In jeremiah 29:14, God promises to brng all jews frm wer he has scatrd dm bak to d land he gave dm. Many chronicles by ancient kings testifies dat jews livd in palestine nd Jerusalem is its kapital. Bt as a xtain i dnt blive in dis physcal jerusalem wch is in bondage Rom4:25 bt d JERUSALEM ABOVE. Bles u all

  • William A Baumgardner Sr. says:

    I am sure glad I have found the real truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Without it, I would be like the rest of the lost sheep of the world. I know Jesus Christ is our Savior and Creator of this earth and He will return soon to put ALL others in their place as He rules this earth for 1000 years, during the Millennium. Then, after Satan is released to do his thing again for another 1000 years, there will be the great Judgement Day when we will all be given all that we have earned. 🙂 AMEN!!

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