By Dr. Richard Booker
In the Bible, the prophet Zechariah writes of the time when God will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem. He says, “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all people; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (Zechariah. 12:2-3). “It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zechariah. 12:9).
We are seeing this battle unfold before our very eyes with Israel and the Arabs on the front lines of the battle. But according to the Bible and unfolding events, the nations will also soon join in the battle. For the purpose of this discussion, we want to look at the battle in view of the historical claims Islam has on the Temple Mount as the “third holiest sight” in Islam. The Arab word used for Jerusalem, which you hear often in the media, is “Al Quds.” Let’s consider the “Myth of Al Quds.” Jerusalem in the Bible and Koran You can tell how important a person, place or thing is to people by how often they speak of that person, place or place. We speak most about what we love and cherish.
Since people talk about that which is most dear to them, we should be able to get a good idea of how important Jerusalem is to Jews and Arabs by reading their holy books, the Bible for the Jews and the Koran for the Arab Muslims.
We discover that Jerusalem is mentioned over 800 times in the Bible. There are 657 references in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and 154 references in the New Testament.
Yet, Jerusalem is not mentioned even once in the Koran. And there is no reason that it should be because Mohammed never went to Jerusalem. In Mohammed’s lifetime, Jerusalem was outside the sphere of Islam.
This should make it clear that historically, Jerusalem is very important to the Jews, but has had little or no importance to Moslims until recent times. Furthermore, observant Jews pray facing Jerusalem while Moslims pray facing Mecca. Jews make pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Moslims make pilgrimages to Mecca. The Temple Mount became part of Islam long after the time of Mohammed. And this was for political reasons arising out of the military expansion of Islam. It was certainly not for religious purposes. And even then, Moslems have only seemed to be interested in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount when the Jews control them. So how is it that the Temple Mount has become the “third holiest site of Islam?
Mohammed’s Night Flight
The Koran, in Sura 17:1 states, “Glory be to Him who made His servant [Mohammed] go by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest [or remotest] Mosque.” All agree that the Sacred Mosque is in Mecca. It’s the location of the farthest or remotest Mosque that has been unclear.
Earliest views were that the farthest mosque referred to Medina. It wasn’t until the seventh century that some Islamic leaders identified it with Jerusalem. The legend is that Mohammed, either literally, or in a dream/vision made a journey to heaven from Mecca with a stopover in Jerusalem. This tells us there are no direct flights from Mecca to heaven. You can only get there through Jerusalem.
Mohammed’s second wife, Ayesha, said that on the night Mohammed was supposed to make this night flight, he was sleeping soundly by her side. In view of her testimony, Mohammed’s night flight has often been presented as a dream or vision rather than as a literal event, although there are still those who choose not to be confused with facts and present Mohammed’s flight as a literal happening.
The story is that Mohammed flew north on his horse, Burak, which had two wings and the face of a human. After stops at Mt. Sinai and Bethlehem, they landed at the sight of the mosque in Jerusalem. At this point, heaven lowered a ladder to carry Mohammed to the Seventh Heaven where he was met by Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, and Jesus and received their blessing to become the last prophet of God.
Mohammed then returned by the ladder to Jerusalem from whence Burak flew him back to Mecca. Moslems point to the footprint Burak left when Mohammed leaped onto his back for the return trip to Mecca.
Now all religions, including my own, have their legends. I am certainly not the one to judge them. But the problem with this one is that Mohammed died decades before a mosque was built on the Temple Mount. So Jerusalem and the Temple Mount cannot possibly be the location of the farthest mosque mentioned in the Koran.
Mohammed died in 632, six years before Jerusalem fell to the Arabs under Caliph Omar in 638. The Dome of the Rock was not built until 692, which was sixty years after Mohammed’s death. The Al- Aqsa Mosque was not built until 712, which is eighty years after Mohammed’s death.
The Mosque on the Temple Mount
The Caliph Omar defeated the Byzantine Christians in 636 at the battle of the Yarmuk River. Jerusalem surrendered to him in 638. Until this time, Jerusalem had been outside the realm of Islam. Caliph Omar built a small house of prayer near the rock on the site of the destroyed Jewish Temple. The purpose was to show that Islam had replaced Judaism and Christianity as the last divine revelation.
Later, the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik, whose capital was in Damascus, built the Dome of the Rock on the same site. Twenty years later, his son, Caliph al-Walid built the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Aqsa is Arabaic for furthermost or remotest. As a way of establishing a legitimate claim of Islam over the Temple Mount, this mosque has been identified as the one spoken of in the Koran.
Historians tell us that Abd al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock on the site to: 1) link himself as the successor to King Solomon, (2) to contradict Jesus’ statement that the Temple would be destroyed (Matthew 24, Luke 21), (3) To compete against spectacular church sites such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and (4) to encourage Moslim worshippers in his territory to make pilgrimages to the Dome of the Rock rather than making pilgrimages outside of his territory to his rival Caliph in Mecca.
Abd al-Malik was eager to emphasize the independence and the triumph of the new religion over Christianity both militarily and ideologically. He put a lengthy Arabic inscription on the Dome of the Rock condemning Christianity. It contains many verses from the Koran, but not the one about Mohammed’s night journey. Surely, he would have included that verse if he thought it referred to the Temple Mount Mosque.
While Abd al-Malik considered himself building the Dome of the Rock on top of the place where Solomon’s Temple stood, Islamic leaders today deny there was even a Jewish Temple on the Mount.
Mohammed and the Jews
In the early day of Islam, Mohammed held the Jews in high esteem and even tried to befriend them. Oddly enough, he recognized that the Jews were God’s chosen people and that God had promised them the Land. The Koran reads, “O Children of Israel!
Remember … that I exalted you above all people” (Sura II, The Cow, v 2:47). The Koran also includes the following statement from Moses to the Hebrews, “Remember, my people, the favor which Allah bestowed upon you. He has raised up prophets among you, made you kings, and given you that which He has given to no other nation [the Land]. Enter My people, the holy land which Allah has assigned for you … “(Sura V, The Table Spread, vv 20-21). These are certainly not politically correct statements today.
When Mohammed was forced to flee Mecca, he went to Yathrib, later renamed Medina.
Yathrib was founded by Jews and populated by Jews as well as Arabs. He sought to win over the Jews to his new religion by declaring Moslems should face Jerusalem when they pray. But when the Jews refused to acknowledge Mohammed as a prophet, he turned against them and slaughtered all he could. He then literally did an about face and declared Moslems should face Mecca to pray. Arabs and Jews have been in conflict ever since.
In spite of Arab propaganda to the contrary, the Temple Mount is not sacred to Islam.
The Temple Mount is the focus of Islam only when it is not under Moslem control.
Jordan controlled East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount from 1948-1967. During that time, no Arab leader thought it important to make Jerusalem an Arab capital and no significant leader from the Arab world thought it necessary to come to pray at the mosque. It was only in 1967, when the Jews liberated the Temple Mount from Arab control that it became the “third holiest site in Islam.”