The violence that unfold from Jerusalem to cities throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories, leaving at least 60 dead so far, has each historic and up to date roots.
In current weeks, pressure has flared over the eviction of Palestinian households in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, Israeli authorities blocking entry to the essential Damascus Gate plaza throughout Ramadan, and a march of hundreds of Israeli ultra-nationalists via the town on Might 6, 2021, in celebration of “Jerusalem Day,” which marks the seize of East Jerusalem in 1967.
However the one incident that led to a major escalation concerned Israeli safety forces firing rubber-coated bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at worshipers gathered at Al-Aqsa mosque on Might 7.
As a scholar of global Islam, I train introduction to Islam and embrace a dialogue about Al-Aqsa as a part of the syllabus. That is as a result of Al-Aqsa has deep non secular significance for Muslims around the globe. However, additionally it is essential to focus on its outstanding political relevance for Palestinians. These two information make it a focus for battle.
The night time journey of Muhammad
The Masjid al-Aqsa, or just Al-Aqsa, means “the farthest mosque” or “the farthest sanctuary,” and refers to the lead-domed mosque throughout the sacred precinct of Haram al-Sharif – “the Noble Enclosure.” The precinct contains the Dome of the Rock, the 4 minarets, the compound’s historic gates and the mosque itself.
Talked about in Sura 17, verse 1 of the Quran, the mosque is linked to the story of Muhammad’s “Isra” – the “night time journey” from Mecca to Jerusalem – that partially confirms him because the final and most authoritative of the prophets for Muslims. The Quran says the prophet was “carried… by night time from the Sacred Mosque [in Mecca] to the Farthest Mosque [al-Aqsa], whose precincts now we have blessed.”
From there, it’s believed that Muhammad ascended to heaven – known as the Mir’aj. The Dome of the Rock – Qubbat as-Sakhra – is claimed to shelter the rock from where Muhammad physically ascended.
The mosque’s origins stretch again to the seventh century. It was first built in A.D. 637, simply 5 years after the prophet’s demise. It has been destroyed, rebuilt and renovated a number of occasions.
The present constructing largely dates to the eleventh century and hosts every day prayers and Friday gatherings that draw massive crowds. It lies adjoining to essential Jewish and Christian non secular locales, significantly the location of the First and Second Jewish Temples.
At occasions, the Dome of the Rock – a shrine – and Al-Aqsa – a mosque – have been confused as one and the identical. Whereas a part of the identical “Noble Sanctuary,” they’re two distinct buildings with totally different histories and functions.
Nonetheless, the time period Al-Aqsa is usually used to point your complete “Noble Sanctuary” complicated. Initially, it’s believed that the time period “the farthest sanctuary” referred to Jerusalem as a whole.
Place in Islamic historical past
After Mecca and Medina, the overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide take into account Jerusalem the third holiest place on Earth.
Referenced steadily in Islamic custom and hadith – data of one thing the Prophet Muhammad stated, did or tacitly accredited of – it’s believed that whereas in Mecca, Muhammad initially oriented his group’s prayers towards Al-Aqsa.
In A.D. 622, the group fled Mecca due to persecution, in search of refuge in Medina to the north. After just a little over a 12 months there, Muslims imagine God instructed Muhammad to face again towards Mecca for prayers. In Surah 2, verses 149-150, the Quran says, “flip thy face towards the Sacred Mosque [the Kaaba in Mecca]… wheresoever it’s possible you’ll be, flip your faces towards it.”
Nonetheless, Jerusalem and its sacred locales – particularly Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock – have remained websites of Islamic pilgrimage for 15 centuries.
The ‘most delicate web site’ in battle
Given its sacred significance, there was nice concern in regards to the precinct’s destiny after Israel’s victory within the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and its subsequent annexation of East Jerusalem.
Though Israel granted jurisdiction of the mosque and complicated to an Islamic waqf – “endowment” – Israel nonetheless instructions entry to the grounds and safety forces commonly carry out patrols and conduct searches throughout the precinct. Underneath the Preservation of the Holy Places Law, the Israeli authorities has additionally allowed entry to totally different non secular teams – akin to Christian pilgrims.
Many Israelis respect the sanctity of the place. The chief rabbinate of Israel said it is forbidden for Jews to walk on the site in 2005 due to its holiness. Nonetheless, sure ultra-Orthodox Jewish teams controversially advocate for greater access and control of the site, in search of to reclaim the historic Temple Mount, regarded by Jews as the place God guarantees his full presence.
Described as “the most sensitive site in the Israel-Palestinian conflict,” it has steadily been host to political acts.
For instance, in August 1969, an Australian Christian named Dennis Michael Rohan attempted to burn down Al-Aqsa, destroying the traditionally important and intricately carved minbar – or “pulpit” – of Saladin, a treasured piece of Islamic artwork.
On Sept. 28, 2000, Israeli opposition chief Ariel Sharon and a delegation guarded by a whole bunch of Israeli riot police entered the precinct. This sparked protests and a violent crackdown by Israeli authorities, with a number of casualties. Many Muslims worldwide thought of this a “desecration” of the sacred mosque, and the occasion helped ignite the Second Intifada, or Palestinian rebellion.
Tensions peaked once more after an assault on Yehuda Glick, a controversial right-wing rabbi, in autumn 2014. In response, Israeli authorities closed down access to Al-Aqsa for the first time since 1967. In March and April of that 12 months, Israeli police used tear gas and stun grenades on Palestinians inside Al-Aqsa, prompting worldwide outcry.
Quite a few different incidents between Israeli forces and worshipers have occurred at Al-Aqsa in recent times.
Managed entry to the location reminds Palestinians of their relative powerlessness of their ongoing land disputes with Israeli authorities. On the identical time, assaults at Al-Aqsa resonate with Muslims internationally who react with horror to what they see because the desecration of certainly one of their most sacred websites.
Defending Al-Aqsa and combating for rights to entry it, I argue, have develop into proxy conflicts for each Palestinian claims and the necessity to defend Islam as an entire.
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