THE JEWISH CLAIM TO MECCA
Do the Jewish people have a claim to Mecca? Undoubtedly. And, according to the Koran, it is stronger than the Muslim claim to Jerusalem.
Let us examine both claims.
The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem
The broad assertion -- repeated endlessly by the international media -- that Jerusalem is deemed by Islam to be that religion’s third holiest city is false, as only the Sunni branch of Islam has ever made this assertion. The Shiite branch of Islam has never asserted that Jerusalem is holy to Islam.
The Sunni Muslim claim to Jerusalem is based upon the Koran’s “Night Journey” verse:
Glory be to Him [Allah] Who made His Servant to go on a night [journey] from the Sacred Mosque to the Furthest Mosque of which We [Allah] have blessed the precincts; so that We may show to him some of Our Signs. Surely He [Allah] is the all-Hearing, the all-Seeing. (Koran, Sura 17 “The Children Of Israel”, Verse 1)
Although it is likely that the “Servant” in the Koranic verse is Mohammed (being the founder of Islam), there is no evidence that “the Furthest Mosque” in the Koranic verse is the mosque which presently sits atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and which is known as “al-Aksa” (meaning: “the Furthest”). On the contrary, Jerusalem’s al-Aksa Mosque did not exist until 50 years after Mohammed’s purported death in 632.
Moreover, the name “Jerusalem” does not appear even once in the Koran.
However, during the Shiite Muslim rebellion of 682 against the Sunni Muslim Umayyad Caliphate (based in Damascus), Sunnis were denied access to Shiite-controlled Mecca for the mandatory Muslim pilgrimage known as the Hajj. In order to stanch the military, political and theological humiliation caused by the Shiite occupation of Mecca, the Sunni Caliphate, under the leadership of the 5th Caliph, Abdul Malik ibn Marwan, decided to anoint a nearby city under its control as a suitable alternative location for the Hajj. The Caliphate chose Muslim-occupied Jerusalem for this purpose, as that City was already holy to Jews and Christians, and it had purportedly been the site towards which Muslims initially turned to pray before Mohammed ordered them to instead face Mecca. The Caliphate consequently constructed a mosque atop the already-famous Temple Mount of that City, which -- in order to identify its new mosque with the above-cited Koranic verse -- it thereupon denominated as “al-Masjid al-Aksa” (“the Furthest Mosque”). In this way, the Caliphate invented an extra-Koranic tradition in order to ensure that Sunni Muslims would be able to view Jerusalem as the third holiest city in Islam (after Mecca and Medina) and, consequently, as a suitable alternative for the performance of the Hajj by Sunni Muslims until the Caliphate was able to reconquer Mecca from the Shiite Muslims. This invented tradition, labeled as the “Night Journey”, claimed that Muhammad was literally transported by a flying horse (known as al-Buraq) from Mecca (being the site of “the Sacred Mosque” of the Koranic verse) to Jerusalem (for the first time, identified as being the site of “the Furthest Mosque” of the Koranic verse), after which he, accompanied by the Angel Jibril (Gabriel), visited Heaven and conversed with Allah. Moreover, it is likely that the tradition that Jerusalem was the original direction towards which Muslims prayed was also invented by the Umayyad Caliphate in order to support its decision to proclaim Jerusalem as a suitable, albeit temporary, location for the Hajj and as the third holiest site for Sunni Muslims.
Once Mecca was reconquered by the Caliphate in 692, the Umayyad edict that Jerusalem was holy to Islam disappeared from Islamic theology, only to be resurrected approximately 500 years later by the Sunni Kurdish sultan Saladin (who, after several military defeats, sought to infuse his army with theological zeal in order to reconquer Jerusalem from Catholic forces, who, in turn, had earlier seized the City from Muslim forces at the end of the 11th Century, as part of the serial military campaigns commonly known as “the Crusades”), only to lay dormant for another 800 years until it was again resurrected by the political and religious leaders of the Sunni World in the wake of the defeat by Israel of pan-Arab forces in the Six Day War of 1967, during which the eastern portion of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, was reconquered by Jewish forces.
Shiite Muslims never accepted the holiest of Jerusalem for several reasons. Firstly, the Sunni Umayyad Caliphate invented Islam’s attachment to Jerusalem specifically in order to extricate itself from an enormous humiliation inflicted upon it by its adversary -- the Shiite Muslim ruler Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr of the Arabian Peninsula. Secondly, since the Umayyad Caliphate overthrew Ali bin Abi Talib (Mohammed’s son-in-law and the 4th Caliph) and beheaded Hussein bin Ali (Mohammed’s grandson and Ali’s son and heir), both of whom Shiites regarded as the rightful hereditary leaders of Islam, Shiites have always rejected the legitimacy of any religious edict, act or pronouncement emanating from the hated Umayyad Caliphate, including the designation of Jerusalem as Islam’s third holiest city. Instead, Shiites revere two cities in modern Iraq -- Najaf (where Ali is buried) and Karbala (where Hussein is buried) -- as Islam’s 3rd and 4th holiest cities (after Mecca and Medina). And, for Shiites, Qom, located in modern Iran, is Islam’s 5th holiest city. Of course, for Sunnis, the cities of Najaf, Karbala and Qom hold no measure of holiness.
Clearly, the present Sunni Muslim claim to Jerusalem is bogus, as it is exclusively a reaction to the Jewish people’s renewed sovereignty over our holiest site within our holiest city.
The Jewish Claim to Mecca
Although little known, and never mentioned by the international media, the Jewish people have a valid claim to Mecca, based upon the Koran:
And then We [Allah] made the House a [place of] pilgrimage for men and a [place of] security, and [said]: “Appoint for yourselves a place of prayer on the standing-place of Ibrahim [Abraham].” And We enjoined Ibrahim and Ismail [Ishmael], saying: “Purify My House for those who visit [it] and those who abide [in it] for devotion and [for] those who bow down [and] those who prostrate themselves.” And then Ibrahim said: “My Lord, make it a secure town and provide its people with fruits [for] such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day.” [Then] He [Allah] said: “And whoever disbelieves, I will grant him enjoyment for a short while; then I will drive him to the Chastisement of the Fire; and it is an evil destination.” And then Ibrahim and Ismail built the foundations of the House [, imploring]: “Our Lord! Accept [this House] from us; surely You are the all-Hearing, the all-Knowing.” (Koran, Sura 2 “The Cow”, Verses 125-127)
The “House” in the Koranic verse is universally interpreted by all streams of Islam to be the ancient stone structure in Mecca known as “al-Kaaba” (meaning: “the Cube”), which represents the climax of the Hajj. Since Abraham, the progenitor of the Jewish people, was chosen by Allah to build al-Kaaba, we -- being his Covenantal progeny -- can claim Mecca as our inheritance.
Notwithstanding, our authentic claim to Mecca, I would agree to forego it in exchange for the Sunni Muslim World’s abandonment of its faux claim to Jerusalem.
© Mark Rosenblit