Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is insisting that Jerusalem is the “eternal capital of the state of Palestine” after President Donald Trump recognized the city as the capital of Israel.
No Palestinian state has ever existed, but Abbas is leveraging the claim that Jerusalem is its third holiest city of Islam, after Mecca and Medina.
Moreover, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are less important in Islam than they are important in Muslims’ anti-Semitic hatred of Israel.
Muhammad’s famous Night Journey (Isra and Miraj) is the basis of the Islamic claim to Jerusalem as an Islamic holy city. Yet this journey is never mentioned in the Qur’an, and neither is Jerusalem. The first verse of Sura 17 says that Allah took Muhammad from “the Sacred Mosque” in Mecca “to the farthest [al-aqsa] Mosque.” There was no mosque in Jerusalem at this time (if the traditional chronology regarding the Qur’an is to be believed), so the “farthest” mosque probably wasn’t really the one that now bears that name in Jerusalem. Islamic tradition, however, is firm that this mosque is in Jerusalem.
According to Islamic tradition, Muhammad described the vision as beginning when the angel “Gabriel came and stirred me with his foot.” Soon “a white animal which was smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey was brought to me.” This was the Buraq, which Muhammad further described as “half mule, half donkey, with wings on its sides with which it propelled its feet.”
Buraq carried Muhammad to the Temple Mount, and from there Muhammad was taken into heaven itself, where he encountered the other prophets and was given by Allah himself the order that Muslims should pray five times daily. Later Muhammad seems to have retreated from the claim that this was a bodily journey. His wife Aisha explained: “The apostle’s body remained where it was but God removed his spirit by night.”
This fantastic legend, which was first distributed in the late eighth century, over 150 years after the traditional date for the death of Muhammad, is the entire basis for the Islamic claim to Jerusalem. It was never an important city in Islam until one man decided to make it so as a response to Zionism.
That man was the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who lived in Berlin during World War II and recruited Muslims to serve as soldiers for the Nazis. He also made broadcasts in Arabic to Muslim countries, in which he quoted the Qur’an’s anti-Semitic passages to justify Nazi persecution of the Jews.
After the war, the Mufti raised money throughout the Islamic world to finance the refurbishing of the Dome of the Rock that dominates the Jerusalem skyline, plating the dome with gold, and he worked assiduously to compel Muslims to exaggerate the importance of Jerusalem to Islam to provide a counter-movement to Zionism.
How well he succeeded can be seen in the outrage over Trump’s announcement. But like so much Palestinian outrage, it is not based on fact, but on propaganda. The Palestinians claim an ethnicity and nationality that has no basis in history but which was concocted by Yasir Arafat and the KGB as a weapon to use against Israel, have a “capital” as fictional as they are.
But the rage they show as a result of Trump’s announcement will, unfortunately, be real.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His new book is Confessions of an Islamophobe. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.