This is so full of misinformation it's hard to know where to begin. There is one kernel of truth here - that the far, or al-aqsa mosque mentioned in Sura 17, is never identified as being in Jerusalem; in fact, most Muslims also would have placed it in Medina until around the 10th century CE. However, the Muslim view of Jerusalem as a sacred space is hardly tied explicitly to the idea of it having been one of the sites of the Night Journey. That's certainly an important factor now, but it's not the only one, and it would have never entered the mind of abd al-Malik when he commissioned the Dome of the Rock.

Umar didn't take the city with his "rampaging hordes", except in the loosest conceivable sense: Patriarch Sophronius, the Christian leader of the city under the Byzantines, surrendered it to him, without a drop of blood being shed, in return for Umar's promise that Christians would be able to practice their religion freely. The Church of St. Mary of Justinian didn't exist on the Temple Mount. The Byzantines had turned the entire mount into a garbage dump for the city. The Al Aqsa Mosque, on the southern edge of the Temple Mount, was built around Umar's time, but as a temporary structure, out of wood, and it certainly wasn't called that yet.

The reasons for the construction of the Dome of the Rock are unrecorded. The central reason, in all likelihood, was the Muslim belief, acquired from the Jews, that the rock on the Temple Mount was literally the center of the universe; the place where God had stood on the moment of creation, and created the world around him. Incidentally, this can also be seen in medieval Christian world maps that show Jerusalem as being at the very center of the universe.

As an aside, basing these assertions on the idea of what Mohammed was thinking when he wrote the 17th sura is unlikely to convince many Muslims of anything. One of the basic tenets of Islam is that the Qur'an is the literal and inerrant word of God, as dictated to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel.

Muslims and Jews fighting over Jerusalem is a very, very recent phenomenon, one that essentially started in the 20th century. For most of the history of Jerusalem under Muslim rule, the two faiths existed in relative harmony, in the face of hostility to both from Christianity. For instance, when Umar first took the city, he re-admitted the Jews to the city; the first time they had been allowed in, except for once a year to mourn at the Western Wall, since Jerusalem came under Byzantine domination. When Christians took Jerusalem in the First Crusade, one of their first actions was to expel the Jews, and when Saladin retook it, one of his first was to re-admit them.

The point, anyway, is that the picture is much, much more complex than any piece of propaganda can present. The history of Jerusalem is one of thousands of years of intertwining faiths and beliefs, all of them evolving over time, and none of them anticipating the conflicts and wars of the present.

What makes something holy? Can we really say that Jerusalem is sacred to Judaism? After all, we have no archaeological proof of the sacrifice of Izaac on Mount Moriah (the supposed current site of the Temple Mount with its Dome of the Rock and el-Aksa Mosque, and the former site of the two Temples), much less so any evidence at all to support the centre of the universe and point of creation gags. So according to the criteria employed by the writers above, it's not really, legitimately, sacred to anyone at all.

Well d'uh! Are Buddhist temples sacred because there is historical evidence for the Buddha having lunch there? Are churches holy ground because Jesus runs an inspection twice a year? Things, places and ideas do not become holy or sacred as part of a flow of historical events. They become sacred because, due to a blip in human conciousness somehwere in the depths of time, they managed to concentrate people's faith and devotion around them.

There's nothing special about the plain on which Stonehenge stands, but it's nevertheless been there for 10,000 years, made and remade out of stones painstakingly carried to that specific spot from hundreds of miles away. Christian mythology has been rewritten quite contortionately to give the Lord a birthplace which is close to Jerusalem, although there's nothing wrong with Nazareth - plenty of mangers, I'm told. Churches and mosques all over the Mediterranean basin are built on top of old Greek and Roman temples. Religiosity seems to be geographical. Whatever anthropological, psychological or political explanation one chooses to give this phenomenon, that fact still remains.

Is Jerusalem sacred to Islam? Yes. Is it sacred to Christianity? Yes. Judaism? Yes again. Not because of what someone said or did, but because that is what hundreds of millions of people all around the world believe. One cannot hope to change this belief with pseudo-rationalistic arguments, and any discussion from this point of view is therefore futile - a hubristic attempt on the part of the arguer to justify their religious or political ideals at the expense of another's scripture and myth. Independently of its physical and political history, Jerusalem is a place imbued with holiness, and as long as religions remain members-only clubs people will be squabbling over it.

TheLady and narzos have quite thoroughly established that Jerusalem is definitely considered holy in Islam, but it might still be worth pointing out why this is so.

First and foremost, while the Qur'an is the supreme Islamic holy book, it is not the only one: the Torah and the New Testament are also holy, and so are the prophets described therein. Thus, if Jerusalem is holy to a Jew or a Christian, it is also holy to a Muslim. (This is a bit of an oversimplification since the Qur'an overrides previous texts on a few key issues like Christ's divinity, but this is the "default" setting, so to speak.)

Now, you will recall that Abraham offered to sacrifice Isaac (or Ishmael) on Mt. Moriah, and by tradition Solomon's Temple -- and hence the present day Haram al-Sharif -- was built on this spot. This story is even explicitly retold in Sura 37:102 of the Qur'an. The location of the sacrifice is not mentioned, and some Islamic scholars think it was in Saudi Arabia, but by most traditions the spot was in Jerusalem. (And for what it's worth, neither the Torah nor the Bible specify the location well enough to make a call on this.)

Second, while the Qur'an does not mention Jerusalem by that name (which is not particularly surprising since Yerushalayim is Hebrew), Sura 17 -- which also contains the famous verse cited above -- says quite a bit more about a familiar-sounding place. The land was given to the Children of Israel by Moses (17:2), the Scripture warns that it will be destroyed twice (17:4), and so it was (17:5, 17:7). It being fairly well established that the Promised Land is Israel, it doesn't take too great a leap of faith to connect these two "destructions" to the razings of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the Romans.

Additionally, in the Hadith Muhammed often refers to Bayt al-Maqdis ("The Purest House") as the destination of his Night Journey:

Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported:

Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: I found myself in Hijr and the Quraish were asking me about my Night Journey. I was asked about things pertaining to Bayt Al-Maqdis which I could not preserve (in my mind). I was very much vexed, so vexed as I had never been before. Then Allah raised it (Bayt Al-Maqdis) before my eyes. I looked towards it, and I gave them the information about whatever they questioned me.

Again, some scholars think that the Bayt is only an abstraction of a perfect city, not a physical place. What is certain is that the label is often used for Jerusalem, even among Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews, and has been used as such by people like Saladin and Omar ibn al-Khattab, two of its many conquerors.

Third, since the Holy Mosque of 17:1 is unanimously agreed to be the mosque of Mecca, it would seem rather odd to label Medina the "farthest" place of worship -- the two are only some 250 miles apart from each other, not all that great a distance on the Arabian scale of things as a camel can travel that far in less than two weeks. Remember, Muhammad himself had traveled as far as Syria, well over one thousand miles away.

Now, none of this constitutes ironclad "proof" of Jerusalem's holiness, but as TheLady wisely pointed out Judaism and Christianity can't "prove" holiness either. But the reasons outlined above have been meaningful enough to make Jerusalem the third most holy city in Islam, and dissenters from any are a minority view.

References

The Holy Qur'an
http://members.aol.com/bazbooz/BaytAlMaqdis.html

" Glory to "Allah" Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless,- in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things)." Qur'an 17:1

The event is Also Described in Surah 53: 1 through 18, it was revealed before the Hijrah in Makah.

1. By the Star when it goes down,-

2. Your Companion is neither astray nor being misled.

3. Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) Desire.

4. It is no less than Inspiration sent down to him:

5. He was taught by one Mighty in Power,

6. Endued with Wisdom: for he appeared (in stately form);

7. While he was in the highest part of the horizon:

8. Then he approached and came closer,

9. And was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer;

10. So did (Allah) convey the inspiration to His Servant- (conveyed) what He (meant) to convey.

11. The (Prophet's) (mind and) heart in no way falsified that which he saw.

12. Will ye then dispute with him concerning what he saw?

13. For indeed he saw him at a second descent,

14. Near the Lote-tree of the uttermost boundary:

15. Near it is the Garden of Abode.

16. Behold, the Lote-tree was shrouded with what shrouds.

17. (His) sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong!

18. For truly did he see, of the Signs of his Lord, the Greatest!

Hadiths:

The Prophet said: "Journeys should not be undertaken except to three Mosques: this my mosque (in Madinah), the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah), and Al-Aqsa mosque (in Jerusalem)" (Bukhari)

Narrated Anas bin Malik

The night Allah's Apostle was taken for a journey from the sacred mosque (of Mecca) Al-Ka'ba: Three persons came to him (in a dreamy while he was sleeping in the Sacred Mosque before the Divine Inspiration was revealed to Him. One of them said, "Which of them is he?" The middle (second) angel said, "He is the best of them." The last (third) angle said, "Take the best of them." Only that much happened on that night and he did not see them till they came on another night, i.e. after The Divine Inspiration was revealed to him. (Fateh-Al-Bari Page 258, Vol. 17) and he saw them, his eyes were asleep but his heart was not----and so is the case with the prophets: their eyes sleep while their hearts do not sleep. So those angels did not talk to him till they carried him and placed him beside the well of Zam-Zam. From among them Gabriel took charge of him. Gabriel cut open (the part of his body) between his throat and the middle of his chest (heart) and took all the material out of his chest and abdomen and then washed it with Zam-Zam water with his own hands till he cleansed the inside of his body, and then a gold tray containing a gold bowl full of belief and wisdom was brought and then Gabriel stuffed his chest and throat blood vessels with it and then closed it (the chest). He then ascended with him to the heaven of the world and knocked on one of its doors.

The dwellers of the Heaven asked, 'Who is it?' He said, "Gabriel." They said, "Who is accompanying you?" He said, "Muhammad." They said, "Has he been called?" He said, "Yes" They said, "He is welcomed." So the dwellers of the Heaven became pleased with his arrival, and they did not know what Allah would do to the Prophet on earth unless Allah informed them. The Prophet met Adam over the nearest Heaven. Gabriel said to the Prophet, "He is your father; greet him." The Prophet greeted him and Adam returned his greeting and said, "Welcome, O my Son! O what a good son you are!" Behold, he saw two flowing rivers, while he was in the nearest sky. He asked, "What are these two rivers, O Gabriel?" Gabriel said, "These are the sources of the Nile and the Euphrates."

Then Gabriel took him around that Heaven and behold, he saw another river at the bank of which there was a palace built of pearls and emerald. He put his hand into the river and found its mud like musk Adhfar. He asked, "What is this, O Gabriel?" Gabriel said, "This is the Kauthar which your Lord has kept for you." Then Gabriel ascended (with him) to the second Heaven and the angels asked the same questions as those on the first Heaven, i.e., "Who is it?" Gabriel replied, "Gabriel". They asked, "Who is accompanying you?" He said, "Muhammad." They asked, "Has he been sent for?" He said, "Yes." Then they said, "He is welcomed.'' Then he (Gabriel) ascended with the Prophet to the third Heaven, and the angels said the same as the angels of the first and the second Heavens had said.

Then he ascended with him to the fourth Heaven and they said the same; and then he ascended with him to the fifth Heaven and they said the same; and then he ascended with him to the sixth Heaven and they said the same; then he ascended with him to the seventh Heaven and they said the same. On each Heaven there were prophets whose names he had mentioned and of whom I remember Idris on the second Heaven, Aaron on the fourth Heavens another prophet whose name I don't remember, on the fifth Heaven, Abraham on the sixth Heaven, and Moses on the seventh Heaven because of his privilege of talking to Allah directly. Moses said (to Allah), "O Lord! I thought that none would be raised up above me."

But Gabriel ascended with him (the Prophet) for a distance above that, the distance of which only Allah knows, till he reached the Lote Tree (beyond which none may pass) and then the Irresistible, the Lord of Honor and Majesty approached and came closer till he (Gabriel) was about two bow lengths or (even) nearer. (It is said that it was Gabriel who approached and came closer to the Prophet. (Fate Al-Bari Page 263, 264, Vol. 17). Among the things which Allah revealed to him then, was: "Fifty prayers were enjoined on his followers in a day and a night."

Then the Prophet descended till he met Moses, and then Moses stopped him and asked, "O Muhammad ! What did your Lord en join upon you?" The Prophet replied," He enjoined upon me to perform fifty prayers in a day and a night." Moses said, "Your followers cannot do that; Go back so that your Lord may reduce it for you and for them." So the Prophet turned to Gabriel as if he wanted to consult him about that issue. Gabriel told him of his opinion, saying, "Yes, if you wish." So Gabriel ascended with him to the Irresistible and said while he was in his place, "O Lord, please lighten our burden as my followers cannot do that." So Allah deducted for him ten prayers where upon he returned to Moses who stopped him again and kept on sending him back to his Lord till the enjoined prayers were reduced to only five prayers.

Then Moses stopped him when the prayers had been reduced to five and said, "O Muhammad! By Allah, I tried to persuade my nation, Bani Israel to do less than this, but they could not do it and gave it up. However, your followers are weaker in body, heart, sight and hearing, so return to your Lord so that He may lighten your burden."

The Prophet turned towards Gabriel for advice and Gabriel did not disapprove of that. So he ascended with him for the fifth time. The Prophet said, "O Lord, my followers are weak in their bodies, hearts, hearing and constitution, so lighten our burden." On that the Irresistible said, "O Muhammad!" the Prophet replied, "Labbaik and Sa'daik." Allah said, "The Word that comes from Me does not change, so it will be as I enjoined on you in the Mother of the Book." Allah added, "Every good deed will be rewarded as ten times so it is fifty (prayers) in the Mother of the Book (in reward) but you are to perform only five (in practice)."

The Prophet returned to Moses who asked, "What have you done?" He said, "He has lightened our burden: He has given us for every good deed a tenfold reward." Moses said, "By Allah! I tried to make Bani Israel observe less than that, but they gave it up. So go back to your Lord that He may lighten your burden further." Allah's Apostle said, "O Moses! By Allah, I feel shy of returning too many times to my Lord." On that Gabriel said, "Descend in Allah's Name." The Prophet then woke while he was in the Sacred Mosque (at Mecca).

Narrated Abu Huraira

On the night Allah's Apostle was taken on a night journey (Miraj) two cups, one containing wine and the other milk, were presented to him at Quds. He looked at it and took the cup of milk. Gabriel said, "Praise be to Allah Who guided you to Al-Fitra (the right path); if you had taken (the cup of) wine, your nation would have gone astray."

The Above Hadiths are from Sahih Muslim and Sahih Bukhari, the most authentic forms of hadith.

according to this link: http://www.geocities.com/muminah/ and many others springing up across the web, Muslim scholars are trying to get the message out that the Dome of the rock and Al Masjid Al Aqsa are two different entities. The issue was first raised up by Dr.Marwan, chief editor of Al-Dastour News paper in the UAE last year.

Summary of above Quranic verses and hadith is the establishment of daily prayers.

source of the Hadiths, although many variation of the same hadith can be found in English all over the web, the Arabic version of the Hadith can be found unaltered in any Sahih Muslim or Sahih Bukhari volumes.

http://www.soundvision.com/Info/Jerusalem/isra&miraj.asp
While I am no authority on the religious claims, I have read a bit about this topic, including http://www.danielpipes.org/article/84 which is where I take all the quotes in this write-up. There are a number of points that have only been addressed tangentially, if at all, elsewhere in this node.

One is the claim that regardless of where we think the "furthest mosque" actually was, the Islamic connection to Jerusalem predates the Jewish. Narzos touched on this point, but didn't consider its implications.

"The Islamic connection to Jerusalem is older than the Jewish. The Palestinian "minister" of religious endowments asserts that Jerusalem has "always" been under Muslim sovereignty. Likewise, Ghada Talhami, a polemicist, asserts that "There are other holy cities in Islam, but Jerusalem holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Muslims because its fate has always been intertwined with theirs." Always? Jerusalem's founding antedated Islam by about two millennia, so how can that be? Ibrahim Hooper of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations explains this anachronism: "the Muslim attachment to Jerusalem does not begin with the prophet Muhammad, it begins with the prophets Abraham, David, Solomon and Jesus, who are also prophets in Islam." In other words, the central figures of Judaism and Christianity were really proto-Muslims. This accounts for the Palestinian man-in-the-street declaring that "Jerusalem was Arab from the day of creation."
http://www.danielpipes.org/article/84

Extrapolating this reasoning, the entire earth belongs to Islam, and all the earth's people are lapsed proto-muslims. Of course, Christianity and Judaism have a similar conceit; to me it just emphasizes the importance of treating all holy books as literature and not literal truth.

A second point is that the Islamic concern about Jerusalem seems to be highest when it is not in their possession; when they do have possession of it, there are very few references to it in history or literature, and it seems to suffer from a kind of benign neglect.

"This pattern first emerged during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad in the early seventh century. Since then, it has been repeated on five occasions: in the late seventh century, in the twelfth century Countercrusade, in the thirteenth century Crusades, during the era of British rule (1917-48), and since Israel took the city in 1967."
http://www.danielpipes.org/article/84

Rather than making this a cut-and-paste write-up I will simply refer you to Mr. Pipes article for the rest of the analysis, in which he discusses each of these historical periods, and much more. I don't feel qualified to evaluate all these conflicting claims and points, but I do feel they ought to be discussed.


A word about me. My last name contains the word "Hadj". I explore this on my homenode, everyone's invited.
If you're voting, remember; vote your opinions, or others may continue to disagree.
The debate over the historical roots of Jerusalem is one which, for various reasons, has a vast political resonance. The competing claims of Judeo-Christian and Islamic history is one that seems to have enveloped any discussion of the modern political layout of the Middle East

Jewish sources, of course, have many disparate places in which "Jerusalem" is mentioned. Not couting Talmudic and Midrashic literature, which is replete with references, the Bible itself has many such references; "Abraham called that place 'Hashem Yireh'." (Genesis 22:14), which is etymologically very closely related to the name "Yeru-Shalayim," as Jerusalem is called in Hebrew.

Modern scholars, however, date the writing of the Five Books of Moses in it's modern form to only about 500 B.C.E. so they clearly do not accept that the 'mythical Abraham' actually called this spot Jerusalem. The Prophets and Writings, however, that date from the same time period and reference events that occurred either only decades, or no more than two to three centuries before, clearly reference Jerusalem by name, as the site on which God choose for the Jews to build Solomons temple, on which it stood, and on which it was destroyed and then rebuilt around 350BCE.

Christian sources, also, have a very clear connection to the land of Israel, based on the records of the rebuilt second temple of the Jews. This is based, of course, on Jerusalem being where both Jewish and Christian tradition have amazingly strong reason to beleive it is, that is to say, in the same place that modern Jerusalem stands.

There has been much said about the Holiness of the site of the Temple Mount to Muslims. There have been claims that the location of "historical" Judaism is not actually the religion that Israel claims, and that it is in any case irrelevant, as the Palestinian Muslim population have a historical right to the land, not as those who inherited the position from the Jews and Christians, but as the sole owners of it's heritage. (Clearly, the Palestinian claim is clearly the only one relevant, as they do not claim a sovreignty over the Temple mount in the name of Muslims Internationally, and have repeatedly rejected an internationalization of the disputed section of the old city, but rather to have national control over this religious location, mirroring the staus Mecca has attained.)

The Muslims claim that the Temple never stood on that location{1} (while simultaneously excavating on the mount without any recognized Archaological oversight{2},) and that it was always their land, and, also that they accept the Jewish and Christian bible as the word of God, albeit corrupted, and given to their ancestors, not the Christians and/or Jews.

Their pseudo-history, extending from their account of ancient history before the religion of Islam as such even existed, extending until the well past their denial of the holocaust having ever occurred, has almost no basis in reality;

Jerusalem is our holy city from the dawn of history, our forefathers built her…our forefathers were here generation after generation, and the invaders, they were erased, anyone who attacked this city or who tried to steal one stone from her, their fate was like that of the other invaders{4}…there was no existence in this city aside from the Arab existence, I, as a historian, challenge: is there a sign of any entity aside from us on this land? All the false Torah claims, the misleading and the distortion of history are lies, supported by false claims in order to achieve settlement colonialism… there was not found in the country one ancient Jewish coin of those that he the caller noted…Zionism planted the settlement plan, and they Jews are not at all connected to the land of prayer, they came from Khazar{3}…, we are not against Jews as Jews, we are against the theft of our land. Regarding ‘Israel’, this is a word which indicates tribal gathering, now it is known scientifically as well, that a homeland of all the Israeli tribes was in the Arab peninsula …King David captured “Zion” as his capital, which still exists today in Asir in the Arab Peninsula.” Dr. Isam Sebasallam, History lecturer at the Islamic University, PA TV, August 14, 1998.

So, accepting the claim that the Palestinian Muslims put forward, we must choose to believe either historical reality, or them. And maybe it's a forward, western thought foreign and forbidden to the Muslim's religious conception of the world, but most of the modern world has learned to live with reality.

{1} Yassir Arafat,in the London Arabic paper Al Hayat: "Archaeologists," he said, "have not found a single stone proving that the Temple of Solomon was there because historically the Temple was not in Palestine."
{2} Jewish Telegraphic Agency, (February 12, 2001).
{3} An idea that can be traced to Arthur Koestler, since discredited by both historians and geneological studies, that the Askenazi Jews are not related to the Sefardi Jews, and that the exodus from the land of Isreal depicted in the Talmud was only towards the Middle East. Much historical study has shown where the Jews wandered in the centuries between the destruction of what they called the second temple, and the modern day, and clearly contradicts this historically untenable explanation.
{4} A reference to the Christian Crusades

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