Monday, August 11, 2014

Masjid al-Aqsa in Islamic History

Masjid al-Aqsa in Islamic History

Masjid al-Aqsa has a rich history. It is intimately linked with Prophetic history, not of one but numerous prophets. It was first built by the Prophet Abraham (pbuh) years after he built the Ka‘aba with his first son Ishmael (pbuh). Muslims have always been its true custodians despite illegal Zionist encroachments.


Glorified by He [God] who transported His servant [Muhammad (pbuh)] by night from Masjid al-Haram to Masjid al-Aqsa whose surroundings He has blessed, so that We may show him of Our [God’s] signs… (Al-Qur’an: 17:01).


Masjid al-Aqsa holds immense significance in Islamic religious tradition as well as history. It is known as the first qibla of Muslims—the direction toward which Muslims face to offer their salat (prayer) —as well as the third holiest site in Islam. It is built on the site where the noble Messenger (pbuh) led all the earlier Prophets in prayer when he was transported by night from Masjid al-Haram (in Makkah) before his miraj (ascension to Heaven) to the point referred to in the Qur’an as Sidrat al-Muntaha (53:10-16).


In contemporary history, it has become a contested place because the Zionists claim it is built on the site where their first and second temples originally existed. A great deal of myth is interwoven into this narrative despite the fact that the temple was destroyed repeatedly by invading forces. The Babylonian king Bakhtnasr (Nebuchadnezzer) attacked Jerusalem in 587 BC and destroyed the temple (Beyetel). The Israelites were enslaved and suffered greatly for more than 70 years.


There were several phases of rebuilding and destruction of the temple the last being the Romans’ destruction of it in 70 CE. No trace of the temple has ever existed. While the some hard-core Zionists are currently trying to encroach on the Haram al-Sharif (the noble Sanctuary) and are even demanding the right to worship there, Rabbinical law prohibits Jews from setting foot on the Temple Mount for fear of desecrating the “holy of Holies” in Jewish religious tradition. There is in fact a board erected near the Haram al-Sharif that houses both the Masjid al-Aqsa as well as Dome of the Rock and numerous madrassas (religious schools) and other smaller structures, prohibiting Jewish trespassing of the Haram al-Sharif.


Let us first consider who built Masjid al-Aqsa: was it the father-and-son Prophets Dawud (David pbuh)and Prophet Sulaiman (Solomon pbuh), as claimed by the Zionists, or built even earlier? We know from the Qur’an (2:127-128) that the father and son Prophets, Ibrahim and Ishmael (pbuh) built the Ka‘aba in conformity with the command of God. The Ka‘aba in Makkah is the first House of worship for God on earth. Prophet Abraham (pbuh) had settled his first son Ishmael (pbuh) and his mother, Hajar (pbuh) there, again according to the command of God.


Prophet Abraham (pbuh), however, did not live in Makkah; he lived in Palestine in the place that takes its name from him: al-Khalil (Hebron). Is it conceivable that Prophet Abraham (pbuh) would build a place of worship in Makkah but not have a place of worship in Jerusalem that is right next to Hebron? As the Patriarch of all the Prophets of God, Abraham (pbuh) also built a place of worship in Jerusalem. This came to be known as Beteyel (meaning the House of God in Hebrew).


When Ibrahim’s (pbuh) second son Is’haq (Isaac) was born and grew up in Hebron, he would go to worship in Beteyel. Interestingly, Is’haq (pbuh) who was also a noble Prophet of God, also prayed in the Ka‘aba in Makkah and performed the Hajj pilgrimage there together with his father (Abraham (pbuh) and brother (Ishmael (pbuh), again according to the commands of God. It was Abraham (pbuh) that named Beteyel as Masjid al-Aqsa—the farthest mosque—in deference to the Ka ‘aba, from which it was located far away to the northwest.


Yaqub (pbuh), known in the Bible as Jacob who was the son of Is’haq (pbuh), was also a noble Prophet who opened Beteyel as a place of worship for all those that accepted the One true God, God. Naturally in the land of Palestine many other tribes resided. The land takes its name from the Philistines, the people that lived there. Among the other tribes were the Moabites and Hittites. The latter tribe was the one to which the mother of Solomon belonged. It needs recalling that Abraham (pbuh) was born in Ur (present-day Iraq) and was forced into exile because of the oppression and persecution he faced at the hands of the tyrant Nimrood. After a long journey, Abraham (pbuh) finally settled in al-Khalil (Palestine).


Prophetic history takes many turns and it is no different with the Prophets from the lineage of Abraham (pbuh). Prophet Joseph (pbuh) [Joseph] was greatly loved by his father Yaqub (pbuh). This created huge jealousy among his step-brothers who plotted to kill him but finally decided to thrown him a well.


He was rescued from the well and sold into slavery ending in Egypt where the ruler employed him. The ruler’s wife had a crush on him because Joseph (pbuh) was a very handsome young man but God protected him from committing sin and despite being innocent, he ended up in prison where he spent many years. When he was finally released, the king appointed him to the important post of the kingdom’s treasury and he became the de facto ruler of Egypt. The story of Joseph (pbuh) is narrated in exquisite detail in the noble Qur’an in the surah by the same name (Surah Yusuf).


Once Joseph (pbuh) had attained power in Egypt, he invited his family—father, mothers and brothers—to live with him in Egypt. They readily accepted the offer as narrated in the chapter on Genesis 46 in the Torah. No one from Yaqub’s (pbuh) family was left to take care of Beteyel/Masjid al-Aqsa. Thus, he gave charge of the masjid to the local inhabitants, the Palestinians. The children of Yaqub (pbuh), referred to as Bani Israel in the noble Qur’an lived in Egypt for more than 400 years. There was never a hint that they should return to Palestine to reclaim ownership/custodianship of Masjid al-Aqsa.


Many generations later, the Bani Israel were taken as slaves by the pharaohs and it was not until God raised Moses (pbuh) [Moses] among them that he led them out of slavery and across the Red Sea into the Sinai Peninsula. When God ordered them to enter Palestine, they refused, incurring God’s wrath to wander in the desert for 40 years. During this time, Moses (pbuh) died and God raised another Prophet, David (pbuh) who was a soldier in the army of Saul. Because of his courage, David (pbuh) was made king and entered Palestine to establish his kingdom there.


It was Solomon who rebuilt the temple (Masjid al-Aqsa) with the support and help of the indigenous people, principally the Palestinians. The father-son rule, however, lasted a total of 73 years. Thereafter, his sons divided the kingdom and power once again slipped from their hands. A chain of Prophets emerged among their progeny but the Bani Israel (Children of Israel) were always argumentative and refused to abide by the teachings of the Prophets. The Qur’an narrates that they killed many of their prophets among them Zakariya (pbuh) as well as his son Yahya – John the Baptist (pbuh).


As mentioned earlier, the Babylonian king Bakhtnasr (Nebuchadnezzer) laid siege to Jerusalem and took over the city and Palestine in 587 BC. He destroyed the temple/Masjid al-Aqsa and enslaved all the people. This story is narrated in detail in the Bible in Kings 2 Chapters 24 and 25. The Torah also says that the Israelites were enslaved in both the Nile (Egypt) and in the Euphrates (by the Babylonians).


The Persian King Cyrus the Great rescued the Bani Israel after seventy years of slavery in Babylon. He also permitted them to return to Palestine from where the Babylonians had driven them out. The Persian Empire faced a rival in the Roman Empire and constant battles occurred between them. In the year 70 CE, the Romans captured Jerusalem and destroyed the temple one more time. Barely 65 years later in what is referred to as the Bar Kokhba revolt, the Romans massacred the Bani Israel (Children of Israel) and even dug out the foundations of the temple in the year 135 CE. By now, the Romans had accepted Christianity as their religion and their enmity toward the Jews intensified as killers of Prophet Isa (Jesus - pbuh).


The Romans, however, faced a constant threat from the Persians and in the year 614 CE, the latter took control of Jerusalem from the Romans. In Makkah where the noble Messenger (pbuh) had started his mission of propagating Islam, the polytheists made fun of Muslims because the fire-worshipping Zoroastrians had vanquished the Christian Romans. The Qur’an narrates this in the opening verses of Surah al-Rum in which God says that not only the Romans but Muslims too would be victorious within a period of less than 10 years.


Given the plight of Muslims at the time—their numbers were small and they faced great persecution—the Makkah polytheist made great fun of the Qur’anic verses but God’s Word came true—as it was bound to—within the stipulated timeframe and not only the Romans defeated their Persian rivals but the Muslims also triumphed over their Makkah foes in the Battle of Badr.


It is also pertinent to note that when Muslims migrated from Makkah to Madinah, for the first 17 months, they faced toward Masjid al-Aqsa in their prayer. It was during dhuhr salat (the mid-day prayer) in the second year of the hijrah that God’s revelation about the change of qibla (direction of prayer) from Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem to Masjid al-Haram in Makkah came. This is narrated in the Quran (2:142-43). The mosque in Madinah where the Prophet (pbuh) was leading the Muslims in salat is today called Masjid Qiblatain (Masjid of the two qiblas).


Jerusalem, however, came into Muslim possession only during the Khilafah of Umar (ra) in the year 638 CE. The Christian Patriarch, Sophronius had insisted that he would hand over the keys of Jerusalem only to the ruler of Muslims. The second Khalifah Umar was on a campaign in the Golan Heights and when word reached him, he hurried to Jerusalem to take possession of the keys without causing any bloodshed in the city.


When he entered the city, Umar located the place where the noble Messenger (pbuh) had led all the Prophets in prayer before his ascension of Heaven on his mi‘raj. After cleansing the place thoroughly, he led the Muslims in prayer and a makeshift mosque was erected there. This simple structure later developed into what is called Masjid al-Aqsa today and has been in Muslim possession ever since.


There is also another more impressive structure that emerged on the Haram al-Sharif. This is called the Dome of the Rock and has a huge gold dome. The Ummayyad ruler Abdul Malik built this about 50 years later over the rock where the Heavenly stead, the Buraq was tethered when the Prophet (pbuh) led the other Prophets in prayer. After mounting the Buraq that started to ascend, the rock followed. The Angel Gabriel asked the noble Messenger (pbuh) to order the rock from rising.


The noble Messenger (pbuh) put his foot on the rock ordering it to stop. To this day, there is a footprint on the rock and it remains suspended except for very thin metal rods underneath it. This is the place where the Dome of the Rock Mosque exists.


The Muslims lost Masjid al-Aqsa and Jerusalem to the Crusaders in the year 1099 CE. Muslim rulers surrounding Palestine had become corrupt, much like the rulers today and had lost the will to defend Islam or Muslims. It was not until another 88 years before Salahuddin Ayyubi (Saladin) liberated Masjid al-Aqsa and Jerusalem from the clutches of the Crusaders.


Unfortunately the decline in Muslim rule and corruption in their ranks has led to the loss of Masjid al-Aqsa one more time. It occurred in several phases. When the Ottoman Empire was defeated and dismembered, the British colonialists took control of Palestine and in typical colonial style started to disburse Muslim lands to others. The Europeans had never tolerated the Jews in their midst; the frequent pogroms against them being a constant reminder of the intolerance of the Europeans. In 1918, when Britain occupied Palestine, they conspired to hand it over to the Jews—actually the Zionists — as a permanent homeland totally ignoring the rights of the indigenous Palestinian people. At the time the Zionist state was created in Palestine in 1948, more than 60 percent of Palestinian land was handed over to the Zionists. The rest was grabbed by the Zionists in 1967 together with East Jerusalem that houses the Masjid al-Aqsa as well as the Dome of the Rock.


That is where the situation stands today: Masjid al-Aqsa, indeed the entire Haram al-Sharif is under Zionist occupation and threat of destruction. Even while Muslims throughout their history provided sanctuary to the Jewish people after they suffered persecution elsewhere, the Zionists have turned out to be the worst kinds of oppressors in history. They act with impunity and are extremely hostile toward the indigenous Palestinian people. Heavily armed, they shoot at the slightest pretext and have no regard for Palestinian life.


The corrupt Muslim rulers are totally subservient to the imperialists and Zionists. Reposing hope in them to rescue the Muslims is a waste of time. It would require a figure like Salahuddin Ayyubi to rise among the Muslims to liberate Masjid al-Aqsa and Palestine from another group of Crusaders, this time of the Zionist variety.


Until then, Muslims can pray and prepare for that day. A good starting point would be to become better informed about their history that seems to have been largely forgotten.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Mightier than a Missile

Mightier than a Missile

By Moulana Khalid Dhorat
When the Americans dropped a small 10-kiloton nuclear bomb in the August of 1945 on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 66 000 people died instantly. A huge fireball was seen, 1000 times more intense than lightning, and people up to 10 km’s away were permanently blinded by just witnessing it. The clothing of some as far as 15 km’s away, caught fire; whilst many were burnt beyond recognition within five km’s of ground zero. The windows of homes 20 km’s away were shattered whilst those nearer were completely destroyed by the gale-force nuclear winds travelling up to 600 km’s per hour. None could escape.
If all the superpowers of the world were to drop their nuclear bombs now on the world, the living world – the people, animals, plant and marine life – will come to an end within seconds. Mountains will be flattened and due to the intense radiation, life will not revive for a few centuries thereafter. The world will resort back to the ice ages.
Many people mistakenly believe that there is nothing more deadly than a nuclear missile, but there is one thing more deadly - the displeasure and curse of your mother.
Sacrifice of a Mother
Think of your beloved mother sitting on a hard stool, slowly sipping cold tea from a chipped cup in a gloomy old-age home. Her heater is switched on in summer too, but the bars are so worn out that it produces no heat. Her favourite item of comfort is a quilt that she inherited from her own mother 50 years ago; and of course her plastic pill-box, which is always filled by the nurses daily. Sadly, she moved out of her son’s house just one year after her husband passed away, not because she was chased out, but because she felt that she wouldn’t be a burden to any of her children who could now go on holiday at any time without worrying about her wheelchair and medication.
Now let us go 40 years back when this same mother was expecting you. Did she think that you would be a burden to her, having to feed you, burp you, and then also change your stinky nappies!!! Did she think about dropping you in a trash can because you would vomit at any time on her designer carpet? Did she reason that having a baby would spoil her hourglass figure, and she wouldn’t be able to fit in her favourite jeans after that? The fact that our mothers bore all these difficulties with love and patience is enough to make us her captive for life.
Ponder on the fact that upon birth, there was a cozy blanket awaiting your arrival in the cold world; but even before this, your mother carried you within three levels of comfort: in her tummy, in her womb and within her fluids wherein you could move and frolic freely. The umbilical cord connected you to her, nourishing you, like an invisible comforting hand, until you were delivered in a death-like pain in this world.
After delivering you, your mother had to sacrifice the comfort of her home and go to her mother’s place to ensure that you were properly cared for. She happily nursed you, sleeping only when you slept and eating only when you ate. She rubbed ointment on your rear due to your nappy rash, but didn’t bother about the stretch marks on her own tummy. She sacrificed her favorite biryaani because the masoor – those small brown balls – would’ve given you wind, and she made sure you had 10 pairs of clothing at any given time whilst her slipper needed upgrading eight years ago. When she felt dizzy or when her blood pressure rose, she couldn’t even take medication because the medicine could have affected the milk she fed you.
In fact, no amount of words can do justice to the selfless love and sacrifice of a mother to the degree that even if she were to give birth to a snake, she wouldn’t abandon it. A person asked our Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) if he would fulfill the rights of his mother if he carried her from Madeenah Munawwarah to Makkah Mukarramah for Hajj and back and the answer he received blew his socks off: “This action wouldn’t even suffice for one sip of milk she nursed you with.”
Sadly, today we are witnessing the return of the Muslim old-age home, and more sadly, our parents actually see it as a solution to their problems.
A Different Relationship
Due to the supreme sacrifice of a mother, our relationship with her is not like other relationships. If we have a “give and take” policy with our partner, or a tolerant attitude with our neighbour, an attitude of respect with our teacher, or a habit of overlooking the faults of our children, then to our mother, it is about not saying even “oof” or “aagh” to her. It is not about merely obeying her, but about pleasing her and making her as comfortable as possible. It’s about making her your priority in life and to carry out whatever she tells you, unless it is wrong or in matters of clear disobedience to the Creator. In short, it’s a relationship of blind love.
Our noble Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) prophesized that a distressing time will come when people will listen to their wives, and disobey their mother. In fact, some of our youngsters start their journey of rudeness to their mother from their teen years already, breaking her heart over and over again, until when they marry, she becomes just a burden in their life. The tragedy of the modern day is that if we demand from our parents, especially our mothers, items that they cannot provide, they are no good to us anymore. If they cannot fund our weekend outings, upgrade our wardrobe with the latest trends, and send us on holiday, they are useless. She is treated like a piece of furniture, whose purpose in life is just to put a plate of food on the supper table and make sure the laundry is done. She is nothing but a glorified maid.
Conversely, if our mothers were to attach a price for her service to her children, a solid gold bar per day in payment until the end of our lives, would be insufficient.
Consequence of Disobedience
Whatever a parent does for their children is done from the heart. So, if they pray for the happiness and success of their children, it will be from the heart. According to a hadeeth, it is highly unlikely that a sincere prayer for a parent in favour of their children will go unanswered. So, your success in this world and the next depends on how happy you keep your parents – not only as a carefree child, but as an adult saddled with all the responsibilities of life.
Obedient children will be successful in life, whilst disobedient children will never be successful. Many people in society, when asked about the reason for their success in life, will attribute it to one thing only: the prayers of their parents. Indeed, fortunate children simply die for those moments wherein they feel the air of paradise on their face – the time when heartfelt prayers emanate from the lips of their parents. This does not mean that we should obey our parents in a way that we trample on the rights of others – like our spouse – but it should be done in a sensible way. Making obedience to parents a pretext to undermine our duty to others is a hallmark of our ignorance and our cunning ability of using “religious blackmail” to shirk our duty. Sometimes parents even make use of this “religious blackmail” to influence their children against their partners.
Sayyiduna ‘Alqamah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was a sahaabi known for his piety, but he was unable to recite the shahaadah (testimony of faith) on his death-bed. It was learnt that the reason for this was that his mother was displeased with him on some account. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) ordered that a huge pile of wood be gathered and ‘Alqamah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) be burnt alive therein before his actual death. When his mother who refused to forgive him at the time, learnt of this, she exclaimed: “How can my son be burnt!!” She was told that if she didn’t forgive him, he would be burnt in any case in the Hereafter. The sight of the firewood was enough to stir her sympathy, and she forgave her son. Just then, ‘Alqamah’s tongue was released, he recited the shahaadah and he passed into the mercy of the Almighty.
The displeasure of ‘Alqamah’s (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) mother was more deadly than a nuclear bomb. A nuclear bomb would’ve wiped you off the face of this earth and that would be the end, but the displeasure of your mother would ensure your eternal damnation. People who didn’t make peace with their parents before they died have a pain in their heart that can never be settled; whilst those who lost their parents whilst on good terms with them will testify that a huge chunk of blessings that they witnessed during their lifetime was also lost forever.
A mother remains a mother, not until you can walk on your own or feed yourself; but until your death. She worries for you more than herself, and then repeats the cycle all over again with her grandchildren. So, it is natural that if someone sacrifices their entire life for you, you need to sacrifice yours for them. The Almighty demands this level of obedience and respect to our parents, anything less is regarded as selfishness and a deficiency in our duty to them.
Due to old age, many parents start acting childishly and may be stubborn in their ways, but remember if they could put up with your childish ways and stubbornness when you were in nappies, you need to patiently tolerate them if they are in nappies now. This is the test of your devotion – a test which you cannot afford to fail. Never let them feel unwanted in your home. Rather smile at them as they take an awkward step back and forth, for a loving smile at ones parents is equivalent to an accepted hajj and ‘umrah according to a hadeeth.
So go on. Give your parents a huge hug and a smile today and every day after this. Overlook their mistakes and earn paradise the easy way through them.