Whom the Holy Land? A Qur'anic Answer
by Khaleel Mohammed
San Diego State University
Presented at the Jerusalem Summit, Jerusalem
November 27-30, 2004
Generous hosts, respected guests: The presentation
that I will now make to you has been changed somewhat from
the material I had originally prepared. The interview that
Haaretz published today has greatly helped me in abbreviating
my speech since I now have the actual words of one of the
leaders of the Islamic movement in Israel to work with. I
must also take into consideration the allotted time for my
presentation and have therefore expunged several items.
For the safety of my brave coreligionists who have honored
this summit with their presence, I must point out that the
views I express about interpretation of the Qur'an are solely
my own, in my capacity as a scholar of Islam, trained in traditional
Islamic and Western academic approaches to my religion. In
no way have the Muslims present at this august assembly collaborated
with me, nor do they, I assume, even know of my views.
Finally, based on certain views I have heard expressed-and
at which I have expressed my vociferous disagreement, I would
like to let it be known that my argument in no way seeks to
divest the Palestinian people of any rights, human or otherwise.
The ownership of the land is a different issue to its governance,
and as all the holy books of the Abrahamic religions concur,
the "other" should always be treated with dignity
Contemporary Islam, as far as the overwhelming majority of
Muslims and non-Muslims understand, is opposed to Zionism
in every way, shape and form. Yet, when the Arab Nations fought
against Israel in the early wars, they did so in the name
of Arab Nationalism while within their own borders, they were
struggling to curb Islamic-based movements. When Arafat founded
al-Fatah, he did not speak of Islam; when the Black September
terrorists massacred eleven Israeli athletes at Munich in
1972, they chanted no Islamic slogans. And when the Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) conducted its
terrorist activities against the "Zionist enemy,"
it did so under the leadership of a Christian, George Habash,
who had espoused Marxist-Leninist principles. Now, three decades
later, the Christian minority voice of Palestinians seems
to have been absolutely stifled by the calls of Muslim clerics
for Jihad. Largely due to the propaganda movements of Hamas,
Hizbollah and al-Qaeda, the fight against Israel and Zionism
is no longer couched in terms of Arab-nationalism: it is a
now perceived as the duty of the believer in Islam.
Yet, I argue that a thorough investigation of Islam's two
main sources, the Qur'an and the Hadith, presents conflicting
views on the issue. If the Qur'an is read on its own, without
the refraction of the Hadith, it could, based on certain verses,
be mistaken for a very right-wing Zionist document. The Hadith,
on the other hand, can never be mistaken for anything remotely
Zionist: the land of Israel is Muslim territory to be wrested
from the accursed Jews in a brutal and bloody eschatological
battle. In this presentation, I will restrict myself to examining
the Qur'anic perspectives and the possibility of change in
the Muslim outlook. Unless otherwise indicated, whenever I
use the term "Zionism," I am not referring political
or secular definitions, but to the Biblical concept of Eretz
Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people. (Nathan Birnbaum
may have formed the word in the 1890's, but the concept is
as old as the Bible itself, if we take it to refer to a scriptural
writ of enlandisement.)
There is a question that must be asked and that is: why do
I seek to use the Qur'an in my argument? My answer was hinted
at in my opening words: the matter was not initially seen
as a religious one, but the words of utilitarian strategists
quickly made the issue into a Jewish-Muslim confrontation.
When they did so, they involved the entire Muslim world. I
feel that they did so with duplicity aforethought-and I therefore
use the Qur'an to show that the very source they sought to
misappropriate is, in fact, against them.
If the idea of Israel (Zion) as a homeland for the Jewish
people were to be found only in the Torah, it would have been
irrelevant to discuss the Muslim view on that issue. But this
biblical concept is found in the Qur'an to the point where
Islam's main document mentions that God favored the Children
of Israel above all nations and decreed Israel as an abode
for them, granting holy status to that land:
And Remember when Moses said to his people: O my people! Remember
the favors of your Lord that he has bestowed upon you, as
He has made prophets and kings from among you, and has given
to you that which has never been given to anyone amongst the
nations. Enter then, my People, the Holy Land, that God has
written for you, and turn not back, or you will suffer."
Qur'an 5: 20-21.
Several other verses support the above two, among them: Q7:
137, 10: 93, 17: 104, and 21: 71,81. The verses that are particularly
important are Q5: 20-1 because, long before the formation
of the State of modern Israel in 1948, the Muslim exegetes
explained these verses in a manner that would have shocked
their coreligionists of today who clamor for the destruction
of Israel. To elucidate my point, I have rendered verse 5:
21 above in as literal a manner as possible: translating the
Arabic KaTaBa as "written." This word has definite
theological connotations: in Islam, as in Jewish belief, it
conveys the idea of decisiveness and finality, e.g. in "written
Torah" as opposed to "oral Torah." In the approximately
22 instances in the Qur'an where this action is attributed
to God (directly Kataba or indirectly, Kutiba), it likewise
conveys the idea of decisiveness, finality and immutability.
One such example is the verse (Q2:183) used by Muslims to
indicate that the Ramadan fast is compulsory Kutiba alaykum
al-siyaam . . . literally, "written upon you is the fast"-but
understood to mean, "Obligatory upon you is the fast."
For most Muslims, the views of famous exegetes are extremely
cogent: a Muslim scholar cannot attempt to gain any respect
unless s/he is thoroughly familiar with the views of the famous
mufassirs (exegetes). I will therefore attempt to present
a summary of what the most well known mufassirs have provided
as the explanations of Q5: 21. Abu Ja'far al-Tabari (d. 310/922),
Islam's most famous exegete explained Kataba as: "That
which God has firmly inscribed on the Guarded Tablet (al-Lawh
al-Mahfuz) that this (land) as an abode and residence for
you instead of the tyrants that inhabited it." It is
significant the al-Tabari refers to al-Lawh al-Mahfuz in his
explanation, for the term is used in Chapter 85: 21, to refer
to a heavenly tablet that is divinely guarded, and something
that is inscribed on it therefore must be seen as absolutely
inviolable and immutable.
Abu Ali al-Tabarsi (d. 548/1153), the Shi'ite commentator,
repeats al-Tabari's statement without any change. Ibn Kathir
(d. 774/1373) explained Kataba in terms that would have pleased
the most ardent zionists: "That which God has written
for you" i.e., That which God has promised to you by
the words of your father Israel as the inheritance of those
among you who believe." Muhammad al-Shawkani (d. 1250/1834)
interpreted Kataba to mean "that which God has allotted
and predestined for you in His primordial knowledge, deeming
it as a place of residence for you" (emphases mine).
The Shi'ite commentator, Muhammad Husayn al-Tabataba'i (d.
1981), explained that the divine decree of Q5: 21is elucidated
by Q28: 5:
We wanted to favor those who were weak in the land, and make
them the inheritors and establish them in the land. (And Moses
had hoped for this, on the condition that they persevered,
relied on God and sought His help). Moses said to his people:
Seek help in God and be patient. The land is God's and he
will cause those of His servants whom He wishes to inherit
it. . . (7:129)
Al-Tabataba'i (italics: Qur'anic verse, bracketed material:
Perhaps as, if not more intriguing, is the interpretation
that the exegetes give to
"al-Ard al-Muqadassah" (the Holy Land) in Q5:21.
Al-Tabari gave several reports, citing respected authorities,
showing that the Holy Land in fact was (1) Sinai and the surrounding
area (2) Greater Syria (3) Jericho (4) Damascus, Palestine,
and some of Jordan. Al-Shawkani also repeated this in his
Since the words of Moses in Q5: 21 seem to indicate permanency
of God's giving of Israel to the Jews, how does one deal with
the Babylonian and Roman exiles? The Qur'an does refer to
these two exiles (17: 4), but strangely, follows up those
verses with one that indicates that at the time of the Day
of Judgment, the followers of Moses will be living in Israel,
made up of many peoples (17: 104). This prophecy is extremely
significant since it is one of the extremely rare cases in
which the Qur'an makes a prediction. If the fundamental understanding
of Zionism is that Israel is the specific land for the Jewish
people, then the foregoing discourse on the Qur'anic perspective
evidences a view that is totally in concord with that belief.
The reference to Israel and Jews on the day of Judgment is
extremely important in understanding the Qur'anic outlook:
while Islam's main document continually refers to eschatological
events, and describes certain cosmic upheavals that will occur
on the Final Day, it contains no Armageddon imagery of apocalyptic
prophecies, no end-of-time battles for Jerusalem, nor of signs
presaging the final days. Muhammad's role as an apostle of
God was not one that allowed him to predict the future, and
he is thus made to say in the Qur'an, on several occasions,
that he knows nothing about when the Final Day will occur:
If I knew the unseen, I would have enjoyed good, and no evil
would have touched me. I am only a bearer of warnings and
bringer of happy news for those who believe.
Qur'an 7: 188.
I am not different from other messengers. I have no idea
what will happen to me or to you. I only follow what is revealed
to me. I am no more than a clear warner.
Qur'an 46: 9.
They ask you about the Hour, when will it occur? How can you
tell anything about it? Your Lord has that knowledge. You
are only a warner for those who fear it. That day it will
seem to them as if they had tarried in the world only for
an evening or its morn!
Qur'an 79: 42-6.
As you can see then, the argument that I make is short, yet
its cogency is undeniable and powerful. Of course, having
heard of the Popperian paradigm in yesterday's discourse-and
knowing Popper's coinages of testability and falsifiability,
the question may be asked: If the argument is as simple and
clear as I have outlined, why do the rest of the Muslims not
accept it? Let me refer to the Haaretz interview yesterday
(November 29th) wherein Shaykh Abdallah Nimr Darwish had the
opportunity to respond to my views. The Haaretz excerpt-and
I have no reason to dispute its reliability-reads thus:
He (The Shaykh)…disagrees entirely with Prof. Mohammed's opinion.
He is very familiar with the relevant verse, and in his opinion
it does not prove any ownership of the land. "The verse
says that Moussa's people must enter the Holy Land. Does ownership
derive from this? When I invite someone to enter my office,
does the office become his? Definitely not! . . . The use
of the word kataba does not justify anything. . .
And here we see the problem: I took time to structure my
argument on the entire verse, not the initial part of it.
Not only does the Shaykh ignore the basis of my argument by
making a horribly skewed analogy; he in fact goes against
EVERY classical exegete by denying the significance of "kataba."
And if any one were to say to me that I have brought about
a new interpretation, or that I am following some Orientalist
heresy, I would refer them to my earlier citations, and go
further, indeed to the earliest extant and complete exegesis
known to us: that of Muqatil b. Sulayman (d. 150/767). According
to him, "Kataba" means "ordered", i.e.,
Moses was saying to the Israelites: Enter the Holy Land as
God has ordered you to do. Muqatil even defines the Holy land
as Jericho, in the land of Jordan as well as Palestine. But
more importantly, Muqatil b. Sulayman states: Do not retreat
from that land, or you will be losers. This is because God
said to Abraham, when he was in the Holy Land, "Verily,
this land in which you now stand will be an inheritance for
your son after you."
And so, honored listeners, I have shown you that I have in
fact followed the most traditional of interpretations. It
is in fact the Shaykh who has sought to do otherwise, citing
a Biblical source by pointing out that Abraham in fact bought
his burial site. Before getting into the fine details of such
an argument, I would ask: if a Muslim chooses to refer to
the Hebrew Bible on one aspect of the argument, why does s/he
not use the entire Bible material in the matter? Or are we
to assume somehow that when Jews claim Biblical sanctity for
their views, they are somehow misinformed regarding the interpretation
of their own book, and need a Muslim uberkhakham to advise
I have omitted from my discourse the hadith that foretell
horrible eschatological battles that result in the slaughter
of the Jews. Rather, I will raise the question: How can the
Qur'an and Hadith be so uncompromisingly conflicting on the
issue of Israel for the Jewish people? The answer seems quite
obvious: Muhammad saw himself as being the prophet to the
Arabs, and therefore, with the conquest of Mecca, his mission
was complete (Q5: 3). Muhammad had no dreams of making Jerusalem
part of the Islamic polity; such an undertaking, given its
importance, would certainly have been mentioned in the Qur'an,
and Islam would not have been deemed complete without reference
to it. The hadith, on the other hand, becomes in vogue roughly
a century after Muhammad's death, and is compiled in a totally
different sitz im leben to that of the Qur'an.
When hadith started being circulated, with Jerusalem in the
hands of the Muslims, any tradition that could justify its
possession was sought after or created. Among such traditions,
as explained earlier, was the imported Christian concept of
the antichrist, or al-Masih al-Dajjal in Arabic. Jerusalem
is, in Christian eschatology, the site of the returning Jesus,
and the place where he would triumph over the antichrist.
When Muslims accepted the legend, they did not alter the details
of the city to which Jesus would return for his victory. And
sometime after Jerusalem fell into Muslim hands in 638, it
would seem that Muslims saw the room for extension of the
spiritual claim to Abraham as one involving the land itself.
For all their conquests, Muslims still had to face the fact
that, according to the Bible, the covenant existed only with
the genealogical (Jewish), or spiritual (Christian) descendants
of Isaac. The Muslims, in a daring revisionist creation of
history, and now as masters of the Holy Land, sought to negate
the Jewish-Christian covenantal claims by showing Ishmael
as the favored and sacrificial son. The Qur'an does indeed
state that the Jews broke their covenant (See 2: 40, 83, 86,
90; 4:154-5; 5:12-3), but this does not mean that the covenant
was passed on to the Muslims, and that the Muslims were now
the rightful inheritors of the land of Israel. Certainly there
are verses of polemic against Jews in the Qur'an, but these
verses clearly have nothing to do with the land of Israel,
for Moses, in the Qur'an is clearly identified as coming to
the tribe of Israel, and advocating on their behalf (Q7: 105).
In Q5: 20-1, he addresses them as "My tribe," exhorting
them to enter the Holy Land (Q5: 20-1). There is therefore
no substance to the argument that somehow, since Muslims respect
all the Biblical prophets, this is any way makes them the
new inheritors of the Temple site in Jerusalem or any part
The shallowness of this argument is also evidenced by the
fact that when this land was wrested from the Byzantines by
the Muslim armies in 638, its first capital was Lod (Lydda).
While Muslim tradition had recognized Jerusalem as the first
Qibla, and probably also identified it with the site of Muhammad's
night journey (Q17: 1), it would seem that the early Muslims
were keenly aware of the Qur'anic teaching that Israel (including
obviously Jerusalem) is a holy land to the Jews-as evidenced
by the traditions that show Umar, after initially agreeing
to the Christian request to ban Jews from Jerusalem, later
relented and decreed that the city should be opened to the
Jews. The stories of Umar's journeying to Jerusalem, and consulting
Ka'b al-Ahbar about the site of the temple, seem to be, as
pointed out by Goitein, to be pious fictions. The purpose
of such narratives, as in the case of the hadith dictating
that one should journey to the Masjid al-Aqsa , seem to create
authority through back-projection of sayings to respected
early personalities. In fact, it was during the caliphate
of Muawiya (661-680) that building of the Masjid al-Aqsa commenced.
By all reports, Abdel Malik (r. 685-705) was the one who finalized
the construction and also built the Dome of the Rock. The
construction was not in order to fulfill any scriptural or
prophetic mandate; it was just to demonstrate to the Muslims
that Abdel Malik was the rightful champion of a conquering
Muslim exegetes, as long as the Jews were a scattered people,
could discuss the concept of the size of Israel, as this was
to them, something purely theoretical. The victors over the
Byzantines, carried away by their conquest, had no need to
reflect on the words of the Qur'an. But after the unthinkable
happened in 1948 with the establishment of the state of Israel,
followed by the crushing defeat of the Arabs in 1967, the
political problem that had hitherto been probably perceived
as a nagging headache, now metamorphosed into a full-blown
Judenfrage, perceived by many as a sign of the last days of
the eschatological imagery of both Christian and Islamic traditions.
The matter now transformed itself from purely political into
one of religious significance.
In 1968, the Academy of Islamic Research met at Azhar university
to discuss the situation in light of the new religious focus,
transforming what had hitherto been a war based from an Arab
nationalist manifesto into a Jihad. Among the resolutions
taken, and listed as per conference referencing were:
(1a) That the causes for which combat and Jihad must be taken
up as defined in the Holy Qur'an are all manifest in the Israeli
aggression, since the Israelis had launched attacks against
the Arab and Muslim territories, violated what is regarded
as most sacred in Islam, with regard to both its rites and
boundaries. . . for all these reasons, striving with one's
life and wealth against the aggressors has become a binding
duty every Muslim has to fulfill. . . "
(1f) The Conference recommends the mobilization of all the
material and moral resources of the Arab and Islamic nation,
and to train all militarily fit in wielding arms.
(6b) The Conference declares that Muslims everywhere will
not remain mere spectators in the fact of Zionist racist covetousness
in the Arab and Islamic worlds, nor will they shrink from
giving their lives in defence of their countries and sanctities,
and for the restoration of their usurped land.
It is clear that the resolutions of the conference were
not immediately upheld by those fighting for the Palestinian
cause, for the atrocities of the Munich Olympics, occurring
four years after these resolutions, exhibited no trace of
"Jihad" slogans. But the Islamic universities in
the Middle East, with the petro-dollars that were netted by
the oil-embargo and the subsequent inflation of oil-prices,
were able to recruit thousands of foreign students and train
them in this militant anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, sometimes
blatantly anti-Semitic ideology.
The successes of the religiously structured Hizbollah and
Hamas have given further impetus to the religious thrust.
In addition to this, as noted by Professor Shibley Telhami,
In the Arab world, the conflict is also being reframed, not
in relation to Israel or Zionism, but to Jews. This is still
the exception, but more common than it was just months ago.
It's not a return to the old ways. Pan-Arabism, when it prevailed,
opposed the 'Zionist entity," not Jews. The dominant
political culture differentiated Zionism, as an ideology,
from Jews and Jewishness. . .
In fact, the reframing of the conflict has long occurred
in the farthest reaches of the world of Islam, as far as being
expressed in terms of Muslim versus Jew. In the aftermath
of the September 11, 2001 crime, there were conspiracy theories
being bandied about on several Islamic websites, noting that
the true perpetrators were the Jews.
The internet has created a new web of hate literature now,
and the claims for Israel and Jerusalem being a Muslim land
are abundant on the various websites. For all their claimed
recourse to Islamic source material, these websites demonstrate
an amazing ignorance, either actual or feigned, of the verses
of the Qur'an cited in this presentation. Prior to the invasion
of Iraq, I had opined that, for there to be any initiative
of peace from the Muslim side, one or both of two things have
to be done: (1) the Arab-Israeli conflict must be divested
of its religious garb, or (2) Muslims must be made aware of
the difference between the Quran and Hadith, or at least focus
strongly on the Qur'an. I still hold to those opinions, but
now must take into consideration another factor that has recently
come into play, with Middle Eastern Muslims calling for developments
that can bring about my suggested approach to the Arab-Israeli
The spate of terrorism that shocked the entire world since
the invasion of Iraq, and the exposed terrorist mentality
of several of the so-called religious men of Islam have shocked
many Muslims into decrying the very leaders from whom they
previously would have sought guidance. It has become clear
to some Muslims that the barbarity to which many of their
coreligionists, along with the encouragement of religious
leaders, have resorted are alien to the ideals of Islam. Recently,
therefore, what would have been hitherto unthinkable, has
become a reality. The pervasive silence in the Arab Muslim
world that followed 9/11 is being replaced by strident voices
of dissent and censure. Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, general manager
of Al-Arabiyya News Channel, wrote in al-Sharq al-Awsat:
It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists,
but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that
almost all terrorists are Muslims. . . Bin Laden is a Muslim.
The majority of those who manned the suicide bombings against
buses, vehicles, schools, houses and buildings, all over the
world were Muslim. What a pathetic record!
. . . Let us listen to Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Sheikh. . .
and hear him recite his "fatwa" about the religious
permissibility of killing civilian Americans in Iraq. . .
How could this sheikh face the mother of the youthful Nick
Berg who was slaughtered in Iraq because he wanted to build
communication towers in that ravished country? How can we
believe him when he tells us that Islam is the religion of
mercy and peace while he is turning it into the religion of
blood and slaughter?
. . . An innocent and benevolent religion, whose verses prohibit
the felling of trees in the absence of urgent necessity, that
calls murder the most heinous of crimes, that says explicitly
that if you kill one person you have killed humanity as a
whole, has been turned into a global message of hate and a
universal war cry.
We cannot call those who take schoolchildren as hostages our
own. We cannot tolerate in our midst those who abduct journalists,
murder civilians, explode buses; we cannot accept them as
related to us, whatever the sufferings they claim to justify
their criminal deeds. These are the people who have smeared
Islam and stained its image.
The former dean of the law school of Qatar, Dr. Abd al-Hamid
al-Ansari, has spoken out against the penchant of the Muslim
world to deny acts of Islamist terrorism and instead blame
them on Jewish conspiracies. Some of the excerpts from Dr.
Ansari's address are worth citing:
I do not know how long this [Muslim] arrogance will continue.
Why don't we want to acknowledge that these young people were
the sons of a culture that is hostile toward the world, not
idiots or mad. No one enticed them, and they did not suffer
from oppression, repression, or poverty. They carried out
the operation because of their belief that it was Jihad and
martyrdom. They were our young people and our sons, and they
were our responsibility . . .
'We have Incited [Our Youth] to Die for the Sake of Allah'
It is we who stole their future, and we have sinned against
them because of our backwards education, because of our harmful
religious views, because of our inciting preachers' pulpits,
and because of our violent media. It is we who have not succeeded
in giving their existence value and meaning, and have not
made life better for them than death. We have incited them
to die for the sake of Allah, and have not taught them how
to live for the sake of Allah.
How long will we make life hell for our young people? How
long will we continue to replay the record about American
injustice and world justice towards us as pathetic justification
for the violence and terror among us - as if we are the only
nation suffering from injustice…
Why, in fact, are we the only nation enchanted by the theory
that a Jewish conspiracy stands behind events? Why does the
tree of conspiracy bloom on our soil…? And why are we still
prisoners of theories whose falsity has been proven…?
Dr. Sa'd al-Din Ibrahim, Chairman of the Ibn Khaldun Center
in Cairo, at a recent conference in Cairo (October 5,6, 2004),
along with other Muslim thinkers, issued a statement that
called for, inter alia, the reliance on the Qur'anic text
as the sole authentic source to be utilized for reviewing
the entire Islamic heritage." These statements all note
that many Muslims are not only beginning to reexamine the
culture of death and terrorism that have developed out of
a hadith-based Judeophobia and all things related to Judaism,
among them Zionism, but that they are beginning to speak out
loudly. Upon the recent death of Arafat, the rhetoric coming
from parts of the Arab world shows that he was not as beloved
as many propaganda organs would have us believe. Anis Mansur,
an Egyptian journalist, declared in Al-Ahram, "Arafat
has left the Palestinian people facing a difficult choice
and a test. This opportunity must not be missed. The Palestinian
people must prove to the world that it can have one stand
and one leadership in order to renew the struggle in a different
It is true that Islam is still used as the cohesive force
among those opposed to the state of Israel, but in light of
the growing voices of dissonance in the Muslim world as outlined
in the foregoing discourse shows that the trend towards reexamination
and rejection of non-Qur'anic traditional material is getting
stronger. Given too that, with Arafat's demise, the United
States has sought to reestablish communication with the Palestinian
authority, it is possible that the Palestinians and Muslim
world at large may begin to rethink their opposition to rapprochement.
When Presidents Clinton and Bush refused to have anything
to do with Arafat after the Oslo Accords fiasco, they sent
out a message to the Arab and Muslim world at large: the steps
towards peace have to be taken by the Arabs and Muslims. Now
more than ever, the opportunity for a new and revised approach
remains open. The tyrants of the Muslim world have been dethroned,
isolated, ostracized or coerced into realizing that they cannot
have their way. Saddam languishes in prison, Osama is a fugitive,
and Saudi Arabia now realizes that it must take up arms against
extremist elements within its own border.
The foregoing developments must factor into any prognosis.
Even Shaykh Abdallah Nimr Darwish agreed in some form with
one of my suggestions. The position attributed to him in Haaretz
is that "the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians
is national and political, not religious." If that is
the case then, surely the respected Shaykh must agree that
the religious incitements to violence, exemplified by calls
to Jihad, and talks of ethereal virgins, are wrong, and must
cease. If the conflict is not religious, then there must be
no room for Palestinian imams to exhort to violence in their
Once again then, we have seen that the factors that incite
hatred and violence can be avoided. We have the building blocks
that can be used to form a foundation for peace. I have shown
you that terrorism is NOT the doing of Islam, but rather a
minority of misanthropes. I address my words only to the Palestinians,
because the majority of them share my faith, and when they
suffer, I too suffer. They must, I believe, realize that they
must follow the example of Egypt and Jordan, and make peace
with Israel by abandoning terrorist activity. I do not address
words to Israelis for there is no need to do so: amongst them
are several who exhort their countrymen to peace and several
who stridently speak out against Israel when it does things
that are wrong. Israelis must have noted by now that power
and force will not achieve any lasting peace and security.
Arabs and Muslims must realize that Israel is here to stay
and that terrorist acts against Israel only strengthen the
resolve of the Israelis, and malign the name of Islam. God,
according to the Qur'an, will not change the condition of
a people until they change it themselves. There is no time
like the present to embark on a process of change.
1. Islam's scripture.
2. Islam's oral tradition, wherein provenance is putatively
attributed to Muhammad.
3. See Neusner, Jacob and Tamara Sonn. Comparing Religions
Through Law: Judaism and Islam [London and New York: Routledge,
1999], 191-194. Here the authors clearly distinguish between
enlandisement and secular/political Zionism, pointing out
that the two terms intersect in terms of the importance accorded
by both to a particular territory (ibid, 193). Since the Qur'an
5:20-1, like the Torah, sees a specific geographic area as
belonging and governed by the children of Israel, I feel comfortable
using the term.
4. In fact, this is the only time in the Qur'an that a land
is described as "holy." (Q 5:21) This verse refutes
the claim of Neusner and Sonn that enlandisement is unique
to Judaism, and has no counterpart in Islam (1999, 199). To
be sure, the Qur'an does not believe the God is to be found
in any one land, but this is only one aspect of enlandisement.
The Qur'an 5:21 is extremely clear that Israel, by divine
decree, is the land of the people of Moses. Qur'an 2:116,
quoted by Neusner and Sonn to show that the Qur'an is not
concerned with a specific piece of land, in fact applies to
only one aspect of enlandisement-that God is whereever one
turns. That verse deals with the direction of prayer, and
does NOT in any way deny Israel as the land conferred on the
Jews by divine decree.
5. See also Madigan, Daniel. The Qur'an's Self-Image: Writing
and Authority in Islam's Scripture
(Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2001),
6. Al-Tabari, Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. Jarir. 1961. Jami al
Bayan fi Ta'wil Aay al-Qur'an. (Cairo: Dar al Ma'arif, 1961),
7. Asad, Muhammad. The Message of the Qur'an. (Gibraltar:
Dar al-Andalus, 1984),p. 943, footnote 11.
8. Al-Tabarsi, Abu Ali al-Fadl b. Husayn. Majma al-Bayan fi
Tafsir al-Qur'an (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al- Lubnani, 1957),
9. Ibn Kathir, Abu al-Fida. Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Azim (Beirut:
Dar al-Ma'rifa, 1980), 2:37.
10. Al-Shawkani, Muhammad Ali. Fath al-Qadir: al-Jami bayna
fannay al-Riwaya wa al-Diraya min Ilm al-Tafsir (Beirut, Dar
al-Fikr, 1992), 2:41.
11. Al-Tabataba'i, Muhammad Husayn. Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an
(Tehran: Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyya,
14. Al-Tabari, 10:167-8.
14. In the hadith on p., the site of Jesus' defeat of the
antichrist is at Lod (Lydda) rather than Jerusalem. This,
I think, is because Jerusalem is a sacred site, and fighting,
by Qur'anic law, is forbidden in such places (Q2:191). Lod
was the first place captured by the Romans on their way to
Jerusalem, and this was duplicated by the Arab Muslims on
their way to the capture of that city. It is possible that
the Muslim reporters saw Lod site for all major battles preceding
the taking of Jerusalem.
15. See also my article "Probing the identity of the
sacrificial son in the Qur'an" Journal of Religion and
Culture (13) 1999. 125-138.
16. Siddiqi, Muzzamil "The Islamic Perspective of Jerusalem"
at Conference of American Muslims for Jerusalem, Washington,
D.C. April 17, 1999. See speech on
18. Goitein, S.D. "al-Kuds" in Encyclopedia of Islam
(Leiden: Brill 1958), 5:322-38.
19. Supra, p. 7
20. Elad, Amikam. Medieval Jerusalem and Islamic Worship (Leiden:
Brill, 1999), 24. Note too his reliance
on Jewish midrash that states Muawiya built the walls of the
21. Goitein, S. Studies in Islamic History and Institutions.
(Leiden: Brill, 1966), 140, 147.
22. The Fourth Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research
(Cairo, General Organization for
Government Printing Offices, 1970), 921-928.
23. Telhami, Shibley. "Timidity Risks more Bloodshed."
Los Angeles Times (May 27, 2001), Op Ed Section. For electronic
version, see www.baos.umd.edu/sadat/pub/op_eds.htm
24. See www.memri.org, special dispatch # 792, on the words
of Dr. Abd al-Hamid al-Ansari, former dean,
Faculty of Shari'a at the University of Qatar.
26. See www.memri.org , special report #792.
29. Al-Ahram (Egypt), November 10, 2004.