Sir Rateb Y. Rabie, KCHS
Jerusalem is significant in Islam and to Muslims, as it is in the other two monotheistic faith traditions of Judaism and Christianity and to their followers. It is where Prophet Muhammad connected with God, as expressed in the sacred narrative of his Night Journey, and it is the first qiblah, the direction toward which Prophet Muhammad and Muslims faced when praying in the early period of Islam. Home of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, it is the third holiest city in Islam after Mecca and Medina.
What Jerusalem Means to Us: Muslim Perspectives and Reflections consists of twelve important essays that address different aspects of the strong bond that ties Islam and Muslims with Jerusalem. It complements well the successful What Jerusalem Means to Us: Christian Perspectives and Reflections, which was published in 2018. A publication of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF), the book is done in partnership with the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies (RIIFS) in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. RIIFS is under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Royal Family. We deeply appreciate HRH Prince El Hassan’s enlightened leadership and voice in support of interfaith and intercultural dialogue as well as his important ideas contained in his Foreword to this book.
The city’s sacredness is interconnected with its worldliness as it is the abode of Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian, and others. However, what has been challenging in recent decades is the lack of empathy and understanding on the part of some who advocate for an exclusive, ethnically based control of the city, as evidenced by Israel’s policy to Judaize the city and negatively impact the lives and livelihood of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and beyond. The challenge has also come from Israel’s supporters in the United States and elsewhere. A prime example is U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Such actions not only ignore the history, laws, and complexity of the facts on the ground, but also disrupt the very character and future peace of the city.
Jerusalem is unique and its character is enriched by its inclusivity and universality. It should be shared by the three monotheistic faiths and by Palestinians and Israelis. This view was expressed during the 20th HCEF International Conference, “Together in Faith—Jerusalem: Our Collective Home,” on November 3, 2018, Washington, D.C. The conference declaration states,
Jerusalem is a city like no other. Nestled deep in the heart of three Abrahamic faith traditions, it carries a special weight in our varied, but interrelated beliefs and images of reality. Although our political goals sometimes intrude into faith issues, it is clear now, more than ever, that Jerusalem’s significance resides in embracing humanity and inclusive relations.
• Jerusalem cannot belong exclusively, or even predominantly, to one people or one religion.
• The inhabitants of Jerusalem must have a dignified life and have equal access to housing, jobs, education, medical care, municipal services, political participation, cultural activities, and religious sites.
• Legal protection is essential. All inhabitants of Jerusalem must be equal before the law.
• Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others everywhere should advocate for preserving Jerusalem’s Status Quo and for maintaining it as the inclusive center of faith.
• The Question of Jerusalem should be addressed through negotiations, not dictation; through fairness, not partiality. Both the process and its outcome must be just and inclusive.
• Only when Jerusalem is at peace can she fulfill its true universal character and be the center of reconciliation for humanity.
We commit ourselves to bringing together religious leaders, peace organizations, and others of good will in support of Jerusalem, our collective home. We plan to do so in an organized, systematic, and systemic manner.
In addition to highlighting the Muslim dimensions of Jerusalem, What Jerusalem Means to Us: Muslim Perspectives and Reflections is a true expression of our commitment to Jerusalem and its inhabitants. We urge people of good will – Muslims and others – to advocate for maintaining it as an inclusive center of faith and for preserving Jerusalem’s Status Quo.
In closing, we, at HCEF, extend our heartfelt thanks to all those who contributed to the book and faithfully testified to the Muslim stake in Jerusalem. We would like to express our gratitude to Dr. Saliba Sarsar and Dr. Carole Monica Burnett for editing this essential book; Mr. Alawneh Mahir for designing the book cover; Mr. Elias Saboura, Esq. of Holy Land Books for his friendship and support; Dr. Renée Hattar, Head of International Studies, Programs, and Projects at the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, for her invaluable assistance; and Mr. Steve France, Esq. for his collaboration and sponsorship of this book.