History Op-Ed

King Abdullah I: As the Arabs See The Jews

Editor’s Note: This fascinating essay, written by King Hussein’s grandfather King Abdullah, appeared in the United States six months before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. In the article, King Abdullah disputes the mistaken view that Arab opposition to Zionism (and later the state of Israel) is because of longstanding religious or ethnic hatred. He notes that Jews and Muslims enjoyed a long history of peaceful coexistence in the Middle East, and that Jews have historically suffered far more at the hands of Christian Europe. Pointing to the tragedy of the holocaust that Jews suffered during World War II, the monarch asks why America and Europe are refusing to accept more than a token handful of Jewish immigrants and refugees. It is unfair, he argues, to make Palestine, which is innocent of anti-Semitism, pay for the crimes of Europe. King Abdullah also asks how Jews can claim a historic right to Palestine, when Arabs have been the overwhelming majority there for nearly 1300 uninterrupted years? The essay ends on an ominous note, warning of dire consequences if a peaceful solution cannot be found to protect the rights of the indigenous Arabs of Palestine.

The Transcript

I am especially delighted to address an American audience, for the tragic problem of Palestine will never be solved without American understanding, American sympathy, American support.

So many billions of words have been written about Palestine — perhaps more than on any other subject in history — that I hesitate to add to them. Yet I am compelled to do so, for I am reluctantly convinced that the world in general, and America in particular, knows almost nothing of the true case for the Arabs.

We Arabs follow, perhaps far more than you think, the press of America. We are frankly disturbed to find that for every word printed on the Arab side, a thousand are printed on the Zionist side.

There are many reasons for this. You have many millions of Jewish citizens interested in this question. They are highly vocal and wise in the ways of publicity. There are few Arab citizens in America, and we are as yet unskilled in the technique of modern propaganda.

The results have been alarming for us. In your press we see a horrible caricature and are told it is our true portrait. In all justice, we cannot let this pass by default.

Our case is quite simple: For nearly 2,000 years Palestine has been almost 100 per cent Arab. It is still preponderantly Arab today, in spite of enormous Jewish immigration. But if this immigration continues we shall soon be outnumbered — a minority in our home.

Palestine is a small and very poor country, about the size of your state of Vermont. Its Arab population is only about 1,200,000. Already we have had forced on us, against our will, some 600,000 Zionist Jews. We are threatened with many hundreds of thousands more.

Our position is so simple and natural that we are amazed it should even be questioned. It is exactly the same position you in America take in regard to the unhappy European Jews. You are sorry for them, but you do not want them in your country.

We do not want them in ours, either. Not because they are Jews, but because they are foreigners. We would not want hundreds of thousands of foreigners in our country, be they Englishmen or Norwegians or Brazilians or whatever.

Think for a moment: In the last 25 years we have had one third of our entire population forced upon us. In America that would be the equivalent of 45,000,000 complete strangers admitted to your country, over your violent protest, since 1921. How would you have reacted to that?

Because of our perfectly natural dislike of being overwhelmed in our own homeland, we are called blind nationalists and heartless anti-Semites. This charge would be ludicrous were it not so dangerous.

No people on earth have been less “anti-Semitic” than the Arabs. The persecution of the Jews has been confined almost entirely to the Christian nations of the West. Jews, themselves, will admit that never since the Great Dispersion did Jews develop so freely and reach such importance as in Spain when it was an Arab possession. With very minor exceptions, Jews have lived for many centuries in the Middle East, in complete peace and friendliness with their Arab neighbours.

Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut and other Arab centres have always contained large and prosperous Jewish colonies. Until the Zionist invasion of Palestine began, these Jews received the most generous treatment — far, far better than in Christian Europe. Now, unhappily, for the first time in history, these Jews are beginning to feel the effects of Arab resistance to the Zionist assault. Most of them are as anxious as Arabs to stop it. Most of these Jews who have found happy homes among us resent, as we do, the coming of these strangers.

I was puzzled for a long time about the odd belief which apparently persists in America that Palestine has somehow “always been a Jewish land.” Recently an American I talked to cleared up this mystery. He pointed out that the only things most Americans know about Palestine are what they read in the Bible. It was a Jewish land in those days, they reason, and they assume it has always remained so.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is absurd to reach so far back into the mists of history to argue about who should have Palestine today, and I apologise for it. Yet the Jews do this, and I must reply to their “historic claim.” I wonder if the world has ever seen a stranger sight than a group of people seriously pretending to claim a land because their ancestors lived there some 2,000 years ago!

If you suggest that I am biased, I invite you to read any sound history of the period and verify the facts.

Such fragmentary records as we have indicate that the Jews were wandering nomads from Iraq who moved to southern Turkey, came south to Palestine, stayed there a short time, and then passed to Egypt, where they remained about 400 years. About 1300 BC (according to your calendar) they left Egypt and gradually conquered most — but not all — of the inhabitants of Palestine.

It is significant that the Philistines — not the Jews — gave their name to the country: “Palestine” is merely the Greek form of “Philistia.”

Only once, during the empire of David and Solomon, did the Jews ever control nearly — but not all — the land which is today Palestine. This empire lasted only 70 years, ending in 926 BC. Only 250 years later the Kingdom of Judah had shrunk to a small province around Jerusalem, barely a quarter of modern Palestine.

In 63 BC the Jews were conquered by Roman Pompey, and never again had even the vestige of independence. The Roman Emperor Hadrian finally wiped them out about 135 AD. He utterly destroyed Jerusalem, rebuilt under another name, and for hundreds of years no Jew was permitted to enter it. A handful of Jews remained in Palestine but the vast majority were killed or scattered to other countries, in the Diaspora, or the Great Dispersion. From that time Palestine ceased to be a Jewish country, in any conceivable sense.

This was 1,815 years ago, and yet the Jews solemnly pretend they still own Palestine! If such fantasy were allowed, how the map of the world would dance about!

Italians might claim England, which the Romans held so long. England might claim France, “homeland” of the conquering Normans. And the French Normans might claim Norway, where their ancestors originated. And incidentally, we Arabs might claim Spain, which we held for 700 years.

Many Mexicans might claim Spain, “homeland” of their forefathers. They might even claim Texas, which was Mexican until 100 years ago. And suppose the American Indians claimed the “homeland” of which they were the sole, native, and ancient occupants until only some 450 years ago!

I am not being facetious. All these claims are just as valid — or just as fantastic — as the Jewish “historic connection” with Palestine. Most are more valid.

In any event, the great Moslem expansion about 650 AD finally settled things. It dominated Palestine completely. From that day on, Palestine was solidly Arabic in population, language, and religion. When British armies entered the country during the last war, they found 500,000 Arabs and only 65,000 Jews.

If solid, uninterrupted Arab occupation for nearly 1,300 years does not make a country “Arab”, what does?

The Jews say, and rightly, that Palestine is the home of their religion. It is likewise the birthplace of Christianity, but would any Christian nation claim it on that account? In passing, let me say that the Christian Arabs—and there are many hundreds of thousands of them in the Arab World—are in absolute agreement with all other Arabs in opposing the Zionist invasion of Palestine.

May I also point out that Jerusalem is, after Mecca and Medina, the holiest place in Islam. In fact, in the early days of our religion, Moslems prayed toward Jerusalem instead of Mecca.

The Jewish “religious claim” to Palestine is as absurd as the “historic claim.” The Holy Places, sacred to three great religions, must be open to all, the monopoly of none. Let us not confuse religion and politics.

We are told that we are inhumane and heartless because do not accept with open arms the perhaps 200,000 Jews in Europe who suffered so frightfully under Nazi cruelty, and who even now — almost three years after war’s end — still languish in cold, depressing camps.

Let me underline several facts. The unimaginable persecution of the Jews was not done by the Arabs: it was done by a Christian nation in the West. The war which ruined Europe and made it almost impossible for these Jews to rehabilitate themselves was fought by the Christian nations of the West. The rich and empty portions of the earth belong, not to the Arabs, but to the Christian nations of the West.

And yet, to ease their consciences, these Christian nations of the West are asking Palestine — a poor and tiny Moslem country of the East—to accept the entire burden. “We have hurt these people terribly,” cries the West to the East. “Won’t you please take care of them for us?”

We find neither logic nor justice in this. Are we therefore “cruel and heartless nationalists”?

We are a generous people: we are proud that “Arab hospitality” is a phrase famous throughout the world. We are a humane people: no one was shocked more than we by the Hitlerite terror. No one pities the present plight of the desperate European Jews more than we.

But we say that Palestine has already sheltered 600,000 refugees. We believe that is enough to expect of us — even too much. We believe it is now the turn of the rest of the world to accept some of them.

I will be entirely frank with you. There is one thing the Arab world simply cannot understand. Of all the nations of the earth, America is most insistent that something be done for these suffering Jews of Europe. This feeling does credit to the humanity for which America is famous, and to that glorious inscription on your Statue of Liberty.

And yet this same America — the richest, greatest, most powerful nation the world has ever known — refuses to accept more than a token handful of these same Jews herself!

I hope you will not think I am being bitter about this. I have tried hard to understand that mysterious paradox, and I confess I cannot. Nor can any other Arab.

Perhaps you have been informed that “the Jews in Europe want to go to no other place except Palestine.”

This myth is one of the greatest propaganda triumphs of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the organisation which promotes with fanatic zeal the emigration to Palestine. It is a subtle half-truth, thus doubly dangerous.

The astounding truth is that nobody on earth really knows where these unfortunate Jews really want to go!

You would think that in so grave a problem, the American, British, and other authorities responsible for the European Jews would have made a very careful survey, probably by vote, to find out where each Jew actually wants to go. Amazingly enough this has never been done! The Jewish Agency has prevented it.

Some time ago the American Military Governor in Germany was asked at a press conference how he was so certain that all Jews there wanted to go to Palestine. His answer was simple: “My Jewish advisors tell me so.” He admitted no poll had ever been made. Preparations were indeed begun for one, but the Jewish Agency stepped in to stop it.

The truth is that the Jews in German camps are now subjected to a Zionist pressure campaign which learned much from the Nazi terror. It is dangerous for a Jew to say that he would rather go to some other country, not Palestine. Such dissenters have been severely beaten, and worse.

Not long ago, in Palestine, nearly 1,000 Austrian Jews informed the international refugee organisation that they would like to go back to Austria, and plans were made to repatriate them.

The Jewish Agency heard of this, and exerted enough political pressure to stop it. It would be bad propaganda for Zionism if Jews began leaving Palestine. The nearly 1,000 Austrian are still there, against their will.

The fact is that most of the European Jews are Western in culture and outlook, entirely urban in experience and habits. They cannot really have their hearts set on becoming pioneers in the barren, arid, cramped land which is Palestine.

One thing, however, is undoubtedly true. As matters stand now, most refugee Jews in Europe would, indeed, vote for Palestine, simply because they know no other country will have them.

If you or I were given a choice between a near-prison camp for the rest of our lives — or Palestine — we would both choose Palestine, too.

But open up any other alternative to them — give them any other choice, and see what happens!

No poll, however, will be worth anything unless the nations of the earth are willing to open their doors — just a little — to the Jews. In other words, if in such a poll a Jew says he wants to go to Sweden, Sweden must be willing to accept him. If he votes for America, you must let him come in.

Any other kind of poll would be a farce. For the desperate Jew, this is no idle testing of opinion: this is a grave matter of life or death. Unless he is absolutely sure that his vote means something, he will always vote for Palestine, so as not to risk his bird in the hand for one in the bush.

In any event, Palestine can accept no more. The 65,000 Jews in Palestine in 1918 have jumped to 600,000 today. We Arabs have increased, too, but not by immigration. The Jews were then a mere 11 per cent of our population. Today they are one third of it.

The rate of increase has been terrifying. In a few more years — unless stopped now — it will overwhelm us, and we shall be an important minority in our own home.

Surely the rest of the wide world is rich enough and generous enough to find a place for 200,000 Jews—about one third the number that tiny, poor Palestine has already sheltered. For the rest of the world, it is hardly a drop in the bucket. For us it means national suicide.

We are sometimes told that since the Jews came to Palestine, the Arab standard of living has improved. This is a most complicated question. But let us even assume, for the argument, that it is true. We would rather be a bit poorer, and masters of our own home. Is this unnatural?

The sorry story of the so-called “Balfour Declaration,” which started Zionist immigration into Palestine, is too complicated to repeat here in detail. It is grounded in broken promises to the Arabs—promises made in cold print which admit no denying.

We utterly deny its validity. We utterly deny the right of Great Britain to give away Arab land for a “national home” for an entirely foreign people.

Even the League of Nations sanction does not alter this. At the time, not a single Arab state was a member of the League. We were not allowed to say a word in our own defense.

I must point out, again in friendly frankness, that America was nearly as responsible as Britain for this Balfour Declaration. President Wilson approved it before it was issued, and the American Congress adopted it word for word in a joint resolution on 30th June, 1922.

In the 1920s, Arabs were annoyed and insulted by Zionist immigration, but not alarmed by it. It was steady, but fairly small, as even the Zionist founders thought it would remain. Indeed for some years, more Jews left Palestine than entered it—in 1927 almost twice as many.

But two new factors, entirely unforeseen by Britain or the League or America or the most fervent Zionist, arose in the early thirties to raise the immigration to undreamed heights. One was the World Depression; the second the rise of Hitler.

In 1932, the year before Hitler came to power, only 9,500 Jews came to Palestine. We did not welcome them, but we were not afraid that, at that rate, our solid Arab majority would ever be in danger.

But the next year — the year of Hitler — it jumped to 30,000! In 1934 it was 42,000! In 1935 it reached 61,000!

It was no longer the orderly arrival of idealist Zionists. Rather, all Europe was pouring its frightened Jews upon us. Then, at last, we, too, became frightened. We knew that unless this enormous influx stopped, we were, as Arabs, doomed in our Palestine homeland. And we have not changed our minds.

I have the impression that many Americans believe the trouble in Palestine is very remote from them, that America had little to do with it, and that your only interest now is that of a humane bystander.

I believe that you do not realise how directly you are, as a nation, responsible in general for the whole Zionist move and specifically for the present terrorism. I call this to your attention because I am certain that if you realise your responsibility you will act fairly to admit it and assume it.

Quite aside from official American support for the “National Home” of the Balfour Declaration, the Zionist settlements in Palestine would have been almost impossible, on anything like the current scale, without American money. This was contributed by American Jewry in an idealistic effort to help their fellows.

The motive was worthy: the result were disastrous. The contributions were by private individuals, but they were almost entirely Americans, and, as a nation, only America can answer for it.

The present catastrophe may be laid almost entirely at your door. Your government, almost alone in the world, is insisting on the immediate admission of 100,000 more Jews into Palestine — to be followed by countless additional ones. This will have the most frightful consequences in bloody chaos beyond anything ever hinted at in Palestine before.

It is your press and political leadership, almost alone in the world, who press this demand. It is almost entirely American money which hires or buys the “refugee ships” that steam illegally toward Palestine: American money which pays their crews. The illegal immigration from Europe is arranged by the Jewish Agency, supported almost entirely by American funds. It is American dollars which support the terrorists, which buy the bullets and pistols that kill British soldiers — your allies — and Arab citizens — your friends.

We in the Arab world were stunned to hear that you permit open advertisements in newspapers asking for money to finance these terrorists, to arm them openly and deliberately for murder. We could not believe this could really happen in the modern world. Now we must believe it: we have seen the advertisements with our own eyes.

I point out these things because nothing less than complete frankness will be of use. The crisis is too stark for mere polite vagueness which means nothing.

I have the most complete confidence in the fair-mindedness and generosity of the American public. We Arabs ask no favours. We ask only that you know the full truth, not half of it. We ask only that when you judge the Palestine question, you put yourselves in our place.

What would your answer be if some outside agency told you that you must accept in America many millions of utter strangers in your midst—enough to dominate your country—merely because they insisted on going to America, and because their forefathers had once lived there some 2,000 years ago?

Our answer is the same.

And what would be your action if, in spite of your refusal, this outside agency began forcing them on you?

Ours will be the same.

Abdullah I was the first King of Jordan. This article was published in The American Magazine, November, 1947
Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "King Abdullah I: As the Arabs See The Jews," in Bismika Allahuma, January 16, 2009, last accessed September 25, 2022,
History Jerusalem Polemical Rebuttals

A History of Zionism and Its Ideological Roots


This article was written to provide a scholarly analysis on the ideology of Zionism, its origins and purpose, as well as its past “achievements” in having successfully displaced thousands of Palestinians who suddenly lost their homeland to this group of terrorists. We seek to confront and expose the true nature of the ideology of Zionism, often touted as “Jewish nationalism”. Can Zionism be equated with the Jews and Judaism? Is Zionism wholly grounded on religious grounds as the Zionist themselves try to claim, or just another name for the secular and/or racist ideologies that we have seen in the last century in the likes of Nazism, Fascism and Apartheid? These are the fruits of our research on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we leave it to the reader to form their own conclusions and decide whether Zionism should be rightfully confronted and opposed, or otherwise.

The Origins of Zionism

“Tyranny is always weakness”, said James R. Lowell, and tyranny constitutes the fundamental implementations of Zionism. Contrary to common belief, Zionism first emerged as a secular ideology in the 19th century. Under “Zionism”, the Encyclopedia Britannica (Vol. 12, 1990, p. 922) states that:

…Zionism originated in Eastern and Central Europe in the latter part of the 19th century.

This is further collaborated by Sierra Reference Encyclopedia (Collier’s, 1995), when it states under “Zionism” that:

ZIONISM, a Jewish national movement, which had as its objective the reconstitution of an independent Jewish life in Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews. Zionism was rooted in the traditional attachment of Jews to their homeland. This feeling was strengthened when the political emancipation of Jewish communities in Western Europe in the 19th century and their assimilation of European culture failed to gain them acceptance. The movement was given urgency by new waves of anti-Semitism in Europe in the late 19th century, particularly the pogroms in Russia, and by the genocidal policies of Hitler’s Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The Zionist movement achieved its aim with the founding of Israel in 1948.

Theodor Herzl was an Jewish-Austrian journalist largely credited with being the “Father of Zionism”, just as Karl Marx and Hitler were credited with being the fathers of Communism and Nazism respectively. Theodor Herzl’s book Der Judenstat (The Jewish State), clearly stated that a future Jewish state should not build upon democracy, and in fact suggests that it should be built upon dictatorship. This is contrary to the Zionist cries of Israel being “the only democracy in the Middle East”.

We read that:

People are not fit for democracy, and will no be so in future either. Sane and mature policies are not the product of parliamentary institutions. Personalities, which are the product of forces of history, best represent the wishes of the people and safeguard the interests and security of the state. It is these personalities and not people who are born to rule and it is their will which should ultimately prevail. 1

A publication issued by the Zionist Organization in London wrote that:

Democracy in American too commonly means majority rule without regard to diversities of types or stages of civilization or differences of quality. Democracy in that sense has been called the melting pot in which that quantitatively lesser is assimilated into quantitatively greater. This doubtless is natural in America, and works on the whole very well. But if American idea were applied as an American administration might apply it to Palestine, what would happen? The numerical majority in Palestine today is [Palestinian] Arab, not Jewish. Qualitatively, it is a simple fact that the Jews are now predominant in Palestine, and given proper conditions they will be predominant quantitatively also in a generation or two. But if the crude arithmetical conception of democracy were to be applied now, or at some early stage in the future to Palestinian conditions, the majority that would rule would be the Arab majority, and the task of establishing and developing a great Jewish Palestine would be infinitely more difficult. The problem at the heart of the Zionist claim was rarely articulated so clearly: the Zionist dream ran counter to the principle of democracy. 2

The Zionist desire for the alienation and eventual expulsion of the original inhabitants residing in the land designed for a “Jewish state” is no secret. Earlier in 1895, Theodor Herzl wrote in his Diary that:

We must expropriate gently the private property on the state assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it employment in our country. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly. Let the owners of the immoveable property believe that they are cheating us, selling us things for more than they are worth. But we are not going to sell them anything back.3

In October 1882, Validimir Dubnow, one of the earliest Zionist pioneers in Palestine, wrote to his brother articulating the ultimate goals of the Zionists movement:

The ultimate goal…is, in time, to take over the Land of Israel and to restore to the Jews the political independence they have been deprived of for these two thousand years…The Jews will yet arise and, arms in hand (if need be), declare that they are the masters of their ancient homeland.4

In October 1882 Ben-Yehuda and Yehiel Michal Pines, few of the earliest Zionist pioneers in Palestine, wrote describing the indigenous Palestinians, that

…There are now only five hundred [thousand] Arabs, who are not very strong, and from whom we shall easily take away the country if only we do it through stratagems [and] without drawing upon us their hostility before we become the strong and populous ones. 5

In 1916 Lord Balfour declared that he is a “Zionist” during a British Cabinet meeting. In an encounter between Weizmann and Balfour:

“[Weizmann] laid out his much repeated argument – that Zionists and British interests are identical. The Zionist movement spoke, Weizmann said, with the vocabulary of modern statesmanship, but was fueled by a deep religious consciousness. Balfour, himself a modern statesman, also considered Zionism as an inherent part of his Christian faith. . . . Soon after, Balfour declared in a cabinet meeting, I am a Zionist.”6

In 1936 the Mapai leader David Hacohen explained how Zionist socialism should be for Jews not Arabs, he stated that:

I remember being one of the first of our comrades [of the Ahdut Ha’avodah] to got to London after the first World War. … There I became a socialist. … [In Palestine] I had to fight my friends on the issue of Jewish socialism, to defend the fact that I would not accept Arabs in my trade union, the Histadrut; to defend preaching to the housewives that they not buy at [Palestinian] Arab stores, to prevent [Palestinian] Arab workers from getting jobs there. …. To pour kerosene on the [Palestinian] Arab tomatoes; to attack Jewish housewives in the markets and smash the Arab eggs they had bought; to praise to the skies the Keneen Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] that sent Hankin to Beirut to buy land from absentee effendi [landlords] and to throw the fellahin [peasants] off the land– to buy dozens of dunums– from an Arab is permitted, but to sell, God forbid, one Jewish dunam to an Arab is prohibited.7

In 1937, David Ben-Gurion eloquently articulated the Zionist goals regarding population transfer as the following:

With compulsory transfer we [would] have a vast area [for settlement] ….I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see anything immoral in it.8

Such racist sentiment was the norm among the early Zionist leaders, similar statements were constantly repeated by Ben-Gurion and Jabotinsky. Zionism has always been recognized as a form of racism and this is evident when in 1975 the U.N. General Assembly first adopted a resolution equating Zionism with racism. The U.N. adopted that resolution annually until 1991 when the Madrid Accord began.

The Zionist Expansionism and The Palestinian Dilemma

“…after a lapse of 1800 years, it could not be said that Palestine was the land of the Jews. Otherwise the United States of America should now belong to the Red Indians and the situation in England, and in many countries of the world should be different. In my opinion, the Jews have no right in Palestine except their right to personal property. They do not have the right to establish a State. It is most unfortunate that a state is based on religious basis.

The above citation is from A. Toynbee, a well-known historian. His criticism of the Zionist theory of returning to Palestine clearly underlined the sentiments of those who clearly see no justification for a Jewish State to be established in Palestine. Palestine has always been recognized as belonging to Palestinians, not to a group of secular terrorists who uses religion as a justification for a State. As a researcher points out:

History tells us that the first people to settle in Palestine were the Canaanites, six thousand years BCE. They were an Arab tribe who came to Palestine from the Arabian Peninsula, and after their arrival, Palestine was named after them [i.e., Canaan]. 9

And further, he added that:

As for the Jews, the first time they entered Palestine was approximately six hundred years after Abraham had entered the land, i.e., they entered it approximately 1400 years BCE. So the Canaanites entered Palestine and lived there approximately 4500 years before the Jews.10

Hence it is clear that the Jews have no right to the land, whether according to religious law or in terms of who lived there first and possessed the land. Despite this, the state of Israel was recognized by the U.N. in 1948 on condition that it accepted the right of the Palestinians to an independent state, and implementation of Security Council Resolution 194 guaranteeing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. Over half a century later, these inalienable rights remain unfulfilled. The implantation of the Zionist entity in Palestine has been rightly described as An-Nakba (The Catastrophe) by the Palestinians. The hoopla surrounding Israel conveniently ignores the fact that Palestine was stolen by European Jewish terrorists in connivance with the European powers, primarily Britain but also France (and later the U.S.) to create a western beach-head in the heartland of Islam. This was only made possible by driving out the indigenous population – the Palestinians – from their ancestral lands, through terror and mass murder.

The Zionists have also constantly peddled the mythology of turning ‘deserts into orchards’, a claim already responded to, with the active collaboration of the Western media. Their claim to Palestine is based on a complete perversion of historical facts sprinkled with Biblical references to geography. The Zionists – most of them secular fanatics who have nothing to do with Judaism — have reduced the Bible to a real estate manual.

The Zionist colonial settler enterprise was launched by shedding the blood of the Palestinians. It has been sustained through terror, the most common characteristic of the Zionists, for 50 years. More than 475 Palestinian towns and villages were completely wiped out. There is no trace left of them anymore. Soon after the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Moshe Dayan, the one-eyed Israeli general, had boasted to a group of visiting Jews from the U.S. that the present generation had expanded the boundaries of the State of Israel this far. Now it was up to the next generation to take them further. He also candidly admitted that hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns had been wiped out. And it was this same general who proclaimed that:

“…a new State of Israel with broad frontiers, strong and solid, with the authority of the Israel Government extending from the Jordan [river] to the Suez Canal.11

The above quote should clarify the reality of Zionist expansionism. This certainly refutes the Zionist propaganda that Palestinian inhabitants of towns fled on orders from the Arab governments, it is clear that they fled in the face of the Zionist terror machine. Deir Yassin (April 9, 1948) was but one example of numerous Zionist atrocities perpetrated against innocent civilians. Palestinian women were paraded naked in the streets. Many of them were bayoneted to death before their bodies were dumped in wells. At least 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes in this campaign to settle the European Jews in Palestine. This obscenity is being celebrated today as a great achievement. Former Israel Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, boasted of the importance of the massacre of Deir Yassin in his book “The Revolt: The Story of the Irgun”. He wrote that there would not have been a State of Israel without the “victory” of Deir Yassin: “The Hagganah carried out victorious attacks on other fronts… In a state of terror, the Arabs fled, crying, ‘Deir Yassin’.”

Nor did the massacres cease after the establishment of the Jewish State; they continued in times of both peace and war. Following are the names of some of them: Sharafat Massacre, Kibya Massacre, Kafr Qasem Massacre, Al-Sammou’ Massacre, the Sabra And Shatila Massacre, Oyon Qara Massacre, Al-Aqsa Mosque Massacre, the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre, the Jabalia Massacre.

Many leaders of the Zionist terrorist gangs — Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, et al — later became prime ministers of ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’. The ‘most powerful democracy’ in the world – the U.S. – has such a close relationship with the so-called ‘only democracy’ that massive annual handouts are bestowed upon it even while American citizens are denied many of their basic needs. Further, these very same Zionists are wasting U.S. taxpayers’ money by advocating and supporting the building of a shrine to a militant Jew, Baruch Goldstein who massacred a group of praying Muslims at a mosque in Hebron, in 1994. And we see that until today, thousands of militant Jews visit his grave annually to ‘celebrate’ the murders committed by this Jewish terrorist. This is just one out of the various examples on why it is the Zionist regime of Israel that is the ‘only American-funded country in the Middle East’ to fund and to support State terrorism. But as we have seen, State terrorism is nothing new to the Zionist regime.

And if taking away their land is not enough to humiliate the Palestinians, the Zionists tried to wipe out the identity of the Palestinians, by pretending that they do not exist as a people and as a nation. A Zionist scholar, Israel Eldad, also promulgates this claim of ‘no Palestine or Palestinians’ , in his book The Jewish Revolution as follows:

Can this [Jewish] rich existence be compared with the Palestinian nation? Who is that nation? What is it? Where and when was it born? What is its identity? What are its distinctive features- physical and mental? And except for the feats of its marauding gangs, what has it ever been known for?” (p. 119)

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Golda Meir, Israel’s Prime Minister between 1969-1974, stated in June 1969

It is not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them, they did not exist.12

Of course Ms. Meir conveniently fails to mention that prior to 1948, the Jews do not exist with a single national identity, but that did not stop them from being identified as such, did it? We don’t expect her and her ilk to mention it anyway, since it is clear that it was the Zionists who drove Palestinians into the sea, not vice-versa. And as recent as 1968, the Jewish historian Maxime Rodinson wrote that

the Arab population of Palestine was native in all the usual senses of the word. 13

Claiming that there was no such thing as Palestinians is merely but one of the many ways the Zionists perform their version of ‘ethnic cleansing’, effectively wiping out the existence of the Palestinians as a distinct social, political, and cultural entity and rewriting the history books with their perverted ‘version’ of the events.

The Palestinian Resistance and Zionist War Machine

The attacks by the Zionists, whether militarily or by propaganda, prompted several Palestinian resistance groups to be formed against the Zionist regime, which the regime conveniently labels them as “terrorists”. But a distinction must be made between terrorism and the resistance to occupation which international conventions authorize. The Declaration on Principles of International Law (1970) emphasized that all states are under a duty to refrain from any forcible action which deprives people of their right to self-determination. The Declaration also notes that “in their actions against, and resistance to, such forcible action” such peoples could receive support in accordance with the purpose and principles of the UN Charter. Various UN resolutions have reaffirmed the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for liberation from colonial domination and alien subjection, “by all available means including armed struggle” (see UNGA 3070, 3103, 3246, 3328, 3481, 31/91, 32/42 and 32/154). Article 1(4) of Protocol I (additional to the Geneva Conventions) considers self-determination struggles as international armed conflicts situations. The principle of self-determination itself provides that where forcible action has been taken to suppress the right, force may be used in order to counter this and achieve self-determination.

It is obvious that with the systematic ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Zionist regime, these Palestinian resistance groups are certainly not “terrorists”. On the contrary, these resistance groups are fighting a legitimate war, against a enemy that has oppressed their people for so long that it would be a crime to themselves and to the Palestinians if they do not oppose the enemy and stand by and watch the Zionist pillaging what is left of Palestine.

Israel is the only country in the world where torture of political prisoners is not only legal but its supreme court actively endorses it. Palestinians are held without trial under what is euphemistically called ‘administrative detention.’ The maximum period is six months but it is routinely extended. There are Palestinians who have been held without charge or trial for four or five years. While the Western media routinely present Israel as a beleaguered State in a sea of hostile neighbors, it is the only nuclear power in the region with more than 200 nuclear weapons. Its army has grown to 600,000 and it can deploy more than 2,800 tanks and 700 combat planes, according to the Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. This gives it a formidable military muscle against the Arab armies which it has defeated in almost all the wars. But since 1982, Israel’s military has found itself mired in less glorious adventures, including the costly 1982-1985 invasion of Lebanon and its attempts to crush the Intifada from 1987 to 1994. In Lebanon it got a bloody nose at the hands of the Hizbullah, whose spirit of sacrifice put the fear of God into the pleasure-loving Zionist thugs. Instead of confronting the Islamic fighters, the Zionists bombard Lebanese villages using long-range artillery and planes.

Hostage-taking is also a favorite ploy of the Zionists. Literally hundreds of Palestinians and Lebanese are incarcerated in the Khiam concentration camp where torture is rampant. Similarly, Palestinians held without trial are also tortured in prisons inside what is called Israel. If young Palestinians are incarcerated, their leaders are expelled from their own land. It is ironic that alien occupiers from eastern Europe and America should expel people from their own homes and land where their forefathers have lived for millennia. The Zionists are also extremely sadistic. Young children are targeted for special wrath. Thousands of Palestinian children have been brutally beaten up by the gun-toting Zionists. Young stone-throwing Palestinians have been buried alive; others have had their bones broken with rocks, on direct orders from Yitzhak Rabin, the Nobel peace prize winner! During the Intifada, the Zionist occupiers frequently used tear gas in confined spaces, resulting in hundreds of pregnant Palestinian women suffering miscarriages. Another of their favorite ploys is to mix flour and kerosene in Palestinian homes, making it unfit for consumption. Despite such cruelties, the Zionists have failed to break the spirit of the Palestinians. Every Israeli cruelty brings out an even greater determination to stand up to the occupiers. As the Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem admitted, “An army which fights against the weak, becomes weak itself.” He went on: “In these instances, the army is the sure loser because its victories are without honor and its defeats are always humiliating”.

The Jerusalem Issue and Al-Aqsa Mosque

Jerusalem is better known to the Muslims by the means of Bayt al-Maqdis (the holy house) or simply al-Quds (the holy); the latter is the most common name at the present. Since 638 A.D. when the second Caliph ‘Umar Al-Khattab liberated the city, Jerusalem had always been ruled by a succession of Muslim rulers. But of course, the Zionist mind is uncomfortable with the fact that Jerusalem has always been Muslim in history and therefore tries to manipulate Jerusalem’s history. The UN Resolution 181, which divided Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state, specifically declared Jerusalem “corpus separatum” and placed the city under international jurisdiction. However, in 1948 the military forces of Israel occupied the western part of the city. In 1967 the conquest was completed when Israel forcibly occupied the city’s eastern half. In 1980, Israel passed a Basic Law declaring Jerusalem its capital. The international community responded decisively to this provocative act. UN Security Council Resolution 476 (June 30, 1980) says that Israeli actions to change the status of Jerusalem “constitute a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention” and declares such measures ‘null and void'”. UN Security Council Resolution 478 (August 20, 1980) states that “the enactment of the ‘basic law’ by Israel constitutes a violation of international law”. All nations have kept their embassies in Tel Aviv.

In the past, the Zionists tried to and partially succeeded in burning-down Islam’s third holiest sanctuary, the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque. The nefarious sacrilege was by no means, as the Israeli government then suggested, an isolated act committed by a deranged man who acted on his own. Quite the contrary, the morbid Israeli designs against the sacred Muslim shrine show that diabolical feat was a deliberate collective act of aggression carried out with the unmistakable acquiescence of the Israeli political establishment and the active encouragement of much of the world’s Jewry and their fundamentalist Christian allies.

The following is a list of the acts of aggression and desecration against Al-Aqsa Mosque since June 7, 1967:

    June 7, 1967: The occupation authorities confiscated the keys of the Western Gate known as Bab El-Magharba immediately after Israeli troops seized the town from the fleeing Jordanians.

    June 9, 1967: The congregational Friday prayer was not held on orders from the occupation authorities. That was the first time the Juma’a prayer didn’t take place since the liberation of Jerusalem from the hands of the Crusades in 1167 AD on October 19,1990, The Juma’a prayer was delayed for two hours because the the occupation authorities denied Muslim worshiper entry to the Haram compound.

    June 21, 1969: An Australian-born terrorist, Denis Michael Rohan, entered the mosque and set the magnificent Nurruddin Zinki Mihrab on fire. The fire gutted the unique Mihrab, which has restored. The sacrilegious act against the mosque was condemned world-wide, but was praised by wide segments of world Jewry and Christian fundamentalists who view the creation of Israeli in Palestine as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and a precedence to the second advent of Jesus.

    November 16, 1969: The Israeli occupation authorities seized the Fakhriyya Corner on the south-western side of the Haram Al-Sharif.

    August 14, 1970: The Gershon Solomon group, and ultra-fanatic groups dedicated to the so-called rebuilding of the Temple of Solomon of the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque after it is demolished, forcibly entered the premises of the Haram, but were repulsed by Muslims. The confrontation resulted in tens of worshippers being injured by Israeli troop gunfire.

    April 19, 1980: A group of Jewish rabbis and sages held a semi-secret conference devoted to exploring ways and means “to liberate the Temple Mount from Muslim hands”.

    August 28,1980: The Israeli occupation authorities dug a tunnel right underneath the Mosque.

    March 30, 1982: Numerous letters were sent by Muslim Waqf authorities urging them to abandon the Temple Mount and warning them of the dire consequence of their “usurpation of our Temple”. The letters were written in Hebrew, English, French ,Spanish and Polish.

    May 20, 1982: Several Zionist organizations sent death threats to Waqf officials.

    April 11, 1982: An Israeli soldier named Allen Goodman stormed the interior of the Mosque, spraying worshipers with bullets from his M-16 assault rifle, killing and wounding over 60 Palestinians.

    March 26, 1983: The main entrance to the Jerusalem’s Waqf department collapsed due to Israeli excavations underneath.

    August 21, 1985: The Israeli police permitted Jewish extremists to hold prayers within the confines of the Haram premises.

    August 4, 1986: A group of Rabbis issued final ruling allowing Jews to pray at the Haram Al-Sharif and demanded the establishment of a Synagogue in the area.

    May 12, 1988: Israeli soldiers opened fire on a peaceful Muslim march at the Haram, killing and wounding about a hundred Palestinians.

    August 8, 1990: The Israeli authorities committed a grisly massacre at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, killing 22 worshipers and injuring over 200.

    July 25, 1995: The Israeli High Court of Justice issued a ruling, allowing Jews to pray at the “Temple Mount”. The decision sparked off widespread protests among Muslims.


We have seen the origins and the basic goals of Zionism, at the expense of its original inhabitants. The Zionists, in the mould of the colonialism of the British, French, Portuguese and Dutch in the 17th and 18th century, seek to rewrite history and thus effectively try to blot out the historical existence of Palestine and the right of Palestinians to their own State. In the process, the Zionist regime have built Israel upon the blood of thousands of Palestinians killed during An-Nakba, as well as the millions of Palestinians that were dispossessed of their land, citizenship, culture and history. Not to mention that these power-hungry Zionist thugs also try to deny Muslim control of Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state and Haram As-Shareef, the third-most holiest site in Islam.

No one, after weighing the evidence above, would consider Zionism to be a legitimate ideology of peace. On the contrary, Zionism must be condemned and rejected in the same way Fascism, Apartheid, Nazism and other racist ideologies had been rejected in the past. The day Israel shakes free of its Zionist ideals and its anti-Arab schizophrenia is the day Palestine will finally exist with Jerusalem as its capital, and only then will the Israel-Palestine conflict will come to an end.

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "A History of Zionism and Its Ideological Roots," in Bismika Allahuma, December 14, 2006, last accessed September 25, 2022,


Online resources:

  1. Theodor Hertzl, The Jewish State, p. 69 []
  2. One Palestine Complete, p. 119 []
  3. America and The Founding Of Israel, p. 49 []
  4. Righteous Victims, p. 49 []
  5. Righteous Victims, p. 49 []
  6. One Palestine Complete, p. 41 []
  7. Expulsion Of The Palestinians, p. 25 []
  8. Righteous Victims, p. 144 []
  9. Ahmad al-‘Awadi, al-Suhyooniyyah, Nash’atuhaa, Tanzeemaatuhaa, Inshitatuhaa, p. 7 []
  10. Ibid., p. 8 []
  11. Iron Wall, p. 316 []
  12. Iron Wall, p. 311 []
  13. Rodinson, M., Israel and the Arabs, Penguin, 1968, p. 216 []
History Islam Jerusalem

The Case of Jerusalem — The Holy City

Editor’s Note: The missionaries have published an article claiming that there is no significance between the holy city of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) with Islam, while at the same time displaying their Zionist tendencies. We republish an article from Israeli Watch which rebuts their fatuous claims and cements the relationship between Islam and Al-Quds.

Last June, Israel celebrated Jerusalem Day to commemorate its capture of East Jerusalem 38 years ago. As one may recall in 1980, in violation of the U.N. resolutions, the Government of Israel officially annexed the city and adjoining areas in the West Bank of the Jordan River. The city remains the thorniest and knottiest issue facing negotiators that will decide its final status in a future Palestinian state.

Since coming to power in 2001, Prime Minister Sharon has issued orders for constructing new settlements around the occupied East Jerusalem. His defense force has also confiscated Palestinian?owned land for the construction of Israel’s Apartheid Wall.1 Many Middle-East experts suspect, and probably rightly so, that his recent unilateral ?disengagement? or withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, after some 38 years of illegal occupation, is ill-motivated and is only a smokescreen to deny the Palestinian Authority — in future negotiations — any claim to East Jerusalem as its capital.

According to Yossin Beilin, head of Israel’s left-wing Yachad Party, since the Intifadah of September 2000, nearly 1200 Israeli Jews have moved into the predominantly Palestinian parts of eastern Jerusalem.

All these activities are in violations of UN Resolutions and President Bush’s “Roadmap”. However, the Bush Administration will not take Sharon to task for such non-compliance, and the latter knows it very well. That is why he is so bold with all his war crimes – from his genocidal activities in Jenin to extra-judicial killings of leaders and members of Palestinian resistance.

Sharon creates the impression that he is not ready to go back to the pre-1967 border and wants to hold on to East Jerusalem by hook or by crook. He wants to make sure that Palestinians are removed out of Jerusalem and its environs so that the demography of the Holy Land is altered before any serious negotiation resume on the final status of Jerusalem. This is also the position suggested by the organizers of the Jerusalem Summit and other Zionist leaders. For instance, Martin Sherman, the Academic Director to the Jerusalem Summit and a Political Science lecturer at the Tel Aviv University recently ?redefined? the Palestinian problem by suggesting that ?generous? sums of money be paid to the Palestinians so as to relocate and resettle them elsewhere in Arab/Muslim world. What a “brilliant” and “benevolent” way of cleansing Palestinians from their ancestral land! To these hawks: Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital and “Jews should rule an undivided Jerusalem.”

So, how does Israel prove its heritage to a city? Archeology is a means. Years of excavation in Arab East Jerusalem in the post-1967 era by Dame Kathleen Kenyon, Benjamin Mazar and Meir Ben-Dove, however, did not unearth any traces of Jewish existence from the so-called “Temple Mount Era”. Much to their embarrassment what surfaced were more Muslim palaces, courts and mosques, and ruins belonging to the Romans, Greeks and Canaanites. The excavations, clandestine and overt, underneath the Haram al-Sharif (the so-called Temple Mount) are weakening the very foundation of two of the holiest Muslim shrines. Should those shrines cave in and collapse, I am not sure if many Israelis and their friends realize the ensuing repercussion, enough to pale all the wars humanity has seen before. I only pray and hope that we never see such a human catastrophe.

Another technique employed is: manipulation of history. A classic example is the Israeli-sponsored ?Jerusalem 3000? celebration in 1998. This was aimed at advocating the myth that Jerusalem?s history began 3000 years ago with David, rather than some 5000 years ago, as the archeologists concur. Following the footsteps of early Zionists who willfully “transformed” Palestine into a historical and geographical desert with propagandas like “Give a country without a people to a people without a country,” today’s Zionists are also spreading the myth that “politics, not religious sensibility, has fueled the Muslim attachment to Jerusalem for nearly fourteen centuries” or that Jerusalem was “never important” to Muslims, and that during the Muslim rule it “declined to the point of becoming a shambles”. Another technique in proving heritage is finding justification through theology.

In what follows, we shall study these hypotheses.


Jerusalem has been the subject of immense interest throughout history. It embodies sacred memories of the Prophets of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is here that all the three Semitic religions of the world played vital roles at different junctures in the history of mankind. For twelve centuries, under Muslim rule (636-1917 CE, except a century of Christian rule), Jerusalem has been an oasis of peace and tranquility. Yet, beginning in 1948, we witness a change of a major dimension, a conspiracy that culminated in the establishment of a Zionist state in Palestine ignoring the rights of its overwhelming Muslim majority. This event has been responsible for much bloodshed to subsequently follow among the children and heirs to the Abrahamic heritage.

Jerusalem is very dear and sacred to Muslims for a number of reasons.

The Holy Qur’an refers to Jerusalem in connection with Prophet Muhammad’s (sallal-lahu alayh wa-as-salam: blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) Isra’ and Mi’raj in the following verses: “Glory be to Him who did take His servant for a journey by night from the Masjid Al-Haram (Sacred Mosque) to the Masjid Al-Aqsa (Farthest Mosque) whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of Our signs. He (Allah) is the One who hears and sees all things.”2 (The masjid in Jerusalem was called the farthest mosque because it was the farthest mosque known to the Arabs during the Prophet’s time.) According to most commentators of the Qur’an, this event of Isra’ and Mi’raj took place in the year before the Hijra (Prophet’s migration to Madina). The hadith literature gives details of this journey. To Muslims, the event is viewed as passing of the spiritual baton.

As has been pointed out by Professor Walid Khalidi in his 1996 address at the Jerusalem Conference of the American Committee on Jerusalem, “The Prophet’s isra to and mi’raj from Jerusalem became the source of inspiration of a vast body of devotional Muslim literature, as successive generations of Traditionists, Koranic commentators, theologians, and mystics added their glosses and embellishments. In this literature, in which the Prophet is made to describe his visits to Hell and Paradise, Jerusalem lies at the center of Muslims beliefs, literal and allegorical, concerning life beyond the grave. This literature is in circulation to this day in all the languages spoken by nearly one billion Muslims. To this day, too, the Night of the Mi’raj is annually celebrated throughout the Muslim world.”

A particular link also exists between Jerusalem and one of the five “pillars” of Islam — the five daily prayers (salat). According to Muslim tradition, it was during the Prophet’s mi’raj that, after conversations between the Prophet and Moses, the five daily prayers observed throughout the Muslim world became canonical. Parallel to this body of literature concerning the isra and miraj is another vast corpus of devotional writings concerning the “Excellencies” or “Virtues” (fada’il) of Jerusalem.”

In the early stage of Islam, Jerusalem was the Qiblah towards which Muslims faced in their prayers. Later, however, they were instructed by Allah to change their Qiblah to Makkah: “So turn thy face toward the Masjid al-Haram, and ye (O Muslims), wheresoever ye may be, turn your faces (when ye pray) toward it. Lo! those who have received the Scripture know that (this Revelation) is the Truth from their Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what they do.”3

With this change of Qiblah, Jerusalem did not lose its sacredness to Muslims though. It came to be known as Al-Quds (the sanctuary), al-Bayt al-Muqaddis (i.e., the holy house), and al-Quds ash-Sharif (the holy and noble city).

Pre-Islamic Period

The memorandum of the Zionist Organization to the Peace Conference in 1919 declared, “This land is the ‘historic’ home of the Jews”. By “historic” they meant the right of the ?first occupier,? i.e., nobody inhabited the region prior to the Jews. Such an assertion, as we will see, is only a myth. For debunking this myth of ?first occupier,? we shall examine the Bible. The Book of Genesis says, “And Terah took Abram [referring to prophet Abraham or Ibrahim (alayhi-salaam)] his son, and Lot [referring to Lut (AS)] the son of Ha?ran his son?s son, and Sa?rai his daughter in law, his son Abram?s wife; and they went out from Ur of Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan.? [Gen. 11:31]; “And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.” [Gen. 12:6] The verses 13:3-7 state that the Canaanite and the Perizzite were already dwelling in the land when Abraham returned from Egypt to Bethel and set his tent between Bethel and Ha?i. Not only did the tribes with Abraham find the Canaanites but they also found the Hittites (around Hebron), the Ammonites (around Amman), the Moabites (to the east of the Dead Sea) and the Edomites (in the south-east). At the same time, there were arriving from the Aegean Sea another people, the Philistines, who installed themselves between Mount Carmel and the desert.

The Bible says that Jacob [Prophet Ya’aqub (P)], who is also known as Israel, settled in Sha’lem , a city of She’chem, which was in the land of Canaan (Gen. 33:18). There he erected an altar and called it El-e-lohe-Israel. [Gen. 33:20]

The modern-day Palestinians are, in deed, descended from indigenous Canaanite Jebusites who lived in Palestine at least 5000 years ago, from the Philistines (who gave the country its name – Palestine, Arabic for Falastin), and from the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and the Turks who successively occupied the territory, following the Babylonians, the Hittites, and the Egyptians. The ?first occupiers? are these inhabitants who have inhabited the territory since the dawn of history. And any reference that the Palestinians are descendants of Muslim Arabs (from the time of Muslim conquest of Jerusalem) is disingenuous and is aimed at denying their ancestral tie to the land for five millennia.

The current mythology to connect Prophet Dawud or David (P) with Jerusalem is a typical example of distorting history. The name Jerusalem does not come from the Hebrew word “shalom” meaning peace, but from Uru-shalim, meaning the city or foundation of the (Canaanite Jebusite) god Shalim, cited in ancient Egyptian texts. It is these Jebusites who gave the name of the city some 2000 years before the time of David and Solomon.

Both the Qur’an and the so-called Old Testament mention that the children of Jacob [Ya’aqub (P)] settled in Egypt when Joseph [Yusuf (P)] was appointed a Minister to the Pharaoh. Moses [Musa (P)], born in Egypt, was later commanded by Allah to rescue the Children of Israel from the Egyptian bondage and to settle them in the Sinai desert. During the time of Moses, the holy land was denied to them due to their disobedience of the commandments of Allah (see the Book of Deuteronomy).

From the accounts in the Bible, it is clear that the Children of Israel did not establish themselves in the Holy Land until around 1004 BCE when David [Dawud (AS)] of the tribe of Judah defeated the Jebusites to found a kingdom there. He created a multi-national state, embracing peoples of different religions. His own ancestress Ruth was a Moabite. His son Solomon [Sulayman (AS)], who succeeded the throne, was born of a Hittite mother. Solomon, like his father, maintained the multi-national characteristics of his regime. He built a stone temple, commonly known as the Temple of Solomon, as a gesture of his thanks to Allah (YHWH).

After Solomon?s death, the kingdom got divided into two ? the Kingdom of Israel in the north (comprising the ten tribes) with the capital in Samaria, and the Kingdom of Judah in the south (comprising the two tribes) with capital in Jerusalem. In 722-721 BCE, the Kingdom of Israel was invaded by the Assyrians and its people scattered, who came to be known as the ?Ten lost tribes of Israel.? In 586 BCE, the Babylonians under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar annexed the southern kingdom of Judah. The country?s notables were exiled to Babylon. Jerusalem was ravaged to the ground, along with its temple and fortifications. When Emperor Cyrus (Dhul Qarnain of the Qur’an) of Persia defeated the Babylonians in 538-537 BCE, he let the exiles to return to Jerusalem. Many Jews, however, preferred to remain in more prosperous Babylon.

History is scant and dubious before Alexander?s peaceful entry into Jerusalem in 332 BCE, but it suffered heavily under the Persians and the temple — rebuilt under Ezra (Uzayr) and Nehemiah about 515 BCE — might have been destroyed during Artaxerxes’s regime. In 320 BCE, Ptolemy I of Egypt partially demolished the fortifications that remained in ruins until their restoration by Simon II in 219 BCE After a series of struggles between the Ptolemies and Seleucids, the latter obtained the city by a treaty in 197 BCE. The temple was totally Hellenized, i.e., turned into a heathen idol-temple, by Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BCE.

Next we come to the period of the Maccabean revolt. After a twenty years? struggle, the Maccabees were able to form the Hasmonean dynasty in 164 BCE. This broke up owing to internal conflicts and in 63 BCE Roman General Pompey was able to conquer Palestine, which first became a vassal monarchy under Herod, and then a Roman province.

Under Herod, Jerusalem was rebuilt and the second temple (known as the Temple of Zerubabel) elaborated (from 17 BCE to 29 CE). However, during the failed revolt (66-70 CE) by the Hebrews, the city was blockaded by Roman General Titus who completely razed it to the ground and burned the temple in 70 CE on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Ab, the very month and day on which 657 years earlier Nebuchadnezzar had razed the first Temple. (The Qur’an briefly mentions these two destructions of the Temple in Surah 17:4-7.) The Jewish inhabitants were exiled or sold into slavery. After the failed second revolt (132 CE), led by Bar Kochba, the city was renamed Aelia Capitolina in 135 CE and Jews were banned from entering the city. And since then Jews gradually moved away from Palestine.

In 326 CE, Emperor Constantine the great ordered the building of the Church of Holy Sepulcher in Aelia. In 614-615 CE Khoshru II of Persia captured the city by defeating the Roman (Byzantine) Christians, mention of which is available in the Qur’an 30:2-3: ?The Romans have been defeated in a land close by: but they, (even) after (this) defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious within a few years, with Allah is the command in the past and in the future: on that day shall the believers rejoice.? His forces destroyed many buildings. Just as the Qur’an had prophesied, the Romans defeated the Persians in 628 C.E, under Heraclius, and reentered Aelia.

Muslim Period

In 636 CE, at the battle of Yarmuk, the Byzantines were defeated by the Muslim Army, led by Amr ibn al-?As (R). Patriarch Sophoronius offered to surrender the city if Khalifa Umar ibn al-Khattab (R) himself would come in person to ratify the terms of surrender. The encounter between these two men was very dramatic. In the words of a Christian historian, Anthony Nutting, ?Umar taught the caparisoned throng of Christian commanders and bishops a lesson in humility by accepting their surrender in a patched and ragged robe and seated on a donkey.? [The Arabs, New American Library, N.Y. (1964)]

The terms of the surrender were: ?Bismillahir Rahmaneer Raheem (In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful). This is a covenant which Umar, the servant of Allah, the Amir (Leader) of the faithful believers, granted the people of Aelia. He granted them safety for their lives, their possessions, their churches and their crosses. They shall not be constrained in the matter of their religion, nor shall any of them be molested. ? Whoever leaves the city shall be safe in his person and his property until he reaches his destination.?

Umar (R) thus pledged security of the lives, properties, churches and freedom of worship of the city?s Christian inhabitants. These pledges came to be knows as the Covenant of Umar, which established the standard of conduct vis-a-vis the non-Muslim population of Jerusalem for subsequent generations and specifically for the two subsequent Muslim conquerors of Jerusalem: Saladin (1187) and the Ottoman Sultan Selim (1516).

When Umar (R) entered Jerusalem what is now known in the West as the Temple Mount lay vacant. The Christian Byzantines had used it as a garbage dump. But to the Muslims it contained the Rock hallowed by the Prophet Muhammad?s (S) Isra? and Mi?raj (the Prophet?s nightly journey to Jerusalem and ascension to heaven). According to the Muslim chroniclers, Umar?s (R) next concern was to identify that Rock. Sophoronius guided him to a spot, which by then had no traces of its Jewish past. Because of high reverence for the place, Umar (R), the Amirul Mu?meneen, himself started cleaning it in person, carrying dirt in his own robe. His entourage and army followed suit until the whole area was cleaned. He directed that no prayers be held on or near it until the place has been washed by rain three times. His entourage then sprinkled the place with scent. Umar (R) then led the Muslims in prayer on a clean spot to the south. Foundation of a mosque was erected on the spot and this is the Al-Aqsa mosque, revered by Muslims as one of the three most sacred mosques on earth.

In the Jewish apocalyptic literature of the time, Umar?s (R) capture of Jerusalem was seen as an act of redemption from the Byzantines. It is worthwhile mentioning here (as has also been recognized by Jewish historian Moshe Gil) that it was not until 638 CE that a Jewish quarter would be assigned in the city – since the days of the second Jewish Revolt some five hundred years ago – when Muslims invited Jewish families to reside there.

The most obvious reflection of Islam?s reverence for Jerusalem is in its architecture. During the Umayyad rule (660-750 CE) Jerusalem flourished to become a major city, and from this period, important buildings survive. The Umayyad Khalifa Al Walid later completed the construction of the al-Aqsa mosque in 715 CE. His father Caliph Abdul Malik bin-Marwan constructed the ?Dome of the Rock? ? Masjid al Quba as-Sakhra (visible with gold dome) on the Haram al-.Sharif earlier in 688-691 CE (68-71 AH). These two mosques became essentially the most visited mosques in the entire Muslim world outside the Ka?ba and Masjid an-Nabi in Arabia, and grace the city of Jerusalem to this very day.

In 728 CE the cupola over the Al-Aqsa Mosque was erected, the same being restored in 758-75 by the Abbasid Khalifa Al-Mahdi. In 831 Khalifa Al-Ma?mun restored the Dome of the Rock and built the octagonal wall. In 1016 the Dome was partly destroyed by earthquakes; but it was repaired in 1022.

As part of historical revisionism, some Orientalists, such as John Wansbrough, and Likudnik/Zionist historians have opined that Muhammad?s (S) night journey to Jerusalem – the Isra’ and Mi’raj, one of the principal foundations of Jerusalem?s sanctity in Islam – was a later invention aimed at accounting for the Qur’anic verse 17:1. Others, such as Patricia Crone, have proposed that Jerusalem was in fact the original Islamic holy city, and that the sanctity of Makkah and Madinah was a later innovation. Neither of these ludicrous theories enjoys much acceptance (outside die-hard Zionists), least of all among Muslims.

During the Abbasid rule (750-969 CE) Jerusalem became a religious focal point for Christian and Jewish pilgrims and Sufi Muslims. The vast majority of its inhabitants were Muslims. It remained under Muslim control until the first Crusade (1099). Excepting a brief period during Fatimid caliph (insane) al-Hakim?s rule (996-1021), there was no religious persecution of minorities.

In November 1095, Pope Urban II delivered a speech at Claremont, France, which can only be described as the vilest and most spiteful speech of the Middle Ages, responsible for initiating the never-ending Crusade. He said: “O race of Franks! race beloved and chosen by God! From the confines of Jerusalem and from Constantinople a grievous report has gone forth that an accursed race, wholly alienated from God, has violently invaded the lands of these Christians, and depopulated them by pillage and fire. The kingdom of Greeks is now dismembered by them, and has been deprived of territory so vast in extent that it could not be traversed in two months’ time.

On whom, then, rests the labor of avenging these wrongs, and of recovering this territory, if not upon you – you upon whom, above all others, God has conferred remarkable glory in arms, great bravery, and strength to humble the heads of those whom resist you? Let none of your possessions keep you back, nor anxiety for your family affairs. For this land which you now inhabit, shut in all sides by the sea and the mountain peaks, is too narrow for your large population; it scarcely furnishes food enough for its cultivators. Hence it is that you murder and devour one another, that you wage wars, and that many among you perish in civil strife.

Let hatred, therefore, depart from among you; let your quarrels end. Enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulchre; wrest that land from a wicked race, and subject it to yourselves.

Jerusalem is a land fruitful above all others, a paradise of delights. That royal city, situated at the center of the earth, implores you to come to her aid. Undertake this journey eagerly for the remission of your sins, and be assured of the reward of imperishable glory in the kingdom of Heaven.”

With that deleterious speech, the Pope aroused Christians to recapture Jerusalem from Muslims. On 1099 CE the Crusaders entered the city and began one of the bloodiest and crudest massacres in history. According to Ibn al-Athir some 70,000 Muslims were slaughtered in Masjid al-Aqsa alone, all of them non-combatants, some of them Imams and professors of theology.

Raymond d’Aguiliers, chaplain to Raymond de Saint-Gilles, Count of Toulouse, wrote: ?Piles of heads, hands, and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was necessary to pick one?s way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon, a place where religious ceremonies were ordinarily chanted. What happened there? If I tell the truth, it will exceed your powers of belief. So let it suffice to say this much, at least, that in the Temple and porch of Solomon, men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle-reins. Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of unbelievers, since it had suffered so long from their blasphemies. The city was filled with corpses and blood.?

Jerusalem became the capital of the Latin Kingdom under Godfrey, Count of Bouillon, who changed the Al-Aqsa mosque into a church and erected a big cross on top of the Dome of Rock. Muslims and Jews were banned from living in the city.

In 1187 Sultan Salahuddin (Saladin) Ayyubi (RA) liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders and restored the al-Aqsa mosque to its previous condition. Before liberating Jerusalem, Saladin wrote a letter to King Richard which sums up Muslim position vis-?-vis the status of the city. He wrote: ?Jerusalem is our heritage as much as it is yours. It was from Jerusalem that our Prophet ascended to heaven and it is in Jerusalem that the angels assemble. Do not imagine that we can ever abandon it. Nor can we possibly renounce our rights to it as a Muslim community. As for the land, your occupation of it was accidental and came about because the Muslims who lived in the land at that time were weak. God will not enable you to build a single stone in the land so long as the war lasts.?

Comparing Saladin?s behavior with those Christian Crusaders, the historian Anthony Nutting writes: ?Apart from restoring the holy places of Islam, Saladin allowed not a single building to be touched. As Christian historians have attested, strict orders were issued to all Muslim troops to protect Christian life and property and not a single Christian was molested on account of his religion – a remarkable contrast to the atrocities perpetrated by the Franks eighty eight years before.? It is worth mentioning here that while the Crusaders, when they entered Jerusalem, burned Jews in their synagogue Salahuddin, after recovering the city, had allowed Jews to return.

Excepting brief periods between 1229-1239 and 1243-1244 when Jerusalem again fell in the hands of the Crusaders (because of Muslim in-fighting), it remained a Muslim City through all its life. Religious freedom and rights of worship by Christians and Jews were respected. In 1267 Rabbi Moshe Ben Nahman (Nahmanides) arrived from Spain, revived the Jewish congregation and established a synagogue and center of learning bearing his name. In 1448, Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro settled in Jerusalem and led the community. After the Spanish Inquisition (1492), Jews found shelter among the Muslims of North Africa and (what is now called) the Middle East.

The Mamluks (1248-1517), who came after the Ayyubids, left their mark in architecture with beautiful buildings, schools and hospices throughout the Old City. They added markets, repaired water supplies and constructed city?s fountain system.

In 1517 the Ottomans took over Jerusalem peacefully. Sultan Suleiman ?the magnificent? (1537-41) rebuilt the city walls (un-walled since 1219) including the present day 7 gates (what is now known as the Old City) and the ?Tower of David.? He further improved the city?s water system, installed drinking fountains still visible in many parts of the Old City. He also patronized religious centers and educational institutions. A Jewish colony ?Safaradieh? was formed in 1522 in Palestine. The Ottomans granted religious freedom to all and it was possible to find (something that was unthinkable in Europe) a synagogue, a church and a mosque in the same street.

The Damascus gate was erected in 1542. It was Sultan Selim, the Ottoman ruler, who dug out the Wailing Wall from under the rubble in the 16th century and permitted Jews to visit it. All the Ottoman Sultans ? from Suleiman ?the magnificent? to Sultan Abdul-Hamid (RA) ? were great patrons of Jerusalem, making surrounding territories of the mosques as their Waqf properties.

Throughout the Ottoman era, the city remained open to all religions, although the empire?s faulty management after Sultan Suleiman meant slow economical stagnation. When Jewish people faced extermination across Europe, the Ottoman Sultans allowed them to take refuge in the Empire. Some of them settled in Palestine. In 1562 there were 1,200 (mostly religious) Jews and 11,450 Arabs living in Jerusalem.

By mid-19th century, with the weakening of the Ottoman Empire (to the extent of being ridiculed as the ?Sick Man of Europe?) the European colonial powers vied with each other to gain a foothold in Palestine. New areas with names like the German Colony and the Russian Compound sprouted the city. According to Zionist historiography, residential building outside the walls of the Old City began around 1860 with the Jewish settlement – Mishkenot Shaananim. However, such scholarship overlooks the much earlier construction and continued use of numerous indigenous residential buildings outside the walls such as khans, residences for religious persons, and summer homes with orchards and olive presses, belonging mostly to non-Jews, especially the Arab Muslims. In time, as the communities grew and connected geographically, this became known as the New City.

This was also an age of Christian religious revival, and many churches sent missionaries to proselytize among the Muslim and especially the Jewish populations, believing passionately that this would expedite the Second Coming of Christ. These outside missionaries settled in and around places like Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

In 1846 there were only 12,000 Jews in Palestine out of a population of 350,000. In 1880, shortly before the Russian Pogroms, there were only 25,000 Jews in Palestine out of a population of half a million.

The last half of the 19th century witnessed the pontification of Pope Pius IX (1846-78), the publication of Wilhelm Marr?s ?Jewry?s Victory over Teutonism? (1873), the assassination of Czar Alexander II (1881) and the Alfred Dreyfus case (1894). These events led to pogroms and anti-Semitism (actually Jew-hatred) across Europe, especially in Eastern Europe and Russia. Jews again found refuge in the Ottoman Empire. [Ironically, the demise of the Ottoman regime can partly be blamed on the Jewish enclave in Salonika (now Thessalonica or Thessaloniki in Greece) – home of the D?nme and the birthplace of the (Jacobin) Young Turk movement.]

The last decade of the 19th century saw the emergence of political Zionism calling for the establishment of a Jewish state. Sultan Abdul-Hamid, the last of the Ottoman Sultans, was approached by Theodor Herzl, the father of political Zionism, who offered to buy up and then turn over the Ottoman Debt to the Sultan?s government in return for an Imperial Charter for the Colonization of Palestine by the Jewish people. In his Diary, Herzl writes, ?Let the Sultan give us that parcel of land [Palestine] and in return we would set his house in order, regulate his finances, and influence world opinion in his favour?? The Sultan rejected the offer.

In his letter to a Sufi Shaykh (dated Sept. 22, 1911), Sultan Abdul-Hamid mentions this episode: ?I left the post of the ruler of Caliphate only because of the obstacles and threats on the side of people who call them ? Young Turks. The Committee of Unity and Progress obsessively insist on my agreement to form a national Jewish state in the sacred land of Palestine. But in spite of their obstinacy I strongly refused them. In the end they offered me 150 million English pounds in gold, but again I refused and said the following to them: ?If you offer me gold of the world adding it to your 150 man, I won?t agree to give you the land. I have served Islam and the people of Muhammad (S) for more than 30 years, and I won?t cloud the Islamic history, the history of my fathers and grand fathers ? Ottoman Sultans and caliphs.? After my definite refusal they decided to remove me from power, and after that they told me that they would transport me to Salonika and I had to resign. I praise my benefactor who didn?t let me bring shame on the Ottoman state and the Islamic world. I want to stop at this. I praise the Almighty once again and finish my letter. ?

The Sultan, to the last of his days, resisted bartering Jerusalem for his reign.

So what we notice from historical accounts is a remarkable Muslim reverence for the city of Jerusalem, much in contrast to the disingenuous claims made by Zionist apologists like Daniel Pipes. Down the centuries, from the time of Umar (R) to the subsequent Muslim dynasties ruling from Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo and Istanbul, Jerusalem was always important to Muslims. They constructed a wide variety of buildings and institutions in Jerusalem: mosques, theological college convents for Sufi mystics, abodes for holy men, schools of the Hadith and the Qur’an, orphanages, hospitals, hospices for pilgrims, fountains, baths, pools, inns, soup kitchens, places for ritual ablution, mausoleums, and shrines to commemorate the Prophet?s (S) Mi?raj. These buildings were maintained through a system of endowment in perpetuity (awkaf), sometimes involving the dedication of the revenues of entire villages in Palestine, Syria, or Egypt. The patrons were caliphs and sultans, military commanders and scholars, merchants and officials, including a number of women. Their philanthropy bears witness to the importance of Jerusalem as a Muslim center of residence, pilgrimages, retreat, prayer, study and burial.

British Mandate Period:

With the defeat of the Turkish Army during the World War I (1914-18), British General Edmund Allenby took control over Jerusalem. Upon entering the city on 11 December, 1917, he declared, ?Now the Crusades come to an end.? As a matter of fact, it was the beginning of the end, i.e., marshalling of a neo-crusade against Muslims by using Israel as a ?rampart? in the Muslim heartland.

In 1917, Britain issued the infamous Balfour Declaration promising the Zionists establishment of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine. The Declaration was criminal to the core as historian Arthur Koestler so aptly described: ?One nation solemnly promised to give to a second nation the country of a third nation.? With that goal in mind, during the devious British Mandate (1917-47), Jews were pumped into Palestine from all over Europe. In spite of such Jewish influx, according to a census taken by the British on 31 December 1922, there were altogether 83,000 Jews in Palestine out of a total population of 757,000 of which 663,000 were Muslims. That is, the Jewish population was only 11%.

In 1935, when the Palestinian Arabs rose in revolt against further Jewish immigration, there were 370,000 Jews out of a total population of 1,366,670, i.e., 3 out of 4 were Arabs. During partition, the Jewish population owned less than 6% of the total land in Palestine. Yet when on November 29, 1947, the UN voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem in an international zone, 56% of the total area was allotted to the Jewish state. As was expected, Arabs (with the exception of King Abdullah of Transjordan) rejected the plan and a fight for territories broke out in which armed Jewish terrorist gangs massacred unarmed Palestinians in several villages. At that time, in Old (East) Jerusalem Jews owned less than 1% of land. Their ownership of properties in the New (West) city was 26%.

In recent years, the issue surrounding pre-1948 demographics of Jerusalem has become a hot item. Zionist historiographers (e.g., Ben Arieh, Gilbert and others) have been trying to prove a Jewish majority in Jerusalem before the partition. This myth has no substance whatsoever quite simply by looking carefully at the available late Ottoman-era statistics and (for the later period) by examining the boundaries of the Jerusalem municipality as drawn by the British Mandatory authorities.

In this regard it is worth quoting what pre-eminent demographer Justin McCarthy had clearly pointed out, ?Ottoman statistics are the best source on Ottoman population.? The Ottoman data on Jerusalem show that in 1871-2, the Jewish population of Jerusalem was a quarter of the total population living in Jerusalem. In 1895, when the city?s population was about 43,000, the entire Jewish population could not have been more than a third (i.e., 14,500). In 1912 – the last Ottoman statistics – show that Jerusalem had a total population of 60,000 of which nearly 25,000 were Jews.

According to Professor Walid Khalidi the international zone comprising ?Mandatory municipal Jerusalem? in addition to some 20 surrounding Arab villages had a slight majority of Arab population who numbered 105,000 while the Jewish population was just under 100,000. Academic research works by Salim Tamari (director of the Institute of Jerusalem Studies and a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Birzeit University) and others present a similar picture. They point out how Zionist historiographers deliberately avoided accounting for Arab neighborhoods in their demographic studies of Jerusalem while concentrating mostly on Jewish suburbs.

Upon reviewing the literature on the selective demographics of Mandate Jerusalem, British historian Michael Dumper attributes two major reasons for these population discrepancies. First, estimates counted Jewish migrants who arrived in Jerusalem before 1946 and later moved to Tel Aviv and other localities. Second, while excluding Palestinians who were working in the city but living in its rural periphery (the daytime population such as the commuting workers from Lifta and Deir Yasin), they included Jewish residents living in suburban areas such as Beit Vegan, Ramat Rahel, and Meqor Hayim. The latter were incorporated within the municipal population through a process he refers to as ?demographic gerrymandering.?

Professor Tamari?s studies on Jerusalem?s western villages, for instance, show that once the rural neighborhoods are introduced, the picture in regard to demographics and land composition change dramatically. ?Extrapolations from 1945 Mandatory statistics,? Professor Tamari says, ?show that the Jerusalem sub-district contained slightly over a quarter of a million inhabitants of whom 59.6% were Arabs and 40.4% were Jewish. In the western Jerusalem areas that came under Israeli control after the war (251,945 dunums) 91.8% (231,446) dunums were Arab owned, 2.7% were Jewish owned, and the rest were public lands.?

Israeli Period:

The conspiracy of the Western powers in collusion with the Zionists, the terrorism inflicted upon the Arab inhabitants, the foolishness of the local leaders, and the incompetence or indifference of others – all these led to the establishment of the state of Israel on May 15, 1948 when on that day the Jewish settlers declared independence. The massacre of Arab residents of Deir Yasin, Qibya and Kafr al-Qasim that followed were only the preludes to Israel?s genocide of Palestinians at Sabra and Chatilla, Tyre and Sidon, Nablus, Jenin and of ongoing atrocities in Gaza, West Bank and Southern Lebanon.

Soon after the unilateral declaration, in a subsequent war with neighboring Arab states, Israel captured 78% of the original Palestine by annexing territories set for the Arab Palestinian state, leaving only East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in Arab hands. This cataclysmic event forced 750,000 Palestinians to seek refuge elsewhere.

As to its impact on Jerusalem, Professor Tamari writes, ?During the war of 1948, particularly during the months of April-May, about 25-30,000 Palestinians were displaced from the urban suburbs of Jerusalem. In addition, the bulk of the village population (23,649 rural inhabitants) were also expelled. These included the population of the two largest villages in the Jerusalem sub-district, Ain Karim and Lifta, and virtually all of the rural habitations west of the city (with the exception of Abu Ghosh and Beit Safafa). Altogether 36 villages and hamlets were destroyed, or – as was the case with Lifta and Ain Karim – were physically left intact but their Palestinian inhabitants removed. Most of the displaced persons eventually found refuge in the Old City and its northern Arab suburbs (Shu?fat, Beit Hanina, Ram), and in the refugee camps of Ramallah and Bethlehem. Today the refugee population originating from the Jerusalem district is estimated to be 380,000.?

In July 1949, the Israeli government declared West Jerusalem ?territory occupied by the State of Israel?, and all Arab lands and businesses were confiscated under the Absentee Property Regulations of 1948. Most of the urban refugee property in Jerusalem was sold to Israelis and squatters. Refugee-lands outside the urban center were mostly sold to a specially established Government Development Authority which in turn sold them to the Jewish National Fund or to cooperative agricultural settlements. Soon, Israel began to transfer its government offices to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Government employees were housed in abandoned refugee property.

On 13 December 1949, the Israeli government declared Jerusalem as its capital, which was later passed as a resolution in the Knesset on January 23, 1950.

On June 5-10, 1967 Israel launched an offensive against neighboring Arab states and captured East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza, plus the Sinai and the Golan Heights. Most Jews celebrated the event as a liberation of the city; a new Israeli holiday was created, Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim), and the popular Hebrew song, ?Jerusalem of Gold? (Yerushalayim shel zahav), became popular in celebration.

Between 1949 and 1967 scores of Palestinian towns and more than 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed by Israel. In the first flush of victory in the 1967 war, Ben Gurion wanted the magnificent walls built by the Ottomans that surround the ?Old City? destroyed because they were such a powerful reminder of the Islamic character of the city. Most of the Israeli government buildings in Jerusalem including the Knesset are built on Palestinian-owned land.

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), since annexation of East Jerusalem, have embarked on a ?Judaization? policy that entails constricting building permits to local Arabs to build houses on their ancestral land, withdrawing residency permits, demolishing Palestinian homes and mosques, and building illegal settlements. One of the first moves was to demolish the Maghariba quarter in order to enlarge the prayer area next to the Wailing Wall. One hundred and twenty-five Arab houses were destroyed in the process. Jerusalem Palestinians are considered as foreign residents. The policy of the Interior Ministry towards them – endorsed on 30 December 1996 by the Israeli Supreme Court – is too severe and arbitrary (especially since 1994). In 30 years (1967-97), an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Arab residents in Jerusalem have lost their right of residency in the city. These include, for example, Jerusalem Palestinians who lived for over seven years outside the city limits. During the first two weeks of January 1997 alone, 233 Palestinian residents in Jerusalem were issued with expulsion orders. Palestinian refugees from camps located within the limits of Greater Jerusalem (the Shufat and Kalandia camps) have absolutely no political rights.

This ?policy of Judaization,? which has been conducted openly by the Israeli government to reduce the Arab presence in Jerusalem, is starting to bear fruit. While in 1990, there was still a majority of 150,000 Palestinians against 120,000 Jews in the eastern part of the city, the ratio has been reversed to the benefit of the latter. In 1993, East Jerusalem counted 155,000 Palestinian Arabs against 160,000 Israeli Jews. Some 250,000 Israelis lived in West Jerusalem. In 1996, out of a total population of 602,100 in Jerusalem, the Jewish population alone was 421,200.

On 19 April 1999, an inter-ministerial committee on Jerusalem recommended that Israel needs to build 116,000 new housing units in the city for Jews by 2020 in order to maintain a 70/30 percent Jewish majority in Jerusalem. This would signify an annual rate of 5,500. Figures published on 28 May, 2003 by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics show that Jerusalem?s population has reached 683,000, of which sixty-six percent is Jewish. Of the 32 percent of the population who are Arabs, 94% are Muslim and 6% are Christians. In 2004, the Jewish population in Jerusalem was estimated at 464,000 out of a total population of 692,000.

The illegal Israeli settlements in and around occupied East Jerusalem have expanded rapidly, in violation of all international laws. The Jewish settler population in East Jerusalem has also multiplied accordingly. In 2000 it was estimated to be close to 180,000. In 2003, 217,000 Palestinians share East Jerusalem with 200,000 Jewish settlers. Of these, 66,500 were in the Greater Jerusalem area of Ma?aleh Adumim, Givat Ze?ev, Betar Elite, Har Adar, Efrat and part of the Etzion Bloc.

The Israeli government has succeeded in applying Jerusalem?s religious symbolism to vast areas that have nothing to do with historic Jerusalem. So, e.g., over half of what we call Jerusalem today was not part of the city pre-1967, but were parts of Bethlehem and 28 other West Bank towns.

Between 1967 and 2003, 35% of the land in East Jerusalem has been expropriated for the construction of Jewish neighborhoods and attendant facilities. Of the more than 38,500 houses built on expropriated land, as of 2003, none has been constructed for Arabs. In East Jerusalem there are now over 43,000 homes in Jewish neighborhoods and only 28,000 in Palestinian neighborhoods.

In today?s Israel even the dead are not safe from desecration. For example, during Olmert?s tenure as the mayor of Jerusalem, Islamic burial places in West Jerusalem ?Ma?man Allah? (or colloquially Mamilla), measuring some 250,000 square meters, were turned into building plots. The Sheraton Plaza Hotel, Supersol supermarket, Beit Argon building and the adjacent car parking lot are all built on this Islamic Waqf owned land which was used by Muslims as their burial place in Jerusalem until 1948. What remains of this Muslim cemetery is being used as an open park, courtesy of Jerusalem mayors.

The 1993 Oslo Accord left the future of Jerusalem to be determined later through serious negotiation. At Camp David in July 2000 and later at Taba, Israeli negotiators considered allowing some sovereignty to the Palestinian state over Arab areas of East Jerusalem but no agreement was reached. The Palestinian side was ready to concede Israel?s claim to West Jerusalem of which Palestinians had privately owned 40 per cent in 1948. The final negotiation fell flat on the status of Haram al-Sharif.

In the post-Clinton era, nothing significant has been done to settle Jerusalem?s long-standing problem except President Bush?s announcement of the so-called ?Roadmap? for the creation of a Palestinian state, which appears to be aimed more at getting the necessary cooperation from his Arab client states before toppling Saddam than establishing the groundwork for real peace or a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem.

Religious Myth

Next, we come to the question of religious myth, as Menachem Begin once said, ?The country was promised to us, and we have a right to it.? [Davar, Dec. 12, 1978] Golda Meir similarly said, ?This country (i.e., State of Israel) exists as a result of a promise made by God Himself.? Moshe Dayan said, ?If you have the book of Bible, the people of the Bible, then you also have the land of the Bible – of the Judges, of the Patriarchs in Jerusalem, Hebron, Jericho and thereabouts.? [Jerusalem Post, Aug. 10, 1967]

One should not be surprised by such invocations of Biblical passages to ?justify? or ?sanctify? the permanent extension of the Zionist state. In 1956, it was David Ben-Gurion who showed the way by declaring that Sinai formed part of the ?Kingdom of David and Solomon.?

Over the past year, Jerusalem municipality has issued orders to demolish 64 of the 88 Palestinian homes in the adjoining Arab town of Bustan (Silwan for the Israelis). City Councilman Meir Margalit said that the remaining 24 homes would also be demolished shortly. Why Bustan? The answer is simple: to the Israelis, it is the ?City of David? where King David decided to build the capital of his kingdom in 1004 BCE. To them, Bustan should not belong to a future Palestinian state. To realize this, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski plans to expand the ?City of David Park? that would include nearby Bustan.

Colonialists have always sought a rationalization for their criminal annexations, robberies and authority. And what a better way than to claim being ?God?s Chosen People? or belonging to a ?Superior? race? Are we, therefore, surprised at the remarkable similarity between Zionist claims and Vorster?s (late Prime Minister of the Apartheid regime in South Africa in 1972) assertion about justification of apartheid when the latter said, ?Let us not forget that we are the people of God, entrusted with a mission??

The concept of “race” is a 19th century invention by European colonialists to justify colonial hegemony. To justify colonialism, English writer, Rudyard Kipling spoke of “the White Man’s burden” to civilize the non-whites. This very idea of “chosen people” should be recognized as historically infantile, politically criminal, theologically intolerable, and morally insane. It has no scientific basis. It is a bizarre puzzle to say the least. Because, God’s mercy is never restricted to a group, but transcends entire humanity. It is narrated in the Qur’an, ?Remember when Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain words, which he fulfilled. He said, “I shall make you an Imam to humankind.” Said he, “And what of my progeny?” He said, “My covenant shall not include the wrongdoers.” [Qur’an 2:124]

Zionists often invoke the Book of Genesis (15:16) which states: ?In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.? So, which ?seed? or son is meant here? Is it Ishmael ? the first born, or Isaac (the son of Sarah) ? the father of Jacob? What we know from history is that this ?promise? was only fulfilled through the Arab descendants of Ishmael, the forefather of Muhammad (P), and not ever by any descendant of Isaac. Period!

So, if theology were to determine the status of Jerusalem, the Muslim position strongly contradicts Jewish aspiration for the city and shows that they have stronger claim to the city than their Jewish cousins.

Sadly, political Zionism has betrayed Judaism and perverted Christianity. The same church that once labeled Jews as ?Christ-killers?, as the ?rejected? or ?forsaken people?, now calls them the ?Chosen people.? They are now its best friends, more zealous than many Israelis in their support for the rogue state. It is really strange! I wish the Christian motivation was genuine and not simply to gather them as the sacrificial lambs for the ?coming Armageddon?!

The entire policy of the state of Israel, internal or external, is a colonial enterprise, but it wears the ?chador? (cloak) of pseudo-theological myth. From its beginning to the present, Israel has always been a racist, colonial state. The father of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl remarked, ?Universal brotherhood is not even a beautiful dream, antagonism is essential to man?s greatest efforts.? [Jewish State, (1897)] Contrary to this view, the greatest minds ever in the history of mankind, from Moses to Jesus to Muhammad (S), spoke of universal brotherhood to be the solution. This remark rightly shows the sick mentality of this founder of Zionism. As a matter of fact the Zionists – Jewish or Christian alike – are morally wrong.

In his Diary, Theodor Herzl writes about the establishment of a Jewish state: ?We should form there a portion of rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism.? Here, it clearly shows his colonial, racist mentality. He first disregards the rights of the indigenous inhabitants of the Arab Palestinians, and then calls them barbarians. With the records of Israeli leaders since the establishment of the modern Zionist state, it is quite obvious that it has served the purpose of being a ?rampart? rather too well!

Concluding Remarks

From the above discussion we see that the so-called Children of Israel far from being the first settlers in Palestine were only one group among many others. The total period of Jewish rule or sovereignty over Palestine in general and Jerusalem in particular was only about 400 years, and this period is much shorter a period compared to the period of Muslim rule. As a matter of fact, in its entire history, no other community had ruled Palestine or Jerusalem for a longer period. The myth of political rights of the Jews over Palestine is thus not substantiated by history.

In the pre-1948 period, Jews returned to Palestine primarily as a result of persecution in Europe, and least from any yearning for the “homeland of their ancestors”. Had it not been for the generosity of Muslim rulers, they could not have found refuge among Muslims, and surely not in Palestine.

If theology were to be the basis for occupying land, then Muslim claims for Jerusalem is at least, if not more, as strong as those of Jewish (and Christian) claims.

Contrary to the myths now spread by Zionists, Jerusalem was always important to Muslims and that during the Muslim rule it never declined to the point of becoming a shambles.

More importantly, East Jerusalem, including its Muslim holy places, is not the patrimony of any Arab incumbent in whatever Arab capital he or she may be, but that of nearly 1.5 billion Muslims and of the Arab people of Palestine. Israel through its actions in post-1967 era has shown that it cannot be trusted for guardianship of Muslim shrines.

In common with the wishes of millions of Palestinians living inside and outside the Occupied Territories of Palestine, Old (East) Jerusalem, comprising all the pre-1967 territories, is deserving of being their capital.

Adopted and updated from the author’s speech at the California State University, Los Angeles, May 16, 1987. The author may be contacted at saeva[at]aol[dot]com
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  2. Qur’an 17:1 []
  3. Qur’an 2:144 []
History Makkah

The Kaaba And The Abrahamic Tradition

The story of Prophet Ibrahim’s migration from Babylonia to Syria-Palestine (Kan’an), then to Egypt, then his return to Palestine and subsequently his coming with his wife Hajar and son Isma’il to Makka is well-known. These epoch-making travels took place roughly at the beginning of the second millennium B.C. Ibrahim had at first called his own people to abandon the worship of idols and other objects like the heavenly bodies and to worship the One Only God.1 They, however, instead of responding to his call, put him to various vexations and ultimately to the test of fire from which God protected and saved him.2 Only his wife Sarah and nephew Lot believed and accepted his call. Under God’s directive3 Ibrahim, accompanied by Sarah and Lot first migrated to Haran (in Syria) and then on to Kan’an (Palestine). At both the places he preached God’s message and called the people to worship Him alone. Next he travelled to Egypt where the reigning monarch initially designed evil against him but was subsequently attracted to him and respected him. The ruler presented Hajar to Ibrahim and Sarah. Hajar was originally a princess and queen to another ruler but was captured in a war by the Egyptian monarch.4

With Hajar, Ibrahim returned to Palestine and subsequently married her. Ibrahim had hitherto no child. So he prayed to God for a son. God granted his prayer and gave him the good news that a forbearing son would be born to him.5 As Hajar became pregnant Sarah grew jealous of her; but God blessed her. According to the Old Testament an angel visited her and gave her the good tidings that she would give birth to the first son to Ibrahim and that she should name the son Isma’il.6

In due course she gave birth to a son, the first-born to Ibrahim, and the child was named Ismail. Ibrahim was at that time 86 years old.

Until Ibrahim’s return from Egypt, Lut had all along been with him. Then Lut was called to Prophethood and was directed to preach to the people inhabiting the then prosperous region lying to the southeast of the Dead Sea. The sinful people rejected his repeated appeals to reform themselves and to obey Allah. Ultimately Allah destroyed the intransigent population and their habitat, saving Lut and a few of his believing followers.7 This happened some 12 or 13 years after the birth of Isma’il. The scenes of destruction and devastation are still visible in the region.

After Isma’il’s birth Sarah grew all the more jealous of Hajar so that Ibrahim found it necessary to separate her and the child from near Sarah. Under Allah’s directive and guidance he travelled with Hajar and Isma’il all the way from Palestine to the valley of Makka and left the mother and the child, with some provisions and water, at the spot near which the Ka’ba stands. It was then an uninhabited place. Hajar of course enquired of Ibrahim why he was leaving them there. In reply he said that he was doing so according to Allah’s directive and desire. The virtuous and believing Hajar willingly submitted to Allah’s will, expressing her confidence that Allah would not then let them down.8

Allah of course did not let Hajar and Isma’il down. As the little amount of water with them was soon exhausted Hajar went in search of water. She ran frantically between the nearby Safa and Marwah hills in search of water. As she thus completed seven runs between the two hills, the angel Jibril appeared before her by Allah’s command and caused the well of Zamzam to gush forth from the ground for Hajar and Isma’il. The provision of this well for them was indeed the beginning of their peaceful existence there. For water in those days (as also subsequently) was the most valuable wealth in desert Arabia. Soon a Qahtani tribe of Yaman was passing by the region. Noticing that a bird was flying over the spot of Zamzam they correctly guessed that there was water there. They reached the spot and sought and obtained Hajar’s permission to settle there.9

Thus the spot was settled and it soon grew to be an important trading centre, lying conveniently on the trade route from Yaman to the north and vice-versa. Isma’il grew up among the Jurhum tribe, learning the pure Arabic tongue from them. When grown up he successively married two ladies from the Jurhum tribe, the second wife being the daughter of Mudadd ibn ‘Aim, leader of the Jurhum tribe.

In the meantime Ibrahim continued to visit Makka from time to time to know about the well-being of his son and wife.10 On one such occasion, when Ismail had reached the age of understanding, Ibrahim received Allah’s command in dream to sacrifice his dear and only one son. He disclosed it to Isma’il. The virtuous son of the virtuous father, who himself was to be a Prophet of Allah; Isma’il unhesitatingly consented and asked his father to carry out Allah’s behest. Accordingly Ibrahim took Isma’il to a suitable spot.11 The Qur’an specifically states that both father and son submitted to Allah’s will12 made him lie on the ground, face downward, and was about to strike his neck with knife when Allah’s call reached Ibrahim saying that he had already passed the test and that he should instead sacrifice an animal.13

The test was for both father and son and both had creditably passed it. It was as a reward for having passed this test that Allah further blessed Ibrahim and gave him the good tidings that He would favour him with another son by his first wife Sarah, though both he and she had grown quite old14. Thus another son, Ishaq, was born to Ibrahim by Sarah when Isma’il was about 14 years old. On another occasion when Ibrahim visited Makka Allah bade him build a house for His worship15. Accordingly, he built the Ka’ba, assisted by his son Isma’il. As they raised the foundation they prayed to Allah to accept their good deed, to render them submissive to His will, to raise from among their progeny a people submissive to Allah and to raise from among them a Prophet who would purify them and recite unto them His scripture and directives16. Further they prayed Allah to make Makka and its vicinity a land of peace and security and to feed its people abundantly – “such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day.” (Qur’an, 2:126).

When the building of the Ka’ba was completed Allah commanded Ibrahim to proclaim to mankind the duty of pilgrimage to the House (Ka’ba)17. So Ibrahim introduced the rite of pilgrimage to the Ka’ba.

The Qur’an as well as the Bible state that Allah especially blessed Ibrahim and both his sons, Isma’il and Ishaq, intimating that their descendants would multiply into nations18. Indeed, it was according to the Divine plan that the two sons were settled in two different lands. Ibrahim lived long to see his sons grow into maturity, establishing their respective families. According to the Old Testament Ibrahim lived for 175 years and when he died both Isma’il and Ishaq together buried him19.

Isma’il also lived long for 137 years and left behind him twelve sons from whom twelve tribes arose20. They and their descendants lived at Makka; but as their numbers increased they scattered over the other parts of Arabia. Of the tribes who arose out of the twelve sons of Ismail, those from the eldest two, Nabat and Qaydar21 became more prominent. The descendants of Nabat migrated from Makka towards the north where, in the course of time, they founded the famous Nabatian Kingdom (sixth century B.C. to 105 A.C.) with Petra as its capital. The descendants of Qaydar continued to live at Makka and its vicinity for long till the time of ‘Adnan, probably the 38th in descent from Qaydar. The descendants of ‘Adnan through his son Ma’dd and grandson Nizar multiplied so greatly that they were in the course of time divided into numerous tribes and spread over all parts of Arabia including Bahrayn and Iraq. Most of the tribes who subsequently attained prominence traced their descent from ‘Adnan and thus called themselves ‘Adnanites. Such famous tribes as Taghlib, Hanifah, Bakr ibn Wa’il, Qays ibn ‘Aylan, Sulaym, Hawazin, Ghataffan, Tamim, Hudhayl ibn Mudrikab, Asad ibn Khuzaymah, Thaqif, and Quraysh (sons of Fihr ibn Malik ibn al-Nadr ibn Kinanah) all traced their descent from ‘Adnan and through him from Isma’il and Ibrahim.

Indeed, this Abrahamic tradition was the most important and universal feature in the social life of the Arabs. It was the symbol of their unity and identity, despite their division into numerous independent tribes. It found expression in their practical life in various ways. Each and every tribe meticulously maintained their genealogy tracing it ultimately to Isma’il and Ibrahim. They universally practised circumcision as an Abrahamic tradition (Sunnah). All the peoples of all the tribes believed the Ka’ba to have been built by Ibrahim and they considered it as their spiritual centre. They even placed images of Ibrahim and Isma’il along with other images, in the Ka’ba. In pursuance of the Abrahamic tradition, all the Arabs used to perform pilgrimage to the Ka’ba and Makka, to make sacrifice of animals in connection with that rite, and to circumambulate the Ka’ba. And despite their relapse into gross idolatry, they did not forget the name of Allah, Whom they regarded as the Supreme Lord — a faint remnant of monotheism which Ibrahim and Isma’il had taught. And most important of all, when the Prophet asked them, through the Qur’anic text, to revert to the true faith of their forefather Ibrahim (millata ‘abikum Ibrahim) they did not controvert him on this point of their ancestry going back to Ibrahim, although they were only too ready to oppose the Prophet on all conceivable grounds. This is worth emphasizing; for nothing was more obnoxious to an Arab than to ascribe a false or imaginary ancestry to him.

Regarding The Abrahamic Tradition

(a) Consideration of Muir’s views

Of greater import are the opinions of the orientalists about the Abrahamic tradition. Generally, they deny that Prophet Ibrahim(P) ever came to Makka, that Hajar and Isma’il(P) were ever left there by him and that the Ka’ba was built by him. They also assert that it was Ishaq(P) and not Isma’il(P), who was intended to be sacrificed. These views are as old as Orientalism itself. It was Muir, however, who gave those views their modern form and pattern. And ever since his time others have mainly reproduced his arguments and assumptions.22 “The connection of the Abraham myth with the Ka’bah”, writes Margoliouth, “appears to have been the result of later speculation, and to have been fully developed only when a political need for it arose.”23

Of the others who reiterated and elaborated the same views mentioned may be made of J.D. Bate and Richard Bell. The former prepared an independent monograph entitled Enquiries Into the Claims of Ishmael24 in which he set forth almost all that the orientalists have to say on the theme including the question of the sacrifice of Isma’il. The latter, Richard Bell, suggested that the relevant Qur’anic passages on the subject are “later” revisions during the Madinite period of the Prophet’s mission25.

Clearly, the subject calls for separate treatment. The scope of the present work, however, necessitates confining the present section to a consideration of Muir’s views that are mainly elaborated and reiterated by his successors.

On the basis of the information contained in the Old Testament Muir says: “Hager, when cast forth by Abraham, dwelt with her son in the wilderness of Paran, to the north of Arabia.”26. He further says that the “divine promise of temporal prosperity” in favour of Isma’il was fulfilled and his twelve sons became “twelve princes” whose descendants were founders of numerous tribes. These tribes, and also other Abrahamic and collateral tribes lived, according to Muir, in northern Arabia extending “from the northern extremity of the Red Sea towards the mouth of the Euphrates.”27

He admits, however, that the Abrahamic tradition and the legend connected with the Ka’ba were widely current and accepted in Arabia and Makka before the rise of Islam28 but he holds that these traditions, though earlier than Islam, grew there much subsequently to the time of Ibrahim. Muir mentions in this connection that though “a great proportion of the tribes in northern and central Arabia were descended from Abraham, or from collateral stock, we have no materials for tracing their history from the era of that patriarch for nearly two thousand years.”29. Therefore he proceeds to “conjecture”30the “facts” as follows.

He says that there were earlier settlers at Makka, many of whom were natives of Yaman. They brought with them Sabeanism, stone worship and idolatry. “These became connected with the well of Zamzam, the source of their prosperity; and near to it they erected their fane [the Ka’ba], with its symbolical Sabeanism and mysterious black stone. Local rites were superadded; but it was Yemen, the cradle of the Arabs, which furnished the normal elements of the system.”31 Subsequently, an Isma’ilite tribe from the north, “either Nabataean or some collateral stock”, was attracted there by its wells and favourable position for caravan trade. This tribe carried “in its train the patriarchal legend of Abrahamic origin” and engrafted “it upon the local superstitions.” “Hence arose the mongrel worship of the Ka’ba, with its Ishmaelite legends, of which Mahomet took so great advantage.”32.

In support of this “conjecture” Muir advances a number of other suppositions. He says that though the existence of the Abrahamic tradition was extensive and universal, it is “improbable” that it “should have been handed down from the remote age of the patriarch by an independent train of evidence in any particular tribe, or association of tribes”. According to him, “it is far more likely that it was borrowed from the Jews, and kept alive by occasional communication with them.”33 Having said so he states that so “extensive a homage,” i.e., homage to the Ka’ba “must have its beginnings in an extremely remote age; and similar antiquity must be ascribed to the essential concomitants of the Meccan worship, – the Kaaba with its black stone, sacred limits, and the holy months.”34 He then attempts to prove the great antiquity of the Ka’ba and its rites by mentioning that the Greek historian Herodotus (5th century B.C.) speaks of one of the chief goddesses of the Arabs and mentions her name as Alilat which “is strong evidence of the worship, at that early period, of Allat the Meccan idol.”35

Next Muir points out that the Greek author Diodorus Siculus, writing in the first century B.C., spoke of a “temple” in Arabia which was “greatly revered by all the Arabs”. Muir observes that this must refer to the Ka’ba, “for we know of no other whichever commanded the universal homage of Arabia.”36 Finally, Muir suggests that the practice of idolatry was old and widespread in Arabia and, on the authority of Ibn Hisham (Ibn ‘Ishaq), points out that idolatrous shrines were “scattered from Yemen to Duma [Dumat al-Jandal] and even as far as Hira, some of them subordinate to the Kaaba and having rites resembling those of Mecca.”37

On the basis of such facts and arguments, Muir states that there “is no trace of anything Abrahamic in the essential elements of the superstition. To kiss the black stone, to make the circuits of the Ka’ba, and perform the other observances at Mecca, Arafat and the vale of Mina, to keep the sacred months, and to hallow the sacred territory, have no conceivable connection with Abraham, or with ideas and principles which his descendants would be likely to inherit from him”38 These were according to him “either strictly local” or being connected with the system of idolatry prevailing in the south of the peninsula, were imported to Makka by Banu Jurhum and others.

And when the Abrahamic legend was grafted on “the indigenous worship, the rites of sacrifice and other ceremonies were now for the first time introduced, or at any rate first associated with the memory of Abraham”39 and once the legend was thus established at Makka, its “mercantile eminence” which “attracted the Bedouins of Central Arabia” to it, “by degrees imparted a national character to the local superstition, till at last it became the religion of Arabia.”40

Finally, suggests Muir, the Prophet only took his stand on this “common ground”, and effected a bridge between the “gross idolatry of the Arabs and the pure theism of Israel”. “The rites of the Kaaba were retained, but stripped by him of every idolatrous tendency?”41

Clearly, this thesis of Muir’s is based on four assumptions, namely, (a) that polytheism and polytheistic practices existed at Makka before the migration of the Isma’ilite tribe there; (b) that the Ka’ba and the rites connected with it are polytheistic and are of south Arabian origin, “having no conceivable connection with Abraham”; (c) that an immigrant Isma’ilite tribe superimposed the Abrahamic legend on those rites and (d) that the combined system was then by degrees adopted by the Arab tribes as the national religion.

The facts and arguments adduced by Muir do not, however, substantiate any of the four above-mentioned elements of the theory. With regard to the first assumption, Muir mentions three facts. First, he says that the fifth century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus speaks of an Arabian goddess Alilat. Muir notes that Herodotus does not speak specifically about Makka but maintains that Alilat should be identified with the well-known Makkan (in fact Ta’ifan) goddess Al-Lat. It should be pointed out that Herodotus, in fact, speaks with reference to north Arabia. Even taking his statement to apply to Arabia in general, and accepting the identification of Alilat with Al-Lat, the evidence would take us back only to the 5th century B.C., that is, by Muir’s own admission, to a period some one thousand and five hundred years subsequent to that of Ibrahim. Muir’s second fact is that the first century B.C. Greek writer Diodorus Siculus speaks of a universally venerated Arabian “temple”.

Muir rightly takes it to refer to the Ka’ba, but this evidence takes us back still less in point of time. i.e., only to the first century, B.C. Muir’s third fact is that polytheism and polytheistic shrines were widespread all over Arabia. He cites this fact on the authority of Ibn Hisham (in fact Ibn Ishaq). It should be pointed out that the latter speaks of a state of affairs that prevailed prior to the emergence of the Prophet. Neither Ibn Ishaq nor any other authority implies that the situation obtained from time immemorial.

Thus, none of the facts mentioned by Muir takes us back beyond the fifth century B.C. It cannot be suggested that the supposed migration of the Isma’ilite tribe to Makka took place so late as the fifth century B.C. or even after that; for, Muir himself admits that the descendants of Kedar, son of Ismail, became so widespread in northern and central Arabia that the Jews, i.e., the Old Testament, used to speak of the Arab tribes generally of those regions as Kedarites42
. According to modern critics, the extant Old Testament was composed not later than the fifth century B.C. As it speaks of a state of affairs already prevailing in northern and central Arabia, which includes Makka, for a long time, and not of a recent dispersion of the Kedarite tribes over those regions, the Isma’ilite tribes must have been settled at Makka long before the fifth century B.C.

Muir’s second assumption that the Ka’ba and its rites are polytheistic, that they are of south Arabian (Yamani) origin and that they have “no conceivable connection with Abraham” is both incorrect and misleading. The Ka’ba and its rites must, of course, be assigned very high antiquity, as Muir emphasizes. But that in itself does not prove them to be pre-Abrahamic in point of time, nor that they are south Arabian in origin. Muir does not advance any evidence to show that the Ka’ba is of south Arabian origin. If it was established in imitation of anything like it existing in Yaman, we should have found some trace of that original temple or some mention of it in ancient accounts; and it should have been initially more important and more venerated than its supposed imitation temple at Makka. But the existence of no such old or venerable temple is known, neither in Yaman nor elsewhere in Arabia, from any source, not even from the writings of the ancient Greek authors. To cite the evidence of Diodorus again. He speaks of only one universally venerated “temple” in Arabia, not of anything else like it or superior to it. The existence of a number of idolatrous shrines throughout Arabia before the rise of Islam to which Ibn Ishaq refers and of which Muir speaks, including even the “Yamani Ka’ba” of Abrahah, were all established subsequently to and in imitation of the Makkan Ka’ba, not before it. Muir simply attempts to put the cart before the horse when he draws attention to the existence of these Ka’ba-like idolatrous shrines in order to suggest that the Makkan Ka’ba was originally one such idolatrous establishment. Even then he is forced to admit that many of those idolatrous shrines were subordinate to the Ka’ba “having rites resembling those at Mecca”.,

In fact, none of those shrines was older than the Ka’ba, nor was any one of them regarded by the Arabs as of similar antiquity and commanding comparable veneration. This fact alone proves that those shrines were established in imitation of the Ka’ba. That they were devoted to idolatrous gods or goddesses was also naturally in imitation of the idolatry which had in the meantime been installed at the Ka’ba, not vice-versa, as Ibn Ishaq and others very distinctly mention. Idolatry had of course been prevalent in many of the surrounding countries since a much earlier period, but to prove that the Ka’ba was originally built as an idolatrous temple requires some more relevant evidence than what Muir has adduced. All that he has mentioned, to repeat, takes us back only to the fifth century B.C. He cannot imply that the Ka’ba was built so late as the 5th century B.C. or around that time.

Muir admits that the Abrahamic tribes of Arabia “originally possessed knowledge of God.” They indeed did; it has been noted earlier that despite their declension into gross idolatry they had not lost sight of Allah (God) as the Supreme Lord of the universe. And it is remarkable that throughout the ages the Arabs used to call the Ka’ba the “House of Allah” or Bayt Allah. While all the other shrines were each named after some specific god or goddess, such as the shrine of Al-Lat, that of AI-‘Uzza, that of Wadd and so on, the Ka’ba was never called after any such idolatrous deity, not even after the Quraysh’s principal idol Hubal. If the Ka’ba was originally built for any idolatrous deity, the name of that deity would have remained associated with it. It cannot be supposed that the name of that deity was obliterated when the immigrant Ismailites allegedly superimposed the Abrahamic tradition upon the “temple”. If such subsequent superimposition had at all taken place, it is more in accord with reason that the name of that idolatrous deity would have been conjoined with Allah at the time of the supposed integration of the Ka’ba with the Abrahamic tradition.

To prove the supposed idolatrous origin of the Ka’ba, Muir states that the “native systems of Arabia were Sabeanism, Idolatry, and Stone worship, all connected with the religion of Mecca.”43 This is a highly misleading statement. The religious systems mentioned were, of course, prevalent in Arabia at different places and at different times, not equally and everywhere at the same time. Sabeanism with its worship of the heavenly bodies prevailed in south Arabia. Muir does not show how this system was “connected with the religion at Mecca” except saying that as late as the fourth century “sacrifices were offered in Yemen to the sun, moon, and stars” and that the “seven circuits of the Kaaba were probably emblematical of the revolutions of the planetary bodies.”44 It is not understandable how sacrifices offered in Yaman “to the sun, moon and stars” could be connected with the religion at Makka. The Makkan unbelievers did, of course, offer sacrifices to their idols; but they did never do so by way of worshipping the sun, the moon, and the stars! Indeed the practice of sacrificing animals, or even human beings, for gods and goddesses, had been prevalent among many ancient peoples before even Prophet Ibrahim’s(P) intended sacrifice of his son to Allah. But none would, therefore, suggest that such sacrifices by the other ancient peoples or by Ibrahim were only symbolical of Sabeanism! In fact, the term Sabeanism is derived from the Sabaeans who emerged on the scene of history much subsequently to the generally assigned date of the Ka’ba. More specifically, worship of the heavenly bodies was prevalent among the ancient Greeks, among others. In that perspective, Sabeanism was only a south Arabian manifestation of Hellenism.

More strange is Muir’s statement that the “seven circuits of the Kaaba were probably emblematical of the revolutions of the planetary bodies”. There is no indication whatsoever that the Sabaeans or other ancient worshippers of the heavenly bodies used to make seven circuits around any object as part of their astral worship. It is also quite unreasonable to suppose that the ancient Makkans or others of the time were aware of “the revolutions of the planetary bodies”. If they had such modern astronomical knowledge, they would not have worshipped the heavenly bodies at all.

With regard to idolatry and stone worship Muir, after referring to what Ibn Ishaq says about the existence of idolatrous shrines in Arabia and how the Isma’ilites, when dispersing from Makka, used to carry with them a stone from the sacred precincts, states that this widespread tendency to stone worship probably “occasioned the superstition of the Kaaba with its black stone, than that it took its rise from that superstition.”45

As shown above, the evidence adduced by Muir does in no way show that the idolatrous shrines in Arabia and the attendant worship of stones or stone images came into existence before the erection of the Ka’ba. And Muir is grossly wrong in supposing that the Black Stone at the Ka’ba was symbolical of stone worship. Whatever the origin of the Black Stone and whatever the origin of stone worship in Arabia, the pre-Islamic Arabs, neither of Makka nor of the other places, are never found to have worshipped the Black Stone of the Ka’ba. The kissing of the Black Stone was no worship of the stone itself; it marked only the start of making the circuit around the Ka’ba. This circumambulation was not done for any specific idol in the Ka’ba or around it. It was to all intents and purposes a circumambulation of the House of Allah. And it is only an instance of the peculiar coexistence of the Abrahamic traditions and idolatry which the Makkan religion represented on the eve of the rise of Islam. It should be noted here that it was very much the practice of Ibrahim(P) that in the course of his travels from one land to another he set up, wherever he halted, a stone to mark a place dedicated to the worship of Allah (“an altar unto God” as it is put in the English versions of the Old Testament)46.

That these places of worship were symbolized by stones erected as pillars is clear from Gen. 28:10, 18-22, which informs us that Jacob [Ya’qub(P)], when he journeyed from Beer-Sheba to Haran, halted at night at a certain place and in the morning took the stone he had used as his pillow and “set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Beth-el.” He further declared: “And this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house.”47 In fact, these stone pillars were in the nature of foundation stones laid at different places where houses for God’s worship were intended to be erected. The Black Stone of the Ka’ba was one such stone with which the patriarch Ibrahim(P) laid the foundation of the House of Allah (Beth-el).48

Neither was the Black Stone of the Ka’ba symbolical of stone worship, nor were the Prophets Ibrahim(P), Ishaq(P) and Ya’qub(P), by any stretch of the imagination, stone worshippers on account of their erection of stone pillars as “altars unto God”.

The dogmatic assertion that the rites connected with the Ka’ba “have no conceivable connection with Abraham, or with the ideas and principles which his descendants would be likely to inherit from him”, is a downright misstatement. So far as the Black Stone is concerned, its connection with Ibrahim and with the ideas, practices, and principles that his descendants were likely to inherit from him, are indubitably demonstrated by the above-mentioned testimony of the Old Testament. That the institution of sacrifice also is very much in line with the Abrahamic tradition admits of no doubt, the incident of the intended sacrifice of his son being so clearly narrated in both the Old Testament and the Qur’an. In this case, too, the coexistence of Abrahamic rites with idolatrous practices is noticeable. While the unbelieving Arabs used to sacrifice animals on various idol altars at different places, their sacrificing of animals at Mina at the time of the pilgrimage was only in pursuance of the Abrahamic tradition. It was no sacrificing for any particular idols or their idols in general. Neither any idol nor any altar was there at Mina or ‘Arafat. Indeed the pilgrimage, the staying at Mina, the standing at ‘Arafat and the sacrifices made on the occasion were not done for any idol or idols. These were performed purely in accordance with the Abrahamic tradition. Muir’s remarks about sacrifice are somewhat confusing. In attempting to show the supposed connection of Sabeanism with the Makkan religion he states, as mentioned earlier, that as late as the fourth century A.C. sacrifices were offered in Yaman “to the sun, moon and the stars”. But while suggesting that the Abrahamic tradition was grafted on the supposedly preexisting Ka’ba and its rites by an ‘Isma’ilite tribe he states that “the rites of sacrifice and other ceremonies were now for the first time introduced or at any rate associated with the memory of Abraham.”49 This statement of Muir’s constitutes, in fact, a confession of the weakness of his theory and an admission that the “rites of sacrifice and other ceremonies” were very much connected with the Abrahamic tradition.

Indeed Muir’s third and fourth suggestions, namely, that the Abrahamic tradition was superimposed on the supposedly pre-existent and idolatrous Ka’ba and its rites by an ‘Isma’ilite tribe subsequently settling there, and that this tradition was still more subsequently adopted “by degrees” on the part of the Arab tribes because of the commercial pre-eminence of Makka which attracted them thither, are more illogical and absurd. Both these assumptions run counter to his other statement that so “extensive a homage” to the Ka’ba and its rites “must have its beginnings in an extremely remote age.”50

The Ka’ba and its rites, of course, go back to very remote antiquity. And it is also noted that Muir makes a distinction between the prior existence of the Ka’ba and the extensive homage to it on the one hand, and the Abrahamic tradition on the other, which according to him was superimposed on it and its rites. But that does not resolve the inconsistency and difficulty involved in his proposition. If the Arab tribes had since antiquity been paying extensive homage to the Ka’ba and its rites, they would not simply add to these institutions only the name of Ibrahim at a subsequent stage -for that is in essence what Muir suggests – just because an Isma’ilite tribe came to settle at Makka and imposed Ibrahim’s name on the existing institutions. In all likelihood, such an illegitimate attempt on the part of an Isma’ilite tribe would have met with universal resistance, both from the preexisting idolatrous population of Makka as well as from the Arab tribes.

Muir seems to have foreseen the difficulty. Hence he recognizes, on the one hand, the fact that the Arab tribes of northern and central Arabia were by and large of Abrahamic origin so much so that both the Jews and the Old Testament spoke of them as Kedarites (i.e., descendants of Isma’il’s son Kedar or Qaydar) and, on the other, attempts to make room for his theory in the situation by suggesting that it is “improbable” that the memory of the connection with Ibrahim “should have been handed down from the remote age of the patriarch by an independent train of evidence in any particular tribe, or association of tribes”. As noted earlier, he suggests that “it is more likely that it was borrowed from the Jews, and kept alive by occasional communication with them.”51 Now, it is highly unlikely that an acknowledged conservative people like the Semitic Arabs, who of all people were the most attached to their ancient traditions, remembering their individual genealogies going back to a distant past, would have continued to venerate the Ka’ba and its rites as belonging to their common past, and at the same time forgetting the real fact of their descent from Ibrahim.

The nature of “living tradition” is not that it should have been handed down “by an independent train of evidence in any particular tribe, or association of tribes.” It is handed down from generation to generation by “popular memory”, not by the memory or evidence of any particular individual or tribe. It is also just not correct to say, as Muir does, that the Arab tribes having supposedly forgotten their descent from Ibrahim “borrowed” the memory “from the Jews” and it was “kept alive by occasional communication with them.” No people who had forgotten their common ancestor would accept the ancestor of other people as their ancestor too because the latter stated so, without further and an “independent train of evidence.” The fact is that the Arab tribes of central and northern Arabia were not merely on “occasional communication” with the Jews. Throughout the ages till almost the beginning of the Christian era the Jews and the Kedarite tribes of northern and central Arabia were on constant contact with one another and they very much constantly remembered their common descent from Ibrahim. But leaving aside all these questions and going with Muir all the way, it is only reasonable to suppose that if the Jews at any point of time reminded the Arab tribes of their descent from their common patriarch Ibrahim, they would also have been told that that patriarch was no polytheist and that the (supposedly) pre-existing Ka’ba and its rites had no connection with him. Therefore the Arab tribes would not associate the Ka’ba and its rites with the memory of Ibrahim even when they were reminded of their actual ancestor. But, since the Arab tribes, by Muir’s admission and by all the available evidence did in fact associate the Ka’ba and its rites with Ibrahim for long before the coming of Islam, a natural corollary of Muir’s suggestion is that the Jews, when reminding them of Ibrahim, must also have told them that the Ka’ba and its rites were of Abrahamic origin.

The unreasonableness of Muir’s proposition does not end here. He says that the Isma’ilite tribe, when it came to settling at Makka, brought “in its train the patriarchal legend of Abrahamic origin” and engrafted “it on the local superstitions.” Thus by Muir’s own statement, when the Isma’ilite tribe came to Makka, they had not forgotten their Abrahamic origin. It is, therefore, reasonable to add that they had also not lost sight of the fact that Ibrahim was no polytheist. Hence they would not have desecrated the sacred memory of their ancestor by associating it with the (supposedly) pre-existing and polytheistic Ka’ba and its rites, the more so because these institutions had long been commanding the homage of the Arabs. In such a state, if they intended to integrate themselves with the Arab tribes, or vice versa, they would have simply allowed the Abrahamic memory to remain in the background and would have accepted the Ka’ba and its rites as they were; for by so doing they would not have lost anything, neither their domicile nor the profitable trade of Makka. Since they did not do so, but accepted, as it is said, the Ka’ba and its rites as of Abrahamic origin, notwithstanding their having retained the memory of their descent from Ibrahim, and since also the Arab tribes accepted the Ka’ba and its rites as of Abrahamic origin, notwithstanding their constant touch with the collateral branch of Ibrahim’s descendants, the Jews, the natural conclusion is that they did so because they knew that the Ka’ba and its rites were of Abrahamic origin. Thus a rational analysis of even Muir’s theory of subsequent migration to and settlement at Makka by an Isma’ilite tribe, together with the other assumptions he makes and the facts he admits, leads to the unavoidable conclusion that the Ka’ba and its rites were of Abrahamic origin.

(b) About the Old Testament evidence

Muir’s above-discussed theory and assumptions proceed from his understanding of the information contained in Gen. 21:21. He says: “Hagar, when cast forth by Abraham, dwelt with her son in the wilderness of Paran, to the north of Arabia.”52 The above-mentioned passage of the Genesis simply says that Ismail and his mother “dwelt in the wilderness of Paran”. The clause, “to the north of Arabia”, is Muir’s own statement based understandably on the identification of Paran made by other Christian writers and exegetes of the Bible. Paran is mentioned in connection with other events at three other places in the Old Testament.53 But in none of all these places it is clear what exactly is the locality meant by the name Paran. The answer to the question where, according to Genesis 21:21, Hajar and Isma’il settled thus depends on the correct identification of Paran.

The subject was in fact exhaustively dealt with by Syed Ahmed Khan Bahadur shortly after the appearance of Muir’s work54. As the arguments on either side have not advanced much since that time, it would be worthwhile to recapitulate the main points made by him, adding to them such other facts or points as bear on the subject. He drew attention to the fact that the early Muslim geographers speak of three different places bearing the same name of Paran, namely, first, the wilderness where Makka now stands, together with the mountainous region adjacent to it; secondly, those mountains and a village that are situated in Eastern Egypt or Arabia Petra and; thirdly, a district in Samarkand.55 He further pointed out that the Christian scholars and exegetes advance three different identifications of Paran. One view is that it comprised a vast area extending ‘from the northern boundary of Beer-Sheba as far as Mount Sinai’; the second view is that it was identical with Beersheba, which was also called Kadesh; and the third view is that it was the wilderness lying on the “western slopes of Mount Sinai.56

As regards these identifications the first two are obviously wrong, because the descriptions of the Old Testament itself clearly show Paran to be a distinct and different area, not a vast wilderness including many others such as the first identification would suggest, and also different from Beer-Sheba/Kadesh.57 The third identification, that of Paran being a locality on the western slopes of Mount Sinai, tallies with one of the Paran mentioned by the Muslim geographers, but the locality was in all likelihood not known by the name of Paran at that time. For Moses, in the course of his journey with the Israelites from Egypt to Sinai, does not make any mention of Paran although he passed through the same locality and mentioned the places on the way. Most probably the place came to be known as Paran at a period subsequent to that of Moses on account of the settlement there of a branch of Banu Pharan, a Qahtanite tribe.58

None of these three localities, however, could have been the domicile of Hajar and Isma’il. For, in the first place, no local traditions exist to the effect that they settled in any of those localities. Secondly, though Moses and his followers are stated to have proceeded further from Sinai and having passed through “Taberah”, “Kibrothhattaavah” and “Hazeroth” next halted at the wilderness of Paran59 the exact course taken by them is not clear. The Christian scholars themselves suggest as many as five different directions. Moreover, their statement that the descendants of Isma’il spread over the area “from ‘Shur to Havilah’, or across the Arabian peninsula, from the borders of Egypt to the mouths of the Euphrates” is based on an incorrect identification of “Havilah” mentioned in Gen. 25:18. They, guessing on a slender similarity in sound, identify Havilah with Aval or Auwal of the Bahrayn islands. In reality, as Syed Ahmed points out, Havilah is a locality in the vicinity of Yaman, lying at Lat. 17 degrees 30′ N and Long. 42 degrees 36, E, and called after Havilah, one of the sons of Joktan (Qahtan)60. It is thus evident “that the Ishmaelites settled in the wide tract of land extending from the northern frontiers of Yemen to the southern borders of Syria. This place now bears the name of Hedjaz, and it is identical with Paran”, as mentioned by the Muslim geographers.61 It is further noteworthy that an Arabic version of the Samaritan Pentateuch edited by R. Kuenen and published at Lugduni Batavorum, 1851, says in a note that Pharan and Hejaz are one and the same place.62

Thirdly, a close look at Gen. 21:14-15 would make it clear that the two consecutive passages do not really speak of one and the same occasion. The statement in Gen. 21:14 that Hajar “wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba” does not mean that she wandered only there and proceeded no farther. Nor does the statement in Gen. 21:15, “And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs”, mean that the incident took place in or in the vicinity of Beer-Sheba. Nor does it mean that the same water in the bottle with which she had left her home “was spent” and therefore she was obliged to “cast the child under one of the shrubs”. Beersheba was a place well known to her, Ibrahim having lived there with her for long. There were also a number of wells scattered over the region and dug by different persons, as the Old Testament very clearly states at a number of places. The well at Beer-Sheba itself was dug by Ibrahim. All these could not have been unknown to Hajar. She could, therefore, have obtained further water, after a little search, from any of the many wells in the area.

In fact, the Old Testament writer here describes, in two very short and consecutive passages, the long and arduous wanderings made by Hajar, of which the beginning was her wanderings in Beer-Sheba and the last stage was at such a place where she could get no water, nor replenish her bottle in any way. So in utter distress and despair, she cast the child under one of the shrubs. The two passages speak of two different stages of her wanderings, separated by not too small gaps of time and place.

Fourthly, the causes and circumstances that led to Hajar’s and Isma’il’s banishment from home, as described in the Old Testament, also indicate that they travelled to a land quite away from the area where Sarah and Ibrahim continued to live. According to the Genesis, Sarah wanted that Isma’il should not be heir with her son Ishaq. So also, according to the Genesis, it was God’s plan that Ismail and his descendants should settle in and populate another land. The Genesis very graphically describes the situation thus:

“11. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.”

“12. And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of the bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.”

“13. And also the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation because he is thy seed.”

“14. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar…”, etc. (Gen. 21:11-14)

Thus it is very clear from the Genesis that it was not really because of Sarah’s desire but decisively because of God’s plan and assurance of a fruitful future for Isma’il communicated to Ibrahim, and His command to him, that he banished Hajar and Ismail to a different land. God’s words to Ibrahim, “for in Isaac shall thy seed be called”, was a consolation as well as an assurance that the banishment of Ismail did not mean an end to or a constriction of the line of Ibrahim’s descendants. The statement, “in Isaac shall thy seed be called” meant that Ibrahim’s progeny will continue there where he was at that time, through Ishaq; whereas the other statement was an emphasis on the fact that Isma’il was his seed (“he is thy seed”) but his progeny will be multiplied and made into a nation in another region. By the very nature of this plan of God’s (and Sarah’s desire to exclude Isma’il from his father’s immediate possessions was itself part of God’s plan), Hajar and Ismail could not have been settled in any place in the region of Beer-Sheba and Sinai, which were very much then within the sphere of Ibrahim’s and Sarah’s activities. Hajar and Isma’il could only have been and were indeed consigned to a far-away and unsettled land. The Paran/Faran mentioned in the Genesis as their domicile could not simply have been any Paran in and around Beer-Sheba and Sinai, as the Christian scholars imagine.

Fifthly, as regards the exact location of Hajar’s and Isma’il’s domicile Genesis 21 also furnishes a clue. Thus, when Hajar in her utter distress and helplessness prayed unto God and also the child Ismail cried out of hunger and thirst, God responded to them. Says the Genesis:

(Gen. 21:17-19)

17. And God heard the voice of the lad; and the Angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? Fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.”

“18. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.”

“19. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water, and she went and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.”

Thus God provided Hajar and Isma’il with a well of water; on the spot where they were (“God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.”) Hajar did not have to look around and walk any distance to find the well. “God opened her eyes”, i.e., God made her open her eyes (Obviously Hajar was deeply absorbed in prayer with her eyes closed), “and she saw a well of water.” It was not simply a temporary relief. It was God’s especial gift for them to be the means of their sustenance and settlement there in accordance with His plan and promise to “make a nation” out of Isma’il. This divinely provided well cannot be identified with any well in Beer-Sheba and its surrounding region for the simple reason that none of these wells is mentioned in the Old Testament as God-given. On the contrary they are very distinctly described as the work of human hand. Nor is there any local tradition pointing to the existence there, now or in the past, of any divinely caused well. To attempt to identify the well given by God to Isma’il and Hajar with any of the wells in the Beer-Sheba region would be an affront to the clear wording and purport of the text of the Genesis. This well is unmistakably the Zamzam well by the side of the Ka’ba. Ever since the time of Hajar and Isma’il it has continued to be a perennial source of water for the descendants of Isma’il and others who repair there, except for a short period of human tampering with it.

Last but not least, the name of Makka, which is also called Bakka in the Qur’an (Q. 3:96), finds mention in the Psalm of David, together with the well too. Thus Psalm 84:6 says:

“Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.”

‘Baca’ in the above passage is clearly Bakka of the Qur’an, and the well spoken of is the well of Zamzam. It is also noteworthy that ancient works on history and geography make mention of floods being caused at Makka by occasional heavy rains, a feature not quite unknown even in modem times -thus completing the identification with Makka – “the rain also filleth the pools.”

Thus, despite some obvious discrepancies in the description of the Genesis, it is in consonance with all the essential features in the Qur’anic and Islamic accounts; and they combined to prove that Hajar and Isma’il were settled at Makka, according to the Divine plan and provision.

Professor of the History of the Islam, Centre for the Service of Sunnah and Sirah, Islamic University Madina, Saudi Arabia. Excerpts from Sirat Al Nabi and the Orientalists: With Special Reference to the Writings of William Muir, D. S. Margoliouth and W. Montgomery Watt. Compiled by Adam Rodrigues

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "The Kaaba And The Abrahamic Tradition," in Bismika Allahuma, October 15, 2005, last accessed September 25, 2022,
  1. Qur’an, 6:74, 80-83; 19:41-50; 21:51-71; 26:70-82; 29:16-18, 24-25; 37:83-98 []
  2. Qur’an, 21:68-70 []
  3. Qur’an, 21:71 []
  4. Ibn Khaldun, Tarikh, II/I / 79; Ibn Sa’d, I, 48, 49 []
  5. Qur’an, 37:99-100 []
  6. Genesis 16:7-11 []
  7. Qur’an, 6:86:7:80-84; 11:77-83; 15:57-77; 21:74-75; 26:160-175; 27:54-58; 29:26, 28-35; 37:133-138; 51:31-37; 54:34-39; 66:10 []
  8. Bukhari, no. 3364 []
  9. Bukhari, no. 3365 []
  10. Ibid. []
  11. Some reports say it to be at Mina; some others think it to be near the Marwah hill. []
  12. Qur’an, 37:103 []
  13. Qur’an, 37:102-107 []
  14. Q.37:112-113 []
  15. Bukhari, no. 3365 []
  16. Qur’an, 2:127-129 []
  17. Qur’an, 22:27 []
  18. Genesis 12:2; 16:10 []
  19. Genesis 25:7-9 []
  20. The Old Testament, after mentioning the names of the twelve sons of Ismail, states:

    “These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.” (Genesis 25:16) []

  21. Kedar of the Old Testament. []
  22. See for instance, A. Guillaume, Islam, London, 1964, pp. 61-62; P. Lammens, L’Islam, Croyance et Institutions, Beirut, 1926, pp. 28, 33 []
  23. D.S. Margoliouth, Mohammed and the Rise of Islam, 3rd ed. (London, 1905), p. 104. This specific comment has been discussed at a subsequent stage in this work, infra, Ch. XIV, see I & II []
  24. First published, London, 1926; republished in 1984 []
  25. R. Bell, The Sacrifice of Ishmael, T.G.U.O.S., Vol. X, pp. 29-31; and The Origin of the Id al-Adha, M. W. (1933), pp. 117-120 []
  26. W. Muir, The Life of Mahomet, 1st edn, Vol. 1., London, 1858, p. cxi, citing Gen. XXI: 25; XXV: 18 []
  27. Ibid. []
  28. Ibid., pp. cxv; cxxv []
  29. Ibid., p. cxvi []
  30. Muir specifically uses this term twice, once at p. cxxv and again at p. cxxvi. He also designates his account as the “supposed history of the rise of Mecca and its religion”. See side-note on p. ccxiv of the first edition and p. civ of the third revised edition by T.H. Weir, London, 1923 []
  31. ibid., 1st edn., p. ccxv []
  32. ibid., pp. cxxv-cxxvi []
  33. ibid., p. cxv. See also pp. cxxiv-cxxv []
  34. ibid., p. ccxii []
  35. ibid., p. ccx []
  36. ibid., p. ccxi []
  37. ibid., p. ccxiii []
  38. ibid., p. ccx []
  39. ibid., p. ccxvi []
  40. Ibid., p. ccxv []
  41. Ibid., ccxviii []
  42. Ibid. See also Isaiah 21:16-17 []
  43. Muir, op. cit., p. ccxii []
  44. Ibid. []
  45. Ibid., pp. ccxiii-ccxiv []
  46. Gen. 12:6-8; 13:4; 13:18. See also Gen. 25:25 which speaks of Ishaq’s similarly setting up an ‘altar unto God’. []
  47. Gen. 28:10, 18-19 []
  48. See Muhammad Sulayman Mansurpuri, Rahmatullil-‘Alamin, (Urdu text), Delhi, 1980 []
  49. Muir, Op. Cit., p. ccxvi. See also supra, p. 72 []
  50. Muir, Op. Cit., p. ccxii []
  51. See supra, p. 71 []
  52. Muir, Op. Cit., p.cxi. Muir mistakenly cites in his footnote Gen. 21:25. It ought to be Gen. 21:21 []
  53. See Gen. 14:6; Num. 10:12; Num. 12:16 []
  54. Syed Ahmed Khan Bahadur, Essay on the Historical Geography of Arabia (London, Trubner & Co., 1869) []
  55. Ibid., p. 74. See also Yaqu, Mu’jam al-Buldan, under Faran []
  56. Syed Ahmed, op. cit., p.76, citing Kitto’s Cyclopedia of the Bible and The Peoples’ Bible Dictionary []
  57. Syed Ahmed, op. cit., pp. 77-79. See also Gen. 14:5-7; Deut. 33:2; Hab. 3:3; Num. 10:12; 13:1-3, 6 []
  58. Syed Ahmad, Op. Cit., p. 85 []
  59. See Exod. 15:32; 17:8; 18:5; 19:2 and Num. 10:12; 11:34; 12:16; 13:26 and 14:25 []
  60. Syed Ahmad, Op. Cit., p. 80. See also Gen. 10:29 []
  61. Syed Ahmad, Op. Cit., p. 80 []
  62. Ibid., pp. 75-76 []

Pre-Islamic Arabia And Its Socio-Religious Condition

The Background: The Land and The People

Arabia is the largest peninsula on the surface of the earth, being nearly one-third of Europe in size. It forms the southwestern wing of Asia, joined with Africa by the Sinai desert and Egypt. It is surrounded on three sides by waters-the Red Sea to the west, the Arabian (Persian) Gulf to the east and the Arabian Sea to the south. Its northern boundary may be said to be an imaginary line from the Gulf of al-Aqaba in the west to the Tigris-Euphrates valley in the east. Geographically the deserts of Syria and Iraq form part of the peninsula. Geologists think that it once formed a continuation of the Sahara desert on the one hand and the Central Iranian and the Gobi Desert on the other; and that subsequently it became separated by the depression of the Red Sea which, however, could not alter its arid nature.

The Arabian Peninsula is skirted in the south and west by mountain ranges of varying heights, reaching some 14000 feet in the south and some 10000 feet in the north. Beginning from Hadramaut in the south these ranges run almost parallel to the coastline, through Yaman, the Asir region and all along the Hijaz including the towns of Makka and Ta’if and meeting the ranges in the Sinai, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. There are small ranges in the eastern region also, particularly in Oman where the Al-Akhdar Mountain rises to a height of about 10000 feet. On the west the mountains rise rather steeply, leaving a narrow coastal belt of plain and comparatively fertile lands. From the mountainous region in the west, which averages an altitude of about 4000 feet at about one hundred and fifty miles inland, the country to the east is a vast plateau, highlighted by the plateau of Najd, sloping gradually to the east coast.

The mountain ranges in the south and north prevent respectively the monsoon rains from the Indian Ocean and the winter rains from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea from reaching the interior of the land. Hence rainfall is generally scanty in most parts, though there might be occasional heavy downpours at many places including Makka, Madina, Ta’if and Riyadh. In dim antiquity the land was probably more humid and rainfall more plenty, as indicated by the existence of numerous waddis or streambeds. Of the desert proper, there are three main regions: Al-Nufud in the north, Al-Rub’ al-Khali (the Vacant Quarter) in the south, which in itself is almost the size of France, and Al-Dahna, which is a sort of a corridor of desert linking the two above mentioned northern and southern deserts and running by the east central region. The rest of the peninsula is steppe land, together with vast areas of fissured lava lands, particularly in the central, western and northern regions. The steppe lands are sprinkled with numerous fertile oases and settlements. There are some remarkably fertile regions in the west and south, as also along the coast. In general Arabia is one of the hottest and driest countries of the world. The climates are rather extreme. It is very hot during the summer, and quite cold in the winter. In the winter season the temperature in some places in the north and south falls far below zero degrees centigrade.

A look at the map would at once make it clear that Arabia forms a link by land as well as by sea between Asia, Africa and Europe – the three continents that till the geographical discoveries of the 15th / 16th centuries were thought to constitute the entire world. Arabia is situated in the middle of this world. Not only that. From time immemorial it has been surrounded by a belt of ancient civilizations – the Nile Valley (Egyptian) civilization in the west, the Phoenician and Assyrian civilizations in the north, the Tigris-Euphrates Valley (Babylonian) civilization, the Persian civilization and the Indus Valley civilizations in the north-east and east. Further east-north-east laid the Chinese civilization. Arabia in ancient times was thus very much in the middle of the then “civilized” world. Modern researches show that it was the Semitic emigrants from the heart of Arabia who participated in building up the Egyptian, the Phoenician, the Assyrian and the Babylonian civilizations. And since dim antiquity Arabia also remained in constant trade and commercial contacts with the lands of Asia, Africa and Europe. Ships from India and the “Far East” touched its southern ports and sailed up the Red Sea; while land routes connected it with all the three continents. It lay on the highroad of world commerce and its inhabitants were the middle-men between the traders of the outer world. The geographical situation of Arabia has made it strategically and commercially important throughout the ages.

The internal geographical features of Arabia and its climate prevented any foreign intrusion into it. Consequently, its inhabitants have through ages retained their ethnic purity. Historians are agreed that Arabia is the cradle and habitat of the Semitic population (descended from Sam, son of Nuh(P)). As P. K. Hitti observes, though the term “Semitic” has of late come to be used in the West more generally with reference to the Jews, because of their concentration in America, it is more appropriately applicable to the inhabitants of Arabia who, more than any other group of people, have retained the Semitic characteristics in their physical features, manners, customs, habits of thought and language. “The people of Arabia have remained virtually the same throughout all the recorded ages.”1

Arab historians and traditions classify the inhabitants of Arabia into two broad divisions, their extinct ancestors and the surviving people. The extinct ancestors are called al- ‘Arab al-Ba’idah (the extinct Arabs) who lived and flourished in dim antiquity but who have gone almost entirely out of existence. Examples of these extinct Arabs are the ‘Ad, and the Thamud, the Tasm, the Jadis, the ‘Amlaq and others of whom virtually no survivors are found. The Qur’an makes repeated references to those bygone peoples, particularly to the ‘Ad and the Thamud. The former flourished in south Arabia (Hadramaut region) and the latter in north Arabia, particularly in the region of Al-Hijr. The Prophets Hud(P)2 and Salih(P)3
were sent respectively to these two peoples. Recent excavations have unearthed archaeological remains that go only to confirm the truth of what the Qur’an, the ancient Arab traditions and the Arab historian’s state in respect of these extinct ancestors of theirs. The Thamud are mentioned by name in an inscription of the Assyrian King Sargon II, dated 715 B.C. They are also mentioned by Ptolemy and Pliny.4

The surviving people are divided into two categories, al- ‘Arab al- ‘Aribah or the Aboriginal Arabs and al-‘Arab al-Musta’ribah or the Naturalized Arabs. The first are the descendants of Ya’rub son of Yashjub, son of Qahtan (Joktan of the Old Testament)5. They are therefore more generally called Qahtanite Arabs. Their habitat was Yaman. The famous Sabaean and Himyarite kingdoms and their high degree of civilization were the work of these Qahtanite Arabs. The Qur’an makes special mention of the Sabaeans6.

Since time immemorial, however, many Qahtanite Arabs had migrated from their original habitat and spread over all parts of the Arabian Peninsula. More lately the process of migration received an increased impetus due to the first bursting of the Dam of Ma’rib and the Roman displacement of the Arabs in the maritime trade in the first century A.C. Of those who thus migrated from time to time mention may by made of the tribe of Azd. One branch of this tribe, Banu Tha’labah ibn ‘Amr, first settled in the region of Al-Tha’labiyyah but subsequently moved on to Madina. Their descendants were the famous ‘Aws and Khazraj tribes who in the course of time became the Helpers (ansar) of the Prophet.

Another branch of the Azd tribe, Banu Harithah ibn ‘Amr settled in the Hijaz and came to be better known as Banu Khuza’ah. They in the course of time occupied Makka displacing its earlier inhabitants, Banu Jurhum. Another important Qahtanite tribe, Banu Lakhm, settled in Al-Hirah (modern Kufa region in Iraq) where they founded a buffer state between Arabia and the Persian Empire (roughly 200-602 A.C.). Another powerful tribe, Banu Ghassan, settled in lower Syria and founded the Ghassanid kingdom there, playing a similar role of a buffer state between the Byzantine Empire and Arabia. The Ghassanid state came to an end on account of the Sasanid Khusraw Parwez’s capture of the region, including Damascus and Jerusalem, in 613-614 A.C.

Two other powerful Qahtanite tribes who settled in Arabia were Banu Tayyi’ and Banu Kindah. The former settled in north Arabia, in the region between the ‘A’a and Salma mountains, which are for that reason better known as the Tayyi’ Mountains. The famous Hatim al-Tayyi’ belonged to this tribe. Banu Kindah, on the other hand, settled in central Arabia and established a kingdom there. Their rulers, unlike the others, bore the title of king (malik).

The Naturalized Arabs, al-‘Arab al-Musta’ribah, were the descendants of Prophet Ibrahim(P) through his eldest son Prophet Isma’il(P). It must not be supposed that they were later in coming to Arabia than the above mentioned Qahtanite tribes from the south. In fact, Prophet Isma’il and his mother settled at Makka long before the dispersal of the above mentioned Qahtanite tribes in different parts of Arabia. It should also be noted that Prophet Ibrahim was no non-Arab or non-Semitic person. He descended from the same Semitic Arabs who had long previously migrated and settled in the Tigris-Euphrates valley (Babylonia). In that sense his coming to Makka and settling his son and wife there was a sort of return to the original home of his ancestors. The descendants of Isma’il are called “naturalized Arabs” not really because they were originally non-Semitic outsiders, but mainly because their ancestors had long before left the land.

The Socio-Religious Condition: Jahiliyyah

The dual nature of the population and the dual aspects (agriculture and commercial) of their economic life seem to be matched by dualism in the Arabs’ religious beliefs and practices prior to the rise of Islam. The core of their religious beliefs and practices was characterized by unmistakable traces of the Abrahamic tradition. No other people of the time or subsequently so well remembered the Abrahamic tradition and so closely performed the Abrahamic rites as did the Arabs. Yet, at the same time, they had succumbed to polytheism and idolatry with all its concomitant usages and superstitions.

For a long time indeed the descendants of Isma’il continued to follow the faith and rites in their original forms as introduced by him and his father. With the passage of centuries, however, they gradually deviated from the original faith and succumbed to the natural tendency of the crude and unsophisticated mind to find an easily approachable god for support in times of distress and for redress of wrong, to the tendency to idolize a hero or ancestor, to the sense of helplessness in the face of the forces of nature and, above all, to the influence of the practice of those who were regarded as superior, intellectually, physically or materially.

The “civilized” peoples who surrounded the Arabs in the past as well as contemporaneously were all engrossed in polytheism in some form or other. Wherever the pre-Islamic Arabs turned, as Ismail R. al-Faruqi states, they “saw the transcendence of God violated. Those Arabs who inclined in that direction became bolder by the example of their neighbours. It was their Byzantine Christian neighbours who sold them the human statues of the Ka’ba.”7

Polytheism was introduced at Makka after its occupation by Banu Khuza’ah, particularly by their leader ‘Amr ibn Luhayy.8 According to Ibn Hisham ‘Amr once went to Syria where he observed the people worshipping idols. He enquired of them of the reasons for their doing so and they replied that they did so because those idols caused the ‘rains to fall for them and victory to attend them as they grayed to the idols for these things. ‘Amr was impressed and asked them whether they would give him one for his people to worship it. Accordingly, they gave him the idol of Hubal which he brought to Makka, placed it near the Ka’ba and asked his people to worship it. As they considered him their leader and wise man they started worshipping the idol.9 According to Ibn al-Kalbi, ‘Amr once fell seriously ill and was told by someone that if he took bath in a special spring in Syria he would be cured. So he went there, took a bath in that spring and was cured. As he observed the people there worshipping idols he asked them the reason for their doing so, etc.10

The story illustrates the fact that polytheism found its way among the descendants of Ismail from their neighbours and others. A modem scholar, giving support to the story, states that even the Arabic word for idol, sanam, “is clearly an adaptation of Aramaic selem.”11

According, to another report ‘Amr ibn Luhayy introduced also the worship of the images of Wadd, Suwa’, Yaghuth, Ya’uq and Nasr, the gods of Prophet Nuh’s unbelieving people. It is said that a jinni informed Amr that the images of those gods were to be found at a certain place at Jeddah and asked him to bring them from thence and to worship them. Accordingly, he went to Jeddah, found the images at the place indicated, brought them to Makka and asked the people to start worshipping them.12

These gods were indeed worshipped by Prophet Nuh’s people, as the Qur’an clearly states (Q. 71:23). They represented certain cults relating to astral worship or worship of the forces of nature or deification of some human qualities, prevalent in ancient Assyria and Babylonia, the land of Nuh’s people.13

A report attributed to Ibn ‘Abbas(R) says that these names were originally borne by some prominent persons among the people of Nuh, who subsequently idealized and idolized them.14 Once again, these reports emphasize, on the one hand, how the descendants of Isma’il gradually succumbed to the polytheism of their predecessors and others and, on the other, the role of ‘Amr ibn Luhayy in the process. Once introduced, however, polytheism spread among the Arabs in various shapes and forms. Ibn Ishaq gives an explanation of the spread of stone worship thus. He says that when the descendants of Isma’il were for various reasons obliged to disperse from Makka, each group, as they left it, took with them a stone from the sacred precincts as souvenir and memento of the Ka’ba. They placed those stones at suitable spots in their new domiciles, circumambulated them as they used to circumambulate the Ka’ba and treated them with various marks of reverence. Gradually their succeeding generations began to worship not only those stones but any stone that especially impressed them. Thus they forgot the original Abrahamic religion and degenerated into stone and image worship.15

Ultimately each and every tribe and clan, in fact, every family, had their special idol to worship. On the eve of the Prophet’s emergence, some 360 idols were placed in and around the Ka’ba. The most important of these was Hubal. It was a big statue in human form of which a hand having been broken the Quraysh had it remade with gold. Two of the idols in the Ka’ba compound were ‘Isaf and Na’ila, placed originally on the spot of the Zamzam well but subsequently removed to a spot near the hills of Safa and Marwah. According to pre-Islamic belief, ‘Isaf and Na’ila were originally a man and a woman of Banu Jurhum who was turned into stones on account of their having desecrated the sacred precincts by making love in there.16

Besides thus making the Ka’ba the principal dormitory of their numerous idols the Arabs had developed a number of subsidiary Ka’bas (tawaghit), so to say, at different places in the land, each with its presiding god or goddess. They used to visit those shrines at appointed times, circumambulate them and make sacrifices of animals there, besides performing other polytheistic rites. The most prominent of these shrines were those of AI-Lat at Ta’if, Al ‘Uzza at Nakhlah and Manat near Qudayd. The origins of these idols are uncertain. Ibn al-Kalbi says that Al-Lat was “younger” (‘ahdath) than Manat, while Al-‘Uzza was “younger” than both al-Lat and Manat.17 But though Al-‘Uzza was thus the youngest of the three; it was nonetheless the most important and the greatest (‘azam) idol with the Quraysh who, along with Banu Kinanah ministered to it.18

The Qur’an specifically mentions these three goddesses of the Arabs (Q. 53:19-20). Some of the other semi-or demi-Ka’bas were those of Dhu al-Khalsah at Tabalah (about “seven nights’ journey” from Makka), of Fils at a place between the Tayy’ Mountains, the Ri’am at San’a’ in Yaman, the Ruda’ in the territory of Banu Rabi’ah ibn Ka’b, a group of Ka’bas (Dhu al-Ka’abat) at Sindad in the land of Banu Bakr and Banu Taghlib and the Ka’ba of Banu al-Harith at Najran.19

In addition to these subsidiary Ka’bas there were a number of other shrines of specific idols scattered throughout the peninsula. Of these mention may be made of the shrine of Suwa’ at Ruhat (Yanbu’), that of Wadd at Dumat al-Jandal, that of Yaghuth at Jurash (in the Banu Tayy’ territory), that of Ya’uq at Hamdan in Yaman (“two nights” from San’a in the north), that of Nasr in the land of Himyar (Balkha’) in Yaman, that of ‘Umyanis or ‘Amm ‘Anas at Khawlan and that of Sa’d at Tanufa.20

The pre-Islamic Arabs used to worship these idols or gods and goddesses in various ways. They used to make supplication to them, prostrated themselves before them, made offerings to them, beseeched their favour, sought to please or propitiate them in the belief that they were capable of doing good or harm to man, sacrificed animals on altars dedicated to them, made pilgrimages to their shrines, circumambulated them and drew arrows of divination by them or in their shrines. They also used to name themselves after these gods and goddesses, such as ‘Abd Yaghuth, ‘Abd al-‘Uzza, etc. But though thus engrossed in extensive polytheism and idol-worship the pre-Islamic Arabs did not develop any elaborate mythology or involved theology around their gods and goddesses as did the ancient Greeks and the Hindus. No trace of such things can be found in the pre-Islamic poetry and traditions. This fact further indicates that polytheism and idol worship were not indigenous to the Isma’ilite Arabs but were grafted on to the Abrahamic tradition.

Nothing illustrates this fact better than the existence of unmistakable traces of the Abrahamic faith in the medley of polytheistic beliefs and practices. Of these the most remarkable was the existence of a belief in Allah as the Supreme God (Q. 23:84-89; 31:25), coupled with the belief in the existence of angels and jinn. At times of extreme peril the pre-Islamic Arabs even directly invoked Allah’s mercy and succour (Q. 10:22; 31:32). Sometimes they used to swear by Allah (Q.6:109) besides frequently naming themselves ‘Abd Allah. The recent discovery of a number of inscriptions, particularly in northern Arabia, containing the name of Allah[21], which inscriptions are all post-Abrahamic, is a decisive proof of the prevalence of the notion of Allah among the Arabs since distant antiquity. P. K. Hitti, after referring to the inscriptions, to some of the relevant Qur’anic passages and to the existence of the name Abd Allah among the Quraysh, states that “evidently’ Allah was “the tribal deity of the Quraysh.”[22]

The remark is both misleading and untenable. Neither did the inscriptions he cites belong to the Quraysh nor was the name ‘Abd Allah exclusive to them. Not to speak of many others outside the Quraysh circle, the leader of the “Hypocrites” at Madina was ‘Abd Allah ibn Ubayy!

Other residue of the Abrahamic tradition was their universal reverence to the Ka’ba at Makka, their circumambulation of it, their making of lesser pilgrimage (‘umrah) and the pilgrimage (hajj) to it, their performance of such Abrahamic rites in connection with the pilgrimage as the standing at ‘Arafat, the halt at Muzdalifa, the stay at Mina, the sacrificing of animals on the occasion, their making seven runs between the Safa and the Marwah hills and their shaving of their heads. Some other remnants of the Abrahamic rites were their universally practising circumcision and their fasting on the day of ‘Ashura.[23]

The coexistence of the Abrahamic tradition with the polytheistic beliefs and practices over long centuries did not however lead to the growth of any syncretic system of belief. The total picture that emerges is merely that of an ill-assorted amalgam with a number of peculiar by-products of that amalgam. One such by-product was the pre-Islamic Arabs’ notion that their worshipping of the gods and goddesses would take them nearer to Allah (Q. 39:3); that those gods and goddesses were their intercessors with Him (Q. 10:18); and that some of their goddesses, the angels and even the jinn were Allah’s daughters (Q. 16:57). Another outgrowth of the amalgam was their foolish practice of setting apart a portion (usually a major portion) of their crops and cattle for their gods and goddesses, and another portion (usually a minor portion) for Allah (Q. 6:136). Other instances were their mixing up polytheistic clauses in the formula of “Response” (talbiyah) while performing the circumambulation of the Ka’ba[24] the Makkans’ not going up to ‘Arafat at the time of Hajj but only up to Muzdalifa on account of a notion of their religious superiority and of their being the inhabitants of the sacred territory, their generally not allowing anyone to circumambulate the Ka’ba except in garments provided by them (hums) and their even circumambulating it in a naked state. With reference to such mingling of polytheistic beliefs and practices with recognition of Allah as Supreme Lord the Qur’an declares: “And most of them believe not in Allah without associating (others as partners) with Him.” (Q. 12:06)

The Arabs’ polytheism and worship of idols together with their mistaken notions about Allah determined their whole attitude to life and society. They considered life in this world to be the be-all and end-all of human existence. They worshipped and propitiated the gods and goddesses and recognized Allah for that purpose alone. They did not believe in resurrection, reward and punishment and life after death. “There is nothing but our life in this world; we shall die and live but shall never be raised up again”, so they believed and declared[25].

This attitude led to a sense of ultimate unaccountability and a desire to enjoy the worldly life in all possible ways and without any restrictions. Licentiousness, prostitution, adultery, fornication and unbridled indulgence in wine, women and gambling were thus widely prevalent.[26] Unlimited polygamy was in vogue and a sort of polyandry, in which a particular woman was used as wife by a number of men (less than 10), was not uncommon. If a child was born in such a case, it was to be accepted by the person whom the woman declared to be its father.[27] Sometimes a person allowed his wife to go to other persons for the sake of having a son.[28]

The woman’s position in society was indeed unenviable, though she participated in many a social and economic activity and though we sometimes find glowing tributes paid to sweethearts in pre-Islamic poetry. In general, women were treated as chattels. There was no limit to a man’s taking as many wives as he liked. Similarly he divorced his wives at will and quite frequently. There was no rule of prohibition; so a man could and did marry irrespective of blood-relationship. Often two sisters were joined as wives to a man at the same time. Sons married their father’s ex-wives or widows (not mothers). There was no recognized rule for a woman to inherit from her ancestors or husband. Birth of a daughter was regarded as inauspicious and disliked (Q. 16:58-59). Most inhuman was that many Arabs, out of a false sense of honour and for fear of poverty buried alive their young daughters (Q. 6:137; 6:151). On the eve of the rise of Islam this barbarous practice seems to have somewhat waned in and around Makka; but it was quite widespread in other parts of Arabia. The Qur’an speaks of its having been the practice with “many polytheists” (Q. 6:137). Qays ibn Asim of Banu Tamim, who embraced Islam in 9 H., confessed that he had previously buried alive as many as 8 or 12 of his daughters[29].

The sense of unaccountability also lay at the root of frequent killing of human beings without any qualms of conscience or remorse, and of stealing, plundering and spoliating others of their properties and possessions. The only check to such acts was tribal vengeance and retaliation. A number of superstitions and unconscionable practices also were prevalent among them. They believed in the utterances of soothsayers and astrologers and often decided upon a course of action, for instance a marriage or a journey, by means of divination by drawing or shooting arrows in a specified manner or near specific idols. Gambling and raffling were extensively in use. They even decided their respective shares in a particular thing, for instance the meat of a slaughtered animal, by casting lots with arrows. The meat was divided into unequal and preferential shares, these were indicated on arrows and these were then drawn, like the drawing of modern lottery tickets. Another peculiar practice was habal al-habala, or the selling of a pregnant camel on condition that the price was to be paid when she gave birth to a she-camel and that she-camel herself became pregnant.[30]

Another superstitious and polytheistic practice was the tabooing of certain camels, goats or oxen, calling them al-sa’ibah, al-bahirah, al-wasilah and al-hami. A she-camel consecutively giving birth to ten female calves without the intervention of any male calf was tabooed and was named al-sa’ibah. She was not to be used for riding or carrying any load, her hair was not to be trimmed and her milk was not to be drunk except by a guest. If she subsequently gave birth to another female, that “daughter” of hers was called al-bahirah and was similarly tabooed. A she-goat similarly giving birth consecutively to ten females in five conceptions was likewise tabooed and called al-wasilah. A bull fathering consecutively ten female calves was also tabooed and called al-hami.[31] The Qur’an condemned such practices (Q. 5:103; 6:139). These practices and beliefs of the Arabs, particularly their polytheism, licentiousness, adultery, gambling, stealing, plundering, their burying alive of young daughters, their tribal spirit and excitability (hamiyyah), etc., were collectively referred to in the Qur’an and the traditions as jahiliyyah.[32]

While this was the general socio-religious scene, other religious systems like Christianity, Judaism, Mazdaism (Zoroastrianism) and Sabaism (or Sabianism) had made their way into the peninsula in a limited way. Christianity was introduced in some northern tribes, particularly among the Ghassanid and in Hira mainly at the instance and initiative of the Byzantine authorities. Some princes of Hira had embraced it. In the south it was introduced in Yaman mainly after the first Abyssinian occupation of that land (340-378 A.C.). In its neighbouring region of Najran Christianity of the Monophysite type was introduced by a missionary from Syria named Faymiyun[33]. A number of people of the area embraced that faith. There was also a sprinkling of Christian immigrants and converts at Makka at the time of the Prophet’s rise.

So far as Judaism was concerned it found its place in the peninsula not so much by conversion as by immigration of the Jews into it. This immigration took place mainly at two periods – one after the Babylonian occupation of Palestine in 587 B.C. and for a second time after the Roman conquest of the land and the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 A.C. A number of Jewish tribes migrated into Arabia and were settled at places like Yathrib (Madina), Khaybar, Tayma’ and Fadak. Not that they remained completely inactive in the matter of propagation of their faith. According to tradition they made a convert of the Himyarite king (Tubba’) Abu Karib As’ad Kamil (385-420 A.C) when he visited Madina in the course of a northern expedition and sent with him two rabbis to propagate Judaism in Yaman.[34] The extent of the success of these Jewish missionaries in Yaman is not clear; but a descendant of As’ad Kamil’s, Dhui Nuwas, proved to be a vigorous champion of Judaism. He persecuted the Christians not only of Yaman but even massacred the Christian community of Najran, throwing a large number of them in a deep ditch full of fire[35]. His intolerance brought about a joint Byzantine-Abyssinian intervention in Yaman leading to the end of Dhu Nuwas’s rule and the beginning of the second Abyssinian occupation of the land under Abrahah. As noted earlier, Abrahah determined to Christianize the whole land, built a gigantic cathedral at San’a’ and led a campaign against Makka in 570-7 1 A.C. to destroy the Ka’ba.

Mazdaism or Zoroastrianism, which prevailed in Persia, found some converts in the eastern coastal region and Bahrayn. Some persons in Yaman also embraced it after the Persian occupation of the land in 525 A.C. Sabianism or Sabaism, to which the Qur’an makes reference[36], probably represented an ancient faith of either Babylonian or south Arabian origin consisting of astral worship. Its votaries were very few at the time of the rise of Islam. At any rate, it was considered a foreign religion; for whenever a person abandoned his ancestral faith the Arabs used to say that he had turned a Sabian.[37]

All these religions, however, had very little effect upon the life and society of the Arabs in general. Particularly Christianity and Judaism had compromised their positions by their conflicts and intolerance of each other, by their internal dissensions and by their deviation from the original teachings of Jesus(P) and Moses(P). To the discerning Arab, Christianity, with its doctrines of incarnation and the Trinity, besides the worship of the images of Jesus and Mary, appeared little better than his worship of the idols together with a recognition of Allah as the Supreme Lord. Similarly, Judaism, with its exclusivity and its claim of ‘Uzayr being the son of God appeared equally polytheistic. This is highlighted by the fact that on eve of the rise of Islam a number of people came out in search of the true Abrahamic faith and went by the appellation of Hanifs[38]. Even if the emergence of these men is regarded as the outcome of an interaction between the existence of the Abrahamic tradition on the one hand and the presence of Christianity and Judaism in Arabia on the other, the fact that almost all the Hanifs turned their faces away from both these religions only illustrates their inefficacy on the mind of knowledgeable Arabs of the time.

Professor of the History of the Islam, Centre for the Service of Sunnah and Sirah, Islamic University Madina, Saudi Arabia. Excerpts from Sirat Al Nabi and the Orientalists: With Special Reference to the Writings of William Muir, D. S. Margoliouth and W. Montgomery Watt. Compiled by Adam Rodrigues

[21] See for instance F.V. Winnet, “Allah Before Islam”, M.W., XXVIII (1938), pp. 239-248

[22] Hitti, op. cit., 101

[23] Bukhari, no. 3831

[24] Ibn Hisham, I, 78

[25] Q. 23:37. There are indeed many passages in the Qur’an, which refer to this notion of the unbelievers. See for instance, 6:29; 17:49; 17:98; 23:35; 23:82; 37:16; 37:53; 37:58-59; 44:35; 50:3; 56:47 and 64:7. Similarly, the Qur’an is replete with passages to bring home the theme of resurrection and the Day of Judgment.

[26] The Qur’an condemned and prohibited these practices. See 5:3; 5:90; 17:23; 24:2-3; 25:68 and 60:12

[27] Bukhari, no. 5127

[28] Ibid.

[29] Al-Numayri (al-Basri), Abu Zayd ‘Umar ibn Shabbab (173-262 H.), Tarikh al-Madinat al-Munawwarah, ed. F.M. Shaltut, Part II, second print, Madina, n.d., p. 532; ‘Usd al-Ghabah, IV, 220; Al-‘Isabah, 111, 253 (No. 7194). See also Al-Darimi, I, Introduction, 3-4

[30] Bukhari, no. 3843. The Prophet prohibited such dealings.

[31] Ibn Hisham, I, 89

[32] Q. 3:154; 5:50; 33:33; 48:26 and Bukhari, no. 3524

[33] Ibn Hisham, I, 31-34

[34] Ibn Hisham, I, pp. 26-27

[35] This incident is referred to in Q. 85:4

[36] Q. 2:62; 5:69; 22:17

[37] Bukhari, no. 3523; Musnad, III, 492; IV, 341; Ibn Hisham, I, 344

[38] Infra, Ch. XIII, see I.

  1. Philip. K. Hitti, History of the Arabs (first published 1937), 10th edn (1970, 11th print. 1986), pp. 8-9 []
  2. Surah XI of the Qur’an is named after him. See especially its ayahs 50-60. See also 7:65-72; 25:123-140 and 46:21-26. []
  3. See Q. 7:73-79; 11:61-68; 24:141-159; 27:45-53 []
  4. First Encyclopedia of Islam 1913-1936, VIII, p. 736 []
  5. Qahtan was the son of ‘Abir, son of Shalikh, son of Arfakhshad, son of Sam, son of Nuh(P) []
  6. Surah 34 of the Qur’an is named after them. See especially its ayahs 15-21. See also 27:22. []
  7. Isma’il R. al-Faruqi and Lois Lamya al-Faruqi, The Cultural Atlas of Islam (New York, 1986), p. 63 []
  8. Bukhari, nos., 3521, 4623-4624; Muslim, no. 2856; Musnad, II, 275-276; III, 318, 353, 374; V. 137 []
  9. Ibn Hisham, I, 77 []
  10. Ibn al-Kalbi, Kitab al-Asnam, ed. Ahmad Zaki Pasha, Cairo, 1343 /1924, p. 8 []
  11. Philip. K. Hitti, A History of the Arabs, 1986 reprint, p. 100 and n. 2 []
  12. Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, VI, 634 []
  13. See for a discussion the First Encyclopedia of Islam, 1913-1936, 1, 379-380; A. Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an: Text Translation and Commentary, Islamic Foundation, Leicester, 1975, pp. 1619-1623 (Appendix XIII to Surah 71) []
  14. Bukhari, no. 4920 []
  15. Ibn Hisham, 1, 77 []
  16. Ibn Hisham, 1, 82. Ibn al-Kalbi, op. cit., 9, 29 []
  17. Ibn al-Kalbi, op. cit., 16, 17. The writer in the First Encyclopedia of Islam (Vol. I, 380) supposes that Arabia’s Al-Lat was the origin of the Greek goddess Leto, mother of the Sun-god Apollo []
  18. Ibn Hisham, I, 83; Ibn al-Kalbi, op. cit., 18 []
  19. Ibn Hisham, I, 83-89; Ibn Kalbi, op. cit., 30,44-47 []
  20. Ibn Hisham, I, 78-83 []
History Makkah

Do Muslims Worship The Black Stone of the Kaaba?

“ExHindu” (in response to an explanation regarding the Black Stone) wrote[dead link]:

    Give any explanation you want. I dont buy it. Arabs have been kissing that rock long before Mo[sic]. I call that IDOL Worshipping. You can label me as Islamophobe and I am proud that you give me that label. In the same manner, I anoint you a Hinduphobe.

I find it rather ironic to see someone who uses the moniker “ExHindu” accusing yours truly of being a “Hinduphobe”. After all, what does the use of the Internet username “ExHindu” really signify? A case of the pot calling the kettle black, we cannot really say.

Nevertheless, I believe that it is time that a response to this rather annoying polemic about the nature of the Black Stone (al-Hajar al-Aswad) and its significance in Islam by those who have an axe to grind about Islam (or otherwise known tenderly as the “Islamophobics”) is finally needed.

We will look at the common allegations about the Black Stone and then seek to address the matters concerned, insha’Allah.

Physical Description of the Black Stone (al-Hajar al-Aswad)

First, we shall describe the physical nature of the Stone itself. The Black Stone (Ar: ٱلْحَجَرُ ٱلْأَسْوَد‎, al-Hajar al-Aswad) is built into the Kaaba wall, at the eastern corner of the Kaaba, about 5 ft. above the ground level, not very far from the door of the Kaaba. The Kaaba itself can itself be described as a black box, which Muslims face in daily prayers.

Black Stone Kaaba

Muslims believe that the Black Stone was originally given to Abraham, who built the Kaaba used the Black Stone as a corner stone for the structure. Abraham and Ishmael taught the early Makkan Arabs monotheism; after the passing of Abraham and Ishmael, the Makkan Arabs with time regressed into pagan practices including idol worship. They ended up having a pantheon of gods, despite the original message of Abraham and Ishmael which taught the early Arabs to worship God alone (monotheism).1

Going back to the Black Stone, it was originally a single piece of rock but todayconsists of three large pieces and several small fragments (in which it was formerly broken) stuck together and surrounded by a large ring of stone, which in turn is held together by a silver band.

black stone front and side

Swiss traveller Johann Ludwig Burckhardt visited Mecca in 1814, and provided a detailed description as follows:

It is an irregular oval, about seven inches [18 cm] in diameter, with an undulated surface, composed of about a dozen smaller stones of different sizes and shapes, well joined together with a small quantity of cement, and perfectly well smoothed; it looks as if the whole had been broken into as many pieces by a violent blow, and then united again. It is very difficult to determine accurately the quality of this stone which has been worn to its present surface by the millions of touches and kisses it has received. It appeared to me like a lava, containing several small extraneous particles of a whitish and of a yellow substance. Its colour is now a deep reddish brown approaching to black. It is surrounded on all sides by a border composed of a substance which I took to be a close cement of pitch and gravel of a similar, but not quite the same, brownish colour. This border serves to support its detached pieces; it is two or three inches in breadth, and rises a little above the surface of the stone. Both the border and the stone itself are encircled by a silver band, broader below than above, and on the two sides, with a considerable swelling below, as if a part of the stone were hidden under it. The lower part of the border is studded with silver nails.2

It was narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The Black Stone came down from Paradise.”3

Material of the Black Stone

The material of the Black Stone has not been precisely determined. It is sometimes classified as lava and sometimes as basalt. The reason for this difficulty is that its visible surface is worn smooth by hand-touching, etc.4 Its estimated diameter is approximately 12″5. Its colour is reddish black with red and yellow particles.

silver frame around the black stone

Some Islamophobes have begun a baseless attack on the appearance of the Black Stone by alleging that it looks like a vagina in order to insult Muslims. The silver frame around the Black Stone were for centuries maintained by the Ottoman Sultans in their role as Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. This silver frame is a modern addition and the structure look doughnut shaped as a result. The frames wore out over time due to the constant handling by pilgrims and were periodically replaced.

It is reported that when the Prophet Muhammad(P) entered the city of Makkah as a victorious leader, there were 360 idols around the Kaaba6. The Prophet(P) then had the Forbidden Sanctuary (the precinct around the Kaaba proper) cleansed of all these idols and proclaimed Monotheism in its true, most elevated and pristine form.

Thus saying that “Muslims worship the Black Stone as an idol” is clearly the most absurd thing ever pronounced in the history of mankind.

Significance of the Black Stone

From a physical perspective, therefore, the Black Stone does not have any special significance or importance.

Umar(R), later to become the second Caliph of Islam, is reported to have said that he fully realized that the Black Stone was merely a stone and thus had no power of its own to harm or benefit anyone7.

As for the reasons as to why we have the Black Stone in the wall of the Kaaba, we read about the following reasons, that:

    (a) it symbolizes the starting-point during the circumambulation of the Ka’abah, thus facilitating the remembrance of the number of circumambulations.
    (b) at this point, the Muslims, who are close to the Kaaba (during their circumambulation) touch the stone, while those who are away from it, raise their hands towards it, symbolizing the renewal of their pledge of allegiance with the Lord of the Kaaba. In this symbolic expression, the Black Stone is taken as a symbol of an oath on the hand of God.8

And with this, it is clear that this baseless assertion of Islamophobes is refuted. And only God knows best!

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "Do Muslims Worship The Black Stone of the Kaaba?," in Bismika Allahuma, October 15, 2005, last accessed September 25, 2022,
  1. Safi-ur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, Ar-Raheequl-Makhtum (Darussalam, 2002), pp. 26-28 []
  2. Burckhardt, Johann Ludwig (1829). Travels in Arabia, Comprehending an Account of Those Territories in Hedjaz which the Mohammedans Regard as Sacred. Henry Colburn, New Burlington Street. p. 250 []
  3. Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 877; al-Nasaa’i, 2935. The hadith was classed as saheeh by al-Tirmidhi. []
  4. Refer, for example, to the profile sketch of the Black Stone given by Ali Bey: Travels, Vol. ii (London 1816), p. 76, to note its surface hollowed out in undulations. []
  5. See al-Batanuni, al-Rihla al-Haziah, Cairo (1329 AH), p. 105 []
  6. See Sahih Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 59, Number 583 (Muhsin Khan’s tr.) []
  7. See this statement in various narratives, such as: Sahih Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 26, Numbers 667, 675 (Muhsin Khan’s tr.); Sahih Muslim, Book 007, Number 2914 (Abdul Hamid Siddiqui’s tr.); Sunan an-Nasa’i (Arabic version), Vol. ii, p. 38, etc. []
  8. See the details of this point in M. Hamidullah, Introduction to Islam, paragraph 181/a, Karachi 1969 []