Muslim history in Palestine

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The Muslim history in the region of Palestine began in the 630s during the great Muslim conquests. The Roman region of Palestine was conquered by the Muslim armies of the Caliphate (Islamic Empire) under Caliph Umar. Muslim presence in the region has since continued to develop to the present time for nearly 1400 years. Throughout the majority of the aforementioned era a Muslim rule existed in the region of Palestine, except for the Crusader rule in the region (1099–1291) and except for the period of the modern State of Israel (1948 onwards), in which, following the 1948 Palestine War, led to the creation of the State of Israel and Israeli sovereignty over majority of the territories of the British Mandate for Palestine.

Muslims claim that the region of Palestine has a special significance for them, as it contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, built on the ruins of the destroyed Jewish temple. Muslims call it the third holiest site in Sunni Islam . According to the Islamic tradition the Al-Aqsa Mosque (also known as the "Haram Ash-Sharif") is the site from which the Islamic prophet Mohammed is said to have ascended to Heaven.

History[edit]

Background[edit]

A 16th century Persian miniature painting celebrating Muhammad's ascent into the Heavens

According to the Muslim tradition, during a single night around the year 621, the Islamic prophet Muhammad was carried by his mythological steed "al-Burāq" from Mecca to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. According to the tradition, from there he ascended to heaven where he spoke to Allah (meaning the most high in Arabic refers to the creator).

The Muslim conquest and Islamization of the region (638–1099)[edit]

ʿUmar ibn al-Khattāb's empire at its peak, 644
The Dome of the Rock is established c. 687–691 (photograph from 1856)

Islam first came to the region of Palestine in the 630s during the great Muslim conquests in which the Caliphate (Islamic Empire) conquered vast areas of Asia and Africa, including the region of Palestine. The Caliphate armies under the leadership of ʿUmar ibn al-Khattāb defeated the armies of Persia and the armies of the Byzantine Empire and conquered Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, the region of Palestine, Egypt, North Africa and Spain. Although the Koran does not clarify from where exactly Mohammad ascended to Heaven, following the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the 7th century this site became recognized and identified by all Muslim believers as the site of the al-Aqsa Mosque.

The Muslim conquests of the 7th century began a long and gradual process of Islamization of many nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa regions. This gradual process, which began immediately as a result of the formation of the Muslim empire, lasted several hundred years. In addition, in the Middle East region and the region of Palestine in particular, began a gradual process, which lasted several centuries, in which the indigenous peoples in various regions who until then spoke mostly Greek, Aramaic-Syriac, Coptic and Berber, began adopting the Arabic language and the culture associated with it. As a result, through time many of the indigenous people merged with the Arab tribes, and as a result a vast region, which included the historic region of Palestine, became dominated by the Arabic language and the Arab culture.

Following the Muslim conquest of the region of Palestine, the Caliphate decided to construct a grand mosque at the holy site of the Jewish temple ruins in the old city of Jerusalem. As a result, the Caliphate constructed the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In addition, during that time various other Muslim structures were constructed throughout the region of Palestine. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered nowadays as the world's oldest Islamic building still in use.

Rival dynasties and various revolutions that took place later on eventually led to a split within the Muslim world. Eventually, during the 9th century, the region of Palestine was conquered by the Fatimid dynasty. During that time the region of Palestine again became the center of various violent conflicts as various enemies of the Fatimid dynasty attempted to conquer the region. At that time, the Byzantine Empire continued attempting to recapture the territories they previously lost, including Jerusalem. At that time, the Christian inhabitants of Jerusalem whom expressed their support in the Byzantine Empire were executed for treason by the Muslim authorities.

Following the growing importance of Jerusalem in the Muslim world, the tolerance towards the other faiths began to fade. The Christian population in the region of Palestine become a persecuted minority and various Churches were destroyed. This trend peaked in 1009 AD when Caliph al Hakim of the Fatimid dynasty, destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This provocation ignited rage amongst the Christian population world wide which led to the first Crusades.

The Crusader period and the Ayyubid Period (1099–1291)[edit]

Illustration of the Battle of Hattin in a medieval manuscript
Muslim military leader Saladin became notable for his leadership and military successes during the Crusades held in the region.

In 1099, the Christian Crusaders, under the support of the Roman Catholic Church, launched the First Crusade campaign with the aim of regaining control of Jerusalem from the Islamic Empire and helping the Byzantine Empire fight the Seljuk Turks. During the campaign, the Crusaders launched an assault on the city of Jerusalem, captured it in July 1099, massacring many of the city's Muslim and Jewish inhabitants, and established the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Crusaders transformed the Dome of the Rock to a "Shrine of the Lord" (Templum Domini) and the Al-Aqsa mosque to the "Hall of Solomon" (Templum Solomonis). The local Muslim response was to seek accommodation with the Crusaders. During this era, the larger Muslim world looked upon the setbacks in Jerusalem with indifference.[1][2][3][4]

In 1187, the Muslim army forces of the Ayyubid dynasty under the leadership of Saladin captured or killed the vast majority of the Crusader forces at the Battle of Hattin, removing their capability to wage war.[5] As a direct result of the battle, Islamic forces once again became the eminent military power in the region, re-conquering Jerusalem and several other Crusader-held cities.[6]

The Christan defeats led to a Third Crusade which was aimed to regain the control over the territories the Crusaders previously lost. Richard I of England (Richard the Lionheart) led the siege of Acre, conquered the city and executed 3,000 Muslim prisoners. After another crusader victory in the Battle of Arsuf the Crusaders arrived at Jerusalem, but withdrew without attempting to conquer the city. After another military conflict in Jaffa which wasn't won by either side, Saladin and Richard the Lionheart signed the Treaty of Ramla in June 1192. Under the terms of the agreement, Jerusalem would remain under Muslim control but the city would be open to Christian pilgrimages. The treaty reduced the Latin Kingdom to a strip along the coast from Tyre to Jaffa.

In 1250, the Ayyubid Egyptian dynasty was overthrown by slave regiments, and a dynasty—the Mamluks—was born.

At the time, the Crusades were not seen by local Muslims as a war between the West and the East. Rather, they were considered no different from "the intermittent fighting that had been raging between the Byzantine and Islamic empires for centuries."[7] In the parts of Palestine in which the Crusaders gained control, the local Muslim population adjusted to the new occupation just as they had to previous foreign Muslim occupations.[8]

Eventually, in 1291, the army forces of the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt al-Ashraf Khalil held a long siege on the city of Acre which was the final Christian landholding remaining from the Crusades. The Mamluks captured Acre on May 18, 1291 and killed most of the Christian inhabitants of Acre, thus ending the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.[9]

The Mamluk period (1260–1517)[edit]

On September 3, 1260, at the Battle of Ain Jalut held in the Jezreel Valley the Muslim Egyptian Mamluks defeated the Mongols and halted their advance. As a result established their rule in the region for the next 250 years. The region of Palestine "under the Mamluks became a backwater province ruled from Damascus. … By the end of the Middle Ages, the country's towns were virtually in ruins [and] most of Jerusalem was abandoned."[10][citation needed]

On August 24, 1516, at the Battle of Marj Dabiq, the Ottoman Empire forces defeated the Mamluk sultanate forces and thus the Ottomans became the new rulers of Syria. On October 28 they defeated the Mamluk forces once more in the Battle of Yaunis Khan and they annexed the region of Palestine. By December of that year the entire region of Palestine was conquered by the Ottoman Empire.

Under the Ottoman rule (1516–1917)[edit]

As a result of the Ottoman advance during the reign of Selim I,[11] the Sunni Ottoman Turks occupied the historic region of Palestine. Their leadership reinforced and ensured the centrality and importance of Islam as the dominant religion in the region. According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

"[The region of Palestine] was divided into four districts, attached administratively to the province of Damascus and ruled from Istanbul. … With a gradual decline in the quality of Ottoman rule, the country suffered widespread neglect. By the end of the 18th century, much of [the region of Palestine] was owned by absentee landlords and leased to impoverished tenant farmers, and taxation was as crippling as it was capricious. The great forests of the Galilee and the Carmel mountain range were denuded of trees; swamp and desert encroached on agricultural land."[12]

In 1834, a popular uprising erupted against the rule of Wāli Muhammad Ali. The main cause of the uprising was indignant at being drafted by the Egyptian army. At first the rebels managed to successfully take over many cities, including Nablus, Jerusalem and Hebron. In response, Egyptian military leader Ibrahim Pasha commanded an army force of 40,000 people against the rebels and managed to put an end to the rebellion conquered Gaza, Ramleh, Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem and Acre. Ibrahim Pasha's conquests had a significant demographic change as the region of Palestine had an influx of Muslim tribal immigrants.[citation needed]

In modern times[edit]

In the late 19th century, the Zionist movement called for the establishment of a nation-state for the Jewish people in the region of Palestine, which would serve as a haven for the Jews of the world and in which they would have the right for self-determination.[13] As a result, the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund encouraged immigration and funded purchase of land, both under Ottoman rule and under British rule, in the region of Palestine.[14] The Ottomans did not react favorably to the early Zionist halutzim and tried to restricted their development of the land.[15][citation needed]

British rule[edit]

In 1917, at the end of the First World War, the British Empire conquered the region of Palestine from the Ottoman Empire. The United Kingdom was granted control of Palestine (today's Israel, West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jordan) by the Versailles Peace Conference which established the League of Nations in 1919 and appointed Herbert Samuel, a former Postmaster General in the British cabinet, who was instrumental in drafting the Balfour Declaration, as its first High Commissioner in Palestine. The British occupation of the region brought an end to hundreds of years of successive Muslim rule in the region of Palestine.

During World War I, Britain had endorsed and promised to foster a Jewish national home as laid out in the Balfour Declaration in 1917. The declaration was met with no Arab opposition until Faisal of Syria raised an objection a full year after the declaration was made. Faisal and his brother, Abdullah of Jordan, tried to implement conflicting visions of pan-Arab monarchies in Palestine and the Balfour Declaration stood in the way of both monarchs.[16][citation needed]

Following various severe manifestations of violence committed against the Jewish population in Europe, large waves of Jewish immigrants increase gradually in the region of Palestine during this period of time. The gradual strengthening of the Jewish community in the region of Palestine led to the development of a proto-Arab-Palestinian national movement, influenced and inspired by Muslim leader and Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini. Zionism, the ideology advocating the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, was increasingly identified as a threat by the Muslim-Arab population in the region of Palestine. This anti-Zionist trend became linked to anti-British resistance (such as the 1920 Palestine riots or during the 1936–39 Great Uprising).

The High Commissioner of Palestine, Herbert Samuel, issued an order in December 1921 establishing a Supreme Muslim Council with authority over all the Muslim waqfs and sharia courts in Palestine. In addition, in 1922 the British authorities appointed Haj Amin al-Husseini as the Mufti of Jerusalem. Until the 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine took place the Council operated as the Governing body of the Arab community in the British Mandate for Palestine and co-operated with the British government. All along its operation Council advocated active resistance against the Yishuv and supported the Arab underground resistance movements in the country.[citation needed]

In 1937, the British suggested to solve the dilemma of the two national movements by dividing Palestine into two states linked economically: one Arab state and one Jewish state. The Jewish yishuv accepted the proposal. The Arabs of Mandatory Palestine rejected the proposal.[17][18]

1948 Palestine War[edit]

In 1947, following the rise of violent manifestations in the British Mandate for Palestine, the British government decided to withdraw from the region. The UN Partition Plan of 1947 proposed to split the territory of the British Mandate for Palestine into two separate Jewish and Arabic states. Immediately after the Partition Plan was approved by the UN General Assembly, the Arab leadership rejected the plan and opened a 1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine.[17]

On May 14, 1948, one day before the end of the British Mandate of Palestine, the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine led by prime minister David Ben-Gurion, made a declaration of independence, and the state of Israel was established.

Contingents of Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, and Iraqi armies invaded the territory of Palestine, thus starting the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The nascent Israeli Defense Force repulsed the Arab nations from part of the occupied territories, thus extending its borders beyond the original UNSCOP partition.[19] By December 1948, Israel controlled most of the portion of Mandate Palestine west of the Jordan River. The remainder of the Mandate consisted of Jordan, the area that came to be called the West Bank (occupied by Jordan), and the Gaza Strip (occupied by Egypt). Prior to and during this conflict, 711,000[20] Palestinians Arabs fled their original lands to become Palestinian refugees, in part, due to a promise from Arab leaders that they'll be able to return when the war is won. However, leaders of the invading Arab armies made it clear that had the Arabs won the war, Palestine would have been divided up among the Arab states and Palestinian Arabs would have been subservient to the ruling foreign monarchs.[21]

Most Israeli-Jews refer to the 1948 Palestine War as the "War of Independence", while most of the Arab citizens of Israel refer to it as the Nakba (catastrophe), a reflection of differences in perception of the purpose and outcomes of the war.[22][23]

Modern state of Israel and the Palestinian territories (1948 onwards)[edit]

The Dome of the Rock (photograph from 2005)

Because the Jordanian Legion captured the Temple Mount during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War and as a result Jerusalem's division after the war, the Temple Mount as well as the rest of the Old City of Jerusalem were now under the control of the Kingdom of Jordan. In addition, following the Jordanian occupation of the West Bank during the war, King Abdullah I of Jordan removed Amin al-Husayni as Grand Mufti and appointed Sheikh Hussam ad-Din Jarallah as the new Grand Mufti of Jerusalem on 20 December 1948. The Supreme Muslim Council was eventually disbanded in 1951 by the Jordanian authorities.[citation needed]

Upon conquering the West Bank, the Jordanians removed all traces of Palestinian Arab identity, annexed the territory into Jordan, and did their best to integrate the Arabs who lived there into Jordan's social structures. The Egyptian government did not annex the Gaza Strip, but instead ruled it as a foreign occupying power. The Palestinian Arabs of the Gaza Strip were denied Egyptian citizenship, kept in squalid refugee camps, and any Palestinian national identity or aspirations were ignored by the Egyptians, at best. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser used the Palestinian Arabs as political tools with which to harm Israel's image among Western countries while at the same time rally support behind his pan-Arab vision among the Arab countries.[24][citation needed]

On July 20, 1951 king Abdullah of Jordan was assassinated while visiting the Al Aqsa Mosque. The assassination was carried out by a Palestinian from the Husseini clan. The Palestinian gunman, motivated by fears that king Abdullah would make a separate peace with Israel, fired three fatal bullets into the King's head and chest.[citation needed]

In 1964, Palestinians in Jordanian-occupied East Jerusalem established the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).[25] In 1967, as Egypt, Jordan, and Syria were preparing to conquer Israel, the IDF struck first and within days, captured massive territory from all three combatants.[26] After the conquest of the Temple Mount, the Chief Israeli Rabbinate announced that Jewish people are forbidden of entering the Temple Mount. Since 1967, Israel controls the security on the Temple Mount, but the Muslim Waqf controls administrative matters just as it did during the Jordanian occupation.[27]

During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the PLO, under the direction of Yasser Arafat, had been trying desperately to convince the Arab world to wage war against Israel on the Palestinians' behalf. In 1990, Arafat met with Saddam Hussein to express support for Saddam's invasion of Kuwait because Saddam was prepared to link the Kuwait invasion with what he referred to as "the liberation of Jerusalem."[28] The Arab world felt betrayed by Palestinian support for Saddam and denied the PLO millions of dollars they would have received.[29] During the 1990s and 2000s (decade), suicide attacks were the method of choice among Palestinians. Saddam rewarded the "families of the suicide bombers to the tune of $25,000."[30] At the same time, Islamist factions of Palestinian society, most notably Hamas, gained popularity with goals of the destruction of Israel and its replacement with an Islamist Palestine that would eventually grow into a new pan-Arab, pan-Islamic, worldwide empire. From the Islamists' point of view, the Arab–Israeli conflict is not a conflict between two populations over the area of Palestine, but rather a jihad to prevent infidels from establishing a state in what they consider to be Muslim land.[31][32]

Today Islam is a prominent religion in both Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Israel's Muslim population accounts for 16.1% of the population in the country (as of 2005),[33] making them the second largest religious group in Israel after the Jewish population. Most of the population in Gaza and the West Bank are Muslims (75% in the West Bank and 99% in the Gaza Strip.)[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Esposito, John L., ed. 'The Islamic World:Past and Present 3-Volume Set: Past and Present 3-Volume Set. Google Books. 2 February 2013.
  2. ^ Karsh, Efraim. Islamic Imperialism: A History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. p. 73
  3. ^ Wasserstein, Bernard. The Politics of Holiness in Jerusalem. EBookBrowse. 21 September 2001. 2 February 2013.
  4. ^ Siddique, Tahsin. "Locating Jerusalem in Theology and Practice During the Crusades." University of California, Santa Cruz History. 21 March 2009. 2 February 2013.
  5. ^ Madden 2000
  6. ^ "Battle of Ḥaṭṭīn." Encyclopedia Britannica. 4 February 2013.
  7. ^ Karsh, 72
  8. ^ Karsh, 76
  9. ^ Fromherz, Allan James. Ibn Khaldun: Life and Times. Google Books. 4 February 2013.
  10. ^ Facts About Israel. Jerusalem: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2010. p. 24.
  11. ^ Parkes, James (1970) [1949]. "Turkish Territorial Divisions in 1914". Whose Land?: A History of the Peoples of Palestine. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 187. Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  12. ^ Facts About Israel, 25–26
  13. ^ Hattis Rolef, Susan (Sheila) and Avraham Sela. "Zionism." The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. Ed. Sela. New York: Continuum, 2002. pp. 928–932.
  14. ^ Mark Tessler. A History of the Arab–Israeli Conflict (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994), p. 53.
  15. ^ Facts About Israel, 27–28.
  16. ^ Karsh, 137–138
  17. ^ a b Sela, Avraham. "Arab–Israeli Conflict". The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. Ed. Avraham Sela. New York: Continuum, 2002. pp. 58–121.
  18. ^ Facts About Israel, 32.
  19. ^ Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab Israeli Conflict: A History With Documents. Bedford/St. Martin’s: Boston. (2004). Pg. 198
  20. ^ GENERAL PROGRESS REPORT AND SUPPLEMENTARY REPORT OF THE UNITED NATIONS CONCILIATION COMMISSION FOR PALESTINE, Covering the period from 11 December 1949 to 23 October 1950, GA A/1367/Rev.1 23 October 1950
  21. ^ Karsh, 139
  22. ^ Amara, Muhammad; Marʻi, Abd el-Rahman (2002). Language Education Policy: The Arab Minority in Israel. Springer. p. xv. ISBN 978-1-4020-0585-5. 
  23. ^ Masalha, Nur; Said, Edward W. (2005). Catastrophe Remembered: Palestine, Israel and the Internal Refugees: Essays in Memory of Edward W. Said (1935–2003). Zed Books. ISBN 978-1-84277-623-0. 
  24. ^ Karsh, 140
  25. ^ Karsh, 158
  26. ^ Karsh, 162–165
  27. ^ Sela. "Jerusalem." The Continuum Political Encyclopedia. Sela. pp. 491–498.
  28. ^ Pierre Salinger and Eric Laurent, Secret Dossier: The Hidden Agenda behind the Gulf War (London: Penguin, 1991), p. 160. qtd. in Karsh, p. 178.
  29. ^ Karsh, 179
  30. ^ Karsh, 182
  31. ^ Sela. "Jihad." The Continuum Political Encyclopedia. Sela. pp. 500–502.
  32. ^ Karsh, 214
  33. ^ [1]