Islam in Israel

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Islam is a major religion in Israel. Muslims, who are mostly Arab citizens of Israel, constitute 17.4% of the Israeli population,[1] making them the second largest religious group in Israel after Israeli Jews.

Jerusalem is Islam's third holiest city after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.[2] The Haram al Sharif (Temple Mount) of Jerusalem is believed by Muslims to be the location from which Muhammad ascended to Jannah (paradise).[3] This widely accepted Islamic belief raises the religious and spiritual importance to them of the Dome of the Rock and the adjacent al-Aqsa Mosque. Only Muslims are allowed to pray on the Temple Mount which is managed day to day by the Islamic Waqf, an administrative body taking responsibility for the conduct of Islamic affairs in the region of the Temple Mount.


Further information: Muslim history in Palestine, History of Palestine, History of Israel, and History of Islam
Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, Jerusalem.

Islam was first introduced to the region of Palestine during the Muslim conquests of the 7th century, when armies from the Arabian Peninsula under the Rashidun Caliphate conquered a territory previously under the control of the Byzantine Empire.[4]

As a result of the rise of the Ottoman Empire, from 1516 to 1917, the Sunni Ottoman Turks ruled the Levant. Their leadership reinforced and ensured the centrality and importance of Islam as the dominant religion in the region.

The conquest of Palestine by British forces in 1917 and the subsequent Balfour Declaration opened the gates for the arrival of large numbers of Jews in the Mandatory Palestine, who began to tip the scales in favor of Judaism.

However, the British transferred the symbolic Islamic governance of the land to the Hashemites based in Jordan, and not to the House of Saud. The Hashemites thus became the official guardians of the Islamic holy places of Jerusalem and the areas around it, particularly strong when Jordan controlled the West Bank (1948–1967).

In 1922, the British created the Supreme Muslim Council in the Mandatory Palestine and appointed Haj Amin al-Husseini (1895–1974) as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. The council was abolished in 1948.


The Muslims comprise 17% of the Israeli population.[1] The majority of Muslims in Israel are Sunni Arabs, with an Ahmadiyya minority.[5] The Bedouin in Israel are also Arab Muslims, with some Bedouin clans participating in the Israeli army. The small Circassian community is composed of Sunni Muslims uprooted from the Caucasus in the late 19th Century.


Main article: Ahmadiyya

The city of Haifa in Israel acts as the Middle East headquarters of the reformist Ahmadiyya Islamic movement. Kababir, a mixed neighbourhood of Jews and Ahmadi Arabs is the only one of its kind in the country.[6][7] There are about 2,200 Ahmadis in Kababir.[8]


Main article: Isawiya

A minor but growing Kharijite sub-sect today are the Israelite Muslims who are a branch of the Qedar rite of Karaites (Qaraim). They are the Israelite faction of the Kharijites and were known as the Isawiyya, a name derived from their allegiance to the Amir, Abu Isa Al-Isfahani.

During the latter part of the 7th century, Abu Isa established the first Israelite Islamic school of learning. The school located at Isfahan in Iran clearly defined the role of the Children of Israel in relation to the Prophet Muhammad.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Israel. CIA Factbook
  2. ^ From the article on Islam in Palestine and Israel in Oxford Islamic Studies Online
  3. ^ Janin, Hunt. The Pursuit of Learning in the Islamic World, 610-2003. McFarland, 2005. ISBN 0786419547. 
  4. ^ A Concise History of Islam and the Arabs
  5. ^ Ori Stendel. The Arabs in Israel. Sussex Academic Press. p. 45. ISBN 1898723249. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Kababir and Central Carmel – Multiculturalism on the Carmel". Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  7. ^ "Visit Haifa". Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  8. ^ "Kababir". Israel and You. Retrieved 26 January 2015.