Islamization of Palestine

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Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, Jerusalem was built by the Caliph Abd al Malik in 691, making it the oldest extant Islamic building in the world.[1]

The Islamization of Palestine occurred as a result of the Islamic conquest in 640. It was a long process that included immigration of Muslim Arabs, as well as other Muslims, from other regions[disputed ], as well as conversion to Islam by some of the indigenous Christian, Samaritan and Jewish population of the area. Islam did not become the majority religion of Palestine until at least the 9th century and possibly even as late as the Mamluk era (1250–1516).[citation needed] This occurred simultaneously with acculturation of the locals into Arab identity and the establishment of Arabic as the lingua franca, which eventually became their sole vernacular.[2]

Historical overview[edit]

The Muslim Arab army attacked Jerusalem, held by the Byzantine Romans, in November, 636. For four months the siege continued. Ultimately, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius, agreed to surrender Jerusalem to Caliph Umar in person. Caliph Umar, then at Medina, agreed to these terms and traveled to Jerusalem to sign the capitulation in the spring of 637. Sophronius also negotiated a pact with Caliph Umar, known as the Umariyya Covenant or Covenant of Omar, allowing for religious freedom for Christians in exchange for jizya, a tax to be paid by conquered non-Muslims, called "dhimmis." Under Muslim Rule, the Christian and Jewish population of Jerusalem in this period enjoyed the usual tolerance given to non-Muslim theists.[3] [4]

Having accepted the surrender, Caliph Umar then entered Jerusalem with Sophronius "and courteously discoursed with the patriarch concerning its religious antiquities". When the hour for his prayer came, Umar was in the Anastasis, but refused to pray there, lest in the future the Muslims should use that as an excuse to break the treaty and confiscate the church. The Mosque of Omar,opposite the doors of the Anastasis, with the tall minaret, is known as the place to which he retired for his prayer.

According to the historian James William Parkes, during the 1st century after the Arab conquest (640–740), the caliph and governors of Syria and the Holy Land ruled entirely over Christian and Jewish subjects. He further states that apart from the Bedouin in the earliest days, the only Arabs west of the Jordan were the garrisons.[5]

Bishop Arculf, whose account of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the 7th century, De Locis Sanctis, written down by the monk Adamnan, described reasonably pleasant living conditions of Christians in Palestine in the first period of Muslim rule. The caliphs of Damascus (661–750) were tolerant princes who were on generally good terms with their Christian subjects. Many Christians (e.g. St. John Damascene) held important offices at their court. The Abbasid caliphs at Baghdad (753–1242), as long as they ruled Syria, were also tolerant of the Christians. Harun Abu-Ja-'afar, (786–809) sent the keys of the Holy Sepulchre to Charlemagne, who built a hospice for Latin pilgrims near the shrine.[12]

Rival dynasties and revolutions led to the eventual disunion of the Muslim world. In the 9th century, Palestine was conquered by the Fatimid dynasty out of North Africa. Palestine once again became a battleground as the various enemies of the Fatimids attacked. At the same time, the Byzantine Romans continued to attempt to regain their lost territories, including Jerusalem. Christians in Jerusalem who sided with the Romans were put to death for high treason by the ruling Muslims. In 969, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, John VII, was put to death for treasonable correspondence with the Romans. The sixth Fatimid caliph, Caliph Al-Hakim (996–1021), who was believed to be "God made manifest" by the Druze, destroyed the Holy Sepulchre in 1009. This powerful provocation started the near 90-year preparation towards the First Crusade.[6]

After the Crusaders lost to the Muslims in the Holy Land, the Muslim population became the majority, as a result of that many Muslim shrines were built such as Maqam al-Nabi Yamin, Maqam al-Nabi Musa, Maqam al-Nabi Rubin and many more shrines that Muslims described as a burial sites of Prophets, Sahabas and even what they considered holy Muslim martyrs from Crusader and pre-Crusader times. Some historians[who?] say that the shrines were built to make a good strategic positions for Muslims (for example Nabi Musa was built on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rizwi Faizer (1998). "The Shape of the Holy: Early Islamic Jerusalem". Rizwi's Bibliography for Medieval Islam. Archived from the original on 2002-02-10. 
  2. ^ Mark A. Tessler, A History of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Indiana University Press, 1994, ISBN 0-253-20873-4, M1 Google Print, p. 70.
  3. ^ "Jerusalem". Catholic Encyclopedia. 1910. 
  4. ^ Marcus, Jacob Rader (March 2000). The Jew in the Medieval World: A Source Book, 315-1791 (Revised ed.). Hebrew Union College Press. pp. 13–15. ISBN 0-87820-217-X. 
  5. ^ James William Parkes, Whose Land? A History of the Peoples of Palestine (Penguin books, 1970), p. 66
  6. ^ Charles Mills (June 1820). "Mill's History of the Crusades". The Eclectic Review. Retrieved 2014-08-12.