Islamic Horizons November/December 2017

Page 54


Al-Aqsa at the Center The Palestinians’ ongoing will to physically resist such a well-armed and powerful occupier continues to inspire awe and respect worldwide BY TAHER HERZALLAH


t was an epic battle at the end of a mediocre movie: Balian, the reluctant Crusader, comes out from behind the walls of a besieged and embattled Jerusalem to offer his terms of surrender to Salahuddin Ayyubi. After the two parties reach an agreement, he curiously asks Salahuddin, “What does Jerusalem mean to you?” Salahuddin nonchalantly responds “Nothing” and walks away. But then this warrior, who had fought for years for this moment at the expense of thousands of lives, immediately turns around and says, “Everything!” While we don’t know if this conversation actually took place, Salahuddin’s statement reflects a deep Muslim connection to and reverence for Jerusalem. In fact, the Islamic narrative of this city pre-dates Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), thus making Jerusalem a fundamental part of the Muslim creed. Today, the al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem in general are symbols of our identity as Palestinians. Bayt al-Maqdis holds a special spiritual and political place in our hearts. Al-Aqsa represents our deep-rooted historic connection to this blessed land as an indigenous faith-driven people. The prophets of God roamed this land, and our beloved Prophet Muhammad praised and cherished both it and its people. Some of his Companions are buried there, as are those who fought in Salahuddin’s army of liberation. In June of this year, Israel tried to impose new measures to restrict Palestinians’ freedom of worship and change the status quo by closing al-Aqsa entirely for the first time since the late 1960s. The Palestinians stood up and launched the largest anti-occupation demonstrations in recent memory, proving that al-Aqsa was — and remains — a political and spiritual red line. In the context of the city’s ongoing Judaization (i.e., forcibly removing Palestinians and imposing Jewish authority), not to mention the constant allegedly archaeological digs that undermine the mosque’s foundations in 54    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

addition to the efforts to replicate what the Jewish settlers achieved at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron (i.e., the government gave them 60 percent of the mosque’s space after the U.S.-born Baruch Goldstein gunned down 29 Palestinians who were praying and wounded another 125 in 1994) in al-Aqsa, Palestinians and Muslims around the world remain deeply concerned that the al-Aqsa Mosque, the first qiblah and the world’s second purpose-built mosque, will be lost forever. Therefore, the mass uprising at the end of July 2017 was a natural reaction to years of erasure and denial of our history. As a Muslim living in the U.S., I felt that the Palestinians were fighting for our identity, were resisting Israel’s attacks for all of us as an ummah. In a world where Zionism is slowly eating away at the crippled Muslim world, the Palestinians have essentially become our last line of defense. If Israel were to take over the entire compound or possibly even destroy al-Aqsa, it would be the death knell of the Muslim world, the last dagger driven into the heart of an ummah already struggling with wars, famine, genocide and atrocities due to colonization, imperialism and its own corrupt rulers. So when I saw that the Palestinians had once again risen up and were fighting back against such a violent and powerful force, it gave me a glimmer of hope. The continued resilience of this people, a people that has endured so much for so many decades in the face of a brutal occupying power, showed me that no matter what happens we will always have noble individuals willing to sacrifice for justice — that we shall rise again! Their resilience inspired me and many others in the U.S. to act. Whatsapp groups were blazing with messages and videos about the on-the-ground situation. Email chains were started to plan demonstrations and call-ins to elected officials. A community that was truly angry and in shock had found its inspiration and started to organize. Within a week, demonstrations had been organized

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