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Palestine Oasis

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PEOPLE OF THE BOOK

The Crusades
Nuradeen And Salahudeen
Mameluks
Ottomans
Zionism And The British Mandate
Terrorism And The Jewish State


 

The Crusades

In 1078 bands of Seljuq Turks took Jerusalem. They ruled for the next 20 years, during which time the rights of Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem were regularly trampled, together with almost everyone elses, in the paths of their fierce internal rivalries.

In 1096, the first Crusade was called by Pope Urban II, ostensibly to redress violations of pilgrims' rights. Hundreds of thousands of Christians were mobilized to defend their faith.

Sanctified by religion, spurred on by the promise of adventure and material gain, a rag-tag army of knights, foot soldiers, women, children and old men, marched across Europe to their destination and their goal, the holy city of Jerusalem. Three years of marching and mayhem much of it against their co-religionists and unfortunate pockets of Jews who crossed their path - and a remnant of the Crusaders, perhaps a tenth of those that had set out, reached gates of Jerusalem. It was the morning of June 7th, 1099.

Ironically, by the time they arrived the city was back in the hands of the Fatimids, and the rights of Christian pilgrims had been restored.

After a five week siege, the city's ramparts were stormed. The Crusaders went berserk. For two days, the 40,000 men, women and children of al-Quds were massacred in the streets, in the mosques, and in their homes.

Muslim soldiers were slaughtered in Al-Aqsa mosque after being guaranteed amnesty there. The city's Jews were burned alive in their main synagogue, where they had huddled together for refuge. Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock were looted.

A golden cross was placed on top o the Dome of the Rock. It was renamed Templum Domini. Al-Aqsa mosque became Templum Solomonis. In their enthusiasm to link the glory of the Noble Sanctuary with their own heritage, the new conquerors erased every trace possible of its Islamic origins.

In the Dome of the Rock, Qur'ani cinscriptions were plastered over. Step were carved into the rock and an alter placed on top of it. Chips of the roc were sold for their weight in gold.

Al-Aqsa mosque was subdivide into a royal palace as well as headquarters and barracks for the Knights Templar. The vast vaulted subterranean area to the east of Al-Aqsa became a stable for 400 horses.

Nuradeen And Salahudeen

All this had not passed by entirely unnoticed by the Muslims outside of Jerusalem. In 1146, Nuradeen Mahmud ibn Zangi, ruler of Aleppo, commissioned master craftsmen to build an extraordinary cedar mimbar. It was to be installed in Al-Aqsa on the day the Crusaders were expelled from al-Quds.

It was Nuradeen who, through an auspicious joining of statesmanship, piety, humility and honour in his own character, reunited the Muslims of Syria into a force capable of rising in Jihad against their enemies.

But it was his lieutenant and successor, Salahudeen, who was to lead them into victory. Generous almost to a fault, shunning luxury and ostentation, Salahudeen was merciful with those he conquered but ruthless to anyone who maligned the Prophet and the path of God.

On the 2nd day of October, 1187, the 27th day of Rajab, the day Muslims celebrate the Prophet's night journey, peace and blessings be upon him, Salahudeen entered Jerusalem after a 12-day siege.

There was no bloodshed. There were no massacres. Those who wanted to leave were permitted to do so, with all their goods. Those who wanted to stay were guaranteed protection for their lives, property, and places of worship. The wisdom of the Khalif 'Umar was observed, the laws of Islam restored.

The cross on the Dome of the Rock was taken down. Al-Aqsa was purified with rosewater and reinstated as a mosque. The magnificent mimbar commissioned by Nuradeen 40 years earlier was put into place. After 88 years of occupation, the Jumu'a prayer was held once again in the furthest mosque

The Crusaders dressed in black. They sought aid throughout Europe to recapture Jerusalem and soon returned to lay siege to the Muslim coastal stronghold of Acre. Richard the Lionheart joined them in the Spring of 1191.

By July the city of Acre surrendered into the Crusaders' hands. Two thousand seven hundred Muslim soldiers and their families were assembled and massacred outside the city walls. After a year of struggling to get a toehold from which to regain Jerusalem, Richard finally capitulated and returned to England. The rights of Christians to worship at their holy sites were guaranteed and Salahudeen's authority in all but the coastal areas of Palestine was confirmed.

Mameluks

The next centuries witnessed the final expulsion of the Crusaders from Palestine and successful resistance to the advance of the Mongols under the energetic rule of the Mameluks.

Awesome in battle, the Mameluks were no less vigourous in their building programs and public works. The four minarets on the north and west boundaries of the Noble Sanctuary and the arched mawazeen surrounding the Dome of the Rock are from the Mameluk period, as are endowments for four madrassas on the grounds of the sanctuary and a trust fund for maintaining Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock.

Ottomans

After a reign of nearly 300 years Mameluk power declined. By the early 16th century Ottoman Turks displaced them, in the process establishing a vast empire which encompassed Constantinople, Damascus, Cairo, Makkah, Medina and Jerusalem.

On entering Jerusalem in 1517 the Ottoman Sultan Selim was entrusted with the keys to Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock. A delegation of Christian clerics presented him with a scroll containing the original covenant of 'Umar guaranteeing them rights over the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and other Christian Holy places. Selim pressed them to his face and kissed them, confirming his intention to honour 'Urnar's word.

Selim's son Suleiman al-Qanuni, known throughout Europe as Suleiman the Magnificent, consolidated his domain into the greatest world power of the 16th century. Drawing on his tremendous resources, he restored and renewed all of Jerusalem, building walls, gates, towers, and aqueducts.

His most remembered gift to Jerusalem, however, was the breathtakingly beautiful tile work commissioned for the exterior of the Dome of the Rock. With the incomparable skills of Persia's master ceramists, 40,000 tiles were fired and put into place, crowned by the inscription of Suratul YaSeen at the top. This brilliant application of exquisite aesthetics to celebrate the message of God has made the Dome of the Rock a world landmark in sacred architecture.

This was the peak of the Ottoman Empire. It soon began to deteriorate. Central authority broke down. Regionalism rose up. Corruption by petty officials became widespread. Military and political institutions and frontiers began to crumble. The Western powers, restrained by Ottoman strength for so many years, were joyously anticipating its collapse and the inevitable division of spoils.

Zionism And The British Mandate

In 19th century Jerusalem their dreams began to be realized. Consular offices representing the European powers were set up in the old city to begin exerting influence from abroad, while a new political movement was being cultivated that could exercise power from within Palestine: Secular Zionism.

Denying the prophetic message, while at the same time using it as the basis of their claims for a Jewish state in the Holy Land, crying anti-Semite at every protest of their despotic actions, even as they planned a ruthless displacement policy against the Semitic Arabs, the European Zionists created sufficient confusion to successfully deflect world criticism of their nationalistic goals in the Middle East. From this apparently irreconcilable platform, the political Zionists waged a successful campaign to gain international sympathy and support for their bizarre concept of a secular, and at the same time Jewish, state in Palestine.

Ottoman sovereignty was now seriously threatened and with it the believers' control of the sacred city of al-Quds.

When British Forces entered Jerusalem after its surrender by the Ottomansin 1917, it was only a question of time until Zionist plans began to be realized. The Balfour Declaration of the same year gave support for the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The British Mandate of 1920 helped to enforce it.

Terrorism And The Jewish State

But what was originally conceived of as a more passive and politically acceptable ally in the Middle East, turned out to be an unexpectedly impatient and violent one. Zionist inspired terrorism and economic blackmail combined to force the British out in 1948.

A hastily prepared UN recommendation for the creation of separate Arab and Jewish states within Palestine led immediately to an escalation of hostilities. Two Jewish terrorist groups, Irgun and the Stern gang, led a campaign of terror and psychological warfare calculated to drive the Arabs out, culminating in their joint undertaking at the Arab village of Dayr Yasin, in which 250 men, women and children were brutally murdered, with threats of repeat performances broadcast throughout Palestine.

On May 14, in 1948, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the State of Israel. Lack of unity among the Arab states in the ensuing Arab/Israeli wars led to huge losses. By the time of the cessation of hostilities in 1949, more than 700,000 Arabs were driven out of their homes.

Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock had both sustained damage from the crossfire of mortars and bombs but remained, together with the old walled city, in the hands of the Arabs.

The first stage of their nationalistic plans realized, the Israelis cast a covetous eye on Gaza and the West Bank. But the real prize, East Jerusalem, and its jewel, the Noble Sanctuary, laid tantalizingly just out of reach. The Israelis commenced on their plans for the capture of al-Quds.

In 1967 they got their opportunity. Through the din of the capricious chants of Arab nationalism Israel carefully plotted its attack. On June 7th the Israelis took al-Quds.

Israeli tanks and soldiers entered the Noble Sanctuary. The Maghribi quarter was leveled. Two mosques and 135 homes were bulldozed, leaving six hundred and fifty Muslims homeless. The West Bank and Gaza were occupied, demographically impossible situations, which would drive the Jews to desperation and despicable acts of oppression in years to come. Jerusalem was annexed.

Only the Haram ash-Sharif was returned to the Muslims, by the grace of God and the Jews recognition of its significance to the Muslims, and their willingness to defend it at any cost.

"Then We gave you once again your turn to prevail over them. And We gave you wealth and children, and We made you more in soldiery, saying, 'If you do good, it is to your own souls you do good to, and if you do evil it is to them also.'

So when the promise of the second came to pass, We roused against you others of Our servants to ravage you, and to enter the Temple, even as they entered it the first time, and to lay waste to all that which they conquered with an utter wasting.

Perhaps the Lord will have mercy on you but if you return, We shall return - and We have appointed Hell a prison for the unbelievers."

Surah al-Isra'


Last updated 1 January 2000 Written and   Designed  By Rafic Adnan  El-saleh
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