OPINION by Ebrahim Moosa
Sayyidina Shadad Ibn Aws RA reports that the Prophet SAW said, “Al-Shaam will be conquered and Al-Quds (Jerusalem) will be conquered and you or your sons will be Imams there, if Allah wills” [Tabarani]
Thus did the Messenger of Allah SAW prophesize to his esteemed companions the liberation of al Quds and fostered within them a yearning to be part of this glorious chapter of the growth of his spiritual community. The Sahabah RA were spellbound by this prospect, but living in a different political context altogether, they probably could not conceive how and when this conquest would transpire.
As Allah SWT had willed, the dream was to be realized in the year 15AH(636/637CE).
Al Quds was under siege from the army of the Muslim Empire, which had, by then, consolidated its control over most of Shaam.
Seeing the futility of engaging the Muslims in further combat, the inhabitants of al Quds vied for peace. But they were very particular about who they wanted to do business with:
“It is recorded in our book that the one who will open this city, Jerusalem, is a Companion of Muhammad called ‘Umar known as Al-Faruq, who distinguishes between right and falsehood. He is known to be a firm man who does not fear the blame of anyone in things concerning Allah. We, however, do not see his characteristics among you,” the Christian patriarch of Jerusalem reportedly told Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn Al-Jarrah RA, the commander of the Muslim armies.
When Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn Al-Jarrah RA heard this, he smiled and said, “We have opened the city by the Lord of Ka’bah.” Then he drew nearer and asked, “Can you recognize the man if you see him?” The patriarch answered, “Certainly, how can I mistake him while I have full knowledge about his merit, life and office?
Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah RA replied, “He is our caliph and the Companion of our Prophet. I swear to this by the name of Allah.”
Abu Ubaidah RA immediately called for a cessation in fighting and sent a dispatch to Umar RA informing him of the request of the inhabitants of al Quds.
Sayyidina Umar RA took the request seriously and immediately called for a council with his senior advisors. Whilst Sayyidina Uthmaan RA was of the view that the Khalifah should not go as the city would be conquered anyway, Sayyidina Ali RA proffered the view that it was indeed imperative for Umar RA to go, due to the great sanctity of the city involved.
Umar RA felt satisfied with the counsel of Ali RA, and resolved to go.
Before departing on this momentous journey, Umar RA appointed Ali RA to oversee affairs in Madinah. He performed a farewell Salaah and stood before the resting places of Nabi Muhammad SAW and Abu Bakr RA, offering them Salaams.
His epic journey with a lone camel and slave to al Quds was an exemplar of simplicity and spirituality.
“All praise to Allah Who dignified us through Islam and honored us through faith and distinguished us by His Prophet SAW. He the Almighty led us to guidance after error, united us on the word of piety though we had been enemies, removed any hatred from our hearts, granted us victory over our enemy, gave us sovereignty in our land, and made us brothers, loving and caring about each other. So thank Allah, you servants of Allah, for these countless blessings and manifest gifts, for Allah multiplies for those desirous who strive more for what He has and he completes His blessings on those who thank Him,” said Sayyidina Umar RA to those around him, at various milestones along the journey.
When this noble voyage reached culmination for Umar RA, it was with patched clothes and muddied feet, and with his slave atop their sole conveyance.
The spectacle of his arrival in the Holy Land was greeted by Takbirs from the Muslims and tears from the Christians, beholding such austerity.
Umar RA wasted no time in finding Masjid al Aqsa, and finding it in a decrepit state due to Roman contempt for the site, he personally initiated a drive to clean it. Umar RA scooped up dirt and collected it in his cloak, encouraging others to do the same.
Once cleaned up, Umar removed his cloak, turned towards the mihrab of Dawood AS at Masjid al Aqsa, and prostrated the prostration of Dawud. Thereafter, he led the Muslims in Salah.
On seeing Umar RA, the Patriarch of Jerusalem recognized him as the envisaged liberator.
The Patriach announced to the people of Jerusalem, “Conclude an agreement and treaty with him, for truly, this is the Companion of Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah.”
Whilst en route to al Quds it is also reported that a Jew approached Umar RA and proclaimed: “Peace be upon you, O Faruq! You are the master of al Quds. By God, you will not return before God conquers al Quds”.
Alas, the merits of the liberator of al Quds acknowledged by even Jews and Christians, are today shunned by those claiming to be the champions of Al Quds.
‘Al Quds Day’
It was 37 years ago on 16th August 1979, during the first Ramadan after the Iranian Revolution, that Ayatollah Khomeini inaugurated Al-Quds Day, the last Friday of Ramadan, as a day for solidarity with the oppressed in the world, in particular the oppressed of Palestine:
“I invite Muslims all over the globe to consecrate the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan as Al-Quds Day and to proclaim the international solidarity of Muslims in support of the legitimate rights of the Muslim people of Palestine. For many years, I have been notifying the Muslims of the danger posed by the usurper Israel which today has intensified its savage attacks against the Palestinian brothers and sisters, and which, in the south of Lebanon in particular, is continually bombing Palestinian homes in the hope of crushing the Palestinian struggle. I ask all the Muslims of the world and the Muslim governments to join together to sever the hand of this usurper and its supporters. I call on all the Muslims of the world to select as Al-Quds Day the last Friday in the holy month of Ramadan — which is itself a determining period and can also be the determiner of the Palestinian people’s fate — and through a ceremony demonstrating the solidarity of Muslims world-wide, announce their support for the legitimate rights of the Muslim people. I ask God Almighty for the victory of the Muslims over the infidels.”
In reality, Al Quds Day was not the brainchild of Khomeini, however he ultimately appeared to take credit for it.
The idea came from Ebrahim Yazdi, Iran’s second foreign minister after the revolution, says Siavash Ardalan, a BBC Persian correspondent.
Mr Yazdi took the idea to Ayatollah Khomeini who subsequently proposed it publicly in August 1979 amid deepening tensions between Israel and Lebanon. Mr Yazdi’s name was not mentioned in the speech.
Iran celebrates al Quds day characteristically by putting on public display poster images of the city of Jerusalem, thematic speeches, art exhibitions reflecting the issue, and folkloric events. In Lebanon, the Hezbollah organization marks the occasion by a substantive military parade organized for the last week of Ramadan.
In Iran, the day’s parades are sponsored and organized by the government. Senior Iranian leaders give fiery speeches condemning Israel, as well as the U.S. government. The crowds characteristically respond with chants of “Death to Israel”, and “Death to America”.
Each Ramadan, al-Quds day demonstrations are also reportedly convened in over 80 Islamic and non-Islamic countries around the world.
Given the dire outlook facing Masjid al Aqsa and the incessant wave of assaults on the mosque, coupled with the weighty significance Islam attaches to the city of al Quds, designating a day for highlighting the plight of Blessed Land, moreso in a month as auspicious as Ramadan, may appear a brilliant conception, and one that should be lent full support.
However, no event can be divorced from its ideological underpinnings, and these should be interrogated, so as to shield ourselves from unintended affiliations.
Whilst promoters claim the event is neither a Shia or Iranian gathering, and that it is strictly non-sectarian, anecdotal evidence suggests the greater percentage of al Quds day commemorations are organised by Shia or Iran funded organisations – be it the IHRC or Inminds in the UK, Shia movements in Nigeria and Iran aligned movements in Canada.
Probing al Quds day deeper, a reading into what Khomeini – as the figurehead of this event – thinks about the Muslim conqueror of Jerusalem, is imperative.
In Kashful Asraar, Khomeini says of Sayyidina Abu Bakr and Umar RA: “Those people who, in their envy to rule, attached themselves to the Deen of the Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) and formed their own cliques could not possibly refrain from their actions on the bases of Quranic advice. They had to materialise their aims at any cost.”
He adds, “Those who had no affiliation with the Quran and Islam except through their desire for the world and power. They had made the Quran a vehicle to promote their agenda.”
Soon thereafter, Khomeini openly brands the liberator of al Quds, Umar RA as a kafir (disbeliever) and zindeeq (infidel)[Allah Forbid].
He states: “From the examples of Abu Bakr’s and Umar’s opposition to the Qur’an, cited by us, it is clear that contradicting the Quran publicly and adopting actions in violation of the Quran were not regarded as a serious matter by these two. The Muslims of that time (viz. the Companions) either joined their (Abu Bakr’s and Umar’s) party in the quest for Political leadership which was their goal, or if they did not join their Party because of not fully supporting them, they never said a word in opposition to those unjust oppressors and powerful hypocrites (referring to ‘s Abu Bakr and Umar). They lacked the courage for this…”
Addressing a youth rally, Khomeini also ominously spelt out his vision were he to be allowed to approach the grave of the liberator of al Quds, triumphantly: “The Islamic and non-Islamic powers of the world will not admit our power till such time that we establish our hold over Makkah and Madinah because these are the centers and citadels of Islam. Hence our domination over these places Is an essential requirement … when as a conqueror I will enter Makkah and Madinah, the first thing to be done at that time by me would be to dig out two idols (Abu Bakr and Umar) lying by the side of the Prophet’s grave.”
Many more repugnant examples of Khomeini’s vitriol against the Sahabah RA in general, and Umar RA in particular can be cited.
In maligning the Khulafa, Companions, the foremost of the Believers and the heroes and stalwarts of Islam, Khomeini- a self-proclaimed champion of al Quds – has effectively deligitimised the entire Muslim army that liberated al Quds for Islam! According to him,Sayyidina Abu Obeidah bin al-Jarrah, Sayyidina Abdul Rehman bin Auf, Sayyidina Khalid bin Walid, and, in fact, all others were hypocrites, so ungodly that they could tamper with and distort the Quran, and could have even fought against Islam to attain their purpose. Incidentally, all of the above named Sahaba, as well as Sayyidina Muawiyah RA(another major target of Khomeini and Shia vitriol), were present when al Quds was liberated. Sayyidina Muawiyah RA even went on to become the governor of the greater Shaam, inclusive of al Quds.
If such is the scant regard the founder of al Quds day has for the first generation of Muslims who liberated al Quds, airbrushing the rich Islamic legacy they set into motion there, it is unfathomable for me, how his 1979 invention can hold any worth in re-liberating al Quds, or even how it should be afforded any credence.
As Imam Malik RA stated, “The last part of this Ummah cannot be rectified, except by that which rectified its first part.”
On his epic journey to al Quds, Umar RA made his legendary pronouncement: “Verily, we were a disgraceful people and Allah honored us with Islam, so if we seek honor from other than Islam, then Allah will humiliate us.”
Al Quds first entered into Muslim hands, during the era of this Ummah, with the spirit of true Islam as advanced by the Sahabah RA and Ahlul Bayt, working in tandem. Al Quds will only return to this Ummah, if this glorious legacy is respected and upheld.
When Salahuddin al Ayyubi RA embarked on his determined quest to recapture al Quds, he followed the example (and even the route of journey) of Umar RA to the tee.
Khomeini’s al Quds day has no such lofty hallmarks. To the contrary, it is founded on an ideology that seeks to trivialise and taint the sacrifices of the earliest Muslim generations for al Quds.
That is why al Quds day will never be a basis upon which to liberate al Quds.
This article was originally posted on Radio Islam’s website.
Ebrahim Moosa is a Johannesburg based radio broadcaster, journalist and commentator on Palestinian affairs.