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Jerusalem in Islamic Eschatology

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4 Jun 2021
Jerusalem in Islamic Eschatology

“Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old… This Mount Zion where You have dwelt. Lift up Your feet to the perpetual desolations. The enemy has damaged everything in the sanctuary. Your enemies roar in the midst of Your meeting place; They set up their banners for signs.” Psalm 74:2-4

 

When Hamas recently launched its latest rocket war against Israel from Gaza, it named the operation “Sword of Jerusalem.” They simply could not stand idly by after Fatah had been staging riots on the Temple Mount and inciting violence against Israel over alleged violations at the al Aqsa mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Like so many times before, these rival Palestinian factions were stirring jihad over Jerusalem in hopes the Arab/Muslim world would join them in their relentless war against the Jewish state. And indeed, they do believe that one day the Islamic world will mobilize en masse to help them in one final, victorious battle to retake Jerusalem and eradicate Israel.

Interestingly, Jerusalem plays a central role in the eschatology of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All three faiths believe the end of this age will culminate in a global confrontation over Jerusalem, yet each respective religion foresees itself as emerging triumphant in the age to come. So how did this common view on Jerusalem in the end of days come about?

The Old Testament scriptures are undisputedly the original source of this end-time scenario, and the Hebrew prophets all agree the present age ends in a climatic battle over Jerusalem, after which the promised Messiah will rule over all the earth in righteousness and peace.

For instance, Zechariah 12 says the Lord will make Jerusalem a “cup of trembling” and a “burdensome stone” for all nations, while in chapter 14 the same prophet envisions a final battle involving half the city which ends with the Lord Himself intervening by standing on the Mount of Olives to deliver the Jewish people from disaster. Joel 3 says the Lord will gather all nations to the Valley of Jehoshaphat (the Kidron Valley in eastern Jerusalem) to enter into judgment with them there over the way the Gentiles have never respected the divine calling and election over Israel. Psalm chapter 2 also provides a clear end-time vision of the enraged nations plotting against God’s plan to set the Messiah, Israel’s eternal King, on “My holy hill of Zion” – meaning the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This final confrontation ends in a good place, however, as the humbled nations flow to and from an exalted Jerusalem to worship Messiah, even as they beat their swords into plowshares and learn war no more (see Isaiah 2; Isaiah 11; Micah 4; Zechariah 14:16-21, etc.).

The Christian scriptures then affirm these prophetic passages about the final confrontation over Jerusalem in the last days, while introducing the figure of the Antichrist, who seeks to supplant the Messiah as the ruler of the nations on the Temple Mount (2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 11). But the Apostle John, in Revelation 14:1ff, ultimately sees the Lamb (Jesus the Messiah) enthroned on Mount Zion with his elders, just as Isaiah the prophet saw in Isaiah 24:23.

Islam then came along six centuries later and borrowed much of its eschatology from the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Muhammad was illiterate but learned about the beliefs of Judaism and Christianity from others, and often he confused certain facts and beliefs from the Bible in authoring the Koran. For instance, the Koran identifies Miriam, the sister of Moses, as also being Miriam (Mary), the mother of Jesus. And although Jerusalem itself does not appear even once in the Koran, Islam does view the city as playing a central end-time role, as seen in certain hadiths – or traditions – established by Muhammad and his followers.

One hadith that has greatly influenced Muslim thinking about Jerusalem involves Muhammad’s supposed mythical night journey to the masjid al haram al aqsa – or the “outer-most mosque”. All of his early followers clearly understood this to be a reference to certain mosque in Arabia which represented the furthest extent of Islamic rule at that time. However, a generation or so after Muhammad died, the Umayyad dynasty in Damascus lost control of Mecca and its lucrative pilgrimage trade to a rival ruler in Baghdad. So they sought to elevate Jerusalem and draw Muslim pilgrims there by suddenly claiming al Aqsa – the farthest mosque – was located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

This inauthentic claim became the source of Islamic veneration of Jerusalem over the centuries, elevating the city to the third holiest site in Islam in the view of many Muslims. Yet not all streams of Islamic thought accept this altered view, as they know it is a later hadith which did not originate with Muhammad or his “closest companions.” Thus, for instance, most Shi’ites consider Najaf in Iraq (where their founder Ali died in battle against the Sunnis) or Qom in Iran (where the twelfth imam disappeared and will reappear as the Mahdi) as more sacred than Jerusalem.

Yet, ever since Jerusalem came back into Jewish hands in modern times, the city has suddenly become important and even paramount to Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims everywhere. From Morocco to Indonesia and even in Western cities, nothing enflames Muslims more than the Jews ‘desecrating’ the holy al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. And this fiery passion over Jerusalem also is inspired by another key Muslim hadith and the teachings of Islamic Supremacy and Triumphalism.

When the followers of Muhammad first came streaming out of the Arabian peninsula in the seventh century, zealously conquering everything in sight for Allah and their prophet, he had taught them that Islam was a superior revelation to Judaism and Christianity. He insisted that Jews and Christians had both falsified portions of their respective scriptures, but he had restored the correct truths through the Koran and thus they were the vanguard of a superior religion which Allah had destined to rule supreme over the entire world.

Those early Muslim armies indeed enjoyed great success, but eventually they fell short of world conquest. Still, the belief remained that one day Islam would triumph over all other religions and rule throughout the earth. Exactly when that will happen is not clear, but a certain hadith holds that there will be perpetual war between Muslims and infidels, and especially Jews, until Judgment Day, and that day will not come until Muslims fight and thoroughly slaughter the Jews.

This hadith expressly states: “The Hour [of Resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews. The Jew will hide behind stones or trees. The stones or trees will call: ‘Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’ Except the Gharqad tree.”

Over recent decades, Palestinian leaders and clerics have repeatedly cited this Islamic tradition concerning the end-times battle against the Jews in order to fuel jihad against Israel. This hadith has been invoked by the Fatah-appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. It is inscribed word-for-word in the Hamas Charter. And even the late PLO chief Yasser Arafat positioned the Palestinian people as that certain tribe of Muslims who are one day destined to lead the Islamic world in the final vanquishing of the Jews, thereby ushering in Judgment Day.

The truth is that it has been extremely difficult for the Muslim world to accept that Jews should be in control of Jerusalem once again. How could one of the holiest cities in Islam ever be allowed to fall into the hands of a detested people who follow an inferior faith? Thus, many Muslims are willing to wage holy war for Jerusalem, and the Palestinians know this and exploit it to gain global support, sympathy and funding. Palestinian leaders even depict their national struggle against Israel as the endgame of the perpetual war which Muslims must wage against the Jews.

The Palestinians have been playing the ‘Jerusalem’ card for some 100 years now, with great effectiveness. They have turned the al Aqsa mosque into the core symbol of Palestinian nationalism and a rallying point for tens of millions of Muslims worldwide. Today, there are actually three Palestinian factions competing to outdo each other over defending al Aqsa – Fatah, Hamas and the little-known but growing Tahrir movement. Hizbullah, Iran and many other Islamic nations and elements are poised for the same battle over Jerusalem. And they seem to have the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and much of the international community aiding and abetting their cause.

And yet, does the Bible not say that in the last days God will draw all nations up against a Jerusalem restored to Jewish hands, and that He will judge and humble the nations there?
 

 

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

FOR MORE on this topic, make sure to watch the ICEJ Webinar, “Jerusalem in Islamic Eschatology”, from Thursday, 3 June, featuring ICEJ Vice President & Spokesman David Parsons, Johannes Gerloff, Author & Journalist on the Middle East..

 

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