Al-Quds is the memory of the historical knowledge and values of the Islamic civilisation
By Sheikh Muhammad Ali Waiswa
The issue of Jerusalem Has been of late in the news sparked by President Donald Trump’s announcement that they would move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. This pronouncement has caused a lot of tension in the Middle East.
Because of that, there was recently an international meeting in Istanbul, Turkey to debate that issue. The final declaration of this international meeting organised by the Presidency of Religious Affairs under the theme “Al-Quds: The City Blessed by Revelation” stated that “Al-Quds is the eternal capital of the state of Palestine”.
Over a hundred scholars and researchers from 25 countries, attended the international meeting. The meeting was organised by the Presidency of Religious Affairs under the title “Al-Quds: The City Blessed by Revelation”. The meeting ended with the announcement of the final declaration by the President of Religious Affairs Prof. Dr. Ali Erbaş.
The President of Religious Affairs Ali Erbaş stated that after the opening ceremony of the meeting, which took place at the Conference Hall of the Department of Ottoman Archives in Kağıthane, two panels titled “Muslim al-Quds: The Muslim Identity of al-Quds” and “The Experience of Co-existence: Example of al-Quds” were held as well as three Speaker’s Corner sessions.
President Erbaş noted that it would be appropriate to share the common opinion that emerged from the sessions and negotiations with the public. Erbaş offered his thanks to all participants and shared the final declaration consisting of 22 items as follows;
1. Al-Quds is the city of all Prophets who Muslims believe in without discrimination; and it is the blessed city where al-Aqsa Mosque is located -the second temple that Allah offered for worship of one God in this world.
2. Al-Aqsa Mosque is one of the three mosques that the Prophet encouraged us to visit and advised us to donate to.
3. Al-Quds is the last stop of the Isra (night journey) and the first stop of the Mi’raj (Ascension to Heaven). It is a city whose precincts are blessed where many sahabah (companions), tabi’un (followers), and ulama (scholars) have lived and visited throughout history.
4. Al-Quds is the memory of the historical knowledge and values of the Islamic civilisation. Because inarguably, it is the Muslims who gave the city its current identity.
5. Al-Quds has lived under the rule of many nations throughout its history, but the most just and tolerant period was under the Muslim rule. The city became one of the rare cities of the world where the adhan, church bells co-existed in mutual respect under the just and tolerant rule of Muslims. However, today, al-Quds is longing for this harmony and respect. The peace will come to al-Quds, the city blessed by revelation, when the concepts of global justice and peaceful co-existence the prophets left as their heritage to this world will prevail once again.
6. When Muslims ruled al-Quds, they offered the followers of other religions the opportunity to live freely and they never forbade or prevented their prayers and visits. Therefore, al-Quds have become the symbol city of unison, not division; and of embracing others, not excluding them.
7. Al-Quds is a city where humanity unites. The city that gathered all humanity in one ground became beautiful when it was able to share the respect to the sacred things, and tolerance and understanding towards others. Al-Quds was called the city of peace only during the periods when it embraced these values. Today, al-Quds has lost this beauty and in contrast with its name, it has now become known for the unjust and unfair actions of Israel.
8. Al-Quds has experienced the most painful periods and the most severe disasters at times when people of different faiths were displaced, marginalised, and oppressed because of the ambition of taking possession of the city. However, a name of al-Quds is “truthfulness” another one is “peace” (salaam/shalem) and the other one is “holiness” (maqdis/kedushah). But this holy city has lost these qualities now due to the violent and hateful policies of Israel.
9. Unfortunately, Israel wants to legitimise the occupation of al-Quds as a fait accomplished, despite the UN resolutions and the international law. With many unlawful and unjust decisions it has taken, Israel denies the holiness of the city for other religions. As a manifestation of this denial, it forbids Muslims to enter-leave and settle in the city; and it does not allow Muslims to pray in their own mosques in peace, especially in al-Aqsa Mosque and Qubbat al-Sakhrah (The Dome of the Rock). This is absolutely against the international human rights treaties, and individual rights and freedoms.
10. Attempts to change the state of al-Quds result in the destruction of the Muslim identity of the city. The so-called archeological excavations carried out under the Haram al-Sharif (the Temple Mount) despite UNESCO decisions are ideological and malevolent rather than scientific. These excavations damage the religious and cultural heritage of Muslims in the city and threaten their future.
11. Israel also destroys many places belonging to Muslims through systematic occupation, and revoke the residency of Muslims which they had as a right for centuries. This is simply a violation of human rights and is absolutely unacceptable. The construction of Jewish settlements with the aim of destroying the existence of Muslims in al-Quds and its precincts must be stopped.
12. As emphasised in various decisions of the UN, the international public opinion asks that the sensitivity of Muslims and Christians in al-Quds must be addressed.
13. Jewish clerics and especially politicians must leave populism and immediately stop the provocative actions and statements which focus on denying the Muslim identity of al-Quds.
14. We expect the Jewish people who suffer from and complain about anti-Semitism and marginalisation to break their silence about Israel’s unjust and disrespectful attitude towards Muslims and al-Quds, and loudly express the religious, historical and socio-cultural ties the Muslims have with the city.
15. The Islamic world must express on every occasion the fact that the cause of al-Quds belongs to all Muslims, not only to the Palestinians or the Arabs, and the truth that al-Quds is the eternal capital of the state of Palestine.
16. Religious and historical information about Palestine, al-Quds and al-Aqsa Mosque must be included in the educational curricula in order to convey the cause of Palestine to the new generations correctly.
17. It is a reality that there are groups in the Islamic world who align their political and economic interests with the aims of the global powers and try to hide the fact that al-Quds is a city which belongs to Muslims. These groups must free themselves from the error and blindness they are in and boldly and loudly express that this city has belonged to the Muslims for centuries.
18. The Muslims of the world must increase their awareness for the cause of Palestine. They must visit al-Quds more frequently and make the visit of al-Aqsa Mosque a part of their umrah and hajj.
19. The institutions and organisations that research the historical artifacts of Muslims in al-Quds as well as the media organisations that defend the cause of al-Quds must be supported. In this context, al-Quds institutes, research centres, and platforms must be established in Turkey and in several other countries; qualified academic and scientific texts must be published in different languages, and baseless claims must be confuted based on archives and documents.
20. Religious institutions and non-governmental organisations of Muslim countries must continue to organise various activities in order to strengthen the awareness for al-Quds in the society. For this purpose, movies, documentaries and similar visual media must be prepared to tell the story of al-Quds and al-Aqsa Mosque. Likewise, we must guide the preparation of digital audio guides for all architectural works in the area of al-Aqsa Mosque in different languages. In addition, religious officials must encourage visits to al-Quds so that our religious, historical and cultural ties to al-Quds would be reflected in every segment of society.
21. A wide range of activities must be organised on the occasion of the night of Mi’raj and at least one international al-Quds symposium must be held every year
22. The fact that the proposal of the US to recognise al-Quds as the capital of Israel has been rejected by 128 votes to nine in the UN General Assembly, as a result of the common decision taken by the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation about al-Quds, raised the hopes about the future of al-Quds. With the help of Allah, this malevolent attempt has turned into goodness and became an opportunity for the unity of the Islamic Ummah.
At this point, our duty as the Islamic ummah is to stay away from fruitless disputes based on ethnicity and sects and address the issues of the Muslims with a sense of unity and solidarity by cleansing these issues of emotional discourses and without giving the external powers the chance to interfere in the process.
The writer is the Second Deputy Mufti of Uganda