The Historic and Religious Significance of Palestine

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The Historic and Religious Significance of Palestine

Asif Iqbal Attari Madani

Palestine is a land distinguished by its historic and religious significance. It bears memorable points of interest and epoch-making landmarks, such as the blessed graves of Allah’s prophets. After Prophet Muhammad صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم passed away, Palestine was conquered by Islam’s second caliph, ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ. This occurred in 636 (15 AH).[1] Although Palestine has geographically changed, this article shall delve into the ancient history of the region, including Bayt al-Muqaddas (Jerusalem), its great significance and virtues.

There was once in a time where circumstances meant people had to migrate frequently. In 2500 BC, the people of Canaan came to Palestine and settled there. Prophet Ibrāhīm عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم then took up stay there in 2000 BC. Imam al-Bayāwī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْه mentions that Prophet Ibrāhīm عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم, along with his wife Lady Sārah رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْها and Prophet Lū عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم, migrated to Harran and then to Syria before taking up stay in Palestine. (Tafseer al-Bayḍāwī, Surah al-Ankabūt, verse 26, p.399)

Prophet Ibrāhīm’s two sons, Ismāʿīl عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم and Isāq عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم, settled in Makkah and Bayt al-Muqaddas respectively. Prophet Isāq عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم passed away there too. Imam al-Qurubī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْه writes, Isāq عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم passed away in Palestine and was laid to rest near his father Ibrāhīm عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم.[2]

A host of prophets hailing from Isāqs عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم progeny lived in Palestine, leading it to become known as the land of the prophets عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم. On the night of Mirāj, the final Prophet of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم came to Palestine and enhanced its importance even further with his sanctified presence. When Prophet Yaʿqūb عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم passed away, his blessed body was brought from Egypt to Palestine and interred near his father Isāq عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم.[3]

Palestine’s famous landmarks

Places gain repute due to i) the people who lived there, ii) historic landmarks, and iii) their association with something. Palestine is no different; the connection it bears to the sheer number of Prophets عَـلَـيْهِمُ السَّلَام and the landmarks relating to them render it widely famous.

Here, we will mention some of these places.

(1) Al-Quds

Also known as Bayt al-Maqdis and Jerusalem, this is Palestine’s most famous city. Imam Qazwīnī has detailed many virtues of this city, for it is the famous city founded and lived in by the Prophets عَـلَـيْهِمُ السَّلَام of Allah Almighty. They permanently resided here and even had revelation sent to them. The Companion ʿAbdullah b. ʿAbbās رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهُمَا explained, Jerusalem was founded by prophets who then lived there. Every handspan of the area is either where a prophet offered salah or lived.”

In Prophet Sulayman’s عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم era, Jerusalem was known as one of the beautiful cities of its time, because he عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم had wondrous buildings constructed. Al-Masjid al-Aqsa, which Allah Almighty has granted unique prestige, and the Dome of the Rock (Qubbah al-Ṣahrah), a landmark of steep Islamic significance, are both found there.

Unjust kings ruled this land and caused much damage. The incident concerning Prophet Uzayr عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم mentioned in the Quran also occurred here. Its weather is moderate, architecture beautiful, and masjids very clean. The Burāq of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم was tied here, the chamber of Lady Maryam رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْها where she was granted out-of-season fruits is located here, and it was here that Prophet Zakariyyā عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم was given glad tidings of a son: Prophet Yaḥyā عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم.[4]

This is also the place where all of mankind will assemble on the day of resurrection. Sayyidunā Samurah b. Jundub رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ states that the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “Your resurrection will take place in Jerusalem, and you shall then be gathered on the Day of Judgement.”[5]

(2) Al-Khalil (Hebron)

The second holiest site in Palestine, due to the graves of Prophet Ibrāhīm and his family (including Prophet Isāq عَـلَيْهِمَا الـسَّلَام) being located there, is al-Khalil.[6] Initially, there was a cave located here, which Prophet Ibrāhīm عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم purchased for 400 mithqal of gold. Lady Sārah رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْها was laid to rest here first, and then Prophet Ibrāhīm عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم himself as well.[7]

(3) Bayt Lam (Bethlehem)

This is the region in Palestine where Prophet ʿĪsā عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم was born. On the night of Mirāj, the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم was told to stop at a certain place by Archangel Jibrīl عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم and offer salah. The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم offered salah there, after which Jibrīl عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم asked, “Do you know where you have just offered salah? You have prayed at Bayt Lam, where ʿĪsā عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم was born.[8]

Muftī Amad Yār Khān Naʿimī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْه writes, When the time of Prophet ʿĪsā’s عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم birth drew near, Lady Maryam رَضِیَ اللهُ عَنْهَا was six miles from Bayt al-Muqaddas. She went to the forested area of Bayt Lam.[9] She then came across a dry date palm tree, its leaves and branches all having withered, with only the trunk remaining. The weather was cold, and she sat leaning against the tree, where she gave birth to Prophet ʿĪsā عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلاَم.[10]

(4)  Ghazzah (Gaza)

This Palestenian city is situated to the west of Asqalan, and it is where one of Prophet Muhammad’s صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم ancestors Hāshim b. ʿAbd Manāf رَضِىَ اللهُ عَـنْهُ passed away and was laid to rest.[11]

The Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم declared this region to be a ‘bride’ and issued glad tidings to those who live there. He صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم explained, طُوبیٰ لِمَنْ اَسکَنَہٗ اﷲ ُتَعَالٰی اِحدَی العُرُوسَینِ عَسقَلانِ اَوْغَزّۃَ “Good news for those whom Allah made to live in one of the two brides: Asqalan or Ghazzah.[12]

During the caliphate of ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb, the Companion Sayyidunā Muʿāwiyah رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ conquered Ghazzah. It is a city loved by everyone in the Islamic world. One of the four mujtahid imams, Imam Muhammad b. Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْه, was born here in 150 AH.[13]

[1] Faizān-e-Fārūq-e-Āzam, vol. 2, p. 810

[2] Tafsīr al-Qurṭubī, Sūrah al-Baqarah, verse 132, vol. 1, p. 104

[3] Tafsīr al-Khāzin, Sūrah Yūsuf, verse 100, vol. 3, p. 46

[4] Āthār al-Bilād wa Akhbār al-ʿIbād, pp. 159-163

[5] al-Muʿjam al-Kabīr, vol. 7, p. 264, hadith 7076

[6] Tarīkh al-Islām li al-Dhahabī, vol. 35, p. 280

[7] Qaṣaṣ al-Anbiyāˈ, pp. 236-237

[8] Sunan al-Kubrā li al-Nasāˈī, p. 81, hadith 448

[9] Nūr al-Irfān, part 16, Surah Maryam, verse 22, p. 802

[10] Hāshiyah al-Jamal, Surah Maryam, verse 23, vol 5. p. 14

[11] Muʿjam al-Buldān, vol. 4, p. 202

[12] Al-Firdaws bi Maˈthūr al-Khiṭāb, vol. 2, p. 450, hadith 3,940; Kanz al-ʿUmmāl, vol. 12, p. 289, hadith 35,077

[13] Āthār al-Bilād wa Akhbār al-ʿIbād, p. 227; Wafayāt al-Aʿyān, vol. 4, p. 23




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