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Jerusalem after Islam

In the first thirteen years of his mission, when Hadrat Mohammad (upon whom be peace) lived in Mecca, the al-Aqsa mosque (the Remote Mosque) in Jerusalem was the Muslims qibla (prayer direction), the first. Two years after his migration to Medina, at the Bani Sulameh mosque in Medina, the qibla of the Muslims was changed on Gods command from the al-Aqsa mosque to the al-Haram mosque (the Sacred Mosque containing the Kaba) in Mecca. Perhaps the most important reason for the change was to rob the Jews of the excuse to pour scorn on the Muslims for praying in this direction.

After the death of the Prophet, at the time of the first caliph, the Muslim army was sent to face the Byzantines in Syria and Palestine. It was during the rule of the second caliph, however, that the Byzantine armies were defeated and Syria and Jerusalem fell into Muslim hands. The inhabitants of the city initially put up strong resistance and a siege lasted for many months leading to food shortages and the spread of disease which, among other things, finally forced their surrender.

The second caliph entered the conquered city to conclude a peace treaty wearing simple even shabby raiment and riding an unembellished mount, much to the surprise of the inhabitants. The caliph treated his subjects with tolerance and moderation. Under his rule, Jews were allowed to return and Christians given freedom of worship.

From 637 AD (15 AH) until the twentieth century, Palestine was to remain in Muslim hands. The population of Jerusalem comprised mostly Muslim Arabs and because it had been the first qibla for Muslims, it was held in great esteem and was recognized as a holy place.

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