A Model Of Peaceful Co-Existence
Amidst the war and conflict that we are currently witnessing in Jerusalem or Baitulmuqaddis today, one could not help but to wonder whether there peace can ever exist in this land. The call for the liberation of Jerusalem by the Palestinians is not just a political struggle, but also raises the concerns of human rights and dignity especially for those people who were chased out from their homes and lands as well as the constant fear for safety that shrouds them. One can say that the current unfolding circumstances in Jerusalem are simply a modern version of colonization which we thought had halted decades ago.
For those who marvel why Muslims, as far as Malaysia have deep interest in an area located thousands of miles away, the importance of the land to Muslims must be clarified. The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is one of the three most sacred sites for Muslims apart from the Holy Mosques in Mecca and Madinah. The Al-Aqsa was the first qibla or the direction towards which Muslims face during prayers before the order from Allah the Almighty to change it to face the Kaaba in Mecca. It is also the place where Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) travelled to during the Night Journey or the Isra’ before the ascension to Heaven (Mikraj) and the place where he led the prayers of all the earlier Prophets during that Night. However, it is not a secret that the city is also a sacred site for the two other major monotheistic Abrahamic religions i.e Judaism and Christianity.
During the Islamic Caliphate, the city and the surrounding areas was actually a peaceful region where all traditions and cultures especially from the three religions were able to live peacefully together. When Caliph Umar Al-Khattab liberated Jerusalem from the Byzantine in the 7th century, he also ended the injustice, exclusionism of religion and race, oppressions and discriminations that were inherent in the lives of the people of Jerusalem during that time.
Prof Dr. Abdul Fatah El-Awaisi, a renowned scholar in the study of Baitulmuqaddis explains that the model of peaceful co-existence in the city and the surrounding areas during the period of Islamic Caliphate signified a comprehensive vision of a city where mankind from various religious beliefs and cultural backgrounds were able to live together in an environment characterised by multiculturalism and diversity. This condition was achieved through cultural engagement, acceptance and tolerance. Jerusalem, during this period can in fact be viewed as a thriving model of peaceful co-existence. The multicultural city was governed upon the realization that the principles of justice and tolerance were central in Islam, resulting to the success of the region into becoming an exemplar of inclusivity and peaceful co-existence. Allah says in the Holy Al-Quran,
“Do not allow your hatred for other men lead you into sin deviating from justice. Deal justly (with all people), for justice is closest to God-consciousness. And remain conscious of Allah, for truly Allah is Ever-Aware of all that you do.” ( Al-Maidah, Chapter 5: verse 8)
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also emphasised that, “All creatures are God’s family (‘iyalullah), and those dearest to God are the ones who treat His family most kindly” (narrated by al-Bayhaqi).
In Jerusalem, during the leadership period of the Caliph Umar Al-Khatab, he laid down an important basis of peaceful co-existence and managing plurality in the region. This is known in history as al-‘Uhda al-‘Umariyya or Umar’s Assurance of Aman (Safety). He granted people of Jerusalem freedom to practice their religions and cultures, and also guaranteed their safety and security of lives, rights and properties. The actions taken by the Amir al- Mukminin (Commander of the Faithful) were fundamental as it reflected how Islam upholds justice and respects the rights of other individuals regardless of their race and religions.
The approach taken by Umar was later followed by Salahuddin Al Ayubi when he re-conquered Jerusalem in 1191. In his reply to King Richard I, Salahuddin stated that “Baitulmuqaddis is ours as much as it is yours”. This clearly indicated how Islam respected the rights of the Christians in Jerusalem although they had an upper hand in power and authority during that time.
The pages of history have taught us that Jerusalem or Baitulmuqaddis was indeed a land of hope and peaceful co-existence for people of different religions and cultures. It was the land of hope for the Prophets and their followers and is still a land of hope for the future of mankind. Prophet Muhammad’s journey from the Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca to the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the Night Journey indicated the promises of blessings from Allah SWT on the land of Baitulmuqaddis. This is mentioned in the Holy Quran:
“Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (Al-Isra’, Chapter 17: Verse 1).
Hopefully, this land of barakah will soon again be blessed with peace and justice for all mankind.