The Importance of the City of Jerusalem in Islam
In Arabic, Jerusalum is called “Al-Quds”—the Noble, Sacred Place
Jerusalem is perhaps the only city in the world that is considered historically and spiritually significant to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. The city of Jerusalem is known in Arabic as Al-Quds or Baitul-Maqdis (“The Noble, Sacred Place”), and the importance of the city to Muslims comes as a surprise to some Christians and Jews.
Center of Monotheism
It should be remembered that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all spring from a common source.
All are religions of monotheism—the belief that there is one God, and one God only. All three religions share a reverence for many of the same prophets responsible for first teaching the Oneness of God in the area around Jerusalem, including Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and Jesus—peace be upon them all. The reverence these religions share for Jerusalem is evidence of this shared background.
First Qiblah for Muslims
For Muslims, Jerusalem was the first Qibla—the place toward which they turn in prayer. It was many years into the Islamic mission (16 months after the Hijrah), that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was instructed to change the Qibla from Jerusalem to Mecca (Quran 2:142-144). It is reported that the Prophet Muhammad said, “There are only three mosques to which you should embark on a journey: the sacred mosque (Mecca, Saudi Arabia), this mosque of mine (Madinah, Saudi Arabia), and the mosque of Al-Aqsa (Jerusalem).”
Thus, Jerusalem is one of the three holiest places on earth for Muslims.
Site of the Night Journey and Ascension
It is Jerusalem that Muhammad (peace be upon him) visited during his night journey and ascension (called Isra’ and Mi’raj). In one evening, legend tells us that the angel Gabriel miraculously took the Prophet from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to the Furthest Mosque (Al-Aqsa) in Jerusalem.
He was then taken up to the heavens to be shown the signs of God. After the Prophet met with previous prophets and led them in prayer, he was then taken back to Mecca. The whole experience (which many Muslim commentators take literally and most Muslims believe as a miracle) lasted a few hours. The event of Isra’ and Mi’raj is mentioned in the Quran, in the first verse of Chapter 17, entitled “The Children of Israel.”
Glory to Allah, Who did take His servant for a journey by night, from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless—in order that We might show him some of Our signs. For He is the One who hears and knows all things. (Quran 17:1)
This night journey further reinforced the link between Mecca and Jerusalem as holy cities and serves as an example of every Muslim’s deep devotion and spiritual connection with Jerusalem. Most Muslims harbor a deep hope that Jerusalem and the rest of the Holy Land will be restored to a land of peace where all religious believers can exist in harmony.