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Islam and Jerusalem

What does Islam say about Jerusalem?

Meanwhile, the lot of Jews in Muslim countries had hardly improved. Jews in most of North Africa were forced to live in ghettos and in Morocco, which contained the largest Jewish community in the Islamic world, Jews were made to walk barefoot or wear shoes of straw when outside the ghetto. Even Muslim children participated in the degradation of Jews, by throwing stones at them or harassing them in other ways. The frequency of anti-Jewish violence increased, and many Jews were executed on charges of apostasy.

The situation worsened further in the 20th Century, with the troubles in the Middle East as a result of Jews returning to the "Promised land". There will be more about this in later articles.

Now that there has been a resurgence in the more militant expression of Islam, accompanied by a frenetic output from Muslim scholars, we can look deeper for further insights into Muslim opinions of Jewish people. One area worthy of consideration is eschatology, their view of the end-times. I am indebted to Tony Pearce, of Light for the Last Days, for the article "Islam & the Second Coming", from which the following is based.

If you're surprised that there is such a thing as Muslim eschatology, you'll be astounded to know that they also believe in the second coming of Jesus. They don't get this from the Qur'an, but instead from their traditional writings, the Hadiths. One such Hadith speaks of Jesus going to Jerusalem with a lance in his hand with which he will kill the Antichrist.

"Then he will kill the pigs, break the cross, demolish oratories and churches and kill Christians except those who believe in him ...There will be such security in his time that lions will lie down with camels, leopards with cattle and wolves with sheep. Youths and boys will play with snakes without harming them or being harmed by them. Then he will tarry on the earth for as long as God wills - perhaps for 40 years. Then he will die and the Muslims will pray over him and bury him."

We see here elements that would be familiar to Christians, but there are subtle differences. The Bible account is changed and given a different meaning to fit in with Islamic thinking. It is not only the accounts which have been changed, but the spirit behind them. A proper understanding of the Biblical prophecies should inspire us to a concern for unbelievers and a desire to see them saved from 'the wrath to come' by believing the Gospel of peace and gaining reconciliation with God through the Messiah Jesus. Islamic groups looking for the end of days are motivated in the opposite direction. One such group, Hizb ut Tahrir, has been active in British universities calling on British Muslims to 'fight Jews and kill them' in order to hasten the end of days. They also believe that when Jesus comes again, he will kill all the Christians (except those who believe him to be merely God's servant or messenger rather than the Son of God). There is a Hadith which says that when Jesus returns, 'even the rocks and trees will say, 'O Muslim, here is an unbeliever. Kill him!' Hence Allah will cause all unbelievers to perish.'

The Muslims claim that the difference between their account and ours is that we have 'changed the books' (i.e. our Bible is not the original message but the Qur'an is). However, in the Qur'an, which was written about 600 years after the New Testament, Mohammed actually recommends Muslims to 'observe the Taurat (Torah) and the Injil (Gospel)' (5:6-8). He did not say anything about the books being changed. This was a Muslim doctrine which was introduced much later when contact with Christians showed them that their version of the same stories differed from the original accounts found in the Bible.

There is a hugely influential international gathering of Muslims every year. It is called the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and comprises 56 Islamic states, with the aim of safeguarding the interest and ensuring the progress and well-being of their peoples and those of other Muslims in the world over. The first meeting was on 25th September 1969, where the major aim of the Conference was proclaimed "in absolute priority, with liberating Jerusalem ... from Zionist occupation."

The Jews and Jerusalem have been an abiding focus of the Islamic world ever since. We must ask why. Is this just the usual anti-Semitism? Why is Jerusalem so important? It certainly wasn't for Mohammed, who never visited there, except allegedly in a dream and who never wrote about it once in the Qur'an. For an answer we must delve again into Islamic end-time theology.

We will do so next week ...

Steve Maltz

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation )

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