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Palestine: Why did we not claim our land?

Below is the text of an article by Common Sense editor Sahib Mustaqim Bleher for issue 26.

The contribution Muslims around the world failed to make

In his book "A Brutal Friendship - The West and the Arab Elite" Said K. Aburish writes: "The Palestinians, justifiably among the world's leading exponents of conspiracy theories, blame Christianity, the Western powers, Arab governments, their leaders and endless combinations of these elements for their misfortune." To this list of culprits should have been added the masses of ordinary Muslims all over the globe.

Jerusalem has a special status in the scriptures; it should also have a special status in the hearts of believers. Jerusalem is a barometer of God's pleasure or displeasure with His people. When the Israelites were the chosen people of God, He guided them towards the land of Palestine. When they transgressed, He delayed their entry for forty years. Once they had settled, their stay was conditional on abiding by the divine law, and through their disobedience they lost their entitlement, as Mica 3.9-12 declares: "Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor and pervert all equity, who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong. Its heads give judgement for a bribe, its priests teach for hire, it prophets divine for money; yet they lean upon the Lord and say, 'Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No evil shall come upon us.' Therefore because of you Zion shall be ploughed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height."

The Muslims, as the best Ummah raised for mankind, the faith-community to replace the Israelites as the chosen people, are no different in this respect. Islam's claim to Jerusalem was established well before the Hijrah with Muhammad's peace be with him night journey to the furthest mosque. The physical conquest of Jerusalem took place before a generation had passed. The brutal interlude of the crusaders' occupation until Jerusalem's liberation under Salahuddin lasted less than a hundred years, with another very brief period of occupation by Christian forces after his death. Until Salahuddin re-united the Muslim forces and spurned on their spirits, it was not so much the crusaders' strength but the Muslim's spiritual weakness which ensured their continuing occupation. Reports of the time give the unmistakable picture of utter disinterest in the fate of Jerusalem amongst the surrounding populations. The Muslims in the then centres of the Islamic world, Damascus and Baghdad, were far too self-centred and decadent to be too disturbed about the alien presence in God's chosen land.

The same appears to be the case today. The half-a-century-long occupation of Palestine by non-Semitic Jews from Eastern Europe counts for nothing in terms of history. Their claim to the heritage of Abraham is fake in that neither are they his descendants, nor was Abraham, as the Qur'an clearly points out, a Jew or a Christian, considering that the Torah was only revealed long after him. The time of their presence in Palestine is diminutive in comparison to their periods of absence from it, and the length of their stay insignificant vis-a-vis that of the almost uninterrupted sovereignty over the region by Muslims afterwards. Yet the myth of the inherited Jewish homeland is swallowed wholesome due to a well-oiled propaganda machine. The same propaganda successfully portrays the Jews and the Christians as the people of God, and the Muslim Arabs as the intruding heathen fanatics, overlooking the fact that Moses, the law-giver of Israel learned his religion from the Arab Jethro (Shu'aib), whose - equally Arab - daughter was the mother of the generations of Levites, the priesthood cast of the Israelites. The invincibility of the Israeli defence forces is another of those propaganda myths, when history reveals clearly that they owed their success mainly to skilful political manipulations which made their enemies entirely dependent on non-forthcoming British military supplies.

For any serious student of the recent history of Middle East the historic reality is one of the most amazing intrigues on behalf of the occupiers and their supporters coupled with a long string of missed opportunities by the victims of this occupation, whose rulers were carefully handpicked by their own enemies. So why did we deliberately close both eyes and, ignoring all facts to the contrary, believed the fairy-tales? The truth is simple: we really couldn't be bothered. In a fast-moving world of material advancement and ever new illusions of achievement, a desert land held little promise for us. Palestine was a problem of the Palestinians, and the Dome of the Rock was to look good on postcards and calendars. It did not penetrate our hearts.

So we let things happen the way they did, and found excuses for ourselves. We abandoned God's land, the land His prophets had walked upon, and He abandoned us. No lamenting of our situation would change this sad state of affairs.

The prophet of Islam, peace be with him, had recommended the visit to three important places of worship: the house of God in Makkah, his own mosque in Madinah, and the furthest mosque in Jerusalem. Imagine four million Muslim pilgrims would make Jerusalem a stop-over during the Hajj season every year, and further millions would do so throughout the year when performing Umrah. The sheer numbers of Muslims present in the holy city would shift the balance of power in no time at all. Imagine further that they would return home with the love for Jerusalem firmly embedded in their hearts, and their profound experience of the place would increase their longing for it once returned, as much as their painful memory of having witnessed the alien and arrogant occupation of this holy mosque would lead them to energetically challenge and defeat the premises of Zionist propaganda. Next year Jerusalem would suddenly have become our slogan, and before Israel had sobered up from her boastful birthday party, she would feel the pinch. But for as long as we ourselves have abandoned that which we claim to be ours, we can hardly complain when others pick up the spoils.

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