Jerusalem in Early Islamic Tradition


Boris Havel


The article describes major early Islamic traditions in which Jerusalem has been designated as the third holiest city in Islam. Their content has been analyzed based on the historical context and religious, inter-religious and political circumstances in which they were forged. Particular attention has been paid to textual and material sources, their authenticity, dating and their interpretation by prominent orientalists and art historians. The article addresses specific themes, such as Jerusalem in Islamic canonical texts, Muhammad’s Night Journey to al-Aqṣā, the legends of Caliph ‘Umar’s conquest of Jerusalem, names for Jerusalem in Early Islamic chronicles, the influence of Jews and Jewish converts on early Islamic traditions, and the construction, symbolism, ornaments, and inscriptions of the Dome of the Rock. In the concluding remarks the author considers the question of to what degree attributing holiness to Jerusalem in Islam has been based on autochthonous early Islamic religious traditions, and to what degree on Muslim-Jewish interaction in Palestine, political processes, such as fitnah during early Umayyad rule, ‘Abd al-Malik’s struggle with Caliph Ibn al-Zubayr in the Hejaz, the Crusades, and the present-day Arab-Israeli conflict.


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