PALESTINE - Harun Yahya

Mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples
and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in
God's sight is the one who best performs his duty; God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.
(Qur'an, 49:13)


Since the beginning of Islamic history, Palestine, and the city of Jerusalem in particular, has been sacred to Muslims. In contrast to Jews and Christians, Muslims have made their regard for the sacredness of Palestine an opportunity to bring peace to the region. In this chapter, we will address some historical examples of this fact.

'Isa (Jesus), one of the prophets sent to the Jews, marks another important turning point in Jewish history. The Jews rejected him, and then were driven from Palestine and subjected to great misfortunes. His followers became to be known as Christians. However, the religion that is called Christianity today would be founded by another man, called Paul (Saul of Tarsus). He added his own personal vision of Jesus into the original teaching and formulated a new doctrine in which Jesus was not defined as a prophet and messiah - as he was - but as a divine figure. After two and a half centuries of dispute among the Christians, Paul's teaching turned into the doctrine of Trinity. It was a distortion of the teaching of Jesus and his early followers. After this, God revealed the Qur'an to Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace, so that he could teach Islam - the religion of Abraham, Moses and Jesus - to all of humanity.

Jerusalem is sacred to Muslims for two reasons: it is the first qibla that Muslims faced during their ritual prayers, and it is the site of what is considered to be one of the greatest miracles performed by the Prophet Muhammad: the mi'raj, the night journey from al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca to al-Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, his ascent through the heavens, and his return to al-Masjid al-Haram. The Qur'an recounts this event as follows:

Glory be to Him who took His servant on a journey by night from the Masjid al-Haram to the Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, in order to show him some of Our Signs. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. (Qur'an, 17:1)

In the Qur'anic accounts of the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, most of the relevant verses refer to Palestine as being "blessed, holy lands." Verse 17:1 describes the site upon which the Masjid al-Aqsa is located as the land "whose surroundings We have blessed." In verse 21:71, which describes the exodus of Prophets Ibrahim and Lut, the same lands are referred to as "the land which We had blessed for all beings." At the same time, Palestine as a whole is important to Muslims because so many Jewish prophets lived and fought for God, sacrificed their lives, or died and were buried there.

Thus, it is no wonder that, in the past 2,000 years, Muslims have been the only power to bring peace to Jerusalem and Palestine.

Caliph Umar Brings Peace and Justice to Palestine

Qubbat as-Sakhrah

After Rome expelled the Jews out of Palestine, Jerusalem and its environs became abandoned.

However, Jerusalem once again became a center of interest after the Roman Emperor Constantine accepted Christianity (312). Roman Christians built churches in Jerusalem, and transformed it into a Christian city. Palestine remained Roman (Byzantine) territory until the seventh century, when it became part of the Persian Empire for a short time. Eventually, the Byzantines reclaimed it.

The year 637 represents an important turning point in Palestine's history, for after this it came under Muslim control. This event brought peace and harmony to Palestine, which for centuries had been the scene of wars, exile, looting and massacre. Moreover, every time it changed hands, which was rather frequent, it witnessed new brutalities. Under Muslim rule, however, its inhabitants, regardless of their beliefs, would live together in peace and harmony.

Palestine was conquered by Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second caliph. When he entered Jerusalem, the tolerance, maturity, and kindness he showed to the area's inhabitants, regardless of their religion, marked the beginning of a beautiful new age. A leading British commentator on religion Karen Armstrong describes the capture of Jerusalem by Umar in these terms in her book Holy War:

The Caliph Omar entered Jerusalem mounted on a white camel, escorted by the magistrate of the city, the Greek Patriarch Sophronius. The Caliph asked to be taken immediately to the Temple Mount and there he knelt in prayer on the spot where his friend Mohammed had made his Night Journey. The Patriarch watched in horror: this, he thought, must be the Abomination of Desolation that the Prophet Daniel had foretold would enter the Temple; this must be Antichrist who would herald the Last Days. Next Omar asked to see the Christian shrines and, while he was in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the time for Muslim prayer came round. Courteously the Patriarch invited him to pray where he was, but Omar as courteously refused. If he knelt to pray in the church, he explained, the Muslims would want to commemorate the event by erecting a mosque there, and that would mean that they would have to demolish the Holy Sepulchre. Instead Omar went to pray at a little distance from the church, and, sure enough, directly opposite the Holy Sepulchre there is still a small mosque dedicated to the Caliph Omar.

The other great mosque of Omar was erected on the Temple Mount to mark the Muslim conquest, together with the mosque al-Aqsa which commemorates Mohammed's Night Journey. For years, the Christians had used to the site of the ruined Jewish Temple as the city rubbish dump. The Caliph helped his Muslims to clear the garbage with his own hands and there Muslims raised their two shrines to establish Islam in the third most holy city in the Islamic world.9

In short, Muslims brought civilization to Jerusalem and all of Palestine. Instead of holding beliefs that showed no respect for other peoples' sacred values and killing people simply because they followed a different faith, Islam's just, tolerant, and moderate culture brought peace and harmony to the region's Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities. Muslims never resorted to campaigns of forced conversions, although some non-Muslims who saw that Islam was the true religion did convert of their own free will.

This peace and harmony lasted as long as Muslims ruled in the region. However, at the end of the eleventh century, an external conquering force from Europe entered the region and plundered the civilized land of Jerusalem with a barbarity and savagery that had never been seen there before. These invaders were the Crusaders.

The Crusaders' Savagery and Saladin's Justice

The Crusaders captured Jerusalem after a five-week siege, and proceeded to loot the city's treasures and slaughter its Jews and Muslims.

While Palestine's Jews, Christians, and Muslims were living together in peace, the Pope decided to organize a crusade. Following Pope Urban II's call on 27 November 1095 at the Council of Clermont, more than 100,000 Europeans set out for Palestine to "free" the Holy Land from the Muslims and find the fabled wealth of the East. After a long and wearying journey, and much plundering and slaughter along the way, they reached Jerusalem in 1099. The city fell after a siege of nearly 5 weeks. When the Crusaders moved in, they carried out a savage slaughter. All of Jerusalem's Muslims and Jews were put to the sword.

In the words of one historian: "They killed all the Saracens and the Turks they found ... whether male of female."10 One of the Crusaders, Raymond of Aguiles, boasted of this violence:

Wonderful sights were to be seen. Some of our men (and this was more merciful) cut off the heads of their enemies; others shot them with arrows, so that they fell from the towers; others tortured them longer by casting them into the flames. Piles of heads, hands and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was necessary to pick one's way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon, a place where religious services are normally chanted ... in the Temple and porch of Solomon, men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins.11

Saladin (Salah ud-Din al-Ayyubi), who defeated the Crusaders in the battle of Hattin, was noted in historical sources for his justice, courage, and honorable character.

In 2 days, the Crusader army killed some 40,000 Muslims in the barbaric manner just described.12 The peace and harmony in Palestine, which had lasted since Umar, ended in a terrible slaughter.

The Crusaders made Jerusalem their capital and established a Latin Kingdom stretching from Palestine to Antioch. But their rule was short-lived, for Saladin gathered all of the Muslim kingdoms under his banner in a holy war and defeated the Crusaders at the battle of Hattin in 1187. After this battle, the two leaders of the Crusader army, Reynald of Chatillon and King Guy, were brought into Saladin's presence. He executed Reynald of Chatillon, who had become infamous for the terrible savagery he had committed against Muslims, but let King Guy go, as he had not committed similar crimes. Palestine once again saw the true meaning of justice.

Three months after Hattin, and on the very same day that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had been taken from Mecca to Jerusalem for his night journey through the heavens, Saladin entered Jerusalem and freed it from 88 years of Crusader occupation. In contrast to the Crusaders' "liberation" of Jerusalem, Saladin did not touch one Christian in the city, thereby turning aside their fear that they would all be massacred. He merely ordered all Latin (Catholic) Christians to leave Jerusalem. The Orthodox Christians, who were not Crusaders, were allowed to stay and worship as they chose.

Karen Armstrong describes the second capture of Jerusalem in these words:

On 2 October 1187 Saladin and his army entered Jerusalem as conquerors and for the next 800 years Jerusalem would remain a Muslim city. Saladin kept his word, and conquered the city according to the highest Islamic ideals. He did not take revenge for the 1099 massacre, as the Qur'an advised (16:127), and now that hostilities had ceased he ended the killing (2:193-194). Not a single Christian was killed and there was no plunder. The ransoms were deliberately very low ... Saladin was moved to tears by the plight of families who were rent asunder and he released many of them freely, as the Qur'an urged, though to the despair of his long-suffering treasurers. His brother al-Adil was so distressed by the plight of the prisoners that he asked Saladin for a thousand of them for his own use and then released them on the spot... All the Muslim leaders were scandalised to see the rich Christians escaping with their wealth, which could have been used to ransom all the prisoners… [The Patriarch] Heraclius paid his ten-dinar ransom like everybody else and was even provided with a special escort to keep his treasure safe during the journey to Tyre.13

In short, Saladin and his army treated the Christians with great mercy and justice, and showed them more compassion than their own leaders had.

When King Richard I of England captured the Castle of Acre, he massacred the Muslims. The painting below depicts the executions of hundreds of Muslim captives. Their corpses and severed heads piled up beneath the platform.

After Jerusalem, the Crusaders continued their barbarity and the Muslims their justice in other Palestinian cities. In 1194, Richard the Lionheart, who is portrayed as a great hero in British history, had 3,000 Muslims, among them many women and children, treacherously executed in the Castle of Acre. Although the Muslims witnessed this savagery, they never resorted to similar methods. Rather, they abided by God's command: "Let not the hatred of a people (who once) obstructed you from the Sacred Mosque lead you to transgress..." (Qur'an, 5:2) and never used violence against innocent civilians. In addition, they never used violence unnecessarily, not even against the defeated Crusader armies.

Crusader savagery and Muslim justice once more revealed a historic truth: An administration built upon the principles of Islam allowed people of different faiths to live together. This fact continued to be demonstrated for 800 years after Saladin, particularly during the Ottoman period.

The Ottoman Empire's Just and Tolerant Rule

After Sultan Selim's conquest of Jerusalem and its environs in 1514, a 400-year period of peace and security began on Palestinian lands.

In 1514, Sultan Selim captured Jerusalem and the surrounding area, and some 400 years of Ottoman rule in Palestine began. As in other Ottoman states, this period would enable Palestine to enjoy peace and stability despite the fact that adherents of three different faiths were living alongside each other.

The Ottoman Empire was administered by the "nation (millet) system," the fundamental feature of which was that people of different faiths were allowed to live according to their own beliefs and legal systems. Christians and Jews, which the Qur'an calls the People of the Book, found tolerance, security, and freedom in Ottoman lands.

The most important reason for this was that, although the Ottoman Empire was an Islamic state administered by Muslims, it had no desire to force its citizens to adopt Islam. On the contrary, it sought to provide peace and security for non-Muslims and to govern them in such a way that they would be pleased with Islamic rule and justice.

Other major states at the same time had far more cruder, oppressive, and intolerant systems of government. Spain could not tolerate the existence of Muslims and Jews on Spanish soil, two communities on which it inflicted great violence. In many other European countries, Jews were oppressed just for being Jews (e.g., they were forced to live in ghettoes), and were sometimes the victims of mass slaughter (pogroms). Christians could not even get along with each another: the fighting between Protestants and Catholics during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries turned Europe into a bloody battlefield. The Thirty Years War (1618-48) was one result of this conflict. As a result of that war, central Europe became a battleground, and in Germany alone, 5 million people (one-third of the population), perished.

In contrast to these brutalities, the Ottoman Empire and other Muslim states established their rule upon the Qur'anic commands of tolerant, just and humane administration. The reason for the justice and civilization displayed by Umar, Saladin, the Ottoman sultans, and many Muslim rulers, which is accepted by the West today, was due to their faithfulness to the Qur'anic commands, some of which are as follows:

God commands you to return to their owners the things you hold on trust and, when you judge between people, to judge with justice. How excellent is what God exhorts you to do. God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. (Qur'an, 4:58)

O you who believe, be upholders of justice, bearing witness for God alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives. Whether they are rich or poor, God is well able to look after them. Do not follow your own desires and deviate from the truth. If you twist or turn away, God is aware of what you do. (Qur'an, 4:135)

Studies of Palestine during the late Ottoman period reveal an advanced level of welfare, trade, and industry throughout the region.

God does not forbid you from being good to those who have not fought you in the religion or driven you from your homes, or from being just toward them. God loves those who are just. (Qur'an, 60:8)

If two parties of the believers fight, make peace between them. But if one of them attacks the other unjustly, fight the attackers until they revert to God's command. If they revert, make peace between them with justice and be even-handed. God loves those who are even-handed. (Qur'an, 49:9)

There is a phrase used in politics such that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." This means that everyone who acquires political power becomes somehow morally corrupted by the ensuing opportunities. This really applies to most people, because they shape their morality according to social pressure. In other words, they avoid immorality because they are afraid of society's disapproval or punishment. Authority grants them power, however, and decreases the importance of these social pressures upon them. As a result, they become corrupt or find it ever more easy to compromise their own morality. If they possess absolute power (and thereby become dictators), they may try to satisfy their own desires in any way.

The Ottomans brought peace, stability, and civilization to all the lands they conquered. One can still find fountains, bridges, inns, and mosques from the Ottoman period throughout Palestine.
(Left) Herogate, 16th century
(Right) Khan al-Umdan

The only human examples to which the law of corruption does not apply is people who sincerely believe in God, embrace religion out of fear and love of Him, and live according to that religion. Given that their morals are not defined by society, not even the most absolute form of power can affect them. God states in a verse:

Those who, if We establish them firmly in the land, will perform prayer and pay charity tax, and command what is right and forbid what is wrong. The end result of all affairs is with God. (Qur'an, 22:41)

In the Qur'an, God presents Dawud, peace be upon him, as an example of the ideal ruler, explains how he judged with justice between those who came to ask for his judgment and how he prayed with complete submission to God. (Qur'an, 38:24)

The Ottomans brought peace, order, and tolerance everywhere they went.

The history of Islam, which reflects the morality that God teaches Muslims in the Qur'an, is full of just, merciful, humble, and mature rulers. Since Muslim rulers fear God, they cannot behave in a corrupt, proud, or cruel manner. Of course there were Muslim rulers who became corrupt and departed from Islamic morality, but they were exceptions to and deviations from the norm. Thus Islam proved to be the only belief system that has produced a just, tolerant, and compassionate form of government for the last 1,400 years.

The land of Palestine is a testament to Islam's fair and tolerant governance, and bears the influence of many different faiths and ideas. As reported earlier, the governments of the Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace, Umar, Saladin, and the Ottoman sultans were such that even non-Muslims consented to them. This period of fair administration lasted until the twentieth century when, with the end of Muslim rule in 1917, the region was plunged into chaos, terror, bloodshed, and war.

Jerusalem, the center of three religions, experienced the longest period of stability in its history under the Ottomans, when peace, abundance, and prosperity reigned there and throughout the empire. Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and their various denominations, worshipped as they pleased, honored their own beliefs, and followed their own customs and traditions. This was possible because the Ottomans ruled with the belief that bringing order, justice, peace, prosperity, and tolerance to their lands was a sacred obligation.

Many historians and political scientists have drawn attention to this fact. One of them is Columbia University's world-famous Middle East expert Professor Edward Said. Originally from a Christian family of Jerusalem, he continues his research at American universities, far from his homeland. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, he recommended resurrecting the "Ottoman nation system" if a permanent peace is to be built in the Middle East. In his own words,

A Jewish minority can survive the way other minorities in the Arab world survived… it worked rather well under the Ottoman Empire, with its millet system. What they had then seems a lot more humane than what we have now.14

Indeed, Palestine never witnessed another "humane" administration once Ottoman rule ended. Between the two world wars, the British crushed the Arabs with their divide-and-conquer strategy and simultaneously empowered the Zionists, who would later prove antagonistic even to them. Zionism incurred the Arabs' wrath, and, from the 1930s on, Palestine became the scene of clashes between the two groups. Zionists formed terrorist groups to fight the Palestinians, and, shortly thereafter, began attacking the British as well. Once Britain threw up its hands and abandoned its mandate over the region in 1947, the clashes turned into war and the Israeli occupation and massacres (which continue to this day) began in earnest.

In order for the region to enjoy "humane" rule once again, Jews must abandon Zionism and its goal of a "Palestine exclusively for the Jews," and accept the idea of sharing the land with Arabs on equal terms. Arabs, for that matter, must abandon such un-Islamic goals as "driving Israel into the sea" or "putting all Jews to the sword," and accept the idea of living together with them. According to Said, this means reviving the Ottoman system, which is the only solution that will allow the region's people to live in peace and harmony. This system may create an environment of regional peace and security, just as it did in the past.

In the last chapter, we will examine the details of this solution. But before we do so, let's revisit the past to examine the chaos and cruelty that engulfed Palestine after Muslim rule ended.
TURKIYE - Turkish Daily, 15.4.95
The Arab world longs for the days when civilization, tolerance and justice prevailed.

TURKIYE - Turkish Daily, 7.01.96

ZAMAN-Turkish Daily, 30.8.01
The plan for a solution to the Jerusalem problem, drawn up by Turkey on the basis of the policies implemented in the region by the Ottomans regarding the status of Jerusalem at a time when the Middle East peace process is going through its most difficult times, has been welcomed by the Palestinians, while Israel is uneasy at the suggestion.

TURKIYE-Turkish Daily, 8.10.01
HP Chairman Fiorina says, "The 600-year empire was the cement of peace."

Many of today's politicians and historians contend that the Ottoman model is an extremely important example of how the Middle East problem might be solved.
AKSAM-Turkish Daily, 8.11.01
As the West seeks a solution to the conflicts in various parts of the world, it longs for the might of the Ottoman Empire.

ORTADOGU-Turkish Daily, 10.11.01
As the West seeks a solution to the conflicts in various parts of the world, it longs for the might of the Ottoman Empire.

ORTADOGU-Turkish Daily, 10.11.01
The West, unable to find a solution to the conflicts in different parts of the world, longs for the might of the Ottoman Empire. This view was expressed in a report aired by the American news agency Associated Press.

The violent events in the last century which began when the British forced the Ottomans out of the region led to the Palestinians suffering colonization, exile and occupation. The Israeli people, on the other hand, have never been able to live in security.


9- Karen Armstrong, Holy War, (MacMillan: 1988), pp. 30-31. emphasis added
10- "Gesta Francorum, or the Deeds of the Franks and the Other Pilgrims to Jerusalem," trans. Rosalind Hill, (London: 1962), p. 91. emphasis added
11- August C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eye-Witnesses and Participants (Princeton & London: 1921), p. 261. emphasis added
12- Krey, The First Crusade, p. 262.
13- Armstrong, Holy War, p. 185. emphasis added.
14- An Interview with Edward Said by Ari Shavit, Ha'aretz, August 18, 2000