Common Word, Common Lord

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

Let me say this up front: extremist savages have no regard for the sacred: An ISIS suicide bomber attacked the holy city of the Prophet Muhammad, Medina, in 2016. This year, Saudi authorities foiled an attack on the holy city of Mecca. And most recently, gunmen killed two Israeli policeman before being killed themselves in a gun battle in the Temple Mount.

This has set off a crisis in the Holy City, where Friday prayers were canceled, and now a tense standoff exists after metal detectors were installed at the Aqsa Mosque compound, which threatens to kill off the already dying Middle East peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

So, yes, I get it: extremists don’t care about sacred places, and they will kill wherever they can get away with it. Still, this latest standoff in Jerusalem has deeply saddened me, and it makes me ask: why can’t we let sacred places just be sacred? Indeed, the Temple Mount has seen its share of violence before, and there have been both Muslims and Jews who have been victims of the violence. But, why does this have to be so?

A Very Special Place

The Temple Mount, or Al Haram Al Sharif, as it is known to Muslims, is a very special place and is sacred to Jews, Muslims, and Christians. At that place stood the Temple of Solomon, dedicated to the worship of the One True God. At that place, King David ruled with glory and was given the beautiful Psalms. At that place, Jesus Christ ministered and performed miracles as the Messiah. And at that place, the Prophet Muhammad stood in prayer to God leading all other Prophets. 

It is indeed a very special place, and as a Muslim, all of these Kings and Prophets are special to me. 

And I am not blind to the fact that there still exists an intractable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. I am not blind to the fact that there still exists a military occupation. Still, why can’t the Holy Places be somewhere Jews and Muslims can go to worship without harassment? Why can’t the Temple Mount be somewhere gunmen can’t attack, or security forces can’t fire tear gas and shoot rubber bullets?

Even in pagan Arabia, the Holy Sanctuary of Mecca was a place where war could not take place. Despite its being defiled with idols and idol worship, bitter enemies could stand next to each and worship in peace. You couldn’t even pick a leaf off a tree or hunt an animal within the confines of the Holy Sanctuary. These rules exist to this day, which is why an attack in Mecca by ISIS would be such a repugnant thing to Muslims the world over.

Why can’t the same thing – despite the ongoing conflict – exist today? Jews who visit the Temple Mount should not be harassed when going to pray at the Western Wall. Muslims wanting to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque should not have to be subjected to “security measures” and random closures of the mosque on Fridays to all men younger than 50. The word “Jerusalem” means the “City or Abode of Peace.” It needs to become one again today.

Am I being naive? Perhaps. But, it really disturbs me when I see the Holy Lands – whether in Mecca, Medina, or Jerusalem – defiled by the blood of the innocent. God blessed those lands, and the places of worship dedicated there are supposed to be places where God’s children can come – in full peace and security – and praise God’s name and worship Him freely.

It was like that in Jerusalem at one time before. I pray to the Most Beautiful Beloved Lord that it becomes like that again.

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