- Official Egyptian Weekly Reinterprets Muhammad's 'Night
- A columnist for an Egyptian government journal has called
into question the established Muslim belief that Jerusalem is a sacred
- Writing for the weekly Al-Qahira, published by the Egyptian
Ministry of Culture, Ahmad Muhammad 'Arafa rejects the Islamic doctrine
that the Prophet Muhammad's celebrated "Night Journey" took him
from Mecca to Jerusalem.
- Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
- The passage in Quran 17:1 ö known as the Sura of
the Night Journey ö does not refer to a miraculous trip from Mecca
to Jerusalem, but to the prophet's emigration from Mecca to Medina, Arafa
asserts in his Aug. 5 article.
- MEMRI said the column constitutes a "dramatic departure"
from a standard Islamic belief held for more than 1,300 years.
- "The fact that this article was published in a government
journal adds to its political significance," the Washington, D.C.-based
- Jerusalem, at the center of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,
is considered to be Islam's third holiest city, after the Saudi Arabian
cities of Mecca and Medina.
- The text of the Quranic passage says, according to a
translation, "Praise be to Him who took His servant by night from
the Al-Haram [Sacred] Mosque [in Mecca] to the Al-Aqsa [literally 'the
most distant'] Mosque, whose environs We did bless, so that We might show
him some of Our signs, for He is the All-Hearing and All-Seeing One."
- Arafa contends "Al-Aqsa" must refer to an existing
mosque, not a place where a mosque would be established later.
- "But in Palestine during that time, there was no
mosque at all that could have been the mosque 'most distant' from the Al-Haram
Mosque," he said, according to MEMRI. "During that time, there
were no people in [Palestine] who believed in Muhammad and would gather
to pray in a specific place that served as a mosque."
- The Egyptian columnist noted most of the inhabitants
of Palestine at that time were Christians and a Jewish minority.
- "The construction of the mosque situated today in
Jerusalem and known as the Al-Aqsa Mosque began only in the year 66 of
the Hijra of the prophet ö that is, during the era of the Omayyad
state, not during the time of the prophet nor that of any of the righteous
caliphs," he said. "So much for the mosque."
- The Al-Aqsa Mosque and the adjacent Muslim shrine known
as the Dome of the Rock were built after Caliph Omar I captured Jerusalem
from the Persians, six years after Muhammad's death in AD 632.
- Omar decreed that the Jews holy Temple Mount was the
place referred to in the Quran.
- According to the Jewish Scriptures, Solomon built the
First Temple on that spot, where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his
- Arafa says the Quranic expression "He took His servant
by night" means Muhammad ordered him to journey in secret from his
enemies to a place where he and his mission would be secure.
- "In other words, the text speaks of the Hijra of
the prophet from Mecca to Medina, and not of a visit to Palestine,"
Arafa said. "[Indeed], the Hijra of the Prophet [to Medina] was carried
out unbeknownst to his enemies."
- Arafa concludes the Night Journey began at the Al-Haram
Mosque in Mecca "after the prophet had prayed there with his companion,
and both of them had left it, and the journey ended at the mosque of As'ad
ibn Zurara, in front of the house of Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari, in Medina, where
the prophet built the mosque known as the Mosque of the Prophet."
- The details of the journey of the Hijra, or emigration,
Arafa says, "are the very same details of the Night Journey, because
the Night Journey is indeed the secret Hijra."