Why is Jerusalem holy to Muslims?
There are three so-called "Abrahamic" religions that take the Hebrew Old Testament as a sacred text. While for Jewish people, that is the only scriptural text, Christianity adds to it the New Testament and Islam the Koran. This means that Islam shares with Judaism and Christianity an historical affiliation with Jerusalem and the surrounding Holy Land, a fact underlying many of the geopolitical tensions still prevailing in the region.
Before the conquest of Mecca on 11 December 629 CE, Muslims under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad prayed facing Jerusalem. It was one of three especially holy pilgrimage sites according to the Koran, which states that Muhammad said:
"There are only three mosques to which you should embark on a journey: the sacred mosque (Mecca, Saudi Arabia), this mosque of mine (Madinah, Saudi Arabia), and the mosque of Al-Aqsa (Jerusalem)."
There is also an account in the Koran of the Angel Gabriel taking the Prophet Muhammad to Jerusalem at night to pray. The Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhrah) remains an important sacred site in Jerusalem for Muslims as does the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount, from where, according to Islamic tradition, Muhammad ascended into heaven in 621.
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