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Palestine

The name Palestine elicits conflicting emotions - on the one hand Zionists lay claim to the country as being their homeland, whilst on the other hand Palestinians and Muslims the world over long for the day when Palestinians can live in their country like normal human beings, free from the strife and oppression they have so long endured. This series intends to enlighten and educate Muslims about the history and significance of Palestine from an Islamic perspective This part of the series deals mainly with the early history of Palestine.

Introduction

Over the past few months there has been a tragic loss of hundreds of Palestinian lives. This eventhas shocked Muslims all over the world and galvanised them into a flurry of outrage and compassion. Yet a few months down the line we find the Palestinians in exactly the same desperate situation as before, forlorn and forgotten. Clearly the agenda for the Middle-East conflict is being engineered by the Zionist-American axis, with its stepchild the Palestinian Authority having to dance to their tune.
As indicated in the editorial of the Eidul-fitr issue of the Boorhaanol Islam magazine, Muslims worldwide need to assume ownership of the Palestinian issue, if the status of Masjid ul Quds has any meaning to them. A good starting point could be to familiarise themselves with the historical realities of the conflict, a subject the Zionists have been hard at work in manipulating in their favour. Knowledge is power, something sorely missing in the ranks of the Palestinians as they endeavour to negotiate their future. Hereunder is a historical background on the area where Palestine is situated.

 

Earliest history
Archeological excavations indicate that the area in which Palestine is situated can be traced back to about 5000 (BC). The earliest known people who inhabited this area were called Ghassullians, who immigrated to Palestine during 4000 (BC). It is not known from which area the Ghassullians originated. These people were fairly advanced in that they were adept at agriculture and artifacts of copper and pottery of this era have been found. There is also archeological evidence that there was a significant Egyptian presence during the period 1500 (BC). In about 1450 (BC), the Palestinians under the leadership of Queen Hatshepsut revolted against the Egyptians in an attempt to drive them out of the area. This rebellion, which was put down by the Queen's successor, was the first recorded rebellion by the Palestinian people. During the period 1400 - 1300 (BC), the Israelites moved into Palestine, but only became established in this area during the 12th century (BC).

Palestine as part of the Persian Empire
Palestine came under control of the Persian Empire in 500 (BC) when Darius I was the emperor. This occupation extended to the rule of Alexander the Great who saw the occupation of Palestine as a gateway to Egypt. The Persian authorities allowed the Jews to practice their religion and culture unhindered in Palestine. After the death of Alexander, Palestine and Egypt fell within the rule of Ptolemy when the Ptolemic dynasty ruled the area, for a period of 300 years.

Roman rule
Palestine fell under Roman rule after the end of the Ptolemic dynasty (40 BC). During this period King Herod ruled Palestine and for the first time there was a long period of peace and prosperity in the region. However, toward the end of his reign, Herod was seen to be cruel and vicious when he put his wife and several of his sons to death so that they could not succeed him.

Early Islamic rule
Under the rule of the first Khalif of Islam, Abu Bakr, Muslim control over the Arabian Peninsula expanded rapidly. In order to take control of Syria he dispatched about 7000 troops. However, he was not around to witness the victory of these forces over the Syrians as he died two years after being proclaimed Khalif, and it was left to Umar to complete this task. In the year 636 the Muslim forces were victorious and took control of Palestine. Khalid ibn al-Walid played an important role in this conquest against the forces of emperor Heraclius. Two years later, Jerusalem, the last city in the area that was not under Muslim control, surren¬dered to Khalid ibn al-Walid.
As the governor of the area, Umar divided Palestine into two administrative areas, namely Jordan and Palestine, with its main city Ramlah. As Jerusalem was the third holiest city for Muslims, Umar and his followers cleaned the Temple area and declared it a holy site.

Umayyad rule
The Umayyad dynasty, which commenced in 661, recognised Palestine as a strategic and important area. The Umayyad rulers who hailed from Makka and Madina, appointed an emir and a finance official to govern the area of Palestine and Syria. During the Umayyad period, Palestine became a prominent area and Islam became firmly entrenched. Khalif Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan who ruled between 685 and 705, supervised the building of the Dome of the Rock (Masjid ul Quds) in 691. The site on which it was built was believed to be the halting station of the Prophet (PBUH) on his journey to heaven (the Mi'raj). Shortly thereafter, al-Walid, son of Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, built the al Aqsa mosque. Khalif Umar II ruled Palestine for about three years and under his rule the area became predominantly Muslim and Arabic speaking. It was also during this period that the first group of Jews returned to Jerusalem after an absence of over 500 years.

Abbasid rule
The Abbasid rule commenced in 750 and had Baghdad as its capital. There was a lot of enmity between the Palestinians and the Abbasid rulers. The Palestinians aligned themselves with the Umayyad followers in their uprisings against the Abbasid rule. During 841 a number of Palestinians under the leadership of Abu Harb (a member of the Umayyad group) revolted against the Abbasid rule, but were defeated. Because of the many revolts and the different ideologies in the Abbasid camp, their rule became fragmented toward the end of the 8th century. Islam flourished during this period and many new areas were added to the rule of the Abbasid dynasty. However, the Talunid dynasty in Egypt, which was in power from 868 to 905 started the process of releasing Egypt and Palestine from Abbasid rule. Finally in 935 Palestine came under the rule of the Ikhshidid dynasty for about 35 years. Fatimid rule During 969, the Shiite Fatimid dynasty, whose power base hailed from North Africa, took control of Egypt, Syria and Palestine. During this period Palestine was very often a battlefield as groups like the Bedouin, Qarmatian and Byzantine constantly tried to get control of Palestine and Syria. During the rule of al Hakim (996 to 1021), there were numerous periods of political conflict. Jerusalem was at this time a bustling commercial area, which serviced Muslim, Christian and Jewish pilgrims. In 1071 the SeIjuqs captured Jerusalem from the Fatimid rulers and controlled it for a period of 27 years. Although the Fatimid rulers recaptured Jerusalem a year later, in 1098 Palestine was captured by the Crusaders (a Christian force from Europe). The period that followed was one of constant wars between Muslim forces and the Crusaders.

Ayyub and Mamluk rule
Sultan Saladin (of the Ayyub dynasty) took control of Egypt and Syria and commenced a relentless war against the Crusaders, which lasted for many years. In 1187 Saladin managed to recapture Palestine and place. It under Muslim control again. Despite fierce battles, the Crusaders were never again successful in capturing Palestine. In 1260 there was a resurgence of Muslim victories under the leadership of the Mamluk leader Baybars. In 1291, Sultan al  Ashraf drove out the last of the Crusaders. For the next 600 years the Mamluk dynasty ruled Palestine. Under the rule of the Mamluk dynasty there was increasing prosperity in Palestine, especially in Jerusalem. Amongst others, the Mamluk sponsored schools and lodgings for Muslim pilgrims. Palestine, which formed part of the Damascus district, was a very important area for the Mamluk and they spent a huge amount of their resources in that area.

Ottoman rule
The Ottoman Sultan, Salim, took control of Palestine from the Mamluk in a battle in 1516. Under the Ottoman Turks, Palestine still remained within the district control of Damascus. Palestine was divided into two regions, namely Nablus and Acre, with autonomy being granted to Jerusalem. During the first 300 years of Ottoman rule, there were numerous battles and wars in the area as the Ottoman Turks fought to retain control over Palestine. During the late 1700's Palestine was an economic hub, with increased trade with Europe and the Far East. Napoleon also tried unsuccessfully to take con¬trol of Palestine in 1800, a period during which Egypt had control over Palestine. However, with the aid of the British and Russians, the Ottoman Turks again took control of Palestine. This alliance of the Ottoman Turks allowed Europe to have increased influence in Palestine. The Ottoman Turks now took firm control of Palestine and introduced their judicial system and system of government in the area, whilst there was a marked increase in foreign settlements in Palestine. Foreign influence in Palestine increased rapidly and even Christian mission stations were built. Thus saw the end of the era when Palestine was under Muslim control and following rapidly thereafter, the rise of Zionism in the late 1800's.

Conclusion
Palestine has a rich and exciting history ranging from the earliest recorded times, through Muslim control from Abu Bakr to Saladin, and eventual Turkish Ottoman rule. Throughout all the years the area saw numerous battles and wars for control of Palestine, but it always remained a vibrant and commercially successful country. Over the years Palestine had close political and socio-economic links with Egypt, Syria, the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey. Islam was for many years the dominant religion and during the Umayyad dynasty Masjid ul Quds and Masjid ul Aqsa were built. In the next issue the rise of Zionism will be discussed.

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