Is Palestine the Land of Prophet Muhammad's Ascension?

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COMMENTARY | Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has formally submitted a bid to the United Nations General Assembly for recognition of Palestine as the 194th member state. He declared in his address to the assembly, "I come before you today from the Holy Land, the Land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, and the birthplace of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him."

His statement has one religious undertone that has claimed thousands of lives since the Palestinians rejected the Partition Plan to create two states -- Israel and Palestine -- in 1947. Many suicide bombers have killed scores of people and Israeli retaliations have cost many more innocent lives. To many Palestinians and Muslims around the world the land is important to them because they believe it is the land of the "ascension of the Prophet Mohammed." Is it true?

The Quran -- Islam's holy book and the highest authority -- states in Chapter 17, Verse 1, "Glory be to Him Who made His servant to go on a night from the Sacred Mosque to the remote mosque." According to this verse, Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad ascended from "the Sacred Mosque" in Jerusalem. The same chapter of the Quran, Verse 60, claims Prophet Muhammad had a mere vision of the ascension. In fact, the Hadith --Prophet Muhammad's saying in Sahih Bukhari, the authenticated and most authoritative Hadith -- claims this alleged ascension was a vision in which the Prophet Muhammad saw an actual temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The Quran and the Hadith claim the ascension was a vision. Muslims believe the ascension took place on the Temple Mount in Palestine. There are three factual errors with President Abbas' claim and what majority of Muslims believe Palestine is the land of the "ascension of the Prophet Mohammed."

The first is there was no mosque in Jerusalem in 621 CE (when the alleged ascension took place). In fact a mosque was built in 691 CE on the spot where Prophet Muhammad allegedly ascended to the seventh heaven. Second, Muslim scholars interpret the "Sacred Mosque" in Chapter 17, Verse 1 of the Quran to referred to the Jewish temple on the Temple Mount.

This interpretation has some major flaws because the temple in question was destroyed in 70 CE, more than 500 years before Prophet Muhammad's alleged ascension. Third, the Quran and the Hadith claim the ascension was a vision. Therefore, Palestine cannot be the land of the "ascension of the Prophet Mohammed."

It is very clear Prophet Muhammad had a vision. He did not set foot in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, there will be no peace in Palestine as long as this religious innuendo which even facts debunk exists. Abbas shouldn't have made it.

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