History of Muslim Palestine

History of Muslim Palestine Last updated on Thursday 22nd April 2010

Palestine was invaded by Muslim Arab armies which captured Jerusalem in AD638. Thus began 1300 years of Muslim presence in what became known as Filastin.

The land was holy to Muslims because the prophet Mohammed had first designated that his followers must face Jerusalem when praying. The prophet was believed to have ascended to Heaven on a night journey from the area in Jerusalem where the Dome of the Rock was later built. The city was therefore, after Makkah and Medina, the third holiest city of Islam.

The conquering Muslims did not force their religion upon the Palestinians and in fact, it was more than a century before most of them converted. Once they converted, however, they did adopt Arabic and Islamic culture as their own. The Christians and Jews remaining in the country were considered "People of the Book" and as such were allowed control of their communities and guaranteed security and freedom of worship. Such tolerance was -- and is -- rare in the history of religion.

At this time the Muslim empire was ruled by the Umayyad from Damascus and Palestine, as a close neighbor, profited from both trade and religious traffic. In 750, when the caliphate shifted to Baghdad with the Abbasids, Palestine experienced a decline in importance and was somewhat neglected by the new rulers. It suffered unrest and domination by various groups, including Europeans at the time of the Crusades, and later the Mamelukes from Egypt.

As with most of the Muslim world, however, Palestine shared in the golden age of Islam when the Muslim world enjoyed pre-eminence in science, art, philosophy and literature. Greek learning was preserved in no small part by Muslim scholars who, in that way, contributed to the European Renaissance.

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