Remembering Al-Quds

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“I invite Muslims all over the globe to consecrate the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan as ‘Al-Quds Day’ and to proclaim the international solidarity of Muslims in support of the legitimate rights of the Muslim people of Palestine.

“For many years, I have been notifying the Muslims of the danger posed by the usurper Israel, which today has intensified its savage attacks against the Palestinian brothers and sisters, and which, in the south of Lebanon in particular, is continually bombing Palestinian homes in the hope of crushing the Palestinian struggle. I ask all the Muslims of the world and the Muslim governments to join together to sever the hand of this usurper and its supporters. I call on all the Muslims of the world to select, as Al-Quds Day, the last Friday in the holy month of Ramadan – which is itself a determining period and can also be the determiner of the Palestinian people’s fate – and through a ceremony demonstrating the solidarity of Muslims world-wide, announce their support for the legitimate rights of the Muslim people. I ask God Almighty for the victory of the Muslims over the infidels.” (Imam Khomeini’s message announcing Al-Quds Day on August 7, 1979)

The Context

After the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Imam Khomeini looked toward the Muslim community at large, encompassing every Muslim across the globe in his calls for a Muslim awakening. The focal point through which he called for Muslim Unity was by rallying Muslims of all schools around the fate of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) – the first of the two Qiblas (direction of prayer) and the third-most sacred sanctuary of the Muslims.

While Arab nationalists had fought Israel under the banner of pan-Arabism in the years preceding the victory of the Islamic Revolution, one defeat after another had brought the Arab and general Muslim morale to an all-time low. Neither was Palestine liberated, nor were the Arab countries safe from future aggression. With the Islamic Revolution in Iran came a sense of hope for the revival of something better, something that would transcend the bounds of nationality and ethnicity – this something was the familiar-by-name, forgotten-in-essence religion of Islam.

It was no longer an Arab-Israeli conflict alone. It was no longer a fight solely to liberate the Arab land of Palestine. With the calls for Al-Quds Day, the conflict was confirmed to be a Muslim-Israeli conflict on one level, but was also branded as an Oppressed vs. Oppressor struggle on a universal level.

“Al-Quds Day is an international day and not a day that is only related to Al-Quds (Jerusalem) – rather, it is a day in which the oppressed confront the arrogant oppressors. It is the day in which (the Muslims) must rise up to save Al-Quds and save our Lebanese brothers from this oppression. It is the day in which we must free all the oppressed ones from the shackles of the arrogant oppressors.” (Imam Khomeini on August 16, 1979)

The Application

While some Muslims around the world hold processions to demonstrate solidarity with the oppressed on Al-Quds Day, there are still many – specifically in Muslim countries – who let Al-Quds Day pass by as if it were any other day. In Imam Khomeini’s vision, “those who do not participate are the ones who oppose Islam and are in agreement with Israel.”

Practically, this makes sense as implied by the narration from the Holy Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny): “If one amongst you sees an evil (committed), then (s)he should change it with his/her hand; if (s)he cannot, then with his/her tongue; if (s)he cannot, then with his/her heart – and that is the weakest of faith.”

If an opportunity to denounce evil comes up and a person does not attempt to participate in denouncing it in any way, shape or form, then it seems clear that such a person is in opposition to Islam.

Participating in Al-Quds Day may mean different things for different people, depending on their circumstances. For example, a person who is being bombarded by oppressors day-in and day-out may have the duty to take up arms and resist the aggressor. At the opposite end of the spectrum, one who is incapable of doing anything tangible to confront oppression should at least condemn the acts of injustice in his/her heart.

Each person, in his/her position in life, should uphold the principles represented by Al-Quds Day. Proponents of justice spanning the ages have underlined the need to challenge the oppressor – though this challenge may take different forms and manifest on various levels.

Allah the Wise has made it known to us clearly in the Holy Quran that we are the “best of peoples”, in that we enjoin the good, forbid the evil, and believe in Him. Once we deviate from these virtues, however, we are no longer the “best of peoples” being referred to in the verse: “Ye are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah. If only the People of the Book had faith, it were best for them: among them are some who have faith, but most of them are perverted transgressors.” (3:110)

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