Of Walls, Winged Horses, and Religious Tourism.

Vel Nirtist
There was only so much that Muhammad, Islam's founder and, according to the Muslims, the final and ultimate prophet of God -- could accomplish out of Mecca. To have a talk with the prophets that preceded him, to take a tour of heaven, and to visit with God Himself, he first needed to get to Jerusalem.

So -- in Wikipedia's terse account:

"Muhammad [has been] resting in the Kaaba in Mecca, when the archangel Jibral (Gabriel) comes to him, and brings him the winged steed Buraq, the traditional lightning steed of the prophets. The Buraq carries Muhammad to the Masjid Al Aqsa the "Farthest Mosque", which many Muslims believe is at the Noble Sanctuary (Temple Mount) in Jerusalem. Muhammad alights, tethers Buraq to the Western Wall and leads the other prophets such as Moses, Jesus, and Adam in prayer. He then re-mounts Buraq, and in the second part of the journey, the Mi'raj (an Arabic word that literally means "ladder"), he is taken to the heavens, where he tours the circles of heaven, and speaks with the earlier prophets such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. He then is taken by Gabriel to God."

Clearly, even to Muhammad, there was something special about Jerusalem. We know what it was pretty well -- Muhammad tried to position himself as a natural successor to the Jewish prophets and Jesus as "the seal of the prophets," and so Jerusalem -- the place where those he saw as his predecessors toiled, lived and died -- was sacred to him, too. Hence, the need for a tour of Jerusalem that resulted in the "night journey." Jerusalem was of value to him because of its Jewish and Christian connection.

But Muhammad was wrong, however, in linking Jerusalem to spirituality that preceded his own -- according to the Palestinian Authority's "paper that denies any Jewish connection to the Western Wall" that was reported by the New York Times

"In Muslim tradition, the wall is the place where the Prophet Muhammad tethered his winged steed, Buraq, during his miraculous overnight journey from Mecca to Jerusalem in the seventh century.The Palestinian paper denying any Jewish historical connection with the site was written by Al-Mutawakel Taha, an Information Ministry official. In it, he stated that "the Al Buraq Wall is the western wall of Al Aksa, which the Zionist occupation falsely claims ownership of and calls the Wailing Wall or Kotel."

Now, if there was nothing sacred for Muhammad to see there, why exactly did he travel to Jerusalem? Why couldn't he ascend to heaven, and talk to the prophets and to God straight out of Mecca? And if there was anything sacred for him in Jerusalem, what was it?

The Palestinian Authority does not enlighten us. Perhaps it simply cannot, for now it caught itself in a dilemma: deny Jerusalem a Jewish connection -- and you make Muhammad's "night journey" look stupid, and render Jerusalem's status of Islam's "third holiest site" meaningless. But acknowledge Jerusalem's meaning to Muhammad, and you automatically affirm Jewish claims to the City of David.

Now that the Palestinian Authority stepped into historical and theological studies -- and made startling discoveries in both -- I suggest they also do a study of natural history. I am curious about that Buraq horse. Do horses fly? Or was Muhammad's steed really a Pegasus, Greek horse of the poets?
.
There was only so much that Muhammad, Islam's founder and, according to the Muslims, the final and ultimate prophet of God -- could accomplish out of Mecca. To have a talk with the prophets that preceded him, to take a tour of heaven, and to visit with God Himself, he first needed to get to Jerusalem.

So -- in Wikipedia's terse account:

"Muhammad [has been] resting in the Kaaba in Mecca, when the archangel Jibral (Gabriel) comes to him, and brings him the winged steed Buraq, the traditional lightning steed of the prophets. The Buraq carries Muhammad to the Masjid Al Aqsa the "Farthest Mosque", which many Muslims believe is at the Noble Sanctuary (Temple Mount) in Jerusalem. Muhammad alights, tethers Buraq to the Western Wall and leads the other prophets such as Moses, Jesus, and Adam in prayer. He then re-mounts Buraq, and in the second part of the journey, the Mi'raj (an Arabic word that literally means "ladder"), he is taken to the heavens, where he tours the circles of heaven, and speaks with the earlier prophets such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. He then is taken by Gabriel to God."

Clearly, even to Muhammad, there was something special about Jerusalem. We know what it was pretty well -- Muhammad tried to position himself as a natural successor to the Jewish prophets and Jesus as "the seal of the prophets," and so Jerusalem -- the place where those he saw as his predecessors toiled, lived and died -- was sacred to him, too. Hence, the need for a tour of Jerusalem that resulted in the "night journey." Jerusalem was of value to him because of its Jewish and Christian connection.

But Muhammad was wrong, however, in linking Jerusalem to spirituality that preceded his own -- according to the Palestinian Authority's "paper that denies any Jewish connection to the Western Wall" that was reported by the New York Times

"In Muslim tradition, the wall is the place where the Prophet Muhammad tethered his winged steed, Buraq, during his miraculous overnight journey from Mecca to Jerusalem in the seventh century.The Palestinian paper denying any Jewish historical connection with the site was written by Al-Mutawakel Taha, an Information Ministry official. In it, he stated that "the Al Buraq Wall is the western wall of Al Aksa, which the Zionist occupation falsely claims ownership of and calls the Wailing Wall or Kotel."

Now, if there was nothing sacred for Muhammad to see there, why exactly did he travel to Jerusalem? Why couldn't he ascend to heaven, and talk to the prophets and to God straight out of Mecca? And if there was anything sacred for him in Jerusalem, what was it?

The Palestinian Authority does not enlighten us. Perhaps it simply cannot, for now it caught itself in a dilemma: deny Jerusalem a Jewish connection -- and you make Muhammad's "night journey" look stupid, and render Jerusalem's status of Islam's "third holiest site" meaningless. But acknowledge Jerusalem's meaning to Muhammad, and you automatically affirm Jewish claims to the City of David.

Now that the Palestinian Authority stepped into historical and theological studies -- and made startling discoveries in both -- I suggest they also do a study of natural history. I am curious about that Buraq horse. Do horses fly? Or was Muhammad's steed really a Pegasus, Greek horse of the poets?
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