Islamic History Israel-Palestine War Judaism

Jerusalem: An Ancient City of Harmony

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Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times.’ [1]

The Israeli-Hamas conflict has brought with it many questions: can Israel and Palestine both peacefully co-exist? Is there a divide between Islam and Judaism, and is that the root cause of this ongoing war?

History answers our query.

When the Muslims laid siege to Jerusalem against the Byzantines in the 7th century, it was Hazrat Umar (ra) himself (the second Caliph of Islam) who went to sign a treaty upon request by the Byzantine army and the Chief Priest of Jerusalem. The Byzantines refused to hand over their city to anyone other than the leader of the Muslims.

Thus, Hazrat Umar (ra) journeyed to Jerusalem, and signed a treaty with the Christians. 

But where were the Jews?

The Jews of Palestine had aided the Persians against the Byzantines some years prior, betraying the latter and gaining administration of Jerusalem. This only lasted 3 years however, and the Byzantines took back Jerusalem whereafter they either killed or exiled every single Jew in Jerusalem. [2]

There were no Jews in the city. The distrust for the Jewish people of Jerusalem persisted. Perhaps this is why, according to some sources, Hazrat Umar (ra) didn’t allow Jews to enter Jerusalem immediately after the Treaty was signed.

This temporary ban may come as a shock to many, but if this report is true, it was clearly a wise step to maintain peace in Jerusalem. 

For example, imagine if the very same traitors who were recently exiled were allowed to return right after you lost your sovereignty; you would hate your new leaders, and still despise the traitors for what they had done less than a generation ago.

With this understanding in mind, Hazrat Umar (ra) laid out the initial terms of the treaty with great tact. In summary:

  1. The Christians, their wealth, their crosses, and their churches are guaranteed safety. No church will be seized or destroyed, nor their wealth.
  2. There will be no compulsion of faith, nor will they be given any trouble. 
  3. They must pay the Jizya (tax for non-Muslims, which was often lower than Muslim tax, and also exempted non-Muslims from fighting in battle.)
  4. The Byzantine army should be expelled, and they are guaranteed safety in life and wealth until they reach their place of safety.
  5. The Jews shall not live in Jerusalem. [3]

Some narrations do state that the Jews were not allowed to migrate initially due to tensions; however, Jewish historians themselves admit that Jewish migration began soon after the conquest of Jerusalem. In his book A Brief History of Israel, the Jewish Historian Bernard Reich writes:

 ‘At the outset of Islamic rule, Jewish settlement in Jerusalem was resumed, and the Jewish community was granted permission to live under “protection,” the customary status of non-Muslims under Islamic rule, which safeguarded their lives, property, and freedom of worship in return for payment of special poll and land taxes.’ [4]

Without a doubt, Hazrat Umar (ra) loved Jerusalem and treated the Holy Site of the Jews with immense love and care. While he was in Jerusalem, Hazrat Umar (ra) walked to Masjid Al-Aqsa to pray but found it very dirty, as Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (rh) explains ‘When Umar ibn Al-Khattab conquered Jerusalem, there was a huge garbage dump on the rock, because the Christians used to deliberately treat it in a disrespectful manner, to annoy the Jews who used to pray in that direction.”

When he saw this, Hazrat Umar (ra) began to clean up the garbage himself:

This Rock, from which ‘Umar removed the dirt and filth with his own hands and carried it away in his cloak to cleanse it, was the qiblah (direction of prayer) of the Jews, and the Rock which was venerated by them because it was where God had spoken to Jacob according to their beliefs.’ [5]

History points to the fact that the Muslims were very welcoming of the Jews in Jerusalem and Palestine. In fact, a preserved Judeo-Arabic text writes apocryphally that Hazrat Umar (ra) reopened Jerusalem to the Jews:

So every Muslim who came was in town or valley, and there came with them a group of Jews. Then he (ʿUmar) ordered them to sweep the holy place (the Temple site) and to cleanse it… After this, the Jews sent word to all the rest of the Jews in Palestine to inform them of the agreement that ʿUmar had made with them… Then ʿUmar said, “Where would you wish to live in the city?” “In the southern part,” they replied. And that is now the Market of the Jews. The aim of their request was to be near the Temple Mount and its gates and likewise be near the water of Silwan for ritual bathing. The Commander of the Faithful granted this to them.’ [6]

Now marvel at this beautiful sentiment. The very same Jews who had previously been executed or exiled and had their holiest site made into a garbage dump, were able to live peacefully in Jerusalem.

We find another heartwarming piece of evidence. A letter from the Jerusalem Rabbinical Academy, dated to the 11th century, demonstrates that the Muslim treatment of Jews was narrated to each passing generation through storytelling, hundreds of years after the Pact of Umar (ra). The Rabbi writes:

It was thanks to God, who turned toward us the compassion of the Ishmaelite kingdom, that it stretched out its hand and captured the Holy Land from the Edomites and came to Jerusalem. With the Ishmaelites were Jews, who showed them the site of the Temple and remained with them [in Jerusalem] from that time to this very day.’ [7]

This has been recorded repeatedly: Hazrat Umar (ra) personified the Islamic attitude towards Judaism, actively demonstrating that Muslims and Jews could peacefully coexist. 

In a land now enveloped in geo-political warfare, some have taken this opportunity to paint the conflict as religious; that Islam somehow has an inherent hate for Jews.

This is not true; true Muslims will always stand with those who act with justice. Muslims are hopeful for the piety embedded within Judaism to shine once more, as the Holy Qur’an says, ‘Among the People of the Book there is a party who stand by their covenant; they recite the word of Allah in the hours of night and prostrate themselves before Him.’ [8]

Until justice prevails in the Levant, this peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Jews during the time of Hazrat Umar (ra) remains our past, and perhaps it will become our future. Time and prayers will decide.

About the Author: Tariq Mahmood is a graduate of the Ahmadiyya Institute of Languages and Theology in Canada and serves as Secretary of The Existence Project Team for The Review of Religions.


  1. Niccolo Machiavelli. The Prince. (Race Point Publishing, 2017), 220.
  2. Bernard Reich, A Brief History of Israel (New York: Checkmark Books, 2008), 8–10.
  3. Muhammad Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Tabari, Vol. 2 [Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, 2012], p. 449, taken from 
  4. Bernard Reich, A Brief History of Israel (New York: Checkmark Books, 2008), 8–10.
  5. Dr. Ali Muhammad As-Sallabi, ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab: His Life & Times, trans. Nasiruddin al-Khattab, vol. 2 (Riyadh: International Islamic Publishing House, 2007), 302–305.
  6. Phillip Lieberman, The Cambridge History of Judaism: Volume 5, Jews in the Medieval Islamic World (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2021), 78–79.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Maulawi Sher Ali, The Holy Qur’ān, (UK: Islam International Publications Limited, 2021), 87, Chapter 3, v. 114