One question that has intrigued me is why some Muslim nations have such an intense hatred for Israel? The answer is not apparent; some people suggest it goes as far back as Abraham and his two sons' division. In any case, the reasons may not be so evident, but we will explore them anyway.
A total of 26 nations out of 193 countries in the United Nations don’t recognize or do not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel. A few countries like Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela only maintain ties with eastern bloc countries like Russia and China. The 26 nations represent about 15% of the world’s population, but it is still significant.
Before the time of the Prophet Muhammad, numerous tribes of different ethnicities lived in Saudi Arabia. The land of Palestine during the pre-Islamic period was subject to constant invasion and occupation. To list some of the more well-known incursions, we can identify the Babylonians and the Persians in the sixth century B.C., followed by Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C. and the Romans in the first century B.C. Each time a new empire marched into the area, Jews, Canaanites, Egyptians, and previous invaders involuntarily moved into the desert of Arabia. Muhammad, as the leader of a new monotheistic religious-based state in the seventh century A.D., had to deal with these different tribes. Most of the tribes had assimilated into the indigenous polytheistic culture, but the Jews were different; they were already monotheistic. Archaeological evidence shows that scribes documented the Torah during the 1000 B.C. to 500 B.C. period, and the Jews were well into practicing their customs and religious rituals by the time Muhammad came around.
Muhammad fled Mecca in 622. By then, Gabriel’s revelation of the Qur’an was about 60% complete, and it went against the polytheism of Muhammad’s home tribe, the Quraysh. Simultaneously, the tribes of Medina, a city-state about 300 miles to the north, asked him to set up a tribal council to allow all area tribes to get involved in their community's governance. In Mecca, his dealings with Jews and Christians led him to believe that they were kindred souls, and he labeled them “people of the Book.” However, in Medina, his relationship with the Jews was different. As he set about trying to implement a religion built on Jewish foundations, the Jews were suspect and would have none of his uncorroborated theology. With that, they rejected his message and overtures. Once it was clear Jews would not accept him, Muhammad began to minimize or eliminate Jewish influence. Muhammad shifted the direction of prayers from Jerusalem to Mecca, made Friday a special day of worship instead of Saturday, and renounced Jewish dietary laws (promoted halal preparation instead of kosher).
Numerous verses against the Jews and the Christians suddenly appear in the Qur’an. It is as though Allah, through his angel Gabriel to his Prophet Muhammad, was warning Muslims about Jews. This verse is one of the more revealing ones: “You who believe, do not take the Jews and Christians as allies: they are allies only to each other. Anyone who takes them as an ally becomes one of them – God does not guide such wrongdoers” (5:51).
In 627, hatred became tangible. Muhammad fought and won the Battle of the Trench in Medina against his home tribe from Mecca. Medina's Jewish clan had stayed neutral as opposed to aiding and supporting Muhammad. After the Battle, he sought to consolidate his power over all the tribes in Medina, and consequently, he accused the Jewish tribe of failing to honor their alliance. After a month-long siege, the Jewish clan surrendered. During the massacre of the Jews of the Qurayza tribe, Muhammad ordered that between 600-800 Jewish captives be beheaded and their wives and children sold into slavery.
Islamic tradition holds that Jews were once God’s chosen people, but He rejected them for refusing to accept God’s prophets, both Jesus and Muhammad. The Christians did not accept Muhammad, but the Jewish people rejected both Jesus and Muhammad.
It was 638 when Islamic armies captured Jerusalem from the Byzantine Empire. The European Crusaders reconquered Jerusalem in 1099, but then in 1187, Saladin took it back. It has been 1382 years since 638 when the Muslims initially conquered Palestine, and they had ruled it all that time except for 159 years when it was lost to them by the Crusaders and again when Israel declared itself a nation in 1948. Muslims have ruled this land for over a millennium and believe the land rightfully belongs to Allah and his followers.
The Muslim faithful believe that the Jews do not have any stake in al-Quds (Jerusalem) despite residing in the area. That land nowadays belongs to Muslims from five points of view:
1. The Jewish people have broken their covenants with God on numerous occasions with disastrous results. Remember that they wandered in the desert with Moses until the generation that sinned died out. And again, the Babylonians conquered them because of their infidelities. And yet, even Jesus predicted that the nation of Israel would be devastated for lacking the commitment to believe in God, and it was, by the Roman Empire in A.D. 70-73. The Jewish people have failed to recognize God’s prophets (Jesus and Muhammad) and abide by their rules and laws. The liberal democracy of Israel today creates laws forged by man, not God. The Jewish state's economic prosperity has resulted in the worship of money, banking exploitation (usury), and the idolization of religious tombs, churches, sacred sites, and material things other than God. According to Muslims, the Jewish state practices blasphemy and idolatry, two forms of shirk that warrant their nation’s destruction.
2. The Muslims consider Palestine a “sacred space” and a waqf. Land already conquered and occupied by Muslims and any space ever gained in the past are regarded as sacred ground, endowed by Allah to the ummah or Muslim people forever. If ever such space is lost, all Muslims must work to regain it by jihad, if necessary. Palestine takes the issue one step further; it was conquered in 638 and turned into a waqf. A waqf is an “inalienable charitable endowment under Islamic law, which typically involves donating a building, plot of land, or other assets for Muslim religious or charitable purposes with no intention of reclaiming the assets.” It would be similar to setting up a charity with a permanent foundation for funding in the western world. Later, under the British Mandate of Palestine in 1922, the waqf was defined as state property, with revenues guaranteed to charitable foundations. In other words, the territory was conquered by the Muslims and turned into community property, with excess taxes and profits used for Muslim charities.
3. The psychological impact of geopolitical Israel is difficult to overestimate. Throughout Islamic history, Jews were docile dhimmis subject to Muslim rule. In the last century, Judaism subverted traditional religious hierarchies in the Middle East. By doing so, it also undermined the credibility of Islamic superiority over Judaism. The insecurity and anxiety created by this situation hardened political postures. For Israel, making peace with Muslim nations is a diplomatic achievement. For Muslim countries, accepting Israel concedes the precedence of Judaism over Islam.
4. The Muslims believe they have more right to the land because land does not belong to the people who lived there first, but to those who establish Allah's laws. Allah created the ground, and He created people to worship Allah in the land and to authorize the religion, regulations, and rulings of Allah. Specifically, the passage from the Qur’an (7:144) says:
Moses said to his people, "Turn to God for help and be steadfast: the earth belongs to God – He gives it as their own to whichever of His servants He chooses – and the happy future belongs to those who are mindful of Him."
5. The fifth reason is the sacred nighttime journey to heaven made by Muhammad. He travels from the Great Mosque in Mecca to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and visits all the great prophets in a dream. The journey is briefly mentioned in the Qur’an (17:1) but is known primarily through hadith. After Jerusalem's capture in 638, Muslims built the Al Aqsa Mosque over the Dome of the Rock in 691. In addition to Muhammad’s night-time journey to heaven, the Dome of the Rock is considered the site where Abraham offered to sacrifice Ishmael. Jerusalem is considered Islam’s third most holy site, after Mecca and Medina. While the Al Aqsa mosque and compound are under Muslim administration, it is subject to Jewish laws and regulations. Jews and Christians have limited access to visit and tour the Rock and other parts of the compound. Resident Muslims revile Jewish access to the mosque area. An unspoken concern is that the Al Aqsa Mosque exists on the Temple Mount where the Jews wish to build the third Jewish temple. Muslims are worried that the mosque would be demolished for the Jews to construct their temple.
Several Muslim nations such as Egypt, Jordan, and even Saudi Arabia have found that Israel's political relations can improve security, trade, and economic opportunities. Some Muslim countries like Iran and Syria have not been able to get over the insult to Islam and continue to scheme against Israel, but so far, to no avail. The issue of whose God has sovereignty has created the overall schism.