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Dr. Muhammad Umar Riaz Abbasi

The writer holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Thought and Culture from the Department of Islamic Thought and Culture, National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad, Pakistan. Additionally, the writer is a visiting faculty member at Air University, Islamabad, Pakistan. Email: [email protected]

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Hilal English

The Issue of Palestine: A Historical, Religious, and Humanitarian Perspective

May 2024

In the tangled threads of history, religion, and humanitarian crises, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stands as a Gordian knot awaiting the sword of justice.


Threads of history, religion, and humanitarian problems intertwine in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, making it one of the most complex and long-lasting conflicts globally. This article explores the Palestinian story, emphasizing its humanitarian impacts, religious relevance, and historical foundations. Palestine's millennium-long history is woven into a complicated web of territorial disputes and cultural heritage through conquests, colonization, and altered boundaries. The Zionist movement of the 20th century, British colonialism, and the division that followed—which led to bloodshed, evictions, and the establishment of Israel—are the root causes of the conflict's contemporary form. For Muslims, Christians, and Jews, Palestine is an important religious place, with Jerusalem serving as its spiritual nucleus. The holy books of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism proclaim the area as holy, causing both worship and contention. From a humanitarian perspective, the situation of the Palestinian people emphasizes how urgently justice, peace, and human rights are needed. Long-lasting suffering caused by decades of battle, occupation, and blockade has prompted support from international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and other peacekeeping organizations. Through the integration of historical, religious, and humanitarian viewpoints, this article provides a thorough foundation for comprehending the nuances surrounding the Palestine issue.
With multiple historical, theological, and humanitarian facets, the Palestine problem has been a divisive and complicated issue for many years. Palestine holds historical significance for Muslims and Jews, with holy sites like the Western Wall and Al-Aqsa Mosque nearby. From a religious perspective, Muslims emphasize Jerusalem's holiness and affirm Palestine's sacredness as stated in the Holy Quran. Additionally, prophetic traditions in the hadith underscore Palestine's importance in Islamic doctrine. The humanitarian aspect of the problem cannot be overlooked, considering the significant hardships Palestinians endure, including discrimination, relocation, and restricted access to essential resources. Recognizing Palestinian rights and advocating for a peaceful resolution, the UN has played a crucial role in addressing the dispute. Noteworthy literature on this subject, such as "The Question of Palestine" by Edward Said and "Palestinian Identity" by Rashid Khalidi, provides insightful perspectives on the intricate dynamics of the region. This study aims to conduct an in-depth analysis of the current crisis in Palestine, examining its religious, historical, and humanitarian dimensions.
Historical Outlook of the Issue of Palestine 
A complex and multidimensional historical perspective, shaped by centuries of conquest, colonization, and competing claims to the territory, surrounds the Palestine issue. For thousands of years, diverse peoples, including the Canaanites, Israelites, Palestinians, and others, have inhabited the area now known as Palestine. Numerous empires, including the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, Ottoman, and British, have conquered and governed it throughout history. Zionist immigrants first arrived in the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the aim of establishing a Jewish state, marking the beginning of the current conflict in Palestine. The British government's 1917 Balfour Declaration laid the foundation for the eventual establishment of Israel by endorsing the development of a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine.
The 1948 Arab-Israeli War erupted due to the United Nations' 1947 division of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab nations, triggering widespread bloodshed and conflict. Following the war, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly displaced to neighboring countries, and the state of Israel was established. Subsequent conflicts, such as the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and the Six-Day War in 1967, further reshaped the region's political landscape and boundaries. Since 1967, Israel has occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, leading to significant tension, violence, and human rights violations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Numerous peace attempts, such as the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, aimed at providing a framework for a negotiated resolution based on a two-state solution, have been made to end the war. However, challenges related to borders, security, settlements, and Jerusalem's status have consistently hindered peace talks. The historical viewpoint underscores the deeply entrenched nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, shaped by political, religious, and historical forces spanning millennia. To address the complexity of the conflict and work towards a just and peaceful settlement that respects the liberties and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians, a thorough understanding of this history is essential.


Since 1967, Israel has occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, leading to significant tension, violence, and human rights violations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Theological Analysis of the Palestine Issue 
For Muslims worldwide, the Palestine issue holds profound religious significance as it is based on the Quran and Hadith (the sayings and customs of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH). Muslims consider Jerusalem, or Al-Quds, as one of the holiest places in Islam, with Palestine carrying significant spiritual and historical importance. Surah Al-Isra highlights Jerusalem's sanctity from a Quranic perspective, referring to it as "the farthest mosque" (Al-Masjid al-Aqsa), signifying its spiritual significance to Muslims. Its significance in Islamic history is further highlighted by the Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) Night Journey (Isra), in which he ascended to the skies from the Al-Aqsa Mosque:



“Glory be to the One Who took His servant ‘Muhammad’ by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose surroundings We have blessed, so that We may show him some of Our signs. Indeed, He alone is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” (17:1)
The passage above describes the Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) nighttime ascension from Makkah to Jerusalem and the skies. This sacred journey is referred to as Al-Isra Al-Miraaj. This verse was given by Allah to the Muslims as proof that the Prophet (PBUH), as he reported upon his return from his voyage, had visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Allah makes it clear that the entire area surrounding the Masjid Al-Aqsa is regarded as sacred and fortunate. Moreover, Muslims acknowledge that Jesus (Isa) and Moses (Musa), two highly respected characters in Islam, are Prophets. As a result, Judaism and Christianity have historical and religious ties to Palestine, in addition to the Islamic heritage.
"In every square inch of Al-Quds (Jerusalem), a Prophet has prayed, and an Angel has stood." 
—Prophet Muhammad, PBUH (Tirmidhi, Ahmad)
In terms of Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is known to have emphasized the significance of Jerusalem and the territory of Palestine in several of his sayings. The Prophet Muhammad PBUH said to his followers, "You should not go on a special trip to visit any other place besides the following three mosques if you want to get a better reward: the Sacred Masjid of Makkah (Ka'bah), this Masjid of mine (the Prophet's Masjid in Madinah), and Masjid Al-Aqsa (of Jerusalem)."
It is clear from this hadith that Masjid Al-Aqsa has a remarkably high status, to the extent that our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) encouraged us to make a special journey to visit it. The Prophet (PBUH) also acknowledged that visiting these three holy sites is a difficult journey, characterizing it as a "special journey." From this, we can infer that even though the journey may be challenging, Allah will reward us beyond our wildest expectations! To bolster this, the Prophet (PBUH) mentioned in another hadith:
"A person's prayer in his house is worth one prayer; in the Masjid of his people, it is worth 27 prayers; in the Masjid that observes Friday prayers, it is worth 500 prayers; in Masjid Al-Aqsa, or the Al-Aqsa Sanctuary, it is worth 5,000 prayers; in my Masjid, the Prophet's Masjid in Madinah, it is worth 50,000 prayers; and in the Sacred Masjid (Ka'bah), there are 100,000 prayers.”
Prophet (PBUH) was the last prophet to pray while facing both Masjid Al Aqsa and Masjid Al Haram. During the early days of Islam, the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions would issue prayers in the direction of Al Aqsa, which was subsequently altered to the Ka’bah. As Al-Bara (RA) related,
“We prayed towards Bait Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) with the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) for sixteen or seventeen months before the Qibla changed”. 
—Abu Dawud, Bukhari, and Muslim.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) expressed His love for Al-Aqsa in many ways.
Maymunah Bint Sa'd (RA) says that she asked the Prophet (PBUH), "If one of us cannot visit it, what should we do?" and he said, "If you cannot go for prayer, then send some oil to be used for its lamps; it will be as if he has prayed in it."
"O Messenger of Allah, inform us about Bayt Al-Maqdis (Al Aqsa compound)".
—Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah
In addition, some hadiths foretell the liberation of Jerusalem and the arrival of Muslims in the city. For example, one Hadith states that the Last Hour will not come until the Romans arrive in Dabiq or al-A'maq. The best troops on earth at that time will form an army and come from Medina (to confront them)." Many Muslims understand this prophecy to allude to the ultimate liberation of Jerusalem from oppression.
Islamic teachings, which emphasize the sanctity of Jerusalem and the significance of the land to Muslims, are intricately linked to the religious perspective on the Palestine issue. The Muslim worldview concerning the Palestinian struggle for justice and liberation is informed by the spiritual and historical context provided in the Quran and Hadith.
Humanitarian Discourse Analysis of the Palestine Issue 
Regarding the Palestine conflict, the humanitarian viewpoint emphasizes the critical need to protect human rights, advance peace, and alleviate the suffering of all people, regardless of their race or religion. The humanitarian catastrophe in the region has garnered the attention of numerous international organizations, including the UN, which has urged immediate action to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people.
Preserving civilian lives during times of conflict is a fundamental principle of international law, repeatedly emphasized by the UN as essential to observe. The prolonged occupation, settlement growth, blockade of Gaza, and movement restrictions in the West Bank have led to human rights breaches, including arbitrary arrests and displacement.
UN resolutions that uphold the idea of "land for peace" and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and possessions include Security Council Resolution 242 and General Assembly Resolution 194. These resolutions provide a foundation for an equitable and long-lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on respect for human rights and international law.
International humanitarian organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), have also documented the effects of violence on civilians and provided assistance to those in need. They advocate for people's protection and deliver medical care and humanitarian relief in accordance with international humanitarian law.
The humanitarian viewpoint on the Palestine issue places a strong emphasis on the necessity of upholding human rights, advancing peace, and addressing the needs of those not directly involved in the conflict. International organizations, such as the UN and various humanitarian agencies, are crucial in promoting civilian protection and aiding in the development of a fair and enduring resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
New Beginnings and Way Forward
This research has produced important findings by thoroughly examining the historical, religious, and humanitarian aspects of the Palestine issue. The Palestinian story is a fabric of varied experiences, characterized by conquests, colonization, and shifting boundaries, from its ancient beginnings to its contemporary manifestations.
Regarding religion, Palestine, particularly Jerusalem, holds particular significance for Muslims, Christians, and Jews, underscoring the deep spiritual heritage of the region. However, the humanitarian toll of the conflict is immense, with generations of Palestinians enduring trauma, poverty, and displacement amidst ongoing occupation and violence.
To address the underlying causes of this ongoing conflict and bring it to an end, we must prioritize the rights and welfare of all parties involved. Firstly, promoting a fair and long-term peace necessitates adherence to international law and UN resolutions, which include the recognition of Palestinian statehood. Secondly, developing mutual trust and understanding requires substantive talks and negotiations that respect the hopes and dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Further actions are also necessary to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Palestine. Some of these actions include easing the siege on Gaza, guaranteeing access to essential services, and promoting economic growth. Lastly, bridging gaps and promoting a common vision of peace and cohabitation can be achieved by fostering compassion and tolerance through education, interfaith discussion, and cultural exchange.
In summary, a thorough and multi-dimensional strategy is required to resolve the Palestine issue, one that considers religious sensitivities, humanitarian considerations, and historical grievances. The implementation of these recommendations and the active involvement of all relevant parties in an authentic effort to achieve peace, justice, and reconciliation will pave the way for a more promising future for both the Israeli and Palestinian populations.


The writer holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Thought and Culture from the Department of Islamic Thought and Culture, National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad, Pakistan. Additionally, the writer is a visiting faculty member at Air University, Islamabad, Pakistan.
Email: [email protected] 


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Dr. Muhammad Umar Riaz Abbasi

The writer holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Thought and Culture from the Department of Islamic Thought and Culture, National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad, Pakistan. Additionally, the writer is a visiting faculty member at Air University, Islamabad, Pakistan. Email: [email protected]

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