From the Sacred Mosque to the Remote Temple: Sūrat al-Isrāʼ between Text and Commentary

Angelika Neuwirth

in With Reverence for the Word

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780195137279
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849482 | DOI:
From the Sacred Mosque to the Remote Temple: Sūrat al-Isrāʼ between Text and Commentary

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Three honorary titles are assigned to Jerusalem in Islam: It is “the first of the two directions of prayer”, the “second of the two sanctuaries (for temples)”, and the “third [important sacred site] after the two places of pilgrimage”. These three honorifics summarize the ambivalent position of Jerusalem in Islam, and the sequence of the titles marks a process of successive demotions of Jerusalem from its inherited primacy as a central place of monotheistic worship. The problem of the relevance of Jerusalem as the nucleus of significant religious institutions developed in the two older “book religions” is in no way solved. By reconsidering some hadīth evidence, this chapter examines the significance of the initial orientation toward Jerusalem and provides the background of its later abrogation in favor of a qibla toward Mecca. It also discusses the verse Q 17:1 and its exegesis, as well as the corpus of sūra 17 (Q 17:2–111) as a commentary on Q 17:1.

Keywords: Jerusalem; Islam; qibla; Mecca; exegesis; sūra; sanctuaries; pilgrimage; monotheistic worship; hadīth

Chapter.  18704 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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