Jerusalem

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Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world located east of the Jordan River in the Judean Mountains and is a holy city to three of the world’s major religions- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It has drawn the continuous attention of the world community, especially among the adherents of the monotheistic religions mentioned, due to its religious centrality that has generated its historical and political significance. In order to understand the current outlook of the holy city in Islam, it is imperative to analyse the time period of the First Crusade and the events leading to it. The period of Frankish rule in Jerusalem is not a long one when compared to other periods in the history of the city. It consists of two distinct phases, the first one extending from the conquest of the city in the 11th century at the end of the First Crusade, until the Ayyubid occupation by the end of the 12th century. These two periods of Frankish rule together amount to little more than a hundred years. In terms of the physical changes that took place in this short span of time, we can place Crusader Jerusalem among the important periods in the history of the city. In appearance, the Old City of Jerusalem is still essentially a medieval city. It was the holiest of Christian cities, containing as it still does, a multitude of pilgrimage sites. Jerusalem is situated in the watershed of the Judean Mountains and is located in an area of limestone and chalk that serve as its principal building materials. The present-day Old City, enclosed within its sixteenth-century walls, covers the same area as Crusader Jerusalem. The Siloam Spring is the only natural source of water, a factor that would have limited the development of the region but was resolved by artificial solutions such as open reservoirs and aqueducts. The Frankish conquest of Jerusalem in the last year of the 11th century, with the consequent slaughter and the banishment of the surviving population, almost left the city devoid of inhabitants. Jerusalem became more cosmopolitan in character under the Franks than it had been under the Muslim rule. On the eve of the crusades, just over four centuries had passed since Jerusalem had come under Muslim rule. In A.D. 614, Byzantine Jerusalem had been conquered by the Persians and, although the city was recaptured fourteen years later by the Byzantine emperor, the Persian victory of 614 heralded the approaching end of Christian Jerusalem. Two decades later, the Holy City fell to the Muslim army of Caliph Umar. For the next four and a half centuries Jerusalem was held by a succession of Muslim military governors representing foreign rule: the Umayyads ruling from Damascus until 750, the Abbasids from Baghdad until 878, the Egyptian Tulunid caliphate from 868 to 905 and Fatimid caliphate from 969 until 1073. Under the Muslims, the physical layout of the city was not very different from that of the Byzantine city. The only major change was the eleventh-century reconstruction of the city wall in the south, which left the City of David and Mount Zion outside the walls, and the realignment of the north-west wall somewhat further to the west. However, major alterations were made to the urban infrastructure by the construction of many new and remarkable public buildings. The most important of these were the Dome of the Rock, the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Umayyad palaces south of the Temple Mount. Nasir Khusraw, a Persian poet and philosopher in the 12th century, described Jerusalem as a great city with strong walls, iron gates, high, well-built bazaars and paved streets. The population of Jerusalem in the Fatimid period approached twenty thousand. It was a diverse amalgamation of Jews, various communities of Eastern Christians and Muslims. Several hundred years after the Islamic conquest, the Muslims may still not have been the majority and do not appear to have been entirely in control of the city. Christian and Jewish pilgrimage continued, in spite...
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