The traditional history of Islam’s Ka’ba and Judaism’s Jerusalem’s Temple have alternately inspired millions of monotheists. Creatively focusing on the peaceful religious combination of both locations can inspire believers to work for miracles of peace.

Structures come and go, but when Allah chooses to consecrate a site to be holy; it becomes holy forever. For polytheists around the world who worshipped many different natural objects there were thousands of holy places: trees, mountains, rivers etc. Sometimes the polytheist worshippers built a building or a structure on or near their holy place, but often they did not.

For the monotheist descendants of Ishmael and Isaac things were different. Abraham and his two sons were commanded to go to an already sacred site (from the age of Adam) and do something special there. For Prophet Abraham and Prophet Ismael it was jointly rebuilding a sacred structure: the Ka’ba.

For Abraham and Isaac a generation later, it was going to a sacred place and passing the test of making a joint offering as directly commanded by God. In this way, two ancient, primordial, holy places became firmly connected to two future world wide religious communities. Allah’s plan was for these two holy sanctuaries to become a pair of spiritual lungs for the whole world’s inspiration.

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Abu Dhar narrated: I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Which mosque was first built on the surface of the earth?” He said, “Al-Masjid-ul-Haram (in Mecca).” I said, “Which was built next?” He replied “The mosque of Al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem).” I said, “What was the period of construction between the two?” He said, “Forty years.”(al-Bukhari: Vol. 4, Book 55, Hadith #585)

In the two to three centuries following Prophet Ishmael’s death, the Ka’ba in Mecca became filled with idols. During the same time the descendants of Prophet Jacob lived in Egypt far away from Jerusalem. When Prophets Moses and Aaron led the Jewish People out of bondage in Egypt; God instructed Moses about the Tent of Meeting—the Tabernacle, which is referred to almost 130 times in the Hebrew Bible: “Then have them (the Jewish People) make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell (Sakina) among them.” (Exodus 25:8)

A precursor to the temple in Jerusalem, the tabernacle tent was a movable place of worship for Banu Israel. It was where God met with Prophet Moses and Prophet Aaron to reveal His will. When the Israelites camped in the desert, the tabernacle tent was situated in the center of the camp, with the 12 tribes encamped around it, and the Sakina-Shekeenah within it.

The entire compound of the tabernacle would fill nearly half the area of a football or soccer field. Inside the Tent of Meeting Tabernacle was the Ark wherein the Covenant was found. The outer cloth walls of the tabernacle tent were similar to the cloth that enwraps the Ka’ba.

The Holy Quran states, “And their Prophet said to them: “A Sign of his authority is that there shall come to you the Ark (Tabut), and in it Sakina with (a Covenant) therein of security from your Lord, and the relics left by the family of Moses and the family of Aaron, carried by angels. In this is a symbol for you if you indeed have faith” (2.248).

The ark is referred to as ‘Tabut’ and the Covenant as ‘Sakina’, i.e. Tabut Sakina (Ark of the Covenant) in (Qur’an 2.248) and Sakina itself as ‘the tranquility of God’s presence’ in (Qur’an 9:26, 40 and 48:26).

God communicated with Moses “from between the two cherubim” on the Ark’s sides. “You shall put the mercy seat cover on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony (inscribed tablets) which I will give to you. There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat cover, from between the two cherubim on the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all the commandments I shall give you for Banu Israel.” (Exodus 25:21-2)

The Ark of the Covenant (Hebrew: אָרוֹן הַבְּרִית Aron Habrit), also known as the Ark of the Testimony, was a chest containing the Tablets of Stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. The Ark may also have contained Aaron’s staff, and a jar of manna; however, the latest historical book in the Hebrew Bible states: “There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt”. (2 Chronicles 5: 10)

Once Banu Israel was firmly established in the Land of Israel: King (David) said to Nathan the prophet, “I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.” (2 Samuel 7:2 tenth century BCE)

But David the warrior did not build it, his son Prophet Solomon did: “You know that David my father was unable to build a house for the Name of the LORD his God because of the wars which surrounded him, until the LORD put them (David’s enemies) under his feet.” (1 Kings 5:3 sixth century BCE)

Prophet David’s desire to house the Ark of the Covenant in a more magnificent building than his own palace, is replaced in later accounts by a desire to build a house for the Name of the LORD God of Israel. Why?

Pagan temples always housed a large statue of the God or Goddess that the temple was dedicated to, often with several additional statues or paintings of associated deities. The Jerusalem temple had only items from Moses and Aaron, like the ‘Ark (Tabut), and in it Sakina with (a Covenant) therein of security from your Lord’ and even these were removed later.

The Jerusalem Temple was now physically empty; and yet it was filled spiritually with the spirit of praise for Allah’s name. Then in the year 70 CE Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans; a great tragedy for the Jews; but of little concern to the new Christians who were told by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:19 “Do you not know that your bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God.”

And Hebrews 3:6 added: “Jesus as the Son is faithful over God’s house. And we are His house, if we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope of which we boast.” Yet the old city of Jerusalem and several sites in Israel still remain sacred for hundreds of thousands of Christians visitors.

For over 500 years both lungs of spiritual inspiration from the two sacred sites of prayer were despoiled and desecrated; the Ka’ba spiritually desecrated by idols, and the Bait ul Muqaddas/Beit HaMiqdash physically despoiled by the Romans.

Then, exactly 500 years after the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed, Prophet Muhammad was born, and shortly before his death he purified the Ka’ba, which has remained idol free to this very day, although it has been physically rebuilt many times.

Now there are two holy sites; one an old city of pilgrimage with an empty Jewish space next to a Muslim shrine, and the other a primordial holy site for Islamic pilgrimage, long emptied of its idols; which have alternately provided spiritual energy for the world. Someday they will finally and simultaneously become a pair of spiritual lungs from the two holy sites for this world’s spiritual revival.

Then all those, both near and far, who revere their site as a standard for the world, and share it in love with everyone else who reveres it, will do, with God’s help, as Abraham requested: “Make this a land of Peace, and provide its people with the produce of the land”. [Qur’an 2:126].

And as the Qur’an states: “’Believers, be steadfast in the cause of God and bear witness with justice. Do not let your enmity for others turn you away from justice. Deal justly; that is nearer to being God-fearing.” [Qur’an 5:8]

May Christians, Jews and Muslims overcome the many hate filled actions occurring in today’s world. As the Qur’an states: Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend…” [Qur’an 41:34]

May the one pair of lungs provide the spiritual energy all humans need to live according to God’s peace: ”Say: the Holy Spirit has brought the Revelation from your Lord in Truth, in order to strengthen those who believe, and as guidance and glad tidings to Muslims.” [Qur’an 16:102]

Then all the children of Adam and Abraham will learn to live in Holiness, Peace and Prosperity. And as Prophet Isaiah predicted (19:23-25): “On that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. On that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”

Rabbi Allen S Maller

Allen S. Maller was the rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California for 39 years, from 1967 to 2006. Rabbi Maller edited the Tikun series of High Holy Days prayerbooks, used at Temple Akiba and at seven other congregations in California, Nevada and Arizona. Read Full Bio

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