It was previously called Iliya’.
Dhul Isba’ said, “O Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam), if we live after you are deceased, where do you order us to go?” The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Go to Jerusalem, perhaps Allah will give you offspring that go back and forth to it.” And in another wording, “Perhaps you will have children who go to that mosque and come from it.” And in another wording, “Perhaps you will have children to go to that mosque and come.” (Narrated by Ibn Zinjawih and Ibn Nafi’, Al-Tabarani in Al-Kabir, and by Ibn Al-Najjar)
Abu Dhar Al-Ghiffari said, “Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam), which is better, the prayers in this mosque of yours or the prayers in (the mosque) of Jerusalem?” The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Prayers in my mosque are better than four prayers in Jerusalem, though it is the best place to pray, for it is the land of Resurrection. A time will come when if a man can see Jerusalem through the loop with which he hangs his whip (i.e. it is very close to him), it will be better for him than all the pleasures of this world.”
Maimunah, the servant of the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam), said, “Tell us about Jerusalem, O Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam)!” He (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “The land of Resurrection and gathering. Go to it and pray there, for prayers in it equal a thousand prayers in any other mosque.” Maimunah asked, “What if one can’t go to it?” The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) answered her, “The one who cannot go to it can dedicate lamp oil to be lit in it, for the one who donates is like the one who prays.” (Narrated by Abu Dawud, Imam Ahmad, and Ibn Zinjawih from Maimunah.)
Dispatching the Army to Jerusalem
Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn Al-Jarrah sent seven armies, each headed by a general. He assigned five thousand horsemen to each and a banner for each leader. Thus, the total army was thirty-five thousand cavalry. The generals were Khalid ibn AlWalid, Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan, Shurahbil ibn Hasanah, Al-Mirqal ibn Hashim ibn ‘Utbah ibn Abi Waqqas, Qais ibn Hubairah Al-Muradi, Al-Musaiab ibn Najiyah Al-Fazazi and ‘Urwah ibn Muhalhil ibn Zaid Al-Khail.
The cavalrymen of Shurahbil were from Yemen. Abu ‘Ubaidah ordered Al-Mirqal ibn Hashim to go to the fort and he went by himself.
The seven generals each marched on his own. Every day, a general marched with his army scheming to terrify and puzzle the enemy. The first to advance with the banner was Khalid ibn Al-Walid, who cried, “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!” when he attacked.
The army of Khalid raised their voices crying, “Allahu Akbar!” When the people of Jerusalem heard the tumult of their voices, they were terrified and puzzled. They mounted the walls of the city to look and, discovering that the Muslims were small in number, they underestimated and belittled them. The Byzantines thought that these were all the Muslims. Khalid and his army were camping near Ariha.
On the second day, Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan proceeded. On the third day Shurahbil ibn Hasanah advanced, followed on the fourth day by Al-Mirqal ibn Hashim. The fifth day witnessed the coming of AI-Musaib ibn Najiyah, and on the sixth came Qais ibn Hubairah. Finally, on the seventh day came Urwah ibn Al-Muhalhil ibn Zaid Al-Khail from the road to Ramlah.
The armies camped at Jerusalem for three days without any fight or assault. The Muslims did not see or talk to any of the Byzantines. However, the citizens fortified their walls with mangonels, swords, leather shields and armor of the best kinds. Al-Musaib ibn Najiyah reported: We never before went to any city of Al-Sham and saw such finery and such arrangements like those of Jerusalem. We never surrounded any people but they were pleading to us because of the terror and horror that they felt except those people of Jerusalem, for we camped near them for three days, yet none of them talked to us or moved.”
On the fourth day one of the Bedouins said to Shurahbil ibn Hasanah, “O general! Those people seem as if they are deaf or dumb or blind. Let’s march towards them.”
When it was the fifth day, after the Muslims had performed the Fajr Prayer, the first general to mount his horse to talk to the people of Jerusalem was Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan. He drew his sword and approached their wall. He took a translator with him to interpret their speech. Yazid stood facing their wall so that they could hear him talking, but they were silent when he said to his translator, “Tell them, the leader of the Arabs tells you: What about answering the call to Islam and to the word of faith ‘there is no God but Allah and Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) is the Messenger of Allah.’ On that account Allah will pardon your previous sins and you will thus save your souls. If you refuse and do not comply, reconcile with us on behalf of your city, as did other people than you, who were more powerful than you. If you refuse both alternatives, you will be doomed to ruin and Hell will be your dwelling.”
The translator advanced and said to them, “This general calls you to one of three choices: entering Islam, jizyah or war.” One of the priests replied, “We will not quit the religion of honor. Killing us is better to us than this.”
Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan returned to the other generals of the army and told them the priest’s answer, then said, “What causes us to wait?”
They said, “Abu `Ubaidah did not order us to attack or fight those people. We will write to the ‘Guardian of the Nation’ Abu ‘Ubaidah.” So Yazid wrote to him about the reply of the people, asking him what the next step was.
Abu ‘Ubaidah replied ordering them to advance and telling them that he would follow them soon after that letter.
When the generals read the message of Abu ‘Ubaidah, they were pleased, hopeful and waited for the morning. Each one of them wanted the opening to be done by his own hands and enjoy praying in Jerusalem and looking at the relics of the prophets (peace be upon them all). When Fajr was announced, the people performed the prayers and Yazid recited Allah’s words that mean,
“O my people, enter the Sacred Land which Allah has destined for you to enter, and do not turn back or you will be losers.” (Surah al-Ma’idah, 5 : 21)
When the prayers were done they cried “To arms! To arms! Horses of Allah, ride!”
The first to launch the attack were the men of Himyar and Yemen. The Muslims fought resolutely as if they were fearless lions. The people of Jerusalem observed the Muslims excited to fight them, so they shot them with arrows, which the Muslims caught on their leather shields. The fighting lasted from morning till sunset. When the sun set, the two parties retreated to their former positions and the Muslims prayed the prayers that they had missed during the day.
The Arrival of Abu Ubaidah
The Muslims spent the night restoring their condition, eating and taking some sleep and rest. In the morning, the archers advanced and showered arrows on the people of Jerusalem while praising Allah and pleading to Him. The battle continued this way for several days, and on the eleventh day, Abu `Ubaidah arrived with his troops, and his standard was held by his servant Salim. The cavalrymen surrounded him from all sides with their banners. The women and money came as well. The people were jubilant and their excitement in praising and thanking Allah terrified the citizens of Jerusalem. Patriarch Sophronius went to the wall that was in the direction from which Abu ‘Ubaidah had come, but the wall was so high. A man who accompanied the patriarch cried out, “O you Muslims! Cease the fight so that we can ask you and clarify some issues.”
The Muslims ceased. A man spoke to them in good Arabic, “You had better know that the characteristics of the man who will open this city of ours -Jerusalem -and all of our lands are known to us. If we find these characteristics in your general, we will surrender to you and stop fighting. Otherwise, we will never surrender and we will resume the fight.”
On hearing this, some of the Muslims went to Abu ‘Ubaidah and told him what they heard. Abu ‘Ubaidah approached the Byzantines. Patriarch Sophronius looked at him and said, “He is not the man meant.” Then he looked at his army and cried, “Rejoice and fight for the sake of your city, religion and women!” Then they resumed the battle. Sophronius returned without speaking even a single word to Abu ‘Ubaidah. The Muslims were harsh in their fight against the Byzantines.
The battle was fierce day after day till four whole months passed away. The Muslims endured very cold weather, snow and heavy rain. When the people of Jerusalem realized how firmly the Muslims encircled them, they went to Patriarch Sophronius and told him of their hardships and asked him to negotiate with the Muslims and learn their demands.
The patriarch climbed the wall with them, overlooking the place where Abu ‘Ubaidah was. One of the Byzantines cried, “O you Arabs! The Patriarch of Christianity and the executor of its laws have come to talk to you, so let your leader come forward.” Abu ‘Ubaidah was told what they said and replied, “I will go to him.”
He then went with some generals, fellows and a. translator and stood by the patriarch. The Byzantine translator said, “What is it that you want from us in such a holy city that the one who schemes against it will expose himself to God’s wrath?”
Abu ‘Ubaidah said, “Yes, it is an honorable city from which our Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) rose to Heaven. We deserve it more than you do, and we will fight you till Allah helps us to dominate it, as He did to other cities.”
The patriarch asked, “What do you want from us?”
Abu ‘Ubaidah answered, “One of three: first, to admit that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) is His servant and messenger. If you declare so, you will enjoy the rights we have and be liable to judgment as we are.”
“It is a great declaration and we would utter it except that we do not believe that your Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam)is a messenger. This choice we will not select. What is the second one?”
“You reconcile with us on behalf of your city, paying jizyah whether you like it or not, as other people of Al-Sham did.”
“It is recorded in our book that the one who will open this city, Jerusalem, is a Companion of Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) called ‘Umar known as Al-Faruq, who distinguishes between right and falsehood. He is known to be a firm man who does not fear the blame of anyone in things concerning Allah. We, however, do not see his characteristics among you.”
When Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn Al-Jarrah heard this, he smiled and said, “We have opened the city by the Lord of Ka’bah.” Then he drew nearer and asked, “Can you recognize the man if you see him?”
The patriarch answered, “Certainly, how can I mistake him while I have full knowledge about his merit, life and office?
Abu ‘Ubaidah said, “He is our caliph and the Companion of our Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam). I swear to this by the name of Allah.”
“If it is as you say, you have thus realized the truthfulness of our talk. Save our blood and send to your caliph to come. If we see him and recognize him, and ascertain his characteristics and merits, we will open the city for him without any troubles or sorrow and we will pay jizyah.”
“I would prefer to fight, or shall we cease the battle?”
“O you Arabs! Can’t you stop your harshness? How can we tell you that we believe you and demand a cessation of fighting and you aim at nothing but fighting?”
Abu `Ubaidah said, “Yes, because this is more worthy to us than life, for it is the way by which we ask for the pardon and forgiveness of our Lord.” He then ordered the fight against the people of Jerusalem to cease and the patriarch left.
Abu Ubaidah’s Message to Umar
Abu ‘Ubaidah wrote a message to ‘Umar, the Commander of the Faithful:
In the name of Allah the Most Merciful, the Ever Merciful. To the servant of Allah, the Commander of the Faithful ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab from the general assigned by him, Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn Al-Jarrah. Peace be on you. I thank Allah the One and Only God and pray for His Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam). It is worth mentioning Commander of the Faithful, that we have remained four months fighting against the people of Jerusalem. Every day we attacked them and they attacked us. On that very day on which I wrote this letter, their patriarch, whom they highly regard, came to us and said that they have in their books that none will open their city except the Companion of our Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) who is called ‘Umar. He added that he knows his characteristics and description, which are recorded in their books. He asked us to stop the bloodshed. So, come to us yourself and rescue us. May Allah open this city to us by your own hands.
He signed and sealed the message and then Maisarah ibn Masruq Al-Abasi took it to deliver it to ‘Umar.
The Caliph consults His Companions
When ‘Umar received Abu ‘Ubaidah’s message, he consulted his companions. ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan said, “Commander of the Faithful, do not go to Al-Sham. I suggest resuming the battle.”
‘Ali ibn Abi Talib held the opposite view. “Commander of the Faithful, go, and may you be accompanied by grace and blessings.”
‘Umar took `Ali’ s advice and ordered the Muslims to march with him. ‘Umar then went to the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam)’s mosque and prayed four rak’ahs, then he went to the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam)’s grave and greeted him and Abu Bakr. He then assigned `Ali to be his successor in Madinah.
Afterwards, ‘Umar left Madinah seen off by its people. He rode a red camel, and on its back were two sacks, one containing fine flour and the other containing dates. In front of ‘Umar was a waterskin and behind him a bag containing some bread.
‘Umar headed towards Jerusalem. Whenever he rested somewhere, he did not leave it unless he prayed Fajr. When he finished he looked at the Muslims and said, “All praise to Allah Who dignified us through Islam and honored us through faith and distinguished us by His Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam). He the Almighty led us to guidance after error, united us on the word of piety though we had been enemies, removed any hatred from our hearts, granted us victory over our enemy, gave us sovereignty in our land, and made us brothers, loving and caring about each other. So thank Allah, you servants of Allah, for these countless blessings and manifest gifts, for Allah multiplies for those desirous who strive more for what He has and he completes His blessings on those who thank Him.”
‘Umar Arrives at AI-Sham
When Abu ‘Ubaidah knew that ‘Umar was approaching Al-Sham, he went to welcome him together with some of the Muhajirun and Ansar. When they reached ‘Umar, he looked at Abu ‘Ubaidah, who was dressed in his armor, with a garment made of silk and cotton and holding his bow while riding his camel. When they saw each other, they stopped their camels, dismounted and approached each other. Abu `Ubaidah stretched out his hand to sake hands with `Umar, then they embraced each other. The Muslims then came one after the other to greet ‘Umar, then they all rode their camels and horses. ‘Umar and Abu ‘Ubaidah went ahead talking together till they reached Jerusalem. When they arrived there, ‘Umar led the Muslims in the Fajr Prayer.
‘Umar’s Humbleness and Austerity
‘Umar rode his camel wearing a garment with fourteen patches, some of which were of skin. The Muslims said to him, “Commander of the Faithful, what about riding a horse instead of your camel and wearing good white clothes instead of these patched ones?” ‘Umar accepted the suggestion and wore white clothes. Zubair ibn Al-`Awwam reported: I perceived the clothes were Egyptian and were worth fifteen dirhams.
‘Umar put on his shoulder a linen scarf that was neither new nor old. A gray work horse that had once belonged to the Byzantines was brought to him. When ‘Umar rode it, the horse started to sway with ‘Umar on its back. Seeing this, ‘Umar dismounted quickly saying, “Raise me from my fall! May Allah raise you from your falls on the Day of Resurrection, for your leader was about to be ruined by the vanity and conceit that penetrated his heart. I heard Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) say, ‘He shall not enter Paradise who has pride in his heart that weighs even a speck of a dust. “(Narrated by Muslim from Ibn Mas’ud.) ‘Umar then hit the horse’s face and said, “May the one who taught you such vanity be a failure.” Then he added, “Your white garment and the swaying horse could have ruined me.”
‘Umar took off the white garment and put on again his patched and shabby clothes. He then headed towards ‘Aqaba to leave from there to Jerusalem.
The Commander of the Faithful ‘Umar Al-Faruq encountered a group the Muslims wearing silk garments. He ordered dust to be thrown in their faces and their garments to be tom off. He then proceeded till he, reached Jerusalem. He looked at it and said, “Allahu Akbar! O Allah, let this opening be an easy one and grant us victory and sovereignty from You.”
Then he went on and was met by the tribes, chiefs and others till he rested in the place where Abu ‘Ubaidah had once camped. A woolen tent was pitched for him, wherein he sat on the dusty ground, then stood and prayed four rak’ahs.
‘Umar Goes to Meet the Patriarch
When the Commander of the Faithful reached Jerusalem, the Muslims cried out loudly, “There is no god but Allah! Allahu Akbar!” The clamor was heard by the people of Jerusalem. The patriarch exclaimed, “What is the cause of this tumult?” He was answered, “‘Umar, the Commander of the Faithful has come from Madinah to Jerusalem.”
The next day, ‘Umar led the Muslims in the Fajr Prayer and then said to Abu ‘Ubaidah, “Proceed to the people and inform them of my arrival.”
Abu `Ubaidah advanced and cried to them, “O people of this city! Our leader has come, so what will you do regarding your claims?”
The patriarch left his church with a crowd, mounted the wall and looked at Abu ‘Ubaidah, who said, “The Commander of the Faithful, who has no leader above him, has come.” The patriarch asked to see him.
‘Umar was determined to go but was stopped by his companions who said, “Commander of the Faithful, will you go alone by yourself without any arms except this patched attire? We are worried about you lest they should betray or deceive and harm you.”
‘Umar replied with the Qur’anic verse meaning
“Say, Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has preordained for us, He is our Protector, in Allah let the believers put all their trust.” (Surah Tawbah, 9 : 51)
The Companion of Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) ibn `Abdullah
‘Umar’s camel was brought to him and he mounted it dressed in his patched garment. This was due to his humbleness (May Allah be pleased with him) for he was capable of wearing the best and richest attire and to ride the best sort of horses and to be adorned with the most exclusive ornaments. However, he abstained from all this, taking as his example the honorable Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) who led to all goodness. Again we say that ‘Umar had his only patched garment and he bound his head with a piece of a cotton cloth. No one accompanied him but Abu ‘Ubaidah, who walked by him till ‘Umar Al-Faruq approached the wall and stood by it.
The patriarch looked at him and recognized him to be the one meant, then he said to the people of Jerusalem, “Conclude an agreement and treaty with him, for truly, this is the Companion of Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) ibn ‘Abdullah.” Consequently, they opened the door and hurried towards ‘Umar, asking him for an agreement of safety.
On seeing this, ‘Umar praised Allah, humbled himself to Him and bowed down on the saddle of his camel as much as its hump allowed him. Then he dismounted and said to them, “Go back to your city and you will be given a treaty of security if you ask for it and agree to pay jizyah.” The people returned to their city without closing its gates. ‘Umar returned to his troops and spent the night among them.
‘Umar ibn AI-Khattab in Jerusalem
On entering Jerusalem, ‘Umar said, “Here I am, Allah, at Your service!” (Narrated by Ibn Rahwih and Al-Baihaqi from `Abbad ibn `Abdullah ibn Al-Zubair)
The next day, ‘Umar entered Jerusalem fearing nobody and nothing. It was Monday and he stayed in Iliya’ till he prayed Jum’ah Prayers. Till Friday he designated a mihrab [to show the direction of the Qiblah] at the eastern side, which is the place of his mosque. He prayed with his companions the Jum’ah Prayer, and the Muslims did not take anything of the possessions of the natives. ‘Umar stayed in Jerusalem for ten days.
Afterwards, he departed to Madinah, the city of Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam), after having concluded a treaty with Jerusalem agreeing to pay jizyah. He marched with the troops that accompanied him to Jabiyah, where he stayed for some time. He divided Al-Sham into two zones. Abu ‘Ubaidah was in charge of the zone from Huran to Halab and what followed it. He ordered him to advance towards Halab and to fight its people till Allah granted him victory and allowed him to open it. Palestine, Jerusalem and the coasts were under Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan.
He concluded the treaty with “The witnesses to this are Khalid ibn Al-Walid, ‘Amr ibn Al-‘As, ‘Abdul Rahman ibn ‘Auf and Mu’awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan. Registered and done in the fifteenth year of Hijrah.”
Afterwards ‘Umar asked Ka’b Al-Akbar, the chief Rabbi, “Where do you think I can pray?”
He answered him, “If you would take my word, pray behind the dome; thus you will have all Jerusalem in front of you.”
“Umar said, “You have surpassed the Jews.
No, I will pray where the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) prayed.”
He advanced towards the Qiblah and prayed. Then he spread his garment and collected the garbage in it and the people followed him. (Narrated by Imam Ahmad in Al-Diya ‘ Al-Maqdisi in the selection from ‘Ubaid ibn Adam.)
Taken from the book : THE ISLAMIC OPENINGS