Zahra Raja is reporting from Jerusalem for a Columbia University J School trip for a religion class and she attended prayers at Al-Aqsa in East Jerusalem last week and got a surprise. (Note that this is a J School trip that we blasted here a year back as ignoring the occupation; it has greatly improved).
In mosques all across the Muslim world, Friday sermons are concluded with fervent prayers for al-Aqsa, al-Quds and Filasteen, and its people and their liberation. They are met with the loudest ‘Ameen’ responses, some angry tears and at times, spontaneous chanting of slogans. It tops every list of prayer for the “oppressed brothers” in distant lands, followed closely by Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kashmir, and others (as long as these causes stay in the supplications and out of the sermons).
Each Friday, congregants in the historic Qarawiyyin mosque in the Old City of Fez will gather in its courtyard at the end of the service to chant pro-Palestinian slogans; the imam will then emerge to hush the crowd and make a long, impassioned plea to God for the liberation of al-Aqsa, al-Quds, Filasteen and its people, and for a pilgrimage–just once–to the Holy Land.
Shaykh Ismail, as he is commonly known in Jerusalem, [the imam of al-Aqsa, Shaykh Ismail Nawahdeh] ended his sermon with the standard Arabic phrases of prayer, before carrying on to cover new prayer ground: the safety and success of the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Libya and the whole Arab nation.
For decades, the Muslim world in general and the Arab world in particular has responded to every ache, pain and wound of Aqsa, Jerusalem, Palestine and its people with deep concern and words of prayers, at least.
This Friday, the circle of concern was inverted and the direction of prayers reversed. After all, the Arab world has been turned upside down.