Inspire #5: between front and back covers

[ by Charles Cameron ]


Okay. When what goes into the opening paragraphs of an editor’s note at the front of a magazine corresponds pretty exactly to what’s on the back cover, you have a sort of conceptual bracket that’s “holding” the rest of the content, and it pays to pay attention.

Here are the first paras of the “Letter from the Editor” that is featured on page 5 of the latest issue of AQAP’s English language magazine, Inspire, immediately after the front cover and index pages:

The cover of this issue is about the Tsunami of change that is sweeping the Arab world. With the removal of the despots, the ummah will speak its voice, and when it does, it will chant: Here we start and in al-Aqsa we’ll meet.The biggest barrier between the mujahidin and freeing al-Aqsa were the tyrant rulers. Now that the friends of America and Israel are being mopped out one after the other, our aspirations are great that the path between us and al-Aqsa is clearing up.

There could be no freeing of Palestine with the presence of the likes of King Abdullah to the East, Hosni Mubarak to the West and al-Saud to the South. Now that Hosni is gone, we heard the Imam of the Friday prayers praying: “O Allah we ask you to allow us to meet in al-Aqsa,” and the millions in Tahrir square roared with one voice: Amin.

Note that this explicitly ties the front cover (“about the Tsunami of change that is sweeping the Arab world”) with the back (“Here we start and in al-Aqsa we’ll meet”), shown here:


[ graphic courtesy of Ibn Siqilli ]

As I’ve noted before, al-Aqsa isn’t just the focal point of the Palestinian / Israeli question, nor it is only the place at which the Prophet alighted from his steed, Buraq, and ascended to receive the divine instructions for prayer in the Miraj — it is also the destination of the Mahdi‘s victorious army in the Khorasan strand of ahadith.

Indeed, it has been suggested that the Pierced Rock of the Dome of the Rock in al-Aqsa is closely related to the Black Stone of the Kaaba. Kanan Makiya, in his part-fictional part-documentary book, The Rock, quotes Charles Matthews‘ translation of Burhan al-Din ibn Firka al-Fazari‘s Kitab Ba’ith al-Nufus ila Ziyarat al-Quds al-Mahrus (The Book of Arousing Souls to Visit Jerusalem’s Holy Walls) from Matthews’ Palestine: Mohammedan Holy Land:

Verily, the Kaaba is in an equivalent position to the Frequented House in the Seventh Heaven, to which the angels of Allah make pilgrimage. And if rocks fell from it, they would have fallen on the place of the Rock of the Temple of Mecca [i.e. the Black Stone]. And indeed, Paradise is in the Seventh Heaven in an equivalent position to the Holy Temple (in Jerusalem) and the Rock; and if a rock had fallen from it, it would have fallen upon the place of the Rock there. And for this case the city is called Urushalim, and Paradise is called Dar al-Salam, the House of Peace.

Indeed, David Roxburgh mentions all these matters, writing in Salma Khadra Jayyusi et al., The city in the Islamic world, vol. 1. p 756:

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