For all the campaigners of truth and justice, the day has an extraordinary historical significance, lessons for the present and prophecies for the future. Al-Quds is Arabic for Jerusalem. The day was first observed in Iran in 1979, soon after the Islamic Revolution, as an affirmation of the Ummah’s solidarity with people of Palestine in their struggle for the liberation of Jerusalem.
Since then, Quds Day is observed across the world every year in this holy month to express solidarity and support for Palestine and to condemn and protest Israel’s forceful control over Jerusalem. Ramadan is the month of struggle (jehad e akbar). It is the month that granted Muslims a historic victory in the battle of Badr. It is the month in which Mecca was rid of idol worshipers (mushrikeen). So it seems appropriate that a day of this blessed month is dedicated to the struggle for liberation of Palestine and Al-Quds.
The idea of solidarity rallies on Quds Day was implemented and given shape by Ayatollah Khomeini, who made passionate appeals to Muslims across the world to stand up and speak out for their brethren in Palestine. It is also a day to remember and extend solidarity to people in other occupied territories, subjugated and crushed by strong military powers. “The Quds Day is a universal day. It is not an exclusive day for Quds (Jerusalem). It is a day for the oppressed and the supporters of oppressed to rise and stand up against the arrogant oppressors,” Ayatollah Khomeini said.
In Iran, millions of people march on the streets on this day to protest against Israeli occupation and aggression in East Jerusalem. In August 1979, in solidarity with the people of Palestine, Ayatollah Khomeini declared the liberation of Jerusalem ‘a religious duty of all Muslims’. “I invite Muslims all over the globe to observe the last Friday of Ramadan as Al-Quds Day, and to pledge support and solidarity to the people of Palestine and their legitimate rights. I ask all the Muslims of the world and the Muslim governments to join hands and sever the hand of this usurper and its supporters,” said Ayatollah Khomeini.
During the first Palestinian Intifada in January 1988, the Jerusalem Committee of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) declared that Quds Day be commemorated publicly throughout the Arab world. Their official endorsement of Quds Day was significant as some Arab countries that have strategic ties with Israel found themselves in catch 22 situation. They had to pledge their support to Palestine and at the same time not antagonize the Israelis.
Over the years, Quds Day has become an international public event. Massive rallies are taken out in Britain, Canada, Sweden, Russia, India, Pakistan, United States etc. Events are also held in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza Strip. Organisations like Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine have publicly endorsed Quds Day ceremonies in Palestine.
Last year, on Quds Day, millions of Iranians participated in the rallies, waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans like ‘Death to Israel and America’, ‘Israel Your Days Are Numbered’, ‘Zionism must go’ and ‘From River to the Sea Palestine Will be Free’. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel an ‘insult to humanity’ and said the ‘Zionist black stain’ will soon be washed off. “The Zionist regime and Zionists are a cancerous tumour. Even if one cell is left in one inch of (Palestinian) land, in the future this story (of Israel’s existence) will repeat,” warned the Iranian president, who is soon to be replaced by new President Hassan Rohani.
In Lebanon, where Quds Day is observed on a grand scale every year, Hezbollah Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah in a televised speech on this day last year warned that only a few rockets by Hezbollah could result in massive casualties in Israel. “Rockets are ready and directed at these targets. We will not hesitate to use them, if we have to, at any point in time… Hezbollah cannot destroy Israel but we can transform the lives of millions of Zionists in occupied Palestine into a real hell. We can change the face of Israel,” said Nasrallah.
In Britain, on Quds Day, people march through the streets of London and assemble outside the American embassy. Anti-Zionist Jews and Christians also take active part and speak in these rallies. “We hope and pray for the end of Zionism. It is a curse, it is a cancer,” said Yakov Wsisz, a Jew, at one such rally last year. He was seconded by Stephen Sizer, a senior pastor of the Anglican Christ Church in Surrey. “No country and no people on earth recognize Israeli’s sovereignty over Jerusalem.” In Canada, Quds rally takes place every year at Queen’s Park, participated by people from all spheres of life. In Australia, hundreds of people gather in Hyde Park to observe Quds Day every year.
To start with, there has to be a complete and unconditional withdrawal from all Israeli occupied territories including Jerusalem, acknowledging and facilitating the return of the Palestinians who were forced to leave their land after 1948 Nakba, compensation for the damage of land and property, and ban on the building of new settlements and immediate evacuation of all existing settlements. These excavations, which are also in direct violation of The Hague and Geneva Conventions, threaten Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock and violate the sanctity of the holy Islamic sites.
Hence, it is the duty of all Muslims, and people of conscience, to raise their voice against this naked aggression. Quds Day means standing in solidarity with our brethren in Palestine, and at the same time standing up for our own rights and raising a banner of revolt against the oppressors and occupiers of our land.