Holy Land

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The phrase The Holy Land (Arabic الأرض المقدسة, al-Arḍ ul-Muqaddasah; Hebrew ארץ הקודש: Standard Hebrew Éreẓ haQodeš, Tiberian Hebrew ʾÉreṣ haqQāḏēš; Latin Terra Sancta) generally refers to Palestine or the Land of Israel. Specifically, it focuses on those areas which hold specific, significant religious importance to three monotheistic traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These areas include, but are not limited to, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Bethlehem, the Western Wall, and the Dome of the Rock.

The Crusades were started on the pretext of recovering the Holy Land. More recently, the region is at the center of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The term is sometimes used when a speaker wishes to use neither "Israel" nor "Palestine" for the region, since either term can be considered as giving a specific religious group (Jews and Muslims, respectively) the right of ownership.

Its meaning in Islam

The term "Holy Land" is used in the Qur'an:

And (remember) when Moses said unto his people: "O my people! Remember Allah's favour unto you, how He placed among you prophets, and He made you kings, and gave you that (which) He gave not to any (other) of (His) creatures. O my people! Go into the holy land which Allah hath ordained for you. Turn not in flight, for surely ye turn back as losers." (Al-Ma'ida 20-21, Pickthall translation)

It is described in early Islamic tradition by az-Zujaj as "Damascus, Palestine, and a bit of Jordan", and by Qatada as "the Levant (ash-Sham)" and by Maad ibn Jabal as "the area between al-Arish and the Euphrates", and by Ibn Abbas as "the land of Jericho".

It is also sometimes used by Muslims (although not in the Qur'an) in reference to the Hijaz, land of the holy cities Mecca and Medina.

The specific term "al-Quds", "the Holy", is the Arabic name of Jerusalem. The "Holy Valley" (الوادي المقدس) refers in the Qur'an to the valley of Tuwa where Moses is believed to have receive a revelation from God ordering him to go to Pharaoh and warn him to repent (Ta-Ha 12, An-Naziat 16.)

The term is used in the name of the Islamic charity organization Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.


  • Hanan Isachar, Ceremonies in the Holy Land, Melzer 2005
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