Voices of Jerusalem: A Professor on the Intellectual Life of the Aqsa Mosque

Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway is a professor of philosophy and Islamic studies at al-Quds University, Jerusalem.

Produced in association with Jerusalem 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from September 26, 2016, through January 8, 2017.

Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway: I do teach at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Quds University. This is Imam al-Ghazali Chair to revive the historical role of the mosque in the teaching that the modern university took over. But circles of learning and scholars existed in these mosques throughout Islamic history.

I spent quite a few years reading Imam al-Ghazali, the Muslim scholar. His works were almost instantly translated into Latin, so his works made it to Europe. And Saint Thomas Aquinas quoted Imam al-Ghazali several times.

He knew also very well that once he arrived, for example, in Jerusalem, there were, and still are, endowed places to the service of scholars—those who basically visit the city without the means to support them. He came, and he lived literally at al-Aqsa Mosque in the room on top of what we call the Golden Gate in English, the Gate of Mercy, the Gate of Repentance in Arabic.

I see how his language is universal. He wanted to attend to the affairs of the heart. The idea is that at one point he doubted his own intentions and his own sincerity. He gave up his position. He distributed his wealth, and he treaded on this spiritual path coming to Jerusalem. And Jerusalem is a must, because it's really one of the three holiest places in Islam. Jerusalem continues to attract Muslims wherever they are.

Of course, Jerusalem has other aspects. There are traders, there are businesses, there are people, families who live here in the Old City. But mostly, Jerusalem is a place of spirituality. Not only al-Aqsa Mosque is there when you enter Lion's Gate, but all these churches that line up north of the alley. And it's basically this beautiful mosaic of the whole city. Through which gate you enter it's a different experience. And I still find it mesmerizing. It's poetic.

Producer and Director: Christopher Noey
Director of Photography: Alex Rappoport
Producer: Kate Farrell
Editor: Stephanie Wuertz
Production Coordinator: Ruthy Lustig-Dassa, A2 Productions Ltd.
Gaffer: Ya'ir Dahan
Sound Recording: Itamar Goldman
Sound Editing: David Raymond
Production Assistants: Kaelan Burkett, Munir Ibrahim, Imad Khuri, Lisa Rifkind
Transcription: Denise Rohlfs
Scholarly Advisors: Barbara Drake Boehm, Melanie Holcomb

Images and photographs courtesy of:
Israel Museum, Jerusalem
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha
The National Library of Israel, Jerusalem

Special thanks to:
Aish HaTorah World Center, Jerusalem
Al-Aqsa Mosque, Awqaf Administration
Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem
Chapel of the Flagellation and Studium Biblicum Franciscanum
Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem
Custodia Terrae Sanctae
East Jerusalem Development Ltd.
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem
Hashimi Hotel
The Holy Lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified
Indian Hospice
The Jerusalem Archaeological Park - Davidson Center
Monastery of the Cross, Jerusalem
Monastery of St. Saviour, Jerusalem
Dr. Yusuf Said Natsheh

© 2016 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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