By Rabbi Allen S.
Maller, New Age Islam
28 December 2016
In the Greek world,
the Jerusalem Temple (Beit HaMikdosh) was well known, while the Ka'ba, the
House of God (Baitullah) in Mecca was not known by name at all. The first Roman
reference to the Baitullah is from Diodorus Siculus, a first century BCE Roman
historian who wrote that in Arabia there was a temple greatly revered by the
According to G. E.
Von Grunebaum, who I studied with at the University of California Los Angeles
in 1959, Mecca was also mentioned by Ptolemy, a second century Alexandrian
mathematician, astronomer, and geographer, “The name he gives it allows us to
identify it as a South Arabian foundation created around a sanctuary.” (G. E.
Von Grunebaum, Classical Islam: A History 600–1258, p. 19)
Yet just seven
centuries later both of these cities and sanctuaries, one almost unknown by the
Romans and the other totally destroyed by the Romans, were destined, throughout
the Middle Ages in both Europe and west Asia, to be viewed as the navel of the
Jerusalem and Mecca
were frequently portrayed by Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the center of
their maps. God willing, someday everyone may see both cities and their
sanctuaries as central to our connection to the One God of Abraham, Ishmael and
Indeed, much of the
folklore about these two holy sites is very similar. The following fable,
transmitted orally in both Arabic and Hebrew for many centuries and finally
written down in several versions in the 19th century, illustrates how these two
holy places can be connected. Some say this happened in the age of Adam or
Noah, and others say in the generation when Abraham was born.
Two brothers who
inherited a ‘valley to hilltop’ farm from their father divided the land in half
so that each one could farm his own section. Over time, the older brother
married and had four children, while the younger brother was still not married.
One year there was very little
rain, and the crop was very meagre. This was at the beginning of a long term
drought that would turn the whole valley into an arid, treeless, desert where
even grain did not grow, and all the springs dried up.
The younger brother
lay awake one night praying and thought: "My brother has a wife and four
children to feed, and I have no children. He needs more grain than I do; especially
now when grain is scarce."
So that night, the
younger brother went to his barn, gathered a large sack of wheat, and left his
wheat in his brother's barn. Then he returned home, feeling pleased with
Earlier that very
same night, the older brother was also lying awake praying for rain when he
thought: "In my old age, my wife and I will have our grown children to
take care of us, as well as grandchildren to enjoy, while my brother may have
no children. He should at least sell more grain from his fields now, so he can
provide for himself in his old age.
So that night, the
older brother also gathered a large sack of wheat, and left it in his brother's
barn, and returned home, feeling pleased with himself.
The next morning, the younger brother, surprised to see the
amount of grain in his barn seemed unchanged, said "I did not take
as much wheat as I thought. Tonight I'll take more."
That same morning,
the older brother, standing in his barn, was thinking the same thoughts.
After night fell, each brother
gathered a greater amount of wheat from his barn and in the dark,
secretly delivered it to his brother's barn.
The next morning, the
brothers were again puzzled and perplexed. "How can I be mistaken?"
each one thought. "There's the same amount of grain here as there was
before. This is impossible! Tonight I'll make no mistake—I'll take two large
The third night, more determined
than ever, each brother gathered two large sacks of wheat from his barn, loaded
them onto a cart, and slowly pulled his cart toward his brother's barn. In the
moonlight, each brother noticed a figure in the distance.
When the two brothers
got closer, each recognized the form of the other and the load he was pulling,
and they both realized what had happened!
Without a word, they
dropped the ropes of their carts, ran to each other and embraced.
God looked down at
the two brothers and smiled, thinking that their love and concern for each
other made their descendants worthy to build and rebuild a holy House in this
valley and on this hill.
When all those, both
near and far, who revere this sacred place as a standard, share it in love with
everyone else who reveres it, then Abraham’s request for Allah to “make this a
land of peace, and provide its people with the produce of the land”. (Qur'an
2:126) will be extended throughout the world; and all the children of Adam,
Noah and Abraham will live in Holiness, Peace and Prosperity.
Jews believe the hill
is Jerusalem. Muslims believe the valley is Mecca.
I believe they are
Maller attended the University of California Los Angeles, majoring in physics.
He studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem his junior year and while
there decided to become a rabbi. He has published more than 200 articles in
more than two dozen journals. He taught in the theology department of Loyola