Who and What is Holy?

by Dr. M. Amir Ali, Ph.D.

The impact of the western culture has permeated into the religious concepts of the Muslims. One such concept is who and what is holy. The western culture and other pagan cultures use the term "holy" loosely and fallible humans may call anything, any place and anyone "holy". In the understanding of this writer only Allah knows who and what is holy and fallible human beings should not use this term indiscriminately. "Holy" is the translation of the Arabic words derived from the root qaaf daal seen represented by the English letters "QDS". Derived words from the root QDS may be Quds, Al-Quddus, Muqaddas and Muqaddasah. Allah uses these words in the Qur'an as given below:

  • Two times as "Al-Quddus" meaning the Holy, for Himself, as in 59:23 and 62:1. 
  • Four times as "Rooh al-Qudus" meaning the holy spirit, for the angel Jibrayeel, as in 2:87, 2:253, 5:110 and 16:102. 
  • Two times as "Wadi al-Muqaddasi Tuwa" for the holy valley of Tuwa, as in 20:12 and 79:16. 
  • Once as "Al-Ard al-Muqaddasah" for Masjid Al-Aqsa and some land surrounding it, as in 5:21.

Outside of these nine usage there is no tenth use of the term "holy" in the Qur'an. Only Allah knows what and who is holy, therefore, Muslims should refrain from pagan usage of the term. It is, therefore, suggested that the terms, "the Holy Qur'an" and "the Holy Prophet" should be dropped. We will have justification for the use of these terms only if we can find these terms in Arabic, used in the Qur'an or sound Hadith as "Al-Qur'an Al-Muqaddas" and "An-Nabi Al-Muqaddas". You are challenged to find these terms in the Qur'an or sound Hadith literature. They do not exist.

With regards to three “holy” places of Islam, I disagree, because the Qur’an calls only Palestine "holy" or muqaddasah. We have three “harams” but only one holy land. I have never found in the Qur’an or Hadith the word muqaddas being used for Makkah or Madina. By naming three holy places Muslims make their own case for Palestine weak because the world can say that Muslims should keep two and give Jerusalem to the Jews and Christians. If we claim that Palestine is the only holy land for Muslims that makes our claim stronger.


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