A compelling consideration of Jerusalem during the formative period of Islamic civilization


Medieval Jerusalem examines an old question that has recently surfaced and given rise to spirited discussion among Islamic historians and archeologists: what role did a city revered for its holiness play in the unfolding politics of the early Islamic period? Was there an historic moment when the city, holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, may have been considered as the administrative center of a vast Islamic world, as some scholars on early Islam have recently claimed? Medieval Jerusalem also emphasizes the city’s evolution as a revered Islamic religious site comparable to the holy cities Mecca and Medina.

Examining Muslim historiography and religious lore in light of Jewish traditions about the city, Jacob Lassner points out how these reworked Jewish traditions and the imposing monumental Islamic architecture of the city were meant to demonstrate that Islam had superseded Judaism and Christianity as the religion for all monotheists. He interrogates the literary sources of medieval Islamic historiography and their modern interpreters as if they were witnesses in a court of law, and applies the same method for the arguments about the monuments of the city’s material culture, including the great archaeological discoveries along the south wall of the ancient Temple Mount.

This book will be of interest to a broad range of readers given the significance of the city in the current politics of the Near East. It will in part serve as a corrective to narratives of Jerusalem’s past that are currently popular for scholarly and political reasons. 


Jacob Lassner is the Phillip M. and Ethel Klutznick Professor Emeritus of Jewish Civilization in the departments of History and Religion at Northwestern University. A past member of the Institute for Advanced Study among many other honors, he is the author or co-author of eleven books.


"Thoughtful and thought-provoking."
-- Speculum

- Norman A. Stillman, University of Oklahoma, Emeritus

"Lassner’s book is very erudite. ...The intriguing analysis of the many studies that are treated will make this book a very satisfying and stimulating read for people interested in interreligious relations or in the history of medieval Jerusalem. It will also be useful as an instructive tool for students and teachers." - Journal of the American Oriental Society

- Miriam Frenkel

"An impressively informed and informative work of outstanding scholarship, Medieval Jerusalem is a timely analytical and historical study that will be of immense interest and relevance to a broad range of readers..."
---Midwest Book Review

- Midwest Book Review

"This distinguished historian's superb critical reading of old and new sources, with cautious interpretations of old and new theories and supported by an extensive bibliography, is a stimulating and educational read...Essential."
--Choice Reviews

- Choice Reviews Online

"It is wonderfully argued and most convincing."
--Peter Brown, Rollins Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University

- Rollins Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University

"Lassner has bravely chosen to deal head-on with some of the most contentious questions in the study of early Islamic Jerusalem. A sense of generosity flows from these pages, even when he takes issue with specific interpretations."
--Der Islam

- Der Islam

Winner: American Library Association (ALA) 2018 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

- ALA Choice Outstanding Academic Title

"Medieval Jerusalem treats a topic of perennial concern in impressive detail. It will be of definite interest to specialists and advanced graduate students in medieval Islamic history."
--American Historical Review

- American Historical Review

Read: Review of Medieval Jerusalem in Journal of the American Oriental Society Link | 6/17/2021