Bethlehem is a city a couple of miles (around 10km) south of the Old City of Jerusalem. The place holds significance for Muslims, Christians, and Jews. The word Bethlehem originated from ‘Bayt Lahm’ which is Arabic for ‘House of Meat’.

It is believed by Christians that Prophet Isa (AS)/Jesus was born in the grotto which is currently located in the Church of Nativity, a famous pilgrim spot in Bethlehem. The Quran does not specify the place where Maryam/Mary (AS) gave birth to Prophet Isa (AS). The Quran only mentions a remote place with a date palm tree;

“So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, "Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten." But he called her from below her, "Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream. And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates.” (Quran 19:22-25)

There are several churches in the city but only one mosque in Bethlehem, the Mosque of Umar. Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the 2nd Caliph, visited Bethlehem during his reign. He entered the city peacefully without harming any of the churches or the people in the region. According to Ibn Khaldun, a famous Arab historian:

“Umar ibn Al-Khattab entered the sacred house and came to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He sat inside among its companions until the time of prayer arrived. Umar said to the patriarch, “I want to pray.” The patriarch said, “Here is your place of prayer,” but Umar refrained from doing so and instead he prayed upon the staircase near a door apart from the church. When Umar finished his prayer, he said to the patriarch, “If I prayed inside the church, the Muslims after me would take it and they would say: Umar prayed here.” Umar wrote to them that they should not gather upon the staircase for prayer and they should not announce prayer upon it.”

A mosque has been built on the spot where Umar (RA) prayed. This mosque is known as the Mosque of Umar and is the only singular mosque in the City of Bethlehem.

People from all over the world visit the city to see the grotto where Prophet Isa (AS) is said to have been born. Bethlehem is not only of importance to the Christians but is also a place revered by Muslims because in addition to being a possible birthplace of Isa (AS) it has been under Muslim rule for many years.