Thursday, February 23, 2012

The destruction of religious sites in Arabia

Islamic perspectives and possible actions

The Makkah Clock Royal Tower - Second Tallest Building in the World

Compiled by adamslist and edited by Dr Irfan al Alawi of the Islamic Heritage Foundation

The city of Istanbul is among the worlds most popular destinations among Muslims, largely because of the legacy of the Ottoman period and the numerous mosques and other monuments that survive there, through which Muslims can relate to a golden period of Islamic culture. Other popular destinations include Andalucia in southern Spain, where reminders of Muslim rule survive even though it is nearly 500 years since Muslims were forced from the region and cities such as Cairo, Damascus, and Baghdad.

But in all the history of Islam, the period and personages to whom Muslims owe the greatest debt and for whom we have the greatest respect are undoubtedly those of the time of the Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) and the places where he and his Family and Companions lived and worked. Yet those, far from being preserved as an invaluable and irreplaceable cultural resource for Muslims now and in the future, are actually being systematically destroyed by the rulers of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who claim to be Guardians of the Holy Places.

Historical sites already destroyed

These are the sites already destroyed by the Saudis:

1. Jannatul Baqi graveyard in the holy city of Medina: Among the graves and mausoleums which were razed to the ground were those of several of the Prophets (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) wives, his infant son Ibrahim, his daughter Ruqayyah, his grandson Imam Hasan ibn Ali, and his descendants Ali ibn Husain, known as Zain al-Abedin, Muhammad al-Baqir and Jafar al-Sadiq. So too were the graves of numerous companions, including Uthman ibn Affan, the third Khalifah. Today, Jannatul Baqi is no more than an empty space, the significance of which is not even evident to many who visit Madinah.

2. Mosques: The mosque of Fatima Zahra, the Mosque of al-Manaratain; four mosques at the site of the Battle of the Trench in Madinah and the Salman al-Farsi Mosque in Madinah. The kings palace stands on the bones of the Abu-Qubays Masjid.

3. The historical cemetery in Makkah Jannat al-Muallah where rests Khadija, the wife of the Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family), the grave of Aminah bint Wahb, the Prophets (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) mother, bulldozed and set alight in 1998 with gasoline; the graves of Banu Hashim in Makkah and the tombs of Hamzah and other martyrs were demolished at Uhud.

4. The houses where Muhammad (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) is believed to have been born in 570ce, was demolished to make way for the library. The house of Khadijah, the Prophets (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) first wife, and where several of his children were born is now a public lavatory, and the house in Madinah where he lived after the hijrah, have also been destroyed, as has Dar al Arqam, the first meeting place of the pioneering Muslims and the first Islamic school where the Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) taught now hosts the escalators of al Haram Mosque. Abu Bakr As-Siddiqs house which was also demolished is now the Makkah Hilton Hotel.

5. To build the skyscraper city, the authorities dynamited an entire mountain and the Ottoman era Ajyad Fortress that lay on top of it.

Mimar Sinan, the famous Turkish architect who renovated the Haram in the 16th century, was so in awe that he refused to build anything higher than the Kabah. Yet today Saudi developers boast about a multi-million dollar clock, a monstrous wart looming 1,000 metres over the Haram. It seriously begs the question: wheres the spiritual respect, the old-fashioned adhab (respect) towards the sacred environment?

Indeed, the developers have kept quiet for years about the ecological havoc theyve wreaked in the Holy Cities. Sewage now flows into Makkahs oldest cemetery, the Jannat ul-Maala, where Khadijah, the wife of the Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family), lies buried.

Destruction of the geography of the Seerah

Besides the structures materializing memories of the Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) and his Companions, the historical sites of the Sirah have been wiped away. The routes followed by the Muslims to the battlegrounds of Badr and Uhud have also been cleared.

How many pilgrims visiting Makkah nowadays know that developers, deaf to the ears of experts, damaged the well of Zamzam when rock-blasting? The BBC conducted chemical tests on Zamzam last year and discovered that it now contains traces of arsenic.

Historical sites that are under threat

Bayt al-Mawlid

When the Wahabis took Makkah in the 1920s they destroyed the dome on top of the house where the Prophet Mohammed (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) was born. It was then used as a cattle market before being turned into a library after a campaign by Makkan's. There are concerns that the expansion of the Grand Mosque will destroy it once more. The site has never been excavated by archaeologists.

Ottoman and Abasi columns of the Grand Mosque

Slated for demolition as part of the Grand Mosque expansion, these intricately carved columns date back to the 17th century and are the oldest surviving sections of Islam's holiest site. Much to the chagrin of Wahhabis, they are inscribed with the names of the Prophet's companions. Ottoman Makkah is now rapidly disappearing.

Al-Masjid al-Nabawi - The mosque of the Prophet (pbuh)

For many years, hard line Wahhabi clerics have had their sights set on the 15th century green dome that rests above the tomb holding the Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family), Abu Bakr and Umar in Medina. The mosque is regarded as the second holiest site in Islam. Wahhabis, however, believe marked graves are idolatrous. A pamphlet published in 2007 by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, endorsed by Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, stated that "the green dome shall be demolished and the three graves flattened in the Prophet's Masjid". The destruction of the Prophets (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) grave is something beyond the imagination of most Muslims, yet it must be regarded as a very real possibility under the current rulers of the Hijaz. The removal of the iconic Green Dome from over the graves is a preliminary step to this plan.

Jabal al-Nour

A mountain outside Makkah where Mohammed (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) received his first Quranic revelations. The Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) used to spend long periods of time in a cave called Hira. The cave is particularly popular among South Asian pilgrims who have carved steps up to its entrance and adorned the walls with graffiti. Religious hardliners are keen to dissuade pilgrims from congregating there and have mooted the idea of removing the steps and even destroying the mountain altogether. Visiting the mountain, one can find a signpost with a fatwa, The Prophet Muhammed (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) did not permit us to climb on to this hill, not to pray here, not to touch stones, and tie knots on trees

In short, keep away dont get too close to site of the first Quranic revelation, the place that first witnessed the communication between God and the Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) that was to alter the geography of the world.

Islamic Perspectives

Imam Muhammad al Asi (Washington, USA)


Bidat: A negative modification; this term in Islamic jurisprudence refers to additions or subtractions from the Prophets (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) lifestyle pattern

Haram: The sacred Mosque in Makkah, within which is the Kabah

Aqeedah: The belief system that is based upon a firm conviction in all the fundamentals of faith and of the Oneness of God

Tarbiyah: It means "to cause something to develop from stage to stage until reaching its completion (full potentiall)

Salafi: Someone who died within the first four hundred years after the Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family). The Salafi movement advocates a return to a shari'a-minded orthodoxy that would purify Islam from unwarranted accretions, the criteria for judging which would be the Qur'an and hadith

Ayat: A verse of the Holy Quran

Munafiq: A dual loyalist; Muslims who outwardly perform the rituals of Islam but when they are required to honour this Islam with struggle and sacrifice they show inclination towards the anti-Islamic camps, states or powers around

Sahabah: A companion of the Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family)

Shuhadah: A martyr

Jahili: Term used to describe the era that preceded the revelation of the Qur'an, a period of ignorance

Hadith: A verbal or practical precedent of the Prophet Muhammad (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family); whatever the Prophet said, did or decided

Suffice it to say that the Saudi regime has been implementing policies internally and externally that are toxic and detrimental to Islam. Their whole rationalization of destroying or "levelling" Islamic historical sites is their obsession with bid'at. So they explain their destruction of particular grave-sites (adrihah) as a means to prohibit Muslims from worshiping such grave-sites or offering prayers at such places. One of their "scholars" wrote his Ph.D. thesis arguing for the demolition or even the elimination of the Prophet's (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) grave in al-Masjid al-Nabawi as it has become a meeting place for bid'at promoters! With this bid'at phobia they try to justify much of what they do.

Therefore, if you ask them why are you building a clock-tower just adjacent to the Ka''ba, or why are you constructing high-rises next to the Haram , or why have you embarked on a grand construction project that will have a metropolis around the Holy Precinct of the Ka'bah which will make the Ka'bah diminish into insignificance, they will either not answer these questions or they will pepper their response with their defence of bid'at as this is their 'aqeedah and tarbiyah, and whatever else they have in their 'salafi' vocabulary. No ayats, no hadiths.

They are undoing a history that should be cherished and celebrated by all Muslims. If we were to enlist in their "modernistic" drive to change and virtually mutilate the environment of Makkah we would be accomplices to a crime against the Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family), his intimate circle and followers. If bid'ah is what they are afraid of, then combat bid'ah at its source: ignorance and calcified traditions. This bid'at that they talk and write about is in the hearts and minds of some individuals not in the grave-sites of Sufis, or in the house of Khadijah the Prophet's wife, or in the cemetery of Al-Baqi' where the famous companions of the Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) are buried, or in other similar places.

Remember, the Saudi Americanized family is doing everything it pleases in Makkah and al- Al Madinah Al Munawwarah without consulting with the rest of the Muslim world. They behave as if Makkah and Al- Al Madinah Al Munawwarah is their personal property. No Muslim dare call them munafiqs.

UNESCO has designated jahili sites in Makkah as historical and off bounds to Saudi bulldozers. But when it comes to Islamic sites then the Saudis have the green light to bulldoze the homes of the sahaaba and the landmarks of our precious history defended by the blood of the shuhada in that first and second generation of Muslims.

The love of Allah's Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) is enshrined in ayahs in the Quran and hadiths of the Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family). Therefore if you have a choice between preserving anything belonging to the Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) out of love for him or pulverizing everything belonging to him out of fear of a "bid'at" you would certainly opt for the former, if you are a truly committed Muslim, something that the Saudi royals are proving with their policies and politics not to be.

Hassan Ghani (Press TV, London)

Some religious leaders say destruction of the most precious sites in Islam for fear of idolatry is like killing a child for fear that he may grow up to be less than pious. In effect, they say, behind the obsessive fear of idolatry lies a complete lack of understanding and total fanaticism of radical Islam, unable even to appreciate its own past.

It should also be noted that the Muslims attachment to these places stems from the realisation that some of these places are the sites where Quranic revelation took place. For example the house of Sayiddinah Khadija, the wife of the Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family) is the site where the Angel Gabriel visited for the purpose of revealing verses of the Quran to the Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him and on his family). (Ed)

The preservation of heritage sites connected with the ruling Saudi family

It is difficult to explain this behaviour, especially as the Saudis are clearly not oblivious to the importance of historical monuments and heritage. A few years ago, the Saudi General Commission for Tourism and Antiquities announced plans to restore 200 historical sites around the country, include the pre-Islamic site of Madian Saleh and numerous palaces and other buildings in Diriyyah associated with the Saudi family, and old houses in the old area of Jeddah. The suggestion that these have greater value than Islamic sites is deeply offensive to Muslims everywhere. Of the three sites the Saudis have allowed the UN to designate World Heritage Sites, none are related to Islam.

Muslim response

There are many reasons why this issue does not get the attention that it deserves. One is undoubtedly the Saudis patronage of many Islamic organizations around the world in recent decades. Another may be that there are so many other issues confronting Muslims, not the least of which are the genocides of Muslim populations and the oppression of Islamic activism in almost every Muslim country, compared to which the destruction of a building may arguably appear of lesser importance. Nonetheless, it is important that every effort be made to prevent the Saudis from destroying what little remains of the heritage of Islam, for it is largely through such monuments that peoples historical memories are stimulated and sustained, and the destruction of these memories will have profound implications for future generations understanding and knowledge of Islam itself.

Possible actions by Muslims globally

1. Muslims and Muslim organization should lobby U.N.E.S.C.O by writing letters to them to protect the religious sites in Makkah and Medina. It is sad that Muslims have to turn to a body like UNESCO to prevent a Muslim government from desecrating these sites.

2. Presenting letters of objection to Saudi embassies on a global scale.

3. Engage and exert pressure on Saudi delegations and religious scholars on this issue when they visit our mosques. The issue of certain Muslim activists not being granted visas to perform the pilgrimages to Makkah and the reports of human rights abuses in Arabia are also important issues that should be raised.

4. Networking with NGO's in Muslim countries and Muslim minorities in the UK, USA, etc so that these NGOs can exert pressure on the Saudis.

5. Refrain from accepting Saudi funding for religious or any other projects. The acceptance of Saudi funds will ultimately have the effect of impairing ones independence and sense of justice.

6. Lobby the Arab League, OIC, GCC and Muslim majority governments to engage the Saudis on this issue.

Concluding remarks

The house of Saud enjoys the dubious distinction of being one of the only regimes in history to have overseen its own cultural genocide, and to have consciously obliterated its sacred spaces in the name of a religious demagogue, ibn Abd ul-Wahhab.

Globally, communities and religious groups are going to great lengths to preserve their religious and cultural heritage. Sadly the Muslim community is the only community, barring the efforts of a handful of sincere individuals, remains passive whilst its heritage is being destroyed by a small deviant sect within the Ummah (the global Muslim community).

This article was compiled by adamlist from the sources below and edited by Dr Irfan al Alawi of the Islamic Heritage Foundation.

Further information available on the heritage via the link below:



1. The Saudi record of violence against the historical heritage of Islam by Iqbal Siddique, Crescent International

2. Mecca for the rich: Islam's holiest site 'turning into Vegas', Jerome Taylor, The Independent UK, 24 September 2011

3. Saudi Arabias war of steel and concrete on Islam by Zainab Cheema , Crescent International, November 2010

4. Saudi destruction of Islamic sites raises concern by Hassan Ghani, Press TV, London, January 2011

5. Hajj crisis: yearning for the traditional values by Shafiq Morton, Surfing behind the wall blogspot, October 18 2011

6. Inputs by Dr Irfan al Alawi ( Executive Director, Islamic Heritage Foundation), Imam Muhammad al Asi, Washington USA and Professor Sulayman Dangor (South Africa)

1 comment:

Dreamlife said...

I do agree that some of their practices are very questionable. Like the mountain where the Black Stone was housed - Jabal Abu Qubays I think - has been partially blown away to build the king's palace on top. That, I think, is very wrong.

But I think there are two sides to this, and unfortunately, emotions run high so there sometimes isn't fair debate.

I agree that these sites are important for historical value - and as such, we SHOULD visit them to remember our heritage and draw lessons from our history. Just like when you tour another country, the tour guides take you to historical places - it should be the same here.

The difference is that this is 'religious' tourism - and unfortunately, those practices of bidah do creep in.

There's no problem visiting a place for the right reasons - but believing it has special significance - when that hasn't been proven in the authentic sources - is wrong. And then performing certain acts you THINK to be worship there - when clearly there isn't evidence for that, is innovation.

I'm not a "hardliner" - but i do understand the Saudi perspective, because you see what people do at these places.

Many Muslims have been influenced by the belief systems in places they live - so that idolatrous practices have crept into their religion.

Look at those who worship graves in India and other places. People go to Madinah and do the same, don't they?

People go to graves of sahabah r.a. and put money, clothing, little letters or notes - believing it will help them; thinking that the dead person will be able to intercede or help them. Isn't this the same as saint worship that some Christians do?

Isn't that shirk? Isn't that the very WORST sin a person can commit?

Yes - the Saudis SEEM harsh in how they handle it, but really, they're just reacting in an extreme way to the extreme and wrong practices that some people do.

They need a solution, and their solution has been the extreme one of simply destroying the sites.

I don't agree with that, because there's a more balanced approach - which is to EDUCATE people in a balanced way, which I think (and hope) would be better.

Already, if they see people facing the grave making dua, they turn people the other way and say "qibla! qibla!" (to face the qibla making dua - not the grave of Rasullulah s.a.w.).

At Jannatul Baqi they have signs about the correct etiquettes of visiting the graves - and the prohibition of making dua TO the dwellers of the graves.

It is unsettling, though, that they completely discourage visiting the sites. They seem to ONLY look at the bidah perspective, but don't see that some of us actually want to visit for HISTORICAL purposes.

There's a balanced approach to everything, and i think us as individuals - and them as the current authorities - should strive to find that balance.

For example, making salaah in the cave of Hira is a bidah - yet so many do it thinking its sunnah. But an ideal solution - if you're there at waqt time - is to make your fard salaah in there. Or to make dua in there.

WIth regard to that clock tower - to be honest, it didn't seem that huge to me at all. From personal experience, skyscrapers elsewhere seem much, much bigger - so I don't know how it can be the 2nd tallest in the world. And inside the haram, personally, that clock tower and the tall buildings around it weren't a major distraction. From the pictures, it SEEMS like they would distract - because they dwarf the Kabah; but for me, they really didn't. (And actually, that clock tower REALLY, really helped me when i got lost on the days of Hajj, so it was very beneficial for me - and not just a big clock.)

Maybe it's just a case of perception - and being there can give you a different view of it.