Sunday, September 7, 2014

Is Makkah for the rich while historical sites are demolished?

I was recently made aware of a very disturbing news about the holy sites of Islam in today's Saudi Arabia. During my pilgrimage, I had the first hand knowledge of the sad state of affairs of those places. Outside the two mosques in Makkah and Madinah, all the historical sites showed serious disregard or criminal neglect.  An important historical site, the Jabal al-Noor, was not accessible and was discouraged by the authorities to make a visitation. It seemed more like going through a junkyard for any visitor! No efforts were made to preserve such sites close to Makkah and Madinah and were left to the mercy of nature and people to see to their eventual disappearance.

In the USA I have seen how much care and attention are paid to preserving historical sites even though there is so little of history to celebrate about. On the other hand, when I saw the neglect in the Saudi Arabia with well-known historical sites dating from the time of the Prophet of Islam (S), I was simply shocked. One could see garbage being dumped and not cleared from the sites around some of those historical sites. You wonder: how could such be when the KSA is one of the richest countries in the world? The kingdom has all the wealth to squander on useless projects, including buying weapons that they never use, and yet necessary funding for preservation of the historical sites is missing. Why? Many see such neglects as willful and deliberate, as part of Wahabism, which the regime professes.

Many Muslims are very concerned that the historical relics and sites are systematically destroyed by the authorities in the KSA to obliterate their connections with history and today's 1.7 billion adherents of Islam. What is going on in the name of expansion of the Kaba's precincts is perceived by many as simply criminal. And probably there is no other way to explain this fact.

Here below are some excerpts from a written posting in the the Independent, UK:

Dr Irfan al-Alawi is the executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation and has fought in vain to protect his country's historical sites. He says, "We have already lost 400-500 sites. I just hope it's not too late to turn things around."

He also bemoans: ""No one has the balls to stand up and condemn this cultural vandalism."

Sami Angawi, a renowned Saudi expert on the region's Islamic architecture, is equally concerned. "This is an absolute contradiction to the nature of Mecca and the sacredness of the house of God," he told the Reuters news agency earlier this year. "Both [Mecca and Medina] are historically almost finished. You do not find anything except skyscrapers."

Dr Alawi hopes the international community will finally begin to wake up to what is happening in the cradle of Islam. "We would never allow someone to destroy the Pyramids, so why are we letting Islam's history disappear?"

Under Threat
Bayt al-Mawlid
When the Wahabis took Mecca in the 1920s they destroyed the dome on top of the house where the Prophet Mohammed was born. It was then used as a cattle market before being turned into a library after a campaign by Meccans. 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 Wahabis, they are inscribed with the names of the Prophet's companions. Ottomon Mecca is now rapidly disappearing

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi
For many years, hardline Wahabi clerics have had their sites set on the 15th century green dome that rests above the tomb holding the Prophet, Abu Bakr and Umar in Medina. The mosque is regarded as the second holiest site in Islam. Wahabis, 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".

Jabal al-Nour
A mountain outside Mecca where Mohammed received his first Koranic revelations. The Prophet used to spend long spells 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.

You can read about this disturbing development by clicking here and here.

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