Tuesday, March 19, 2013

When will there be an outrage about the destruction of history in Mecca?

by Salman Hameed

It is sad to see a steady destruction of the historical sites of Islam. This is not just a loss for Muslims. This is a loss of world heritage. What I find baffling is that on the one hand, there are Muslims who make pseudoscientific claims for the uniqueness of Mecca. On the other hand, there are actual good scientific reasons to preserve the archaeological and historical heritage of Mecca - sacred home to one of the biggest religions in the world. And we don't hear much protest at the opening of sky scrapper malls and mad expansion of the central mosque (though Paris Hilton's store, I guess, is necessary for a sacred experience in Mecca). The same has been done to Madina. Within Saudi Arabia, it may be because of the lack of any appreciation of history (see earlier post: How is history viewed in Saudi Arabia). But why is there silence in other parts of the Muslim world?

Here is the picture of expansion from The Independent:

From another article, Mecca for the rich: Islam's holiest site 'turning into Vegas':

Over the past 10 years the holiest site in Islam has undergone a huge transformation, one that has divided opinion among Muslims all over the world. 
Once a dusty desert town struggling to cope with the ever-increasing number of pilgrims arriving for the annual Hajj, the city now soars above its surroundings with a glittering array of skyscrapers, shopping malls and luxury hotels. 
To the al-Saud monarchy, Mecca is their vision of the future – a steel and concrete metropolis built on the proceeds of enormous oil wealth that showcases their national pride. 
Yet growing numbers of citizens, particularly those living in the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina, have looked on aghast as the nation's archaeological heritage is trampled under a construction mania backed by hardline clerics who preach against the preservation of their own heritage. Mecca, once a place where the Prophet Mohamed insisted all Muslims would be equal, has become a playground for the rich, critics say, where naked capitalism has usurped spirituality as the city's raison d'être. 
Few are willing to discuss their fears openly because of the risks associated with criticising official policy in the authoritarian kingdom. And, with the exceptions of Turkey and Iran, fellow Muslim nations have largely held their tongues for fear of of a diplomatic fallout and restrictions on their citizens' pilgrimage visas. Western archaeologists are silent out of fear that the few sites they are allowed access to will be closed to them. 
But a number of prominent Saudi archaeologists and historians are speaking up in the belief that the opportunity to save Saudi Arabia's remaining historical sites is closing fast.
"No one has the balls to stand up and condemn this cultural vandalism," says Dr Irfan al-Alawi who, as executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, has fought in vain to protect his country's historical sites. "We have already lost 400-500 sites. I just hope it's not too late to turn things around." 
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."
And I find it amazing that there are no World Heritage Sites related to Islam in Saudi Arabia:

The destruction has been aided by Wahabism, the austere interpretation of Islam that has served as the kingdom's official religion ever since the al-Sauds rose to power across the Arabian Peninsula in the 19th century. 
In the eyes of Wahabis, historical sites and shrines encourage "shirq" – the sin of idolatry or polytheism – and should be destroyed. When the al-Saud tribes swept through Mecca in the 1920s, the first thing they did was lay waste to cemeteries holding many of Islam's important figures. They have been destroying the country's heritage ever since. Of the three sites the Saudis have allowed the UN to designate World Heritage Sites, none are related to Islam. 
Those circling the Kaaba only need to look skywards to see the latest example of the Saudi monarchy's insatiable appetite for architectural bling. At 1,972ft, the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, opened earlier this year, soars over the surrounding Grand Mosque, part of an enormous development of skyscrapers that will house five-star hotels for the minority of pilgrims rich enough to afford them. 
To build the skyscraper city, the authorities dynamited an entire mountain and the Ottoman era Ajyad Fortress that lay on top of it. At the other end of the Grand Mosque complex, the house of the Prophet's first wife Khadijah has been turned into a toilet block. The fate of the house he was born in is uncertain. Also planned for demolition are the Grand Mosque's Ottoman columns which dare to contain the names of the Prophet's companions, something hardline Wahabis detest.
What a shame! Both for history and for religion.

Also see:


سید مسرت علی said...

It means that very soon we will be taking a Lift to climb and visit air-conditioned "Gar-e-Hera" and even then we will be claiming that we are followers of Muhammad (SAW). How sad?

Anonymous said...

The monstrous Al-Bait Towers next to Masjid-e-Haraam have already reduced the Holy Ka'aba to relative insignificance in pictures. In a few decades, these alone will solely represent the Holy site. In a few hundred years, hardly anyone will know that the black cubic structure in the center of the open compound is the original Ka'aba...and there will be lengthy debates about it. Then there will be a need to use the open space of Haram for the construction of some more towering 'holy' structures. Surprised? Well the green dome of Masjid-e-Nabawi in Madinah was only constructed 900 years AFTER the construction of Masjid-e-Nabawi itself, which is now the sole representation of the holy mosque. And how many of us know that the Golden Dome of Rock in Jerusalem has nothing to do with Al-Aqsa mosque which stands into insignificance a few hundred feet away from the golden dome across the compound?

Anonymous said...

While we were one day sitting with the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, there appeared before us a man dressed in extremely white clothes and with very black hair. No traces of travel were visible on him, and none of us knew him. He sat down close by the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, rested his knees against his knees and placed his palms on his thighs, and said, O Muhammad! Inform me about Islam." Muhammad said, "Islam is that you should testify that there is no deity save Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, that you should perform salah (ritual prayer), pay the zakah (alms), fast during Ramadan, and perform Hajj (pilgrimage) to the House (the Ka'bah at Makkah), if you can find a way to it (or find the means for making the journey to it)." Said he (the man), "You have spoken truly." We were astonished at his thus questioning him and telling him that he was right, but he went on to say, "Inform me about Iman (faith)." He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, "It is that you believe in Allah and His angels and His Books and His Messengers and in the Last Day, and in fate (qadar), both in its good and in its evil aspects." He said, "You have spoken truly." Then he (the man) said, "Inform me about Ihsan." He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, " It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet He sees you." He said, "Inform me about the Hour." He (the Messenger of Allah) said, "About that the one questioned knows no more than the questioner." So he said, "Well, inform me about the signs thereof (i.e. of its coming)." Said he, "They are that the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, that you will see the barefooted ones, the naked, the destitute, the herdsmen of the sheep (competing with each other) in raising lofty buildings." Thereupon the man went off. I waited a while, and then he (the Messenger of Allah) said, "O 'Umar, do you know who that questioner was?" I replied, "Allah and His Messenger know better." He said, "That was Jibril. He came to teach you your religion" [Sahih Muslim]

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