Appreciating history for the love of God

History is all about understanding the past. It is important to understand what happened in the past, who were involved, how is their involvement and the outcome of the decision made, stand they took or structures they build or landscape the changed. It is an important guide for everything to move forward. Its the best basis where anything could be measured and benchmarked from.

Lessons could be learned from history. Like American philosopher George Santayana’s immortal words for everyone to understand and learn from history.

However, the Saudis don’t seem to appreciate history.

Medina: Saudis take a bulldozer to Islam’s history

Authorities are building a mosque so big it will hold 1.6m people – but are demolishing irreplaceable monuments to do it

Three of the world’s oldest mosques are about to be destroyed as Saudi Arabia embarks on a multi-billion-pound expansion of Islam’s second holiest site. Work on the Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina, where the Prophet Mohamed is buried, will start once the annual Hajj pilgrimage ends next month. When complete, the development will turn the mosque into the world’s largest building, with the capacity for 1.6 million worshippers.

But concerns have been raised that the development will see key historic sites bulldozed. Anger is already growing at the kingdom’s apparent disdain for preserving the historical and archaeological heritage of the country’s holiest city, Mecca.  Most of the expansion of Masjid an-Nabawi will take place to the west of the existing mosque, which holds the tombs of Islam’s founder and two of his closest companions, Abu Bakr and Umar.

Just outside the western walls of the current compound are mosques dedicated to Abu Bakr and Umar, as well as the Masjid Ghamama, built to mark the spot where the Prophet is thought to have given his first prayers for the Eid festival. The Saudis have announced no plans to preserve or move the three mosques, which have existed since the seventh century and are covered by Ottoman-era structures, or to commission archaeological digs before they are pulled down, something that has caused considerable concern among the few academics who are willing to speak out in the deeply authoritarian kingdom.

“No one denies that Medina is in need of expansion, but it’s the way the authorities are going about it which is so worrying,” says Dr Irfan al-Alawi of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation. “There are ways they could expand which would either avoid or preserve the ancient Islamic sites but instead they want to knock it all down.” Dr Alawi has spent much of the past 10 years trying to highlight the destruction of early Islamic sites.

With cheap air travel and booming middle classes in populous Muslim countries within the developing world, both Mecca and Medina are struggling to cope with the 12 million pilgrims who visit each year – a number expected to grow to 17 million by 2025. The Saudi monarchy views itself as the sole authority to decide what should happen to the cradle of Islam. Although it has earmarked billions for an enormous expansion of both Mecca and Medina, it also sees the holy cities as lucrative for a country almost entirely reliant on its finite oil wealth.

Heritage campaigners and many locals have looked on aghast as the historic sections of Mecca and Medina have been bulldozed to make way for gleaming shopping malls, luxury hotels and enormous skyscrapers. The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of the 1,000-year-old buildings in the two cities have been destroyed in the past 20 years.

In Mecca, the Masjid al-Haram, the holiest site in Islam and a place where all Muslims are supposed to be equal, is now overshadowed by the Jabal Omar complex, a development of skyscraper apartments, hotels and an enormous clock tower. To build it, the Saudi authorities destroyed the Ottoman era Ajyad Fortress and the hill it stood on. Other historic sites lost include the Prophet’s birthplace – now a library – and the house of his first wife, Khadijah, which was replaced with a public toilet block.

Neither the Saudi Embassy in London nor the Ministry for Foreign Affairs responded to requests for comment when The Independent contacted them this week. But the government has previously defended its expansion plans for the two holy cities as necessary. It insists it has also built large numbers of budget hotels for poorer pilgrims, though critics point out these are routinely placed many miles away from the holy sites.

Until recently, redevelopment in Medina has pressed ahead at a slightly less frenetic pace than in Mecca, although a number of early Islamic sites have still been lost. Of the seven ancient mosques built to commemorate the Battle of the Trench – a key moment in the development of Islam – only two remain. Ten years ago, a mosque which belonged to the Prophet’s grandson was dynamited. Pictures of the demolition that were secretly taken and smuggled out of the kingdom showed the religious police celebrating as the building collapsed.

The disregard for Islam’s early history is partly explained by the regime’s adoption of Wahabism, an austere and uncompromising interpretation of Islam that is vehemently opposed to anything which might encourage Muslims towards idol worship.

In most of the Muslim world, shrines have been built. Visits to graves are also commonplace. But Wahabism views such practices with disdain. The religious police go to enormous lengths to discourage people from praying at or visiting places closely connected to the time of the Prophet while powerful clerics work behind the scenes to promote the destruction of historic sites.

Dr Alawi fears that the redevelopment of the Masjid an-Nabawi is part of a wider drive to shift focus away from the place where Mohamed is buried. The spot that marks the Prophet’s tomb is covered by a famous green dome and forms the centrepiece of the current mosque. But under the new plans, it will become the east wing of a building eight times its current size with a new pulpit. There are also plans to demolish the prayer niche at the centre of mosque. The area forms part of the Riyadh al-Jannah (Garden of Paradise), a section of the mosque that the Prophet decreed especially holy..

“Their excuse is they want to make more room and create 20 spaces in a mosque that will eventually hold 1.6 million,” says Dr Alawi. “It makes no sense. What they really want is to move the focus away from where the Prophet is buried.”

A pamphlet published in 2007 by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs – and endorsed by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz al Sheikh – called for the dome to be demolished and the graves of Mohamed, Abu Bakr and Umar to be flattened. Sheikh Ibn al-Uthaymeen, one of the 20th century’s most prolific Wahabi scholars, made similar demands.

“Muslim silence over the destruction of Mecca and Medina is both disastrous and hypocritical,” says Dr Alawi. “The recent movie about the Prophet Mohamed caused worldwide protests… and yet the destruction of the Prophet’s birthplace, where he prayed and founded Islam has been allowed to continue without any criticism.”

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We have already seen the site of Muhammad S.A.W.’s first wife’s house near Haram Al-Shariff in Mecca been ‘erased’.

How do we teach younger Muslims to appreciate historic sites for personalities that were the pioneers in the initial spread of God’s religion have been systematically erased?

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Published in: on November 12, 2012 at 14:30  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. There is two psychological forces at work that could explain this:

    1. Wahabi’s indifference to historical relics due to their overzealous war against bida’ah.

    2. The Arab boisterous temperament and psyche for grandiose.

    3. Stupidity in arrogance

  2. Tidak ada dalam Quran atau pun hadith sahih yang menyuroh orang Islam menyimpan tempat sejarah ini.Jika ada dalam Quran sudahbtentu Arab Saudi tiak berani meruntohkannya.Contohnya Kaabah.Ia teletak didalam mesjid yang sekarng ini sudah menjadi bagitu sempit.Kenapa tidak di ubah kaabah di tempat lain.Jawabnya tidak boleh.
    Bagitu juga tempat melontar di Mina,ia juga tidak boleh di ubah hanya boleh dipinda.

    Orang Saudi dan Ulama nya termasok rajanya palingbakutbkapada Allah.Sebab itu bila ia mati,mayatnyabteus di simpan dan kubornya pun tiada tanda.Dinegeri kita jika pembesar mati,majelisnya bagitu besar sekali sambutannya.Ditambah pula dengan bacaan Talkin dan Doa yang panjang.

    Jika Makam Rasuallah idak dikawal sudah tentu ramai orang Islam akan menyembahnya dan berteriak sambil mengosok pinti besinya.Ini meupakan Syaik dan bidaah.

  3. Mengapa kah Muslimin dan Muslimat mesti bertelingkah? Tak cukup ke dengan masalah Yahudi Zionis dan Arab Palestin? Bukan kah kita sepatutnya bersatu membantu Arab Palestin dapatkan tanah mereka semula? Dan tidak di buli dek Yahudi Zionis?

    Memang, dunia semangkin banyak masalah di merata tempat, di merata puak agama dan puak maanusia. Kristian pun sudah berpecah dari Roman Katholik, timbul Methodis, Anglican dan berbagai mazhab. Tiap satu mazhab pun ada berbagai puak. Puak Protestant sahaja di katakan ada 240 puak.

    Sejak lk 100 tahun yang lalu di Amerika pula merecup tumbuh kumpulan Evangelical yang sekarang merebak ke Malaysia hingga ada yang menyerapkan politik kedalam khutbah mereka. Takda yang mengawal mereka, tidak seperti mazhab Katolik yang ada Pope di Vatican. Kerajaan perlu ambil tindakan di atas perkara ini. Gembelingkan segala tenaga berbagai pihak berkuasa agama dan bijak pandai yang ada, fikirkan tindakan yang sesuai.

    Ada yang kata dunia sudah nak kiamat. Tak betul. Tanda tanda kiamat hanya seperti di sebut di Qur’an dan di kitab yang sohih. Tapi kalau dah Saudi Arabia, “the custodian of Islamic heritage” pun dah mula “bulldozing Islamic historical artifacts” – three of the world’s oldest mosques – bukan kah itu merugikan? Tak boleh ke mereka biarkan bahan sejarah itu dan perbesarkan mesjid yang mahu di luaskan itu cara lain? Bukan kah boleh di bina bertingkat untuk memuatkan sejuta lebih Muslimin dan Muslimat?

  4. Islam is the religion of the Arabs.

    They can do what they want it is their myths that the some people in the world want to believe in.

    That is why the world is arab centred in Islam. That is why arabic is the language of heaven when we know that Bahasa Malaysia is widely spoken in heaven…hehe

    • What utter nonsense.

      This bloke ought to be shot. He is trying to make fun of Islam. Son of a gun.


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