Sunday, March 17, 2013

Islam's Holiest Sites In Mecca Are Being Destroyed

Saudi Arabia is home to the most revered ancient Islamic holy site in the world- the holy city of Mecca, birthplace of Mohammed. The Masjid al-Haram (The Grand Mosque) that houses the Kaaba (where everyone faces to pray) is located in Mecca. The Fifth Pillar of Islam is the "Hajj"- that's the trek to Mecca that every financially and able-bodied Muslim is expected to make during his/her lifetime. But the Hajj has become big business, so most of the ancient buildings (95% percent or so since 1985) have been demolished to make room for the masses of people that arrive in Mecca for the most important pilgrimage of their lives. In fact, it's estimated that only 20 historical sites dating back to Mohammed's time still exist.

Of the seven ancient mosques, only two remain: one in Mecca and one in Medina. You see, the Saudi Wahhabis don't really care about maintaining sites of historical religious significance- that could lead to "shirk" (idolatry), which is a major no-no in Islam. They'd rather raze an historic site and build luxury hotels and apartments, shopping malls and parking lots to accommodate the hordes of pilgrims that descend upon Mecca and Medina.

So the Kingdom continues with the destruction, this time on the Masjid al-Haram mosque itself, which is currently undergoing a multi-billion pound expansion.

Photographs obtained by The Independent reveal how workers with drills and mechanical diggers have started demolishing some Ottoman and Abbasid sections on the eastern side of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca.
The columns are the last remaining sections of the mosque which date back more than a few hundred years and form the inner perimeter on the outskirts of the white marble floor surrounding the Kaaba.


Many of the Ottoman and Abbasid columns in Mecca were inscribed with intricate Arabic calligraphy marking the names of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions and key moments in his life. One column which is believed to have been ripped down is supposed to mark the spot where Muslims believe Muhammad began his heavenly journey on a winged horse, which took him to Jerusalem and heaven in a single night.

The photos of construction on the mosque have emerged in the last few weeks and were obtained by the The Independent.  Naturally, archaeologists are very concerned about what is happening to the last vestiges of Islamic archaeological heritage, and are trying to get Saudi authorities to see the importance of preservation. It's not really working, although there are some Muslims who are also concerned.

[snip]  Dr Irfan al-Alawi, executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation which obtained the new photographs from inside the Grand Mosque, says the removal of the Ottoman and Abbasid columns will leave future generations of Muslims ignorant of their significance.
“It matters because many of these columns signified certain areas of the mosque where the Prophet sat and prayed." “The historical record is being deleted. A new Muslim would never have a clue because there’s nothing marking these locations now. There are ways you could expand Mecca and Medina while protecting the historical heritage of the mosque itself and the surrounding sites.”

The mosque in Medina, the Masjid an-Nabawi, is subject to the same fate.

Last October The Independent revealed how new plans for the masjid an-Nabawi in Medina would result in the destruction of three of the world’s oldest mosques on the west hand side of the main complex. However new plans approved by King Abdullah last week appear to show a change of heart with the bulk of the expansion now slated to take place to the north of the Masjid an-Nabawi.

It appears that the house where Mohammed was born, is scheduled for the chopping block, if all goes as planned.

I suppose, why should we care if they don't.

No comments: