Demolition of Islam’s Historical Sites
Dr. Aslam Abdullah
Supported by Princes and top government officials Saudi Arabia’s real estate developers are considering the demolition of some of Islam’s historic sites in Mecca, possibly including the home of Prophet Mohammed .
The 1,400-year-old buildings from the early Islamic period are at risk for being demolished to make way for high-rise towers for Muslims flocking to perform the annual pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest city.
As said by a historian in Makkah “Its layers of history are being bulldozed for a parking lot”.
Over the past 50 years at least 300 historical buildings have been leveled in Mecca and Medina.
A number of Islamic landmarks have been destroyed since Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932. A 1994 edict by the kingdom’s senior council of religious scholars, ruled that preserving historical buildings might lead to polytheism.
This edict is conveniently being used by real estate developers to expand their projects. The real estate firms say that their projects are in response to a massive demand for new accommodation to house up to 20 million pilgrims expected to visit Makkah and Media annually over the coming years as authorities relax entry restrictions for pilgrims.
Developers are spending around 50 billion riyals ($13 billion) on projects in the city.
One of the most elaborate project is the 10 billion riyal Jabal Omar scheme. Covering a 230,000 square yard area adjacent to the Grand Mosque, the seven-year project consists of several towers containing hotels, apartments, shops and restaurants.
These developments will dwarf Mecca’s Grand Mosque and are a sign of crass commercialization.
Makkah is a religious city and a sanctuary for millions who visit it every year to attain peace and atonement. The Saudi government has allowed unbridled commercialization of the house of God to please the commercial sector that has close ties with the royal family. The royal family has several high-rise palaces in Makkah and Medina that standout as symbols of extravagance, that are in stark contrast to the principals of austerity taught by Islam and shown by the example by Prophet Muhammad .
Saudi monarchy has developed a strong alliance with the religious hierarchy of Saudi Arabia. The religious leadership does not speak on matters pertaining to justice and fairness, two of the most important fundamentals of Islam, while the monarchy does not interfere in the affairs of religious hierarchy. The religious hierarchy has rarely challenged the Saudi royal family on matters pertaining to the demolition of historical sites of Islam. On the contrary they have provoked the authorities to demolish them thus creating a haven of commercial benefits for people closer to the royal family. Saudi Arabia’s rulers have often ignored the fact that the religious sites do not belong to them. They are for Muslims all over the world. The Saudi government needs to be challenged on this issue. Perhaps Organization of Islamic Conferences (OIC) should launch an official protest with Saudi Arabia and involve the UN that is so keen to preserve historical sites all around the world.
Muslims all over the world have kept quiet for almost eight decades watching the Saudi government demolish historical sites under various pretexts. It is time that we speak against such a practice and inform the authorities that they need to preserve the history Islam.
You can contact the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC or the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission and ask them to preserve Islam’s historical sites.
Dr. Aslam Abdullah is the editor of the Muslim Observer, director of the Islamic Society of Nevada and director of the Muslim Electorates Council of America (MECA).