The year was 1983, when my family embarked on the sacred journey of a lifetime, the Hajj. I was only four years old and my recollection of that event in many parts is hazy but in others, profoundly vivid. Although I remember the trip in flashes but I can still distinctly recall the pillars of the “Haram” and the sheer number of people everywhere. At my tender age, the water flasks we use to carry, the “view-master” stereoscopes and their miniatures (in shapes of little TV sets and cameras) hanging in the shops were the obvious articles of my interest. Bread rolls with kraft cheese spread would serve both as breakfast and lunch for many. There was an air of simplicity the way people conducted their affairs.
Nonetheless memories, both clear and misty provided the bench mark imagery every time I picked up a book on Seerah (Prophet’s life p.b.u.h). And perhaps my image of Makkah (Mecca) at the time of the prophet would be truer compared to someone who visits the city today.
As Muslims we all romance the era when the faith began, the time of pristine Islam. We recollect the events and relive the moments at least in our hearts and minds. My father remembers seeing the trench that was dug up for the “Battle of Khandak (trench)”. What a sight that would have been! He could through his own eyes appreciate the enormity of the feat; the great endeavour the prophet (SAW) himself took up for the defense of the faith.
I grew up reading about the battle of the trench like many other Muslims. It was one of the defining moments in Islamic history. However, if now, I would head to Medina, there wouldn’t be any trench to see. All of it has been leveled in the craze of eliminating anything pre-Wahabi and sold on the excuse of mandatory expansion.
It is important to examine the figures. 15 million people visit Makkah annually. Over 3 million people for the four weeks of Hajj alone need to be accommodated. And yet even with these high numbers, the solution as any expert would tell, is not to keep on expanding the mosque or destroy old buildings in the vicinity of it. By expanding the mosque, the radii of circumambulation will increase. It would be difficult if not impossible for people on the outer rim to walk several miles to complete their Tawaf.
Over time, there have been several alternate proposals laid ahead of expansion. Instead of building towering monstrosities that “overshadow” the Kabah in every sense of the word and serve nothing but an ostentatious display of elitism by a few hundred, the population centre could have been located away from Makkah centre, with mass transport links going into the sacred precinct. By time managing the pilgrims, utilization of the space could have been optimized. Similarly, by prioritizing the visas, a fairer chance for everyone wanting to perform the Hajj could be ensured.
All these recommendations and many others put forward by numerous research institutes pale into insignificance when pitted against Saudi monarch’s myopic self-serving opinions. After all we are looking at a clan, who is the only one in the world, arrogant enough to name a whole country after its family. The governing structure in Saudi Arabia is fresh out of Bronze Age, where power and control by an iron fist is the order of the day. Devolution and delegation are ventures unknown.
Such is the dictatorial nature of the power structure that even if a broken piece of furniture in a university has to be replaced; a crown prince has to grant his blessings. The various ministries act as a cover to provide the illusion of independent and self-regulating bodies. Although people in Saudi Arabia do constantly remind that things have improved and are still improving.
An expose’ by Jerome Taylor and works of Sami Angawi has highlighted the extent of destruction of Islamic heritage by the Saudi regime. Over 95% of the millennia old buildings have been obliterated alone in the past two decades. About 20 buildings remain that have survived centuries but are withering under the Tsunami of insanity by Saudi –Wahabi nexus. Makkah today presents a city that could be twinned with Las-Vegas. Shopping malls adorned with McDonalds, Star Bucks, Tommy Hilfiger and GAP greet the pilgrims on a spiritual journey. Most of these brands are ironically boycotted by conscientious citizens in the west due to their links with Zionist movements.
I asked various Muslims regarding this issue and got a mixed bag of responses. The aware and educated were obviously incensed but the majority have been dazzled by the monarch’s false image of credibility and authority that has been shored up by petro-dollars. One particular response was a perfect microcosm of the way Saudis have managed to pulled wool over the eyes of the Ummah. A student justified “Historic place does not mean a holy place”, by that he meant that history should be of no significance to Muslims. This is a typical response by someone indoctrinated by Wahabism. Little he knew that this mantra refers only to the pre-Wahabi history. The other responses were truly imaginative and enlightening, “Sami Angawi is a Iran funded Shiaa”.
There are only three sites that the Saudi’s have forwarded to UNESCO’s world heritage list. One of them is Al Dir’ya. This property was the first capital of the Saudi Dynasty, in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, north-west of Riyadh. Founded in the 15th century, it bears witness to the Najdi architectural style, which is specific to the centre of the Arabian Peninsula. Like Al Dir’ya, the remaining two sites too, have nothing to do with Islamic history.
By banking on our indifference, they are literally destroying the birth place of Islam. Listening to a talk by Jerome Taylor, I am still searching for the answer to the questions he posed, “Why is it that when a bunch of Islamophobes decide to make an entirely pointless and deliberately provocative film about the prophet (SAW), Muslim world erupts with rage, mobs go out on the streets and Muslims die? Why then not, when the house of prophet’s first wife Khadija is converted into public toilets, nothing of such kind happens?”
I dream of a day when the gates to the holiest places for muslims would not be named after Saudi kings. Looking at the National Geographic pictures of Hajj 50 years ago, I find myself thinking, “When I go there again, what will there be? And what wouldn’t be?”
[P.s There are several e –petitions online regarding protection of Islamic Heritage. I would urge the readers to sign them]
Please help us create awareness by sharing the article using the buttons below.