Thursday, August 23, 2007

Whose Mecca is this?

As I read this article on Yahoo recently, a sense of resignation hit me.

Mecca’s hallowed skyline transformed: Excerpts

The building boom is in some cases destroying Mecca’s historic heritage, not just overshadowing it. In 2002, Saudi authorities tore down a 200-year-old fort built by the city’s then-rulers, the Ottomans, on a hill overlooking the Kaaba to build a multi-million-dollar housing complex for pilgrims.

The holy sites have also been targeted for decades by the clerics who give Saudi Arabia’s leadership religious legitimacy. In their puritanical Wahhabi view, worship at historic sites connected to mere mortals — such as Muhammad or his contemporaries — can easily become a form of idolatry. (Worship at the Kabaa, which is ordered in the Quran, is an exception.)

“Obviously, this is an exaggerated interpretation. But unfortunately, it is favored among officials,” said Anwar Eshky, a Saudi analyst and head of a Jiddah-based research center.

The house where Muhammad is believed to have been born in 570 now lies under a rundown building overshadowed by a giant royal palace and hotel towers. The then king, Abdul-Aziz, ordered a library built on top of the site 70 years ago as a compromise after Wahhabi clerics called for it to be torn down.

Other sites disappeared long ago, as Saudi authorities expanded the Grand Mosque around the Kaaba in the 1980s. The house of Khadija, Muhammad’s first wife, where Muslims believe he received some of the first revelations of the Quran, was lost under the construction, as was the Dar al-Arqam, the first Islamic school, where Muhammad taught.

At Hira’a Cave, where Muhammad is believed to have received the first verses of the Quran in the mountains on the edge of Mecca, a warning posted by Wahhabi religious police warns pilgrims not to pray or “touch stones” to receive blessings.

Are the Saudi authorities so carried away by the wave of development that they are blindly wiping their past! It’s a pity that such revered historical places have been razed to the ground without a whipmer from the Muslim world. Ironic indeed that the destruction of a few centuries old mosque in india created such a furore worldwide but the demolition of the Prophet’s [PBUH] 1400-year-old home not even a passing mention. What’s happening to us?

With the rate at which the Saud family is going I can only see the Masjid-e-Nabavi and Khan-e-Kaaba standing 10 years from now. And they too will be dwarfed by the new high rise buildings coming up. Not to mention McDonald’s Golden Arches.

As for me, you can’t flourish if you destroy your very roots.

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