Why do Muslims protest when some stupid pastor in America wants to burn the Quran but when the site of the Prophet’s wife, Khadija, desecrated and the house of his companion Abu Bakr, is made into a hotel they remain silent and apathetic? Why?
Why are Muslims silent when the historic sites of Mecca and Medina are destroyed to make way for Starbucks, 5-star hotels, clock-towers, Paris Hilton handbag stores, luxury malls and a whole host of other companies?
Today is the anniversary of the day when the Saudi government destroyed the graves of the relatives of the Prophet in 1925. On the 8th day of Shawwal, according to the Islamic calendar, Jannatul Baqi and Jannatul Mu’alla in the holy cities of Medina and Mecca were razed to the ground. These were cemeteries where family and companions of the Prophet were buried. No one had destroyed them for over 1200 years! Of course, all the scholars, jurists and theologians, indeed all the Muslims who had been alive for 1200 years were in error until Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab came along and through a marital alliance entered into a power sharing agreement with the ancestors of the Al-Saud family in the 18th century. Today the world over people worry about Daaesh (ISIS), the Taleban, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and ‘Islamic terrorism,’ (however problematic that term is) and people constantly talk of radical Islam. However, why not pause for a second and talk about reasons for the rise of all these war-mongering, psychotic monsters?
Why not give thought to the foreign and domestic policy of a government, apologies a monarchy, that was brought to power by the British, sustained and protected by the Americans and now has deep relations with Israel. The reason I mention these countries is because on the one hand Muslims from all denominations come out to agitate against the so-called ‘West’ and on the other hand they are silent about the countries that this very ‘West’ patronises. Why?
Why do Muslims protest when some stupid pastor in America wants to burn the Quran but when the site of the Prophet’s wife, Khadija, desecrated and the house of his companion Abu Bakr, is made into a hotel they remain silent and apathetic? Why? Why are Muslims silent when the historic sites of Mecca and Medina are destroyed to make way for Starbucks, 5-star hotels, clock-towers, Paris Hilton handbag stores, luxury malls and a whole host of other companies?
In the 6th and early 7th centuries, before the revelation of the Quran, the Qureish were ruthless merchants who exploited pilgrims arriving in Mecca while offering them some basic hospitality. But this hospitality was conditional. For instance you had to buy cloth from the Qureish in order to carry out the circumambulation around the Ka’aba otherwise you would have to do it naked. It seems that those who control the Haj and Umrah today are no different from their mercantile predecessors who put profit before anything else. It is strange that Muslims constantly protest against the policies of the ‘West’ but remain silent about the transgressions of their own fellow Muslims. Trade and capital is important no doubt but there must be a balance. Today you are more likely to see an 8th century gravestone in the Louvre in Paris (incidentally funded by a Saudi Prince) than in the graveyards of Saudi Arabia.
The protests against the wanton destruction of Islamic civilisation and its heritage is not about Sunni/Shia sectarianism but about the aspirations to power of a tribe that found religious sanction to protect and promote its ideology at any cost. In 1925, when the shrines and graves were destroyed, the Sunnis and Shias of Lucknow came together to protest and prominent amongst the Sunni leaders was Maulana Abdul Bari of Firangi Mahal. Later an entire delegation was sent to the Kingdom to find out about this act of wanton destruction. Why the deafening silence today? Follow the money, as they say.
A civilisation that does not value its historical and cultural heritage will become deracinated and soulless. It will become nihilistic. The reason for this is that architecture, literature, poetry, the arts and crafts and indeed all the other cultural products that arise out of a particular civilisational heritage, act as anchors to people. They root people and tie to them to a spiritual and material geography, to an aesthetic norm and to a sense of history. In other words they contribute towards creating people’s identities and giving them a sense of self-esteem. Take these away and all you will be left with his literalist, unimaginative, unidimensional and rootless people. The destruction of the cultural patrimony of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen amongst other countries is the result of the conscious policy of people who are hell bent on erasing the richness of Islam in its various cultural manifestations so that just like the pre-Islamic Qureish they can ultimately protect their own political and economic power. Of course, this neatly dovetails with those in the world who wish for precisely this: the reduction of Islam to nothing more than the religion of a violent hoarde! Even in India, the people who wish to dismiss the Taj Mahal as foreign and not Indian should take note that their views, indeed their actions, are no different from those who destroyed the cemeteries, mosques and monuments in Mecca and Medina. As with anything else these kind of people forget that one day the monsters that they give birth to will come back to haunt them. But by then how many lives will be lost and how much history erased?
Dr Ali Khan Mahmudabad is an assistant professor at Ashoka University where he teaches political science and history. His undergraduate degree was in Middle Eastern History and Political Science. He has also studied in Syria and has traveled extensively in the Middle East. He writes a fortnightly column for the Urdu national daily, Inqilab and has also written for a number of national and international English language magazines and newspapers.