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  Updated: July 11, 2005

Home of Holy Prophet (s) under threat after Baqi, Moalla demolition

By: Mohamed Ali

WASHINGTON: Report said some of Holy Makka's most historic sites, possibly including a home of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his pure progeny), are under threat from Saudi real estate developers and an influential Muslim group that view them as promoting idolatry.

"The Washington-based Saudi Institute, an independent news gathering group, says most Islamic landmarks have been destroyed since Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932. "

An expert on the region's Islamic architecture Sami Angawi said 1400-year-old buildings from the early Islamic period risk being demolished to make way for high rise towers for Muslims flocking to perform the annual pilgrimage to Islam's most revered city.

"We are witnessing now the last few moments of the history of Makka," Angawi said on July 7 adding, "Its layers of history are being bulldozed for a parking lot."

Bayt ul Huzn

Angawi estimated that over the past 50 years at least 300 historical buildings had been levelled in Makka and Medina, another revered city containing holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his pure progeny)'s holy shrine.

It is worth-noting that Jannatul Baqee (cemetery of Baqee) in Medina and Jannatul Moalla (Cemetery of Molaal) in Makka which contain the holy shrines of holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his pure progeny)’s daughter Fatimah Zahra (peace be upon her), infallible imams from his progeny (peace be upon them) – namely Imam Hassan Al-Mojtaba, Imam Zein Al-Abideen, Imam Muhammad Baqer and Imam Ja’far As-Sadeq (peace be upon them) -, his wives (may Allah be please with them) including Sayyedah Khadijatul Kobra (peace be upon her), his companions (may Allah be please with them), aunts and uncles (may Allah be please with them) top the list of the bulldozed holy signs of Islam.

Angawi said: "They (Wahhabis) have not allowed preservation of old buildings, especially those related to the prophet. They fear other Muslims will come to see these buildings as blessed and this could lead to polytheism and idolatry."

The Washington-based Saudi Institute, an independent news gathering group, says most Islamic landmarks have been destroyed since Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932.

It cited a 1994 edict by the kingdom's senior council of religious scholars which ruled that preserving historical buildings might lead to polytheism.

Angawi, who founded the Haj Research Centre in 1975 to study and preserve Makka's and Medina's rich history, claims to have identified a home of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his pure progeny).

But he is reluctant to publicize its location, fearing it would be demolished like Dar Al-Arqam - the first school in Islam where the prophet (peace be upon him and his pure progeny) taught.

Angawi's views were echoed elsewhere. In London, Geoffrey King, Islamic art and archaeology specialist at the School of Oriental and African Studies, said the fate of Islamic historic sites in Saudi Arabia was "depressing".

"The religious authorities have failed to appreciate the significance of these buildings to Muslims and scholars worldwide," said King, who taught for several years in the kingdom and stressed many young Saudis agreed with him.

Real estate firms see massive demand for new accommodation to house up to 20 million pilgrims expected to visit Islam's most important city annually over the coming years as the authorities relax entry restrictions for pilgrims.

"The infrastructure at the moment cannot cope. New hotels, apartments and services are badly needed," the director of a leading real estate company said, estimating that developers are spending around $13 billion on projects in the city.

Dominating these is the 10 billion riyal Jabal Omar scheme. Covering a 230,000-sq-m area adjacent to the Grand mosque, the seven-year project consists of several towers containing hotels, apartments, shops and restaurants.

Angawi said these developments will dwarf Makka's Grand mosque and are a sign of crass commercialization.

"Makka is being treated like a bad copy of any city when it is a sanctuary. The house of God is being commercialized and these developments are disrespectful and totally out of proportion."

But the Jabal Omar Development Company, the firm behind the project, said it was changing Makka for the better, not least by demolishing more than 1000 poorly built homes that clung precariously to the hillsides around the Grand mosque.

But Angawi is not convinced of the developers' motives.

"We have to accommodate these new pilgrims, but do we have to do it in towers and skyscrapers? Making money seems to be the bottom line here," he said.

"We are destroying physical links to our past and turning our religion and history into a legend."

The only representative body of Pakistan Shiias, Tehrik Nafaz-e-Fiqh-e-Jafariya (TNFJ) headed by Syed Hamid Moosavi has been raising voice of protest for the past quarter a century by holding huge demonstrations against destruction of holy signs of Islam. Exerting pressure on Saudi government for reconstruction of Jannatul Baqee and Jannatul Moalla is one of the demands presented by TNFJ to the government of Pakistan.

UNESCO new heritage list … no steps for preserving Medina shrines

PARIS, France: The UNESCO World Heritage Committee will hold its annual meeting in sub-Saharan Africa this year for the first time since its formation in 1972, during which final decision will be made on the registration of new sites on its World Heritage List.

Baqee Demolition Day programs demand shrines reconstruction, regret media silence

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Youm-e-Inhidam-e-Jannatul Baqee, or the Day of Demolition of Cemetery of Baqee, was observed throughout Pakistan like other global parts in line with the announcement made by chief of the Tehreek Nafaz Fiqh-e-Jafariya Syed Hamid Moosavi on Shawwal 8 with due religious spirit, fervor and devotion. Marking the occasion, protest mourning processions were held in all big cities and towns.

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