Our Bulldozed History

Abeer Mishkhas is unhappy about the negligence of the old parts of Jeddah in the brochures and ads promoting tourism in the city, “stressing only the beaches, malls and restaurants.” She fears that when we finally realize the importance of such areas, “they will have become ruins or non-existent,” she added.

Maybe it is too late. The Wahhabis who view historical buildings and sites as promoting idolatry have prevented us from saving some priceless treasures for many years, and they still active on that. Unfortunately, no one is brave enough to face the religious establishment in the county.

This is not only happening in Jeddah. It is the same case in every part of the Kingdom. This report by Reuters is paying more attention to the holy city of Mecca, where the case is much worse. “We are witnessing now the last few moments of the history of Mecca,” said Sami Angawi, an expert on the region’s Islamic architecture and the founder of Hajj Research Center. The 1400-year-old historical sites are removed for building towers and parking lots.

It is really depressing. This strict narrow interpretation of Islam has caused us troubles of all kinds, and yet there still some people who are willing to defend it. Wake up, people! Wake up!

21 thoughts on “Our Bulldozed History

  1. I doubt it’s a Wahhabi problem, Ahmed. Sure Wahhabis have a strict interpertation of Islam, but, I mean, it would be unfair to put the total blame on Wahabism. Mecca is a city Wahhabists approve of and growing up in a wahhabi society, I know that more than anything, the prefer authenticity. So why are they tearing Mecca down for parking lots? That doesnt sound too Wahhabi? A7med, you know as well as I do, that it’s more or less pure apathy. Once we, the people, begin caring, we can make the government take proper actions to save them.
    But we don’t care. Not the Wahhabis, not the Hanbalis, not the Shiites, not the Sufists, NOBODY.

    Plus, as a daughter of one who has worked at the SCT part-time, I know that places like Madaen Saleh for example, are open to those with fat wallets, and I even have the brochures (remind me to give them to you as they’ve proven to be completely useless).

    So, um, what’s wahhabism got to do with it? You know as well as I do, that no matter how hard wahhabists may bark, if the actual people wanted something, and I mean the MAJORITY of the people (remember the majority of the people all around the Kingdom and not only Riyadh, Jeddah or Khubbar) really, really wanted it, “wahhabists” and their bogus claims would be ignored. So it is, as I’ve said before, pure apathy.

  2. A couple weeks ago I went to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival several times to see the Oman section. It was very interesting to learn about the Omani culture and society and how they’ve managed to retain the old way of life and integrate it into the modern society. One of the craftspeople was a guy who creates mud bricks for construction; it was fascinating to see how it is all put together.

    I also remember several years ago, back in the early 80s, I think, when Saudi Arabia put up an elaborate exhibit of their culture in partnership with Smithsonian Institute. It was interesting, but what struck me the most was how very little was on display that was associated with women, for instance, clothing, traditions, etc. As a female teenager, I felt like I was missing a huge part in trying to understand the society. That’s the biggest thing that I remember; I have vague memories of how crowded it was, and how people were so interested and the kind of response that we got from the Saudis who were part of this. Some were, how do I put it, not particularly welcoming.

  3. I read a news story recently about this that they wish to build a parking lot over what is possibly the home of Prophet(pbuh). Such things are apart of Muslim history.

  4. Gosh! Thanks for rasing this issue. I remember I was devasted when I heard about that fort being destroyed in Mecca. That fort was something my dad would tell us about– Islamic history, and I had hoped that I would be able to do the same with my kids in the future. But, they razed that ancint fort down, and now I will have to tell my kids about the new hotels and restaurants and shops that would be comig up there!

    I don’t think its an issue of which religious group approves or denies of an ancient heritage, its an issue of appreciation of arts and culture. Like Farooha said, its all apathy.


  5. I appreciate every word said out in this post. It is true: it is a wahhabi obstinence to destroy islamic culture and beauty. The word ” bulldozer” brings back to me the Baqi^ cemetry in Medina. Has it been brought to rubbles because of apathy ? or because of a ravaging resentment ?
    If you have ever been to Damascus, and entered the “Ahlu Al Bayt” cemetery, it is still preserved and maintained. It can never cross my mind that the Prophet companion “Bilal” shrine lying there may one day be demolished the same way as in Al Baqi^.
    Anyway, we are still hoping that the beloved king Abdullah still holds a vision of how to defend the precious islamic culture everywhere in the Saudi kingdom.

  6. The marriage between Al Saud and Al Shaiykh, was not a marriage based on Religion. It was a Marriage based on nationalism.

    Like arab nationalism distroyed the Islamic Uthman Khilafa, and we as Muslims lost Bayt Al Muqadas becaues of that. The same reason is why today the Saudi system destroys old structures in Makkah and other areas of significance.

    They have been doing this for many years, but doing it slowly because even some local scholars, the few that remain in the country, have spoken out about this on a few occasions. They are trying to remove any remains of the uthman khilafa and its contributions from Saudi.

    It is good that you guys are picking up on these things, but dont do it as your forefathers did, out of national significance. But out of Islamic importance, the more they destroy the more of your Islamic history goes to waste.

  7. Wahhabi’s are the problem. They bulldoze the graves of the family of the prophet and then they preach religion. All these fanatics running around the world killing civilians are a direct cause of the wahabi doctorine. Whenever money is donate by the Saudi goverment it comes with a catch – spread their tyrannical interpetation of islam. Religious police ?? Who died and made them the authority of islam. Last time I check the only thing that is Bidah is the wahhabi’s themselves. The first Wahhabi’s were taken to Istanbul and beheaded because they were heretics – unfortunately they missed some of them.

  8. This is not good at all. Just think reverse and stand against any development which make pilgrims easy to access holy plot, if there no any development around mekkah and just keep Mekkah in old style, how could welcome /occupy clouds, millions? Instead of thinking ‘old age’ statues, think practically what can do for vast pilgrims? Definitely history teach good lesson for coming generation but religion is not to say the history but perform practically. There were many old places around world districted for nothing like place in Iraq etc. nobody counting those as act oh Wahabbism. There is no any ism in true religion if someone call linking to wahabb that’s too good. Wahab meant to GOD almighty na? so nothing wrong with calling it but don’t link badly everything to that. while reading article, I could image what are these guys aiming … allege blindly…just like blind bats.

  9. Yeah, I agree re Wahabis. Man, it’s ok if they do this sort of stuff in KSA (I mean it’s not ok, but its their country), but why export their idiotism abroad? Paying people to follow their cretenic customs (I’m not even going to say religion!).
    And we are all very surprised why people are looking down at as …

  10. Dear sir

    Saudi good system, but some area some person here spoiling the name of the king dom by harassing the person coming from outside. please do the needful by implementing full islamic law and help poor fellows by checking and inspecting the companies here.

    it is a trust

  11. Remember the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afganistan? They blew it to kingdom come and all thats left is the base of the statue. It was made 1400 years ago or so and this Taligang err Taliban just blew because it was against Islam.

  12. One of my very favorite places on the old home planet is a Turkish fort up in Hafar Al Batin. I went there as often as I could during my SCECO project inspections in the late 70’s. It had the untouched remains of Pre WWI, WWI, WWII and other bits and pieces of history. I know from my reading that the location of the fort was critical as far back as the Sumerians. They wrote that the ‘Semitic’ people (Bedu?)regularly used Waddi Al Batin to stage raids on their cities. Recently Saddam was surprised to have his huge army cut off by folks using that same Waddi Al Batin route. I think the Bedu probably also made life hell for the Turks and that is why they built the fort in the first place. It is odd to me that the Bedu, being the most free of people one can imagine were also part of Abul Wahab’s theosophy ( if that is how you spell it). I look on Google Earth regularly to try and find this World Class historic fort. Does anyone on this blog live up in that area and know if it is still there? I have some photos of the fort, but I would appreciate knowing where to look related to the new town that has grown up there. Very best to you all and I think this must be a hard but important and historic time to be a young Saudi! Also, does anyone know what spices are used in Schwarma? No one here in North America has a clue..

  13. I doubt if the people behind the destruction of the historical sites truly understand the damage they are causing to their own culture and to Muslim heritage which is not the exclusive preserve of any particular sect or nationality.

    Whether its an old fort or a shrine, a grave or a statue, over a period of time it becomes a symbol of what was great/good/bad/evil about that particular era. We learn and move forward. But their physical presence is a constant reminder to all of us: it can be a source of great pride or a symbol of hatred. It stand silently and tells us a powerful story, much much more powerful then words can describe. Destroy that physical presence and you have destroyed a priceless part of your own heritage. You have nothing to pass on to the next generation except perhaps a fairy tale and a less then inspiring view of a multi story parking lot.

  14. Why did MUhammad (peace be upong him) destroy the 300 idols placed inside the Kaaba when he invaded it? That was pre-Islamic history. Those were the treasures that would have allowed the researchers today to study pre-Islamic Arabia. Why dont you point fingers at our Prophet while you are quick enough to point fingers at his followers?

  15. was Muhammad (peace be upon him) extremist when he destroyed the idols? That is what you think right … it is implicit in your statements.

  16. Dear Viscous

    I think that the people commenting here are not implying in anyway that Muhammed (peace be upon him) was a extremist. Muhammed (peace be upon him) broke the idols in order to dissolve the old tribal system and to establish Tawheed (To make something one, Islamic monotheism).

    Today people have returned to the old tribal system while they maintain that they are still have Tawheed.

    I don’t personally think that by not preserving old architecture monuments will in anyway implicitly or explicitly promote polytheism or promote people to live in the past pre-Islamic times.

    I think that by preserving, refurbishing and maintaining historical monuments such as architecture such as the old town in Jeddah or any other part of Islamic culture is essential in preserving a national and Islamic identity.

    This will not in anyway promote the pre-Islamic Arabia but will rather give a contrast of the immense chance and rapid development from the pre-Islamic to the Islamic era. Something that we all as Muslims can be very proud of.

  17. It is not Wahhabism that calls for the removal of graves that are used as shrines for pilgrims. It is ISLAM and the SUNNAH which calls for it.

    Mohammad (PBUH) told us to stick to his way and the way of his Companions. One of his Comapanions, Omar ibn Khattab, went so far as to cut down a tree under which many Muslims gave an pledge of allegiance to Mohammad (PBUH) because people started to make pilgrimages there. He was afraid that after a few generations, people would start to commit SHIRK and revere the tree instead of just going to remember what happened there.

    That is how idol-worship starts – firstly by looking at something to remind you of something else which is good, and then slowly replacing the remembrance of something good with remembrance of an object.

    These places have no special powers or blessings which come from themselves. They cannot benefit us or harm us of themselves. Only ALLAH has power and distributes Blessing as He wills, so turn to HIM for every need.

  18. We live in an archaelogical age of skepticism. Let me elaborate.

    If you attempt to talk about Islamic history using books like Sirah Ibn Hisham or Futuhat Shaam as supporting evidence for your thesis, people don’t believe you. Especially non-muslims.

    But if you provide archaelogical evidence of your claims, everyone listens. By annihilating monuments of Islamic History, we are exposing ourselves to lurid and false claims about our religion. Without archaelogical evidence in our reponse to these claims, our statements sound hollow.

    Muslim historians are now frantically trying to collect togethor evidence of Islamic achievements and accomplishements to PROTECT Islam against attacks. An excellent example is http://www.islamic-awareness.org, who are documenting Islamic manuscripts and examples of Arabic script in arachelogical buildings to debunk Orientalist claims that the Quran was written AFTER the Prophet’s death. If the archaelogical evidence is gone, who will defend Islam. The tooth fairy?

    I will write more on a later date.

  19. The wanton destruction of the old(er) districts around the holy areas in Makah and Medina were/are based on greed by the powerful few who see business opportunities to benefit themselves alone -and they cannot be challenged. The old areas in Jeddah and Yanbu are other examples. I well remember the old Prince of Yanbu saying he would like to demolish the historic area and build a shopping mall and carpark- and that was in the 1980s. All this loss of heritage, which can never be replaced, is only to the detriment of future saudi generations who will curse those who went before them for such behaviour.

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