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Friday, October 15, 2021

Stop the destruction of the holy sites of Islam

Every year it has become a norm for Muslim shrines and holy places to be continuously destroyed. And what this signals is the fact that it has come to stay; for the misinterpretation and deformation of the sacred teaching and classical texts of Islam being the main cause, it’s a menace that cannot be rooted out except with a sincere authentication of the sources, which is a next to impossible task.


The ISIS group in Syria and Iraq is the new fanatical cult bent on implementing this ideology that emanated from the teachings of the classical scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, who was known for his controversial and solitary stance on the seeking of blessings from such holy sites. He was infamous for such issues, in that he was isolated and refuted by majority of the Sunni orthodox scholars. 


However the teachings of this scholar didn’t die and instead centuries after his demise, his works and thoughts were revived by the fiery Najdi cleric Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab who started a movement of “purifying” the religion by destroying the sacred places such as the graves and tombs of the saints, claiming like his predecessor Ibn Taymiyyah that these places were like idols which defeat the whole purpose of Islamic monotheism. Thus giving birth to the Wahabi sect commonly referred to as Salafism.


The eponymous Wahabi Movement of Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab found support in one of the royal families of one of the many clans of the Arabs- the Saud family. And this union gave birth to a powerful movement, which in our times have grown even more powerful, thanks to the petro billion dollars. This only made the spread of their ideology easier. Flooding the Islamic world with their literatures and offering scholarships to their learning institutions. Many of those who returned from these schools, came back loathing the traditional methodology of the learned elders of their lands of birth. The very extreme elements, agitating for an “Islamic State” and destruction of the old models of following Islam.


But these people who follow the extreme Wahabi path didn’t necessarily stop at the destruction of shrines but also libraries and written relics from the pious past. We can recall the destruction of manuscripts from the old city of Timbuktu in Mali. Manuscripts which are believed to be from the ancient Sankore University which flourished during the medieval days of the Songhai Empire, reputed as being the oldest university. But this is hardly something to bewilder us since 200 years ago their model Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab and his cohorts destroyed plenty of literature and burnt others in the marketplaces, like the Qasidah al Burdah a poem in praise of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), which they said contained elements of associating divinity to the Prophet.


But this has not always been the case with the Muslim ummah. We find the great imams and scholars of this religion seeking blessings in the shrines of other great men. The great historian Khatib al-Baghdadi, in his magnum opus Tarikh Baghdad on the lives of the great ones regarding hadith and other fields mentioned that Imam Shafi’i would visit the grave of Imam Abu Hanifa and pray there when he had some pressing need and ask God to fulfill that need, which would invariably be fulfilled. This understanding was not restricted to only those scholars from the golden era of Islam but continued downwards with the flow of time to this time of ours. 


So destroying libraries and the tombs of the saints represent at its best a deep ideological mistake and dogmatic misrepresentation of an overheated Hanbali theology, that have nothing to do with the normative and well-trodden path of Islam. Hence the scholars, who are entrusted with the prophetic inheritance of sacred knowledge, should rise and defend the creed of Sunni orthodoxy and expose the lies and ignorance of this otherwise demonic sect that is destroying the fruits of the merciful Muhammadan path of love, grace and mercy.


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