Makkah is a Sanctuary... The City of Meezan, a City of Balance" (Dr. Sami Angawi) Facts collected by Arabian Jewel Staff Edited by Sarah Jafri
JEDDAH-As we sat keenly listening to the lecture and presentation done in the weekly Makkiya program at the magnificent residence of Dr. Sami Angawi, a man whose sight alone will bring miniature Islamic art to life, whose profound presence words cannot describe and whose efforts of awareness have sparked the conscience of leaders, politicians and thousands of people from all walks of life. Nearing the end of the the evening program a young lady amidst the female guests raised a question to the speaker, "What can we do as non Saudis to help preserve our history?" The reply that emitted from Dr. Angawi; a simple two words, 'worked like magic upon my heart', she states. "Are you a Muslim, are you a human?" This evening was a mark in history as those females present claim, "There was no turning back". The information presented below serves to aquaint basic facts in a simplified manner which we hope will easily be understood by the general public.
Historic Significance of Makkah and Madinah: "The most important Shrine established for the people is the one in Becca; a blessed beacon for all the people. In it are clear signs: the Station of Abraham. Anyone who enters it shall be granted safe passage." [Quran; 3:96-97] Psalms: The valley of Baca in the The Jewish Encyclopedia Baca, The Valley Of: A valley mentioned in Psalms XXXIV:7. Since it is there said that pilgrims transform the valley into a land of wells, an old translators gave to Baca, the meaning of a "valley of weeping"; but it signifies rather any valley lacking water. Support for this latter view is to be found in II Samuel V:23 et seq.; I Chronicles XIV:14 ET seq., in which the plural form of the same word designates a tree similar to the balsam tree; and it was supposed that a dry valley could be named after this tree. Konig takes Baca from the Arabian Baka'a, and translates it "lack of streams". The Psalmist apparently has in mind a particular valley whose natural condition led him to adopt its name. The translation of Arabian Baka'a as "lack of stream" seems to throw some light on the nature of the valley before the appearance of the stream of Zam-Zam near Ka'bah which was a dry place with no vegetation whatsoever.
In summary critics local and abroad are all concerned with this matter and do not condemn construction by itself yet rather ask to take into consideration the fundamental factors involved in changes done to a sanctuary. These fine lines cannot be ignored, overlooked or rejected as is the case or else as predicted, we all will face a very high price. The experts in the Hejaz region who have proposed multiple alternatives and viable solutions only face utter disappointment. 'They are not even considering alternatives'. Proofs concerning the sanctity of Makkah and Madinah: Quran: "The most important Shrine established for the people is the one in Becca; a blessed beacon for all the people. In it are clear signs: the Station of Abraham. Anyone who enters it shall be granted safe passage." [Quran; 3:96-97] "God has laid down that the Ka'aba, the inviolable Temple, shall be a symbol for all mankind" (5:97) Hadith: "By Allah ! You (O Makkah) are the best of Allah' s land, and most beloved to Him. Had I not been driven away from you, I would have never departed (from you)." (Ahmad, Ibn Majah and Tirmidhi) Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Book 30: Volume 3, Book 30, Number 91: Narrated Anas: The Prophet said, "Madinah is a sanctuary from that place to that. Its trees should not be cut and no heresy should be innovated nor any sin should be committed in it, and whoever innovates in it an heresy or commits sins (bad deeds), then he will incur the curse of Allah, the angels, and all the people." (See Hadith No. 409, Vol 9). On Miquat (sanctified boundries): It has been an established norm among all mankind that their countries, lands, and houses are barricaded from unwilling entrance. A visa or a permit is then necessary to grant lawful entry to their premises. The House of Allah is also barricaded by different levels of sanctuary boundaries. The innermost boundary is Al Ka'bah (The Sacred House or The Ancient House). The second level is the Sacred Mosque (Al Masjed Al Haram) boundary where other sanctuaries are enclosed within. Next is The Sacred City (or territory) where only those who came with the specific intention to perform Hajj and/or 'Umrah are entitled to enter. The outermost boundary is Al-Miquat (the appointed limits in relation to space and time} where all Muslims residing outside this boundary and wishing to visit the house of Allah for Hajj and/or 'Umrah should by entering Al Miquat forbade upon themselves some of their actions that they are allowed otherwise. Their normal actions will be restored by performing some actions known as Hajj and/or Umrah duties.Thus is it clear that the city, the mosque, landmarks of Islamic significance and every thing else that falls within the boundaries of the Sanctuary are to be regarded sacred. Scholarly Opinion: Ibn Taimiyyah said, "There is no other sanctuary in the whole world besides these two, not even the Al-Aqsa Mosque of Jerusalem, nor any other..
On Respecting the Signs of Allah: "That (shall be so); and whoever respects the signs of Allah, this surely is (the outcome) of the piety of hearts." [Quran, 22:32] "O you who believe! do not violate the (sanctity of the) signs appointed by Allah nor the sacred month, nor (interfere with) the offerings, nor the sacrificial animals with garlands, nor those going to the sacred house seeking the grace and pleasure of their Lord" [Quran, 5:2.9] "..But none reject Our Signs except only a perfidious ungrateful (wretch)!" [Quran, 31:32 Defining Sanctuary: "A sacred place, such as a church, temple, or mosque.A reserved area in which birds and other animals, especially wild animals, are protected from hunting.."
What does Saudi Constitution State: The Saudi government established an institute named the Institute of Islamic Heritage and Proofs, this department had the responsibility to oversee the Islamic Heritage, Relics and Proofs. (Government Resolution: M26 dated 1396AH). Relating to this a higher board was established named Al Mujallisal Ala lil Asar (Supreme Council for Protection of Islamic Heritage). Resolution 235 (21/02/1398AH) passed by the Higher Ministry stated that the Minister of Education and President of the Hajj Ministry and Religious Affairs as well as the Information and Media Departments were all to become members of the Supreme Council for Protection of Islamic Heritage. Section 6 protect and maintain all Islamic Heritage and Historical Proofs Section 7 ascertain the status of various Islamic Heritage and Historic Proofs for the purpose of classification, transferable or non-transferable (Example Hajar-e-Aswad would be non-transferable but coins or letters are transferable.) Section 11 incurring damage or modifying any Islamic Heritage or Historic Proofs is strictly forbidden Section 12 any extension or construction needs permission from the Institute of Islamic Heritage and Proofs Saudi's Priority for 'Heritage Preservation': Quote from UNESCO: "The Archaeological Site of Al-Hijr (Mada in Salih) is the first World Heritage property to be inscribed in Saudi Arabia. Formerly known as Hegra it is the largest conserved site of the civilization of the Nabataeans south of Petra in Jordan. It features well-preserved monumental tombs with decorated facades dating from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD. The site also features some 50 inscriptions of the pre-Nabataean period and some cave drawings. Al-Hijr bears a unique testimony to Nabataean civilization. With its 111 monumental tombs, 94 of which are decorated, and water wells, the site is an outstanding example of the Nabataeans architectural accomplishment and hydraulic expertise." Destroying sites which are not only precious to Muslims, but also valuable for archaeological reasons, and as part of world heritage. Authorities have been engaged in wholesale destruction of historical places for decades now as they believe pilgrimage to such places encourages heretical and idolatrous worship. Saudi Arabia representing Islam's birth place should actually be concerned with archaeological sites concerning Makkah/Madinah as the foremost priority..the rest comes later. Some Historic Facts to Consider: In 1998, the grave of Amina bint Wahb, the prophet Mohammed's mother, was bulldozed and doused in gasoline. Irfan Ahmed al-Alawi, who chairs the Islamic Heritage Foundation, said that despite petitions from thousands within the ummah, the Saudis went ahead regardless. The birthplace of the prophet Mohammed came under threat 50 years ago, when the House of Saud decided to build a library over the site. The architect then persuaded the authorities to allow him to preserve the remains beneath the library. Now the authorities want to concrete over the site and turn it into a car park. The house of Khadijah, the prophet's first wife, was demolished and replaced with public lavatories. The house of Abu Bakr, the companion of Mohammed and father of Aisha who first compiled the verses of the Koran, was demolished to make way for the Hilton hotel. There are now less than 20 structures remaining which date from the time of the prophet Mohammed. Above is the scene of destruction when the muttawa or religious police, visible in red headgear, supervised the demolition of the ancient Mosque of Imam Al Uraidh. This mosque, built 1,200 years ago, stood on the site where Ali-Oraid, grandson of Mohammed, had lived. Now it is covered by rubble. Why Preserve our Heritage: Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. Maybe we should consider making a visit to the Vatican. Destruction of the most precious sites in Islam for fear of idolatry by some, is akin to killing a child for fear that he may grow up to be less than pious. Instead of fearing, the idolatry of the historic structures, they could be used as instructional tools for the upcoming generations. After the Quran, the most important source of Islamic law is the collection of the traditions of the Prophet. Of all the Islamic monuments, what could be more valuable than the preservation of the structures and the setting in which the Prophet and his early followers lived? With the modern methods of Archaeology, the bricks, mortar and the palm fronds could speak volumes about the invaluable past. 'What is the difference between history and legend?... the difference between them is the evidence. What evidence do we as Muslims have for being existed?'(Angawi) Viable Solution: Balance or Meezan (in Arabic). Balance has been lost so much so that urbanization of the two sacred cities has created a widespread feel of contempt .We now face imbalance. An interview by Dr. Sami Angawi, an expert on the region's Islamic architecture and Founder of Hajj Research Centre has spent over 30 years studying and researching and advocating this very issue. His interview on BBC where he explains further: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqB-y4YCKSs Why not ask the experts? "The Makkans are the people who are most aware of its routes"(Arab proverb). "For the best solutions to emerge, the first step should be an evaluation of the historic heart of Mecca and Medina by a commission of reputable archaeologists and historians. Based on their report a high-powered panel of well recognized architects and town planners should study the problem and come up with recommendations for growth. The concern of the Saudi government to discourage the idolatrous attitude of some Muslims towards the relics associated with the Prophet is quite understandable. It is important to discourage it, but destroying our precious heritage because of less than perfect understanding of some Muslims, would be a great loss to the Islamic civilization, ethos, history and the future generations of Muslims. Muslims of the world ought to strongly urge  the Saudi Government to embark on a modern city planning of Mecca, Medina and other important historical sites. While the enlightened world is engaged in unearthing lost historical sites, the most precious Islamic sites are being destroyed. Future generations of Muslims would forever be grateful to the vision of those who understood the importance of preserving precious history, or curse our generation, who kept quiet, while the temporary custodians demolished their heritage in a few decades of their trusteeship". ( Mirza A. Beg (Monday, August 22, 2005) What's Next?: With the rapid rate of change in the two sacred cities, the world continues to remain silent. Who really knows what's next.. "A pamphlet published last year by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, endorsed by Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and distributed at the Prophet's Mosque, where Mohammed, Abu Bakr, and the Islamic Caliph Umar ibn Al Khattab are buried, reads, "The green dome shall be demolished and the three graves flattened in the Prophet's Mosque," according to Irfan Al Alawi, executive director of the London-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation. It would be in the best of our intrest to not only be aware of what's going on yet play an acitve role to help preserve our priceless heritage as 'Muslims' as 'Humans'.