Islamic heritage is in danger and the threat to sites such as the tomb of the Holy Prophet Mohammad is coming from none other than an entity that had sworn to protect it – the Saudi government.
While reports of Prophet Mohammad’s tomb allegedly being bulldozed are nothing new; what is absolutely astonishing is that the Kingdom has been razing sites of great historical significance to further their economic gains.
Over the years the Saudi government has razed many historical sites including mosques and homes belonging to companions and wives of Prophet Mohammed.
These expansion plans of Masjid-e-Nabawi (The Prophet's mosque) in the city of Medina include Riyadh al-Jannah (Garden of Paradise), a section of the mosque that the Prophet declared especially holy. It also includes the flattening of the graves of Mohamed, Abu Bakr and Umar. companions of Prophet Mohammed and two of the four Muslim caliphs (Khulfa-e-Rashideen).
The sites already demolished both in the cities of Mecca and Medina were of great reverence to Muslims all over the world as well as great archeological and historic importance.
Saudi authorities claim the move is being made to accommodate more pilgrims, which if read between the lines, translates into further profits for the custodians of the Kaaba, a structure Muslims all over the world face towards while praying.
The Holy Mosque, Mecca:
Hardly any part of the Mosque in Mecca, which houses the Kaaba, has been spared from the renovations.
Most of the Ottoman and Abbasid sections have also been demolished. What remains now are colossal mosques with the ability to accommodate millions of pilgrims surrounded by looming hotels, restaurants and shopping plazas.
According to an estimate, 95 percent of Mecca's millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades alone.
The Saudi government claims the expansion is necessary to accommodate millions of pilgrims who visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina every year, but the fact is that the very heritage of Islam’s two holiest cities is being destroyed.
The skyscrapers, shopping malls ( with the likes of Starbucks, Burger King, Nine West and Aldo etc) and luxury hotels standing in place of sites of immense historic and religious significance indicate the stupendous amounts of money the religious tourism brings in for the Kingdom.
In 2012, Saudi Arabia earned about US$16.5bn from the annual pilgrimage rituals of Hajj and Umrah. According to the same report, the revenue from the pilgrims to the holy city of Mecca, Medina and other religious sites in the kingdom, accounts for about 3 percent of the kingdom's gross domestic product. It also added that more than 7 million pilgrims visit Saudi Arabia's holy sites every year with religious tourists spending about US$10,000 per visit.
They may call it expansion to accommodate pilgrims; but in reality it is nothing more than vandalism and profiteering.