By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
October 19, 2014
Many an enlightened nations today spend a fortune on preserving ancient relics in national museums or on site for the future generation to acquire the knowledge of their countries’ past history. Reflection on history is considered as essential by enlightened nations.
Some of the famous museums have large sections devoted to other countries’ artefacts and historic relics. However, many of these plundered and looted in wars of aggression and colonisation!
Years ago, came across a small restaurant in a back alley in Cordoba, Spain. It had a carved wooden frame doorway, around which was some faded Arabic writing. We were told that the doorway is preserved for its historic importance.
Andalucía in particular is dotted with such reminders of the period of Muslim rule of centuries in Spain; al-Hamra palaces; and the Cathedral turned Mosque turned Cathedral in the same compound are not the only the famous monuments. Even today the Christian country of Spain spends large amount of money on preservation and maintenance of its past Muslim history.
A Muslim majority country of Turkey today matches the same sense of the enlightenment in preserving its past Christian history; of which the monumental 6th century Church Hagia Sophia, which was turned into a mosque by early Muslims, but later preserved as a museum, is such an example. That is not all. The country is dotted with what is left of ancient Christian relics. In Neacia/Iznik, where the first ecumenical council (325 AD) was held, has many such relics. Coaches full of foreign tourist visit the country to see these relics.
These two countries mentioned above are of course not the exception. The world is spread with such examples of preserved historic relics including archaeological digs of its past, as record of history and national heritage and often displayed with pride.
These heritages therefore bring to the fore the importance of historic knowledge as to how mankind has progressed and sometimes even regressed.
The follow-on effect of such enlightenment is the fact that these monuments and relics should generate goodwill among people who see a common heritage and bond between them. And also augment the foreign currency earnings of the country, beneficially boosting its economy.
Ruins of Mohenjodaro and Harappa among many are examples. For the religiously inclined Pompeii is an example of historical importance referred to in the scriptures.
Therefore destruction of historic relics under any ideology is an evidence of ignorance and bigotry, for not only it destroys the bonds between people of other religions and cultures that are associated with those relics, but also the economy and historic knowledge that is essential to learn from past mistakes of previous generation.
Bamyan colossal statutes of Buddha, carved in the rocks of the Torabora hills, some fifteen centuries ago in the north Afghanistan were of immense important heritage of mankind’s history, of the country ruled by Buddhist dynasty.
These were destroyed in 2001 by the illiterate, ignorant and bigoted people now famously called Taliban. They were glued to the rear view mirror with prejudiced mindset, thus destroying the goodwill and common bond that perhaps existed with neighbouring countries.
It was stated that these Buddha statues were religious icons and idols and therein was the danger that the next generation of Afghans would worship them! Hence the shouts of Allah Akbar that accompanied the blasts that destroyed the humanity’s heritage to pieces in God’s name, but against His commands!
It is said that a nation that does not acquire the knowledge of its past history cannot avoid making the same mistakes that can bring about its demise.
Ironically the site will now serve as a historic site for the future generations of Afghans to learn from history and to realise how bigoted were their forefathers and senseless their actions?
Similar news of bigotry filtered recently from Egypt where some born-again Muslims and muftis advocated that the sphinxes and the colossal statues of Pharaohs, dating back four and five thousand years be covered with tarpaulin, if not destroyed completely, to prevent Muslims worshiping them as idols in the future.
It must be asked then that those Muslims, who occupied Egypt since some thirteen hundred years ago, were they not “good Muslims” to have preserved the relics for all these centuries? Today Egyptology is so important that it is considered a special branch of history.
Similarly the Muslims who came to Afghanistan some eight hundred years ago; were they not “good Muslims” to have preserved the Buddhist monument for all this time?
Were the Taliban the first good Muslims to have entered Afghanistan, and that too only recently?
Recently there is the outrage among enlightened Muslims on the destruction of historic houses, relics and places by the Saudi kingdom for the express purposes of expanding the areas for building grandiose hotels to accommodate the growing number of Muslim pilgrims, who flock there now by the millions, almost all the year around.
Money making religious industry has no need for history. Knowledge of History is not required for religious spirituality, so it seems.
But Quran says the opposite as it will be seen later!
However therein lays the catch twenty two of ideology of eliminating the practice of worship of graves and reverence to such icons in the name of the same ideology! This form of worship and reverence is not a fiction in many Muslim majority countries though. Grave, tombs and personality-cultism is a part of their religion.
Should then the Arabs be given the benefit of doubt? Not really.
Close examination of their ideology smacks of hypocrisy. Is not the worship and religious reverence of the Stone building Kaa’ba, the black stone, Muhammad’s tomb and many other objects by the large majority of Muslims the same thing?
If taken in historic context, to gain knowledge, the visit there would make good sense though.
Yet the very thought of destroying these ancient religious relics which are revered if not worshiped, is unthinkable to the whole Muslim nation. To the religious Moghuls and custodians of two Harams – the Khadim ul Haramain and followers of an “ideology” that would be an anathema too, for it will cause economic disaster when the oil eventually runs out.
It seems that Religious Spirituality cannot survive without the man-material-tangible idols.
Therefore pragmatism of economic realities dictates their preservation.
3:77 - As for those who sell the Faith they owe to God and their own plighted word for a small price… It is correctly argued though that the worldly gains are by no means small. What a dilemma!
Therein lay the duality of ideology and necessity. To destroy the non-lucrative historic relics but retaining the religious temples and the idols; hypocrisy knows no bounds.
It could be argued very strongly that these rituals are given in Quran. So they are indeed. In what shape or manner they are practiced now, is the sixty four – in today’s terms not thousand but billion dollar question?
The message of Quran is for all Humanity and was the same through messenger Muhammad and via all the previous messengers 2-4.
But the Arabic Quran, like many other objects de Arabia, is also another idol to be kissed and caressed!
It is a relief that Quran allows us to question everything 25-73!
Most importantly though, are these verses in this particular context of acquiring knowledge, the knowledge of history:-
12-109: Nor did we send before you (as apostles) any but men whom we did inspire, men living in human habitations, Do they not travel through the earth and observe what was the end of those before them?
12-111: There is in their stories instructions for men-kind endued with intelligence, it is not a tale invented but a confirmation of what went before it…
22-46: Do they not travel through the land, so that their hearts (and minds) may thus learn wisdom and their ears may thus hear? Truly it is not their eyes that are blind but their hearts.
And there are many more of such verses exholting nations to acquire knowledge of History, which the Book makes it essential for the acquisition of wisdom, by intelligent people with enlightened minds – Ulil-Albaab.
20-114 Oh my lord make increase in my knowledge; if it can be achieved in Mosques and supplicating sitting on prayer-rugs, then why the exhortations to take the rigors of travel?
And digging the earth for knowledge is such a back breaking task!
Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo and the likes, who opened the world of knowledge for us were perhaps out of their minds!
Enlightenment comes from broad based education. But Most of the Muslim governments have adopted the Pharaohnic strategy of keeping their people in the dark; by “killing” the inquiring and questioning minds of the young so as to maintain the hold on power and privileges of positions.
If any young person wishes to acquire broad based education from these countries, they often have no option but to travel to the West to “unlock their hearts”, from where they hardly ever return to the country that facilitated and financed their education. A big drain on the country of brain, wealth and manpower including woman power.
A few of the non-Muslim third world countries of the world, with their per capita budget allocation for education put to shame many of these Muslim countries, few of them even named “Islamic Republics”. Which Islam one may ask?
47-24: Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Quran? Or are their hearts locked-up by them?
Oh holy Muslim nations; your own Book exhorts you to preserve Historic relics as the source of wisdom. Do not obliterate yourself! Your enemies will and do it more efficiently for you …… then:
Tumhari Daastaan’ Bhi Nah Hogi Daastaano’ Main’— even your stories will not be recorded in fictions!
A regular contributor to New Age Islam, Rashid Samnakay is a (Retd.) Engineer