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Mosques Being Razed In Timbuktu: Where Are Our Wahhabi Ulema Now?


By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam

12 July 2012

A centuries-old mosque being pulled down with pick-axes, shovels and hammers. Remind you of something? December 6, 1992, the day Babri Masjid was razed to the ground by Hindu kar sevaks. India went up in flames that day, and it is still nursing some of the wounds it then incurred. Almost the entire history of Islamist terrorism in India is traced back to―and justified by―what happened in Ayodhya 20 years ago. Our Saudi-trained Wahhabi ulema called upon our young to answer back in kind. The Bombay blasts followed, and the rest is history.

Much the same is happening today in Timbuktu, northern Mali―only on a grander scale. A number of mosques and other Islamic shrines are being flattened by a horde of religious zealots in this historic “city of 333 saints”. This wanton travesty of religion and history began on 1 July, and a number of structures have already been pulled down. Yet, the bully pulpit of the Wahhabi ulema is silent. The reason? These happen not to be Hindu but our own zealots, and they are performing their dance of destruction in the name of our own religion: Islam.

Only a fool should be surprised, of course. Making a mockery of Islamic history and a common Muslim’s faith lies at the heart of Wahhabism.

The theology propounded by Wahabism’s founder Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab in the 18th century professes to take Islam back to its roots, to the days of the Prophet S.A.W. and his companions, ridding it of all the “deviations” that have accumulated over more than a millennium of intermingling with other religions and cultures. This is in stark contrast to the Sufi way of Islam, which aims to develop a more personal relationship between man and god and is more tolerant of cultural influences.

Chief among the postulates of Wahhabism is ‘tawhid’, or belief in the oneness of god. Now, that is one of the two most essential aspects of Islamic faith (along with belief in the prophethood of Muhammad), and no Muslim denies tawhid. But Wahhabis take this belief to a completely different level. They insist that being respectful towards Sufi saints (people who Sufis believe attained a close interpersonal connection with god) and building shrines and tombs for them undermines ‘tawhid’ and is tantamount to equating saints with god (‘shirk’).

Ideology of Universal Hostility

Wahhabis also take it upon themselves to raze such shrines in an attempt to re-establish the oneness of god. They view themselves as “defenders of the faith”―indeed that is the exact meaning of Ansar Dine, the group whose fighters are wreaking havoc in Timbuktu. The attitude harks back to the philosophy of 13th century preacher Ibn Taymiyya, who advocated a literalist interpretation of the Quran and called for the destruction of tombs and mausoleums.

But this is hardly the first time that Wahhabis are doing this. The history of Wahhabism is replete with attacks on places deemed significant by other Muslims for religious or historical reasons―right from the time Wahhabism gained political support through an alliance between Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab and the founder of the first Saudi kingdom, Muhammad ibn Saud, in 1744. Driven by their “divine” cause, Wahhabi armies led by ibn Saud first pillaged towns and villages across central peninsular Arabia to lay the foundations of the Saudi kingdom, going all the way up to Riyadh. They later turned their attention towards Karbala, where they massacred thousands of people, looted the city and established the Wahhabi banner.

No wonder the first people to denounce Wahhabism were Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s father and his brother Sulayman Ibn Abdul Wahhab, an orthodox Sunni scholar who refuted him in the book Al Sawa’iq Al Ilahiyya Fi Al radd `ala Al Wahhabiyya (Divine Thunderbolts In Refutation of Wahhabism).

Over the next century or so, the political fortunes of the Saud dynasty fluctuated as it strove for supremacy in peninsular Arabia against a declining Ottoman empire. But the Saudi-Wahhabi alliance held tight, and emerged victorious at the beginning of the 20th century under Abdul Aziz bin Saud. All through this period and since then, Wahhabi harassment of non-Wahhabi Muslim communities and cultures has continued unabated. Among their excesses are the razing of the house in Mecca where Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. was born, the house to which he migrated in Medina, as well as the house of his first wife, Khadija, where several of their children were born. Some of these have since been turned into public toilets.

Since the 1970s, as the kingdom’s coffers flushed with petrodollars, Saudi Arabia began exporting Wahhabism―to Africa, Central Asia, South Asia and beyond, spawning militant Sunni Islamism in its wake. Most Sunni Islamist groups, from Al Qaeda to Ansar Dine, are direct or indirect products of the Saudi political project of controlling Muslims worldwide through the ideology of Wahhabism.

What is happening in Africa today is one of the many tragic fallouts of this grand project. Thus, while the Wahhabi ulema cried foul when Babri Masjid was brought down 20 years ago, they look on silently as their brethren do the same to mosques and shrines in Timbuktu or anywhere else.

The Common Muslim’s Stance

Common non-Wahhabi Muslims do not believe in desecrating graves, tombs and shrines for both religious and non-religious reasons. One, it is a blatant attack on Islamic civilization and culture as the loss is irreversible. Two, pulverizing religious symbols that others hold in high regard can easily provoke sectarian tension and bloodshed. Three, it violates the principle of tolerance that Islam seeks to promote as it aims to build peace and harmony among communities. Four, desecrating the graves of historic Muslim personalities is akin to humiliating these noble figures, which is abhorrent and strongly condemned in both the Quran and the Hadith. The Holy Prophet S.A.W. himself used to visit martyrs of Battle of Uhud and pray for them.

There are two grand lessons to be drawn from the unravelling of this grand Wahhabi project. One, this whole approach of spreading “true faith” via destruction has nothing to do with Islam or even tawhid. Such acts of violence and wanton disregard for life and property are expressly and repeatedly forbidden in the Quran as among the gravest sins. Indeed, in claiming to be working towards tawhid, Ansar Dine and its ilk are effectively trying to establish themselves as intermediaries between man and god. Their very act defies the purpose it is supposed to fulfil.

Two, the silence of the Wahhabi ulema over this attack on Islam from within exposes them for what they are―foot soldiers in a grand Wahhabi project to control Muslim hearts and minds. At least now, they should lose all the respect they may have still maintained among common Muslims.


Mosques destroyed saying that people may do ‘shirk’ in them:

        The mosque at the grave of Sayyid al-Shuhada’ Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib

        The Mosque of Fatima Zahra

        The Mosque of al-Manaratain

        Mosque and tomb of Sayyid Imam al-Uraidhi ibn Ja‘far al-Sadiq, destroyed by dynamite on August 13, 2002

        Four mosques at the site of the Battle of the Trench in Medina

        The Mosque of Abu Rasheed

        Salman al-Farsi Mosque, in Medina

        Raj'at ash-Shams Mosque, in Medina

Cemeteries and tombs of Sahabas (Radiallahu Anhu) and ahle bait destroyed:

        Jannat al-Baqi in Medina, completely leveled

        Jannat al-Mu'alla, the ancient cemetery at Mecca

        Grave of Hamida al-Barbariyya, the mother of Imam Musa al-Kazim

        Grave of Amina bint Wahhab, the Prophet’s mother, bulldozed and set alight in 1998

        Graves of Banu Hashim in Mecca

        Tombs of Hamza and other martyrs demolished at Uhud

        Tomb of Eve in Jeddah, sealed with concrete in 1975

        Grave of the father of the Prophet, in Medina

Historical religious sites destroyed in 1950s

        The house of Mawlid where Muhammad (S.A.W) is believed to have been born in 570. Originally turned into a cattle market, it now lies under a rundown building which was built 70 years ago as a compromise after Wahhabi clerics called for it to be torn down

        The house of Khadija, Prophet’s first wife. Muslims believe he received some of the first revelations there. It was the same place where his children Umm Kulthum, Ruqayyah, Zainab, Fatima and Qasim (R.A.) were born. After it was rediscovered during the Haram extensions in 1989, it was covered over and public toilets were built above the site

        House of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in Medina, where he lived after the migration from Mecca

        Dar al Arqam, the first Islamic school where the Prophet (S.A.W) would teach. It now lies under the extension of the Haram

        Qubbat’ al-Thanaya, the burial site of the Prophet’s incisor that was broken in the Battle of Uhud.

        Mashrubat Umm Ibrahim, built to mark the location of the house where the Prophet’s son, Ibrahim, was born to Mariah

        Dome which served as a canopy over the Well of Zamzam

        Bayt al-Ahzan of Sayyida Fatima (R.A), in Medina

        House of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (R.A), in Medina

        Mahhalla complex of Banu Hashim, in Medina

        House of Imam Ali (R.A) where Imam Hasan (R.A) and Imam Husain (R.A) were born.

        Wahhabi fatwa posing threat to the Prophet’s tomb and shrine

        The Prophet’s Mosque in Medina is where He (peace be upon him) along with Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Umar ibn Al Khattab (R.A) are buried

        A pamphlet published in 2007 by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, endorsed by Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, stated that “the green dome shall be demolished and the three graves flattened in the Prophet’s Mosque.” This sentiment was also echoed in a speech by the late Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent Wahhabi clerics: “We hope one day we’ll be able to destroy the green dome of the Prophet Mohammed (Nauzu Billah)

Shrines of eminent Islamic personalities destroyed in Jannat Al Baqi

        Hazrat Uthman ibn Affan (R.A) the third Caliph of Islam, Shrine completely destroyed, grave levelled

        Hazrat Fatima Zahra (R.A) – Hazrat Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihe Wasallam’s daughter by first wife Khadijah (R.A) bint Khuwaylid, in an unknown grave Shrine completely destroyed grave levelled

        Hazrat Imam Hasan ibn Ali’s (R.A) Shrine completely destroyed grave levelled.

        Hazrat Ibrahim (R.A) – Hazrat Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihe Wasallam's son by Maria al-Qibtiyya (R.A), who died in infancy, his shrine was completely destroyed and grave levelled

        Hazrat Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib (R.A), uncle of the Prophet, his Shrine was completely destroyed and grave levelled

        Shrines of all Ummahatul Momeneen (the Prophet's wives) except for Hazrat Khadijah (R.A) and Hazrata Maymuna bint al-Harith (R.A) were completely destroyed

        Many of the Prophet's aunts including Safiya (R.A), Aatika (R.A) and his aunt Fatima bint al-Asad (R.A), the mother of Hazrat Ali (R.A), their Shrines were completely destroyed and graves levelled

        Hazrat Ali ibn Husayn (radi Allahu Anhu), great-grandson of Hazrat Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihe Wasallam), Shrine completely destroyed, grave leveled

        Hazrat Malik ibn Anas (Radi Allahu Anhu), Islamic jurist, Shrine completely destroyed grave levelled