Student at Mumbai University.
Saudi Arabia. The word brings to mind images of deserts, burqa clad women and dishdasha wearing young men. The land of Arabia, lies rich in cultural heritage, ancient architecture, history and religion. Hejaz, is the heart of the Islamic world, being the Prophet’s birthplace, as well as hosting the two Holiest Mosques of Islam.
In recent decades this image of Hejaz, as turned increasingly negative. And now merely the word “Saud” brings to mind gross images of beheadings, terrorism and a disturbingly barbaric society. So what brought about this change? No doubt, the discovery of oil, changed the dynamics of the region for decades to come, but one family in particular should be credited, or rather discredited for desecrating the name of the place, which was supposed to be the most peaceful in the world.
The Al Saud family that currently rules Arabia, and has declared itself to be the “custodian of the holy mosques,” thus giving it an almost infallible status in the eyes of those who subscribe to its aggressive, new version of Islam- i.e. Wahabism, can be considered one of Satan’s most favored friends. Their history and activities are enough proof against any sort of divinity that they may try to claim. What is even more baffling is that, the Al Saud has taken upon itself to declare who can and cannot go for Hajj. Proving time and again, that Islamic principles and traditions will have to take a back seat, if they conflict with the politics of the day. One of the West’s strongest allies in West Asia, the Al Saud has a history that repeatedly needs to be told, because without the backing of historical facts, it is very easy to mistake them for what they claim to be- the flag bearers of Islam.
AL Saud, originally belonged to Najd, in Hejaz. They had been trying to capture the throne of Hejaz for almost 255 years, until in 1790; they were finally able to capture Mecca, Medina and Taif. And thus began, the rule of this family, on a throne built by shedding blood, and changing many basic Islamic laws, with the help of scholars either threatened with life or bought with money.
In 1801, Abdul Aziz Al Saud, attacked Najaf and Karbala in Iraq. Najaf, which is the resting place of the fourth Islamic caliph, Imam Ali, according to Sunni’s and the first successor of Prophet Mohammed according to Shia’s is one of the most sacred lands in the Islamic world. Karbala on the other hand, is the land where Imam Hussain, the beloved grandson of Prophet Mohammed, and son of Imam Ali, was martyred by an army of 60,000, hungry and thirsty. Both places thus are deeply revered by Muslims across the globe. Almost 15,000 people were killed in Karbala, and about 10- 15,000 in Najaf. In the attacks, the Al Saud not only stole precious valuables from both cities, but also killed savagely pilgrims on their way to Karbala. In addition, the Saud clan banned Hajj for Muslims of the Ottoman Empire. Though the clan was overthrown in 1818, they once again returned to power in 1880, with the help of the British Empire.
Soon after their re-ascension to power, the ancient name ‘Hejaz’ was changed to “Saudi Arabia” and efforts were made to bring the land under the flag of wahhabism. This brief account of history is necessary to understand the actions of the present day Saudi monarchy.
Soon after, Al Saud declared that visiting graves was prohibited in Islam, and thus for a second time destroyed the cemetery of Jannatul Baqi and Jannatul Moa’alla, where many important personalities, including the mother of Prophet Mohammed, his uncles, his daughter, wives, other family members and companions are buried. In addition, in 1998, the grave of the mother of the Holy Prophet was bulldozed, and gasoline was poured over it.This caused a huge uproar throughout the Muslim world; however, due to lack of any real pressure, the Saudis continued to function with impunity.
Today, the Al Saud threatens to destroy the ancient mosque where the Prophet Mohammed is buried, and has started plans for its “reconstruction.” They’ve brought down ancient mosques and buildings, belonging to the Prophet’s era, and holding historical importance and prohibited people from visiting the graves of holy personalities, or even simply standing near them! Any Muslim who goes to Hajj, comes back with tons of tales about Saudi police brutality and their ill treatment of pilgrims.
Another important fact is that, the Prophet of Islam never gave orders to demolish any existing synagogue or church in Arabia, nor put restrictions on building them. In fact, under him it was mandatory that Muslims protect the life and property of the non Muslims residents of Arabia. Under Saud controlled Arabia, not so much. In 2012, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shiekh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah declared that all churches in the Arabian Peninsula must be destroyed.
If destroying Islamic heritage was not enough, the Saudi’s have created a strong divide between the Muslim Ummah, by generously funding extremism and sectarian hate against Shia’s and other minorities. If Pakistan’s example is anything to go by, monetary help from Saudi, almost always comes at a price. And more often than not, in this case, it is mosques being built under the leadership of Saudi mullahs. Wikileaks in a recent release revealed that that Saudi sent in several Wahabi preachers into India to counter ‘Shia’ influence and spread Wahabism. The years 2011 to 2013 alone saw a record number of 25,000 Wahabis coming to India and conducting seminars in various parts of the country. With them they brought in Rs 1700 crore in several installments and used it to propagate the Wahabi style of Islam.1 If these statistics are anything to go by, Indian authorities need to be really worried.
What is even more worrying is wahabi scholar’s in Arabia, get away with almost everything. Their words, which are gospel to many, are often laced with poison against the second largest sect in Islam, i.e. Shias. “Shia have only two options, they can convert to ‘Islam’ or be killed if they decided to keep their beliefs…First slaughter all their men. Slaughter Shia until there are rivers of their blood. Second inmate their females. If virgin let the BEST ‘Mujahedeen’ enjoy them [sexually]. If not virgin but beautiful reserve for the rest of the “mujahedeen” and the rest of the females can be given to the rest of the men [who are not considered ‘Mujahedeen.’ Last group are Shia children. Capture them and teach them ‘true’ Islam and train them to be soldiers so we can use them in wars.”
Saudi cleric Nasser Al Omar’s fatwa against Shia Muslims. He further called for all Shia places of worship, and cultural centre’s to be burned down.2 As recently as October 2015, Saudi TV Host Abdulellah Al-Dosari celebrated uncontested the death of some 300 Shiite Iranians, including Iranian diplomats, in a stampede during the haj in Mecca. “Praised be to Allah, who relieved Islam and the Muslims from their evil. We pray that Allah will usher them into hell for all eternities.3
This brings me to my third and final point, mismanagement of Hajj.
“While the Noble Quran considers the House of God as a secure place and the Hajj as a secure position, but one should ask now ‘Is this security?’”
-Iranian leader Ayatollah khamenie
Hajj is the most sacred act to a Muslim, and its performance is considered to be obligatory at least once. The Kaba’h is situated in Mecca and hence the Saudi’s for the past century have been organizing the pilgrimage.
In the recent years, accidents during Hajj have become increasingly common, and last year, almost 4000 people died in a stampede, and hundreds went missing, the cause of the incident is still “unknown.” Twelve hours after the incident, the dead bodies of hundreds of those killed in the stampede were still piled up out in the streets. This led to Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenie, calling for setting up a fact-finding committee of Iranian and other Islamic countries’ authorities to look into the accident. Another cleric stated that the Hajj management needed to be changed. Another interesting fact that went overlooked by many was that among the pilgrims that went missing, were some of Iran’s top diplomats and officers.
And since Hajj is the right of every Muslim, it is even more bewildering how Saudi’s did not allow hundred’s of Yemenis to go for Hajj ,because of the ongoing Saudi led Yemeni invasion. The brutal Saudi war has left the already poor Muslim country war ravaged, thousands dead (-with 90% victims being civilians) and millions starving in its wake.
Moreover, the Saudi government has decided to look towards Hajj to increase its revenue, indicating that the already high Hajj prices are further likely to escalate. Another fact that caused uproar was the revelation that Saudi had been hiring G4S, an Occupation friendly company, to manage Hajj for years. G4S is a private security firm which has also been implicated in enabling the torture of administrative detainees in Palestine, including children. This lead Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the head of the Supreme Islamic Council in Jerusalem and the imam of al-Aqsa Mosque, to proclaim, “Those who help the occupation must be held accountable and are complicit in the crime, as those who help aggressors also are aggressors.”
That being said, what is more baffling is that despite all this evidence, the Muslim world largely remains silent and hence complicit with the crimes of the Saudis. The monarchy thrives of money it makes from oil, while using Islam as a cushion to further its illegitimate activities. The invasion of Bahrain by Saudi troops, its aggression in Yemen and its crackdown of its own Shia population is open for the world to see. Yet despite all this, neither does the larger Muslim population, (except Iran, ) nor does the West openly call out the Saudi’s for their crimes. What is even stranger is the fact that the country which beheads more people than ISIS does is also the head of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations. This makes one recall Voltaire’s famous quip, “When it is a question of money. Everyone has the same religion.”
Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism and Its Goal of Hegemony: James Dorsy, International Policy Digest. 2/4/16.