Early this week, The Independent, one of UK’s leading national newspaper, published an article citing a supposedly “leading Saudi academic”, who it says has exposed a proposed document by another Saudi academic, who has allegedly called for the removal of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS)’s “remains to the nearby al-Baqi cemetery, where they would be interred anonymously.”
The 61 -page document by Dr. Ali bin Abdulaziz al-Shabal of the Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, is said to have been circulated to the Committee of the Presidency of the Two Mosques, which the paper claims has outlines for destroying chambers around the Prophet (SAWS)’s tomb.
The words in the article reads more like that of a soothsayer than of a reporter, for since its publication, the news has caused an uproar across the Muslim world, with many condemning the supposed proposal.
In Indonesia, Hasyim Muzadi, a former chairman of the country’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) has condemned and strongly opposed the alleged relocation idea and said that, “Saudi will be doomed if it goes ahead with the plan.”
Dr. Abdul Ruff writing in India’s MuslimMirror states that, “It is apparent that mischievous devils are slowing taking control of Islamic Holy sites in Saudi Arabia, even as Saudi regime moves faster than even to promote anti-Islamic forces settle down in Western and Israeli terrocracies.”
The writer, whose language is very evidently polarized against the regime in Saudi Arabia goes on to state, without citing any evidence that, “Even the very thought to destroying the tomb of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (SAWS) would not have crossed the minds of ordinary, sincere Muslims. This is state mischief, perhaps took birth either in Washington or London and conveyed ot the king himself who seems to have found the “scholars” to express it openly.”
What is apparent in the above statements, and in the anger which has stirred among many Muslims following this supposed news, is that it is based entirely on an article, which was written by sidelining all journalistic principles, primarily among which is to cite evidence for what is being claimed.
According to Hasib Noor, a student of Islamic Law at the University of al-Madinah al-Munawwarah, Dr. Irfan Al-Alawi, the source of the Independent article, who the paper cites as a “leading Saudi academic”, is in fact based out of Washington D.C.
In his response to the alleged destruction plans, he writes that, “The source mentioned in the article, Dr. Irfan Al-Alawi, of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, represents a polarizing organization called the Center of Islamic Pluralism based out of Washington D.C. The background, connection, and history of the organization and Dr. Irfan Al-Alawi is deserving of an entire separate article.
The timing of this article is something that came to light as research is done by close friends that showed that the Independent regularly posts articles every year that seemingly recycled the same story regarding the destruction of masjid Nabwi, Mecca and/or the Prophet’s tomb. These articles date as far back as least to 2011. Dr. Alawi is consistently used as a source annually on this topic in 2011, 2012, 2013 and now with the most recent one in 2014. One can recognize a clear trend or what some might call agenda.”
About the document and Dr. al-Shabal, he says that, “The article discusses a 61-page document by a “leading Islamic academic Dr Ali ibn AbdulAziz al-Shabal.” The reality is he is not a leading academic, unheard of by the Center of Historical Studies, and someone unknown until the Independent coins him as a “leading Islamic academic” figure.
The document he wrote is a paper that post-doctoral candidates in Saudi Arabian universities write in order to reach the level of adjunct professor. Al-Shabal teaches at imam University. He submitted this paper to the Committee of the Presidency of the Two Masjids in order to establish credibility and at the end of his paper he makes suggestions. He did not submit a proposal to the government; that was never intended—let alone accepted. It is an entry submitted to an academic journal that was taken completely out of context in the Independent article—no, not out of context, seemingly used for an intended purpose.”
Yasir Qadhi, an American Muslim scholar and writer said that, “the paper (by al-Shabal) itself does not actually state that the blessed grave should be touched. No sane Muslim would ever suggest that. Rather, what it suggests is that the masjid itself should be replanned in the new construction so that the blessed grave would be outside of the new masjid boundaries. So, what the author suggested was to change the boundary of the masjid, not that of the grave.”
He added that, “this view is a minority view and has been soundly rejected by mainstream Salafi (referred derisively as Wahabbis by many) and all non-Salafi scholars. Historically, there has never been any serious opposition to the Umayyad inclusion of the blessed grave into the Prophet (SAWS)’s masjid (which occurred in 88 AH), and no major scholar of any madhhab has ever called for the Prophet’s (SAWS) masjid boundaries to be redrawn.”
Commenting on the reaction from the Muslims, Hasib further notes that, “Many are in deep hate mode and have lunged full on attacks… without checking the facts.
When the facts are pointed out to many that the article contains false information, most seem to not care, “the reality is we can’t forget that Saudi did…” or “but in Saudi…” type rhetoric is spreading. Even academics that lay claim to scholastic standard, even journalists, even educators… many are falling prey to the exact intention of the article —the sowing of discord.
For many equating Saudi to not just a government but to an ideology that pigeonhole others is becoming comfortable, again. The “they” and “us” is something that spread through the discussions on social media, no matter which “spectrum” the person belonged to. The standing and representing movements rather than Islam again reared its ugly head.
Many are letting their feelings dictate their rationale—it doesn’t matter if the assertions in the article are false, there is injustice that needs to be spoken against, and criticism that needs to be made.”
The whole episode only goes on to show, how mainstream media breeds on sensationalism, and how easily many Muslims go on to demonize each other, even though only a few weeks ago, many had called for a boycott of many media outlets claiming it to be bankrolled by the Zionists.