A recent article that came out in the Guardian newspaper about the Saudi plans to alter the landscape of the holy city Mecca. I’ve taken the time to break the article into specific segments and offer a few thoughts on each except as the article develops.
The pilgrimage to Mecca has always involved hardship and sacrifice, whether months spent travelling on foot through barren valleys and sleeping in the open with no shelter from the elements or stripping oneself of earthly trappings. But help is at hand for the pilgrim who cannot bear to be without comfort while executing the fifth pillar of Islam.
One of the major purposes of Hajj is so that the Muslims, especially the elite, can put their luxurious lifestyles aside for a few days and experience what the Prophet (S) and his Sahabi went through – a spiritual experience that leaves one humbled before their Creator by having them truly feel as they are equal to all their brothers and sisters who are on the pilgrimage with them.. not to further harden their heats with arrogance and pride by offering a 5 star hotel room where they can continue on with their Pharonic lifestyle..
Raffles, which gave thirsty wanderers the Singapore Sling, is opening a luxury hotel in Mecca offering pilgrims a coffee sommelier, a chocolate room where chefs will prepare bespoke pralines and truffles, and a 24-hour butler service.
Undeterred by restrictions on beautifying oneself during the Hajj, the hotel will also have segregated gyms, beauty parlours, grooming salons and a spa.
The wahhabies claim to be so strict on not allowing bid’a into this religion but they promote turning a sacred pillar of Islam into a holiday vacation? Ajeeb..
There are strict rules regarding personal hygiene and behaviour during the hajj, and forbidden activities include sex, the cutting of hair and nails and the trimming of beards. These bars are lifted once certain rituals are complete, but Muslims are generally expected to forget worldly thoughts and activities and focus on the divine.
So tell me, how exactly does having chocolate fountains, beauty parlors, and a personal slave help one focus on the Divine? This journey is supposed to help one purify their hearts from all the spiritual diseases, but it seems that even a single day spent in this hotel will turn ones heart hard and cold.
Mohammed Arkobi, the general manager of the new hotel, did not explain how a chocolate room and spa would help pilgrims achieve spiritual fulfilment. Nor was he able to comment on how the amenities complied with the ethos of the hajj, which is about simplicity and humility.
I don’t think a single person on earth could do that!
But he did say that the “comprehensive range of services” were designed to meet the needs of the “discerning” travellers they were targeting.
AKA, those who think they’re too good to be with the rest of the believers or have such a big ego that they cant give up a couple weeks of their excessive lifestyles for the sake of Allah (swt)
“Ultimately, the hotel’s sophisticated ambience, our range of features and highly personalised service delivery such as those offered through our 24-hour butler service will help to ensure that our residents’ overall experience will be enriching.”
Arkobi said the hotel was a three-minute walk away from the Grand Mosque, the Masjid al-Haram, and that a “spacious outdoor dining terrace” would provide direct views of it.
It is being developed by the Saudi Binladin Company, one of the largest construction firms in the Arab world, which has also been responsible for overseeing the expansion of the holy mosques in Mecca and Medina. The company was set up by Mohammed bin Laden, father of Osama, although the family is now estranged from its most infamous son.
Around 4 million people visit Mecca for hajj, with millions more passing through the rest of the year to perform the lesser pilgrimage. Estimates for future numbers vary wildly – from 10 million to 20 million – and the landscape of Mecca has undergone a dramatic transformation over the decades to cope with demand. Homes have been bulldozed, mountains flattened and historic sites razed to provide more hotel rooms and amenities.
Some information on the ‘renovations’ made by the Saudis:
“Today there are fewer than 20 structures remaining in Mecca that date back to the time of the Prophet 1,400 years ago. The litany of this lost history includes the house of Khadijah, the wife of the Prophet, demolished to make way for public lavatories; the house of Abu Bakr, the Prophet’s companion, now the site of the local Hilton hotel; the house of Ali-Oraid, the grandson of the Prophet, and the Mosque of abu-Qubais, now the location of the King’s palace in Mecca.”
“An ancient house belonging to Mohammed was recently razed to make room for, among other developments, a public toilet facility. An ancient mosque belonging to Abu Bakr has now been replaced by an ATM machine. And the sites of Mohammed’s historic battles at Uhud and Badr have been, with a perhaps unconscious nod to Joni Mitchell, paved to put up a parking lot.”
One development that will dominate the skyline and the Grand Mosque is the Makkah Royal Clock Tower, operated by international hoteliers Fairmont, which is majority owned by a company chaired by HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, the Saudi king’s nephew.
The tower will be among the tallest in the world, 577 metres (1,893ft) high on completion, and its dimensions, including a clockface measuring 40 metres across that will be visible 10 miles away, make it five times larger than Big Ben.
The Prophet (S) told us one of the minor signs of the Day of Judgment to be when the people begin to compete with each other in the construction of tall buildings, yet they still persist in doing so with the quite approval of their scholars..
In addition to 1,005 guest rooms, the tower will also house a lunar observation centre and Islamic museum. It lies in the massive Abraj Al Bait complex, part of the King Abdul Aziz endowment project aimed at upgrading the precincts of Mecca and Medina.
Mecca’s makeover is alarming international activists, such as Ali al-Ahmed, the director of the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs, a thinktank analysing events and issues in the region. Ahmed, an outspoken critic of the Saudi regime, said many factors were driving the changes.
“The al-Sauds want to make Mecca like Dubai, it is a money-making operation. They destroy ancient buildings because they do not want any history other than their own, they see it as competition. They destroy and dispose of artefacts.”
He also expressed concern that the arrival of luxury brands would increase the price of a pilgrimage. A 2009 platinum Hajj package from a UK tour operator costs £6,400 for 16 nights full board, based on double occupancy.
SubhanAllah, they are willing to prevent the poor Muslims of the world from fulfilling one of their religious obligations, which some spend almost their entire lives saving up for, just so a few high paying clients can enjoy a foot massage from their 5 star presidential suite while they look down upon the Ka’ba.
“By developing Mecca in this way they are making it inaccessible and unaffordable for the majority of Muslims. It will only be for the elite,” Ahmed said.
The city’s increasing westernisation was a “perversion of the religion”, encouraging activities that were at odds with the spirit of the hajj, he said.
“The Saudis may come across as austere but members of the ruling class have billions of dollars between them – even the muftis live in palaces with chandeliers.”
And what exactly have the leading Wahhabi scholars been saying? Well from looking at their own words it’s hard to come to any conclusion other than there being some sort of agenda to remove the love of the Prophet (S) from the hearts of the Muslims and turn Islam into a dry academic subject – devoid of its spiritual essence.
“A pamphlet published last year by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, endorsed by Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and distributed at the Prophet’s Mosque, where Mohammed, Abu Bakr, and the Islamic Caliph Umar ibn Al Khattab are buried, reads, “The green dome shall be demolished and the three graves flattened in the Prophet’s Mosque,” according to Irfan Al Alawi, executive director of the London-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation. This shocking sentiment was echoed in a speech by the late Muhammad ibn Al Uthaymeen, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent Wahhabi clerics, who delivered sermons in Mecca’s Grand Mosque for over 35 years: “We hope one day we’ll be able to destroy the green dome of the Prophet Mohammed,”
*A short talk by Habib Ali al-Jifri further elaborating this point: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_s91vUF80s&feature=related
Development of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina should not come at the expense of religious practice, he said, before turning his attention to the lack of protest from Muslims around the world.
“Let’s take Jerusalem as an example. Muslims are outraged when Israelis do something in the Old City, but in Mecca things are being systematically destroyed and nobody is raising an eyebrow. It is a catastrophe.”
Raffles Mecca is due to open in April 2010.
Ya Allah, return the holy cities to the hands of Ahl al-Sunnah, to the hands of those ones who will show the proper respect to what is sacred. Take down this wahhabi fitna and bring back the Islamic Empire. Ya Allah, Send us our just leader who will raise the flag of Islam over this shaytanic system and return the love of our Holy Prophet (S) into the hearts of the believers. Ameen!
* A special thanks to Yursil for bringing this to my attention *