Exploring the Perspectives of the Saudi State’s Destruction of Holy Sites: Justifications and Motivations
Citationfarhat, shazia. 2018. Exploring the Perspectives of the Saudi State’s Destruction of Holy Sites: Justifications and Motivations. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThis thesis explores Saudi Arabia’s perspective on the destruction of heritage sites before and after Saudi Arabia became a state, seeking answers to these questions: why does Saudi Arabia commit these acts in the name of Islam? How much influence does Wahhabism have on Saudi actions? How does the country justify these actions even while non-Wahhabi scholars oppose these acts?
Within the context of Islam, specifically Wahhabism, destruction of heritage sites occurred during the formation of the first Saudi state. But as time passed, the Wahhabi ulama (religious scholars) lost considerable power over religious affairs in Saudi Arabia, and it is apparent that religion is no longer at the helm of the Saudi society. Saudi Arabia claims that the destruction of heritage sites protects religious pilgrims from weak structures in danger of falling, and protects adherents whose faith is weak from the danger of committing shirk (associating others with God—a form of unbelief). I contend that in reality such destruction has no religious basis but rather reflects what suits the Saudi state, which in this case is financial gain. The Saudi state’s aim is to make way for modernization so it can increase the government’s financial resources which will enable investments in hotels and shopping malls. At the same time, the state maintains its religious hegemony by pacifying the Wahhabi ulama, giving them vague authority in matters of religion, such as the destruction of mosques in Kosovo.
If the motivation for such destruction were solely religious, many heritage sites in Saudi Arabia would not exist today. These sites existed for centuries, maintained by previous Muslim rulers, and the government is enjoined to preserve them by both the Quran and the Sunnah, according to non-Wahhabi ulama. As such, although there is a need to accommodate an increasing number of pilgrims, there are several ways the state could safeguard not only the pilgrims but the historically relevant heritage sites, while still moving forward toward a modernized Saudi state.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42004034