Throughout the course of Muslim history, the majority of Muslims have respected sacred and world heritage sites. If that were not the case, these sites would not have survived into the second millennium. During every period there were some ambivalent scholars, some who suggested that remnants of the pre-Islamic past should not be preserved; however, they were generally not governed by a sense of urgency to tear them down. While they may not have maintained them, and let time take its toll upon them, they did not desire to destroy every trace of them.
With the marriage of Wahhabism and the Bani-Saud clan in 18th-century Arabia, the Muslim world was faced with a state-sponsored ideology that viewed the destruction of pre-Islamic relics, and so-called Islamic innovations, as a sacred duty. Inspired by the “innovative” ideas of Ibn Taymiyah and Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, which contradicted the prior consensus of Sunni, Shi‘i, and Sufi scholars, who respected and revered sacred sites, so-called Salafis set out to supposedly purify the histories of their communities from every alleged accretion or innovation and to purge their religion, societies, and cultures, from every tangible symbol of pre-Islamic and purported contemporary paganism. The consequences have been catastrophic, both internally, in Arabia, and externally, in many parts of the Muslim world, where so-called state-actors, like Saudi Arabia, along with salafist-jihadist rogue actors, like the Taliban, ISIS, and others takfiri terrorists, have declared war against sacred and world heritage sites belonging to Islam along with other traditions.
In Saudi Arabia alone, the Salafi-Wahhabis have destroyed the masjid of Hamzah ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib; the masjid of Fatimah al-Zahra’; Masjid Manaratayn; the masjid and tomb of Imam al-Uraydi ibn Ja‘far al-Sadiq; the four masjids at the site of the Battle of the Trench in Madinah; the masjid of Abu Rashid; the Salman al-Farsi Masjid; and Masjid Raj’at al-Shams in Madinah.
The Salafi-Wahhabis have leveled scores of cemeteries and tombs of sacred figures: Jannah al-Baqi‘, which contains the graves of the family and companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), including Imam Hasan, Imam ‘Ali Zayn al-‘Abidin, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir, and Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq (a) and perhaps the Lady of Light, Fatimah al-Zahra’ (a). Halimah, the wet-nurse of the Prophet was buried in al-Baqi‘, so was the mother of Imam ‘Ali (a), Fatimah bint Asad. The same can be said of the prophetic companions, such as ‘Uthman ibn Maz‘un, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, al-‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, and ‘Aqil ibn Abi Talib (ra). The Cemetery of Baqi‘ also housed the grave of great Sunni Muslim scholars, such as Imam Malik.
The Salafi-Wahhabis also destroyed Jannah al-Mu‘allah, the ancient cemetery in Makkah; the grave of Hamidah al-Barbariyah, the wife of Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq and the mother of Imam Musa al-Kazim; the grave of Aminah bint Wahb, the mother of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), and the grave of ‘Abdullah, the father of the Messenger of Allah; the graves of Banu Hashim in Makkah; the tombs of Hamzah and other companions (ra); as well as the tomb of Eve, the wife of Adam (a), in Jeddah.
The Salafi-Wahhabis have destroyed scores of historical and religious sites, including the house where the Prophet (pbuh) is believed to have been born; the house of Khadijah (ra), his first wife, which was turned into public toilets; Abu Bakr’s house which is now buried under the Hilton hotel; the Prophet’s house in Madinah; Dar al-Arqam, the house where the Prophet preached in Makkah; the burial site of the Prophet’s tooth; the site where Ibrahim, the son of the Prophet, was born; the column that marked the spot where the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) commenced his miraculous voyage to Jerusalem and ascent into heaven; the house of ‘Ali, where al-Hasan and al-Husayn (a) were born; and the house of Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq. They have even turned the sites of the main battles in Islamic history, Badr and Uhud, into parking lots.
And the aforementioned list barely covers the epidermis of the impact. It does not even address the destruction of cultural heritage sites by the Taliban, ISIS, and other enemies of humanity. Even a cursory account of the sites that have been vandalized and destroyed would take an inordinate amount of time. As of 2015, there remained less than 20 structures in Makkah dating back to the time of the Prophet (pbuh) some 1,400 years ago. Considering the track record of the Salafi-Wahhabi Saudis, concerned Muslims and non-Muslims would be naive to believe that they are safe.
In 2014, the authorities in charge of al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Madinah were discussing plans to move the grave of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to an undisclosed location in al-Baqi‘ Cemetery, a move that would result in its destruction. Were the Salafi-Wahhabis to have their way, they would not hesitate to raze the Prophet’s grave and the Holy Ka‘bah to the ground. Of this, there is no doubt. They have shown nothing but ill-will, hostility, and contempt for the signs of Allah (swt) in defiance of the Qur’anic command, “…and anyone who honors the symbols set up by Allah [shall know that] verily, these [symbols derive their value] from the God-consciousness in the [committed Muslims’] hearts.” (22:32).