Will Saudi Arabia Cease to Be the Center of Islam?

07devji-jumboSaudi Arabia, or the Arabian Peninsula before the formation of the modern kingdom, has been and remains a place both central and marginal to Muslims around the world.

An Urdu novel published in 1869 by Nazir Ahmad, a writer in Delhi, portrays two young Muslim girls at their geography lesson. As they identify various countries on a map, the girls come across the Arabian Peninsula. Their teacher describes it as an empty space infested by marauding Bedouin, one whose only significance lay in its historical role as the site of Islam’s birth.

The monuments and institutions of Mecca and Medina, the birthplaces of Islam, had always been minor in architectural quality and financial endowment compared with the splendid mosques, tombs and seminaries found at the centers of Muslim power in Baghdad and Cairo, Istanbul and Isfahan, Delhi and Samarkand.

Muslim kings rarely visited Mecca and Medina. Instead, those cities served as places of exile for their enemies.

Saudi Arabia, or the Arabian Peninsula before the formation of the modern kingdom, has been and remains a place both central and marginal to Muslims around the world. Even as Mecca and Medina represent the most important sites of Muslim pilgrimage, the vision of the holy cities as remote and perilous is still reinforced by the occasional stampede of pilgrims during the Hajj.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Advertisements

A journey to Hajj that changed Islam in America

  • 1288706-684215855
  • “I don’t believe that motion picture cameras ever have filmed a human spectacle more colorful than my eyes took in”
  • “During the past 11 days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug — while praying to the same God — with fellow Muslims”

MAKKAH: Malcolm X was an American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of blacks, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans. But his detractors accused him of preaching racism and violence.

He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. Malcolm was a member of the Nation of Islam, an African American politico-religious movement founded by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad in the 1930s.Their goals were to improve the spiritual, mental, social, and economic conditions of African Americans in the US. Critics have described the organization as black supremacist.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ARAB NEWS 

Hajj 2018 in pictures: Hajj begins in Mecca – how many people will travel for Hajj?

Hajj-2018-in-pictures-1467959

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with Shahadah (belief in the oneness of God and acceptance of Muhammad as prophet), Salat (prayer), Zakat (charity) and Sawm (fasting).

It is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which all Muslims who are physically and financially undertake at least once in their lifetime.

This year, it has been estimated that more than two million people will make the journey.

2017 saw almost 2.5 million attendees, with 2012 holding the record with more than three million flocking to the holy city.

Hajj begins on the eighth day of the 12th Islamic month, called Dhu al-Hijjah, and lasts for five days.

On the tenth day of the Islamic calendar (the second of Hajj), the holy festival of Eid al-Adha is celebrated.

This year Hajj will run from Sunday, August 19 till Friday, August 24.

What do you do at Hajj?

Hajj begins at a place just outside Mecca called the Miqat, or entry station to the Hajj.

Hajj 2018 in pictures

Hajj 2018 in pictures: Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca (Image: EPA)

Hajj 2018 in pictures

Hajj 2018 in pictures: Muslim Hajj pilgrims touch Kaaba’s wall and pray (Image: EPA)

 

I went to Hajj last year and it had a profound impact on me. This is what it was like

hajj-2As millions travel to Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj, one Muslim pilgrim reflects on what it meant to her a year on.

I just remember the sheer excitement. A combination of nerves and heightened euphoria. I wasn’t sure how I would feel when I stood before the Ka’bah. Holding my husband’s arm tightly as waves of people overtook us; I was in complete amazement. Considering all the history in this same spot, the footsteps of so many that had travelled before by camel, foot and now, many air miles, I was filled with joy and a surreal sense of peace.

This was the centre of Islam, and the Ka’bah signified a place of unity for Muslims irrespective of background or race. I felt incredibly blessed to be among a fraction of the 1.5 billion Muslims who actually get to be here in person.

This was my first time in the Middle East and so the 44-degree heat was a new sensation to me. I was startled by the Muslim world before me. The incredible diversity of people journeying far and wide was a sight to behold. Many came with little other than unyielding determination and what clothes they had on. They walked for hours in the burning heat, some without shoes. The majority them were also much older than ourselves; our plane journey from Beirut was the first time some of them had ever been on a flight! I loved seeing the bright colours of the Malaysian ladies as they interlocked arms to stay together.

Our Hajj journey began at Mina – a neighbourhood in Mecca – where we stayed in huge white tents with massive Persian-style rugs on the floor. Each encampment was divided by country. I was sharing a space with 70 other ladies, a bit like a really massive sleepover, whilst camping in intense heat. There was a really nice atmosphere inside with everyone sharing stories and snacks, the worries from home felt so far away.

Saudi Arabia may relax its ban on Christian churches

20180804_map501

New evidence suggests the Prophet tolerated churches in Arabia

FOR a generation the Saudi antiquities authority has kept it under wraps. The ruins remain out of bounds behind metal gates and wire fencing. A guard shoos the curious away with threats of arrest. But if independent studies are correct, tucked in the dunes and palms near the eastern oilfields lies a 7th-century monastery, the existence of which suggests that Islam once tolerated church-building in Arabia.

Muhammad bin Salman, the modernising crown prince, has defied clerics by allowing cinemas, open-air pop concerts and even female drivers in his puritanical kingdom. But approving churches for the 1.4m Christians in Saudi Arabia risks breaking one taboo too many. “Elsewhere it’s no problem, but two dins, or religions, have no place in the Arabian peninsula,” says a senior prince, reciting a purported saying of the Prophet Muhammad. Churches were expunged by the first community of Muslims 14 centuries ago, he insists.

Excavation at Jubail and other sites along the eastern coast suggests otherwise. Chroniclers record the existence of a synod in a diocese called Beit Qatraye, near Jubail, in 676AD, more than 40 years after the Prophet’s death. Moreover, the peninsula’s six other countries all have churches. Qatar, which follows the same Wahhabi school of Islam as Saudi Arabia, let one be built a decade ago. Bahrain did so in 1906. This year it broke ground on Our Lady of Arabia, a new cathedral.

Saudi exceptionalism matters because the kingdom is home to Islam’s holiest sites and is the prime propagator of the faith. In October Prince Muhammad said he wanted Saudi Arabia to be “open to all religions, traditions and people around the globe”. But off the Saudi coast in Bahrain, Camillo Ballin, the Catholic bishop of Northern Arabia, complains that nothing has changed for Saudi Arabia’s Christians. Private prayer is tolerated, but the public display of Christian symbols is not. Communion in a country that bans wine is problematic. Priests sneak in as cooks or mechanics to tend to their flocks.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ECONOMIST 

Saudi Arabia ‘agrees deal with Vatican to build churches for Christians living in the Muslim country’

515fcf92a97931d5719e6ab6c697a146b585e43dSaudi Arabia has agreed a deal with the Vatican to build churches for Christian worshippers in the Arab country, it is claimed by Middle Eastern media.

The reported agreement between Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (file photo) and Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa of the Muslim World League would mark a first in Saudi history

Saudi Arabia has agreed a deal with the Vatican to build churches for Christian worshippers in the Arab country, it is claimed by Middle Eastern media.

The reported agreement between Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa of the Muslim World League would mark a first in Saudi history.

The cardinal has visited Saudi Arabia this year and met the royal family, urging the Muslim country to treat its citizens equally.

The churches will be built alongside the establishment of a committee to improve relations between the two, Egypt Independent reports.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Vatican.

Saudi Arabia’s anti-extremism Etidal centre also hosted Cardinal Tauran last month as the crown prince pushes for inter-religious exchange in the ultra-conservative Sunni kingdom.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DAILY MAIL (UK)

Christians should not be second-class citizens, cardinal tells Saudi Arabia

1689484-cardinal-1524118709-380-640x480French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran’s trip, the first by such a senior Catholic figure, raised hopes of more openness in the kingdom, which is home to Islam’s holiest sites but bans the practice of other faiths. It included a meeting with King Salman, his first with a Catholic official.

“I think all religions are faced with two dangers: terrorism and ignorance,” Tauran, who is head of the Vatican’s Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, told Vatican Radio.

“During my meetings, I insisted very much on this point, that Christians and non-Muslims are spoken of well in schools and that they are never considered second-class citizens,” he said.

Tauran, 75, who signed a cooperation accord with Saudi authorities, said he sensed that they wanted “to show that even in Saudi Arabia there is the possibility of discussion, and therefore of changing the country’s image”.

FULL ARTICLE FROM REUTERS