JEDDAH – Sheikh Dr. Abdul Mohsen Al-Obaikan, an adviser at the Royal Court, has addressed the controversial issue of archeological sites and their preservation.
Al-Obaikan, commenting on demands to remove or fence off Islamic archeological sites, said there was a difference between preserving archeological sites for educational purposes and the “polytheism practiced at the sites by ignorant people”.
“We can’t ask for these places to be destructed just because of the ignorance of some,” Al-Obaikan continued. “There were people who practiced such things inside the Ka’ba and next to the Prophet’s grave. Should these two places also have been removed?”
Al-Obaikan said that the only right way is to make people aware of the erroneous practices by appointing people at the sites to act as guides to visitors.
“We can’t say no if someone wants to visit Al-Bay’ah Mosque where Al-Ansar swore allegiance to the Prophet (peace be upon him), or with Ghaar (cave) Hera’a and other sites.
In an interview to Okaz daily this month, Prince Sultan Bin Salman, Chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, touched upon the issue of the removal or demolition of historical sites, the importance of establishing museums to correct misconceptions about the Kingdom’s history, and various steps being taken to restructure the nation’s tourism sector.
Prince Sultan said that the Kingdom’s historical sites and antiquities are protected by a national will extended from King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
“National antiquities are protected and no one on earth can demolish, destroy or touch them … We respect people’s keenness and we take guidance from religious scholars, and we are determined that these archeological sites will not be turned into places that encourage heresies which encroach on our faith,” he said.
Prince Sultan also stressed the importance of correcting misconceptions through enlightenment and development of museums for displaying antiquities because they are part of history. “Islamic history did not happen on the moon but in the Arabian Peninsula. It is impossible to ignore the cultural history of the Kingdom.”– Okaz/SG