Abdul Illah Saati
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi once held a meeting in Rome with a Saudi delegation of which I was a member. Berlusconi spoke proudly about the history of his country and said Rome was a big, open museum that had no parallel in the world. He further told us that the Italian government has a huge budget for the maintenance and upkeep of the historic sites and relics.
The attention given by a nation to its antiquities shows that it is a country whose people have a deep understanding and respect of civilization. Nations that are proud of their history, reserve and maintain their antiquities because of their great value as symbols of their history and civilization.
Our country is rich in history and has a large number of archeological treasures scattered all over its regions. The most important of these antiquities are the Islamic relics which show the history of Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him). Saudi Arabia is the birth place of Islam so it contains many important Islamic antiquities that narrate the story of the Prophet (pbuh), the establishment of the first Islamic state, the efforts to spread Islam all over the world and the historic developments of the Islamic civilization.
It is really painful that we treat these relics in a manner that reflects our complete ignorance of their value and significance. Historian and writer Mohammed Al-Salmi once wrote "we consolidate our ignorance of the value of these relics with naked aggression against them. We deliberately destroy them to a degree that makes us unworthy of them." I would add to this and say that our dealing with Islamic antiquities reflects a great inability on our part in realizing the religious and historic significance of these antiquities. By this ignorance we are not only being unfair to ourselves but also to future generations.
It is high time we realize the great value of Islamic antiquities in our country. We should work hard to preserve and upkeep them in a manner that reflects their real worth. Makkah is the region which contains most of these Islamic antiquities. It is hoped that its Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, who himself is an artist and thinker, will exert more efforts to preserve historic locations and maintain them for future generations. We also hope that the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) will play a bigger role in preserving, developing and maintaining Islamic locations so people know more about the history of their religion.
We should give utmost priority to Islamic relics and the history of our Prophet (pbuh) and dismiss any calls that advocate otherwise as incompatible with the contemporary age we live in and the progressive nation we are striving to become.