On 21 April 1926 (Wednesday, 8 Shawwal 1344 A.H.), the mausoleums in al-Baqi were destroyed by king Ibn Saud. In the same year, he also demolished the tombs of holy persons at Mualla Cemetery in Mecca where Muhammad ‘s first wife Khadijah, his grandfather and other ancestors are buried. This happened despite protests by the international Islamic community.
Jannat-ul-Baqi’ is a much revered graveyard located in Madinah Munawwarah in Saudi Arabia. Many great personalities of the Ahle Bait (a.s.), immaculate members of his (s.a.w.a.) household including his (s.a.w.a.) successors are laid to rest here:
- Hazrat Fatemah al-Zahra (a.s.), the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) highly-revered daughter
- Imam Hasan b. Ali – Al Mujtaba (a.s.)
- Imam Ali b. Husain – Zain al-Aabedeen (a.s.)
- Imam Muhammad b. Ali – Al-Baqir (a.s.) and
- Imam Jafar b. Muhammad – Al-Sadiq (a.s.)
In addition to the successors of the Messenger (s.a.w.a.), prominent and famous companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his (s.a.w.a.) close relatives are also buried here:
- Abbas b. Abdul Muttalib (Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) uncle)
- Safiyyah bint Abdil Muttallib and Aatika bint Abdil Muttalib (Prophet’s aunts (s.a.w.a.))
- Ibrahim b. Muhammad (Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) son)
- Hazrat Fatima binte Asad (Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) aunt and Ameerul Momineen’s (a.s.) mother (a.s.))
- Aqeel b. Abi Talib (Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) cousin and Ameerul Momineen’s (a.s.) brother)
- Muhammad b. Ali b. Abi Taalib, famous as Muhammad-e-Hanafiyyah (his mother’s name was Hanafiyyah)
- Hazrat Ummul Baneen (mother of Hazrat Abul Fazl Abbas b. Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.))
- Ismail b. Imam Sadiq (a.s.)
- Abdullah b. Jafar-e-Tayyaar (a.s.)
These are the individuals buried in Baqi’ and their graves were adorned with mausoleums and tombs. Even today Muslims have preserved pictures of the tombs and these are widely available on internet websites. These tombs were present till 8th Shavval 1344 A.H. Apart from these great personalities, graves of approximately seven thousand famous companions are located in Baqi’. Similarly, many scholars of the early days of Islam are also buried here, like Imam Maalik – the founder of the Maaliki sect. Like with other graves, a tomb was also built over his grave.
The first attack on Baqi’ – 1220 A.H.
The attack was first engineered by the Wahhabis in 1220 A.H. i.e. when the first Saudi government was overthrown by the Ottoman government. In 1220 A.H. Wahhabis entered Medinah to demolish Baqi’ and tried to demolish many mosques instead of Baqi’. They initially tried to pull down the dome of the mausoleum of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) but apparently refrained due to fear of reprisal.
The Ottoman government renovated the mausoleums and Shias and Sunnis from all over the world accumulated funds for its renovation. Consequently, beautiful tombs were created in Baqi’ and visitors from all over the world at the time of Hajj, Umrah and Ziyaarah paid their respects to these tombs.
However, this was just the beginning of the nightmare for the Islamic world.
The Day of Demolition
The Day of Demolition as it came to be known later was the day of breaking down of all mausoleums and tombs in Baqi’.
In 1344 A.H. when Aal-e-Saud – Saudi family gained complete control of Makkah, Madinah and its neighborhood, they decided to wipe out the signs of the holy places, Jannatul Baqi’, companions and family of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) from the map of Islam. For this, they obtained rulings from the scholars of Madinah to make it easy for themselves and to gain support of the people of Hijaz who were previously not ready for their rule.
Rulings for Demolition
Aal-e-Saud dispatched the Chief Justice Sulaiman b, Bulaihar so that he could obtain the desired rulings from the scholars of Madinah. For this, he posed questions to the scholars of Madinah in such a manner that the answers, as per the Wahhabi viewpoint, were present in the questions themselves. Similarly, the jurists (muftis) were informed beforehand to respond with the desired answers or they would be declared polytheists and killed if they failed to repent. The questions and answers were published in a Makkah-based magazine ‘Ummul Qura’ in the Shavval 1344 A.H. edition.
Sulaiman b. Bulaihar posed the following question:
- What do the scholars of Al-Madinahh Al-Munawwarah, may Allah increase their knowledge and understanding, have to say – Is it permissible to construct a structure and mosque over graves?
- If it is not permissible and Islam strongly prohibits it, then is it obligatory to demolish them and stop Muslims from praying namaz there?
- Can graves, structures and tombs constructed on an endowed land like Baqi’ whose some parts are not useful considered as usurped? Should not they be demolished at the earliest to do away with the oppression perpetrated on the deserving ones?
The scholars of Madinah, out of fear and greed replied to Sulaiman ibn Bulaihar as stated below:
Building a structure over graves has been collectively prohibited in traditions. Hence many scholars have given the verdict of the necessity of breaking them and we would like to take support of a tradition on the authority of Imam Ali (a.s.) wherein he instructed Abil Hayyaj: I command you to accomplish something which the Messenger of God (s.a.w.a.) had ordered me. It is that you destroy any image and any grave that you see before making it level (with the ground).
At this stage, we do not wish to comment on this tradition except that Quran permits building of a structure on graves as advocated in Surah Kahf (18): Verse XX. The Muslim nation is united on this reality and has been building graves in every era. In fact, the companions have never opposed building structure over graves, which explains why tombs and mausoleums existed in Baqi’ until they were destroyed and the graves of the first and second caliphs continue to be enshrined.
Lastly, the tradition of Abil Hayyaj, which the Wahhabis quote freely, is unreliable as it does not meet the criteria of a Sahih tradition from aspects of text and chain of narrators and more importantly contravenes the Noble Quran, the foremost test of a tradition’s reliability.
Destruction and Looting
Between 1205 A.H. and 1217 A.H., the Wahhabis attempted to occupy Hijaz several times but failed until they captured Taaef in 1217 A.H. killing many Muslims in the process. In 1218 A.H., they attacked Makkah and destroyed all the holy places including the structure built over the well of Zam Zam.
In 1216 A.H., in the month of Zilqad, the Wahhabis attacked the holy city of Karbala, laid a siege to it, killed many people in the streets and markets and plundered it until midday before fleeing the city with lot of wealth and goods. Saud himself took one-fifth of the looted amount and gave one part of the remaining loot to the soldiers on foot and two parts to the horsemen (because as per them this was a war against the disbelievers).
Attack on the Holy City of Makkah.
In 1344 A.H. i.e. 1925 A.D. before the Wahhabis attacked Jannatul Baqi’, they attacked the graveyard of Makkah which is still known as Jannat ul Mo’alla and is the most venerated cemetery after Baqi’. The Prophet of God (s.a.w.a.) used to visit this graveyard, where
- His (s.a.w.a.) great grandfather Abdul Manaf
- Grandfather Abdul Muttalib (a.s.)
- Uncle Abu Talib (a.s.) and
- Wife Khadija (s.a.) are buried.
There was a mausoleum and a tomb on each of their graves. The Wahabbis demolished all of them before turning towards Madinah. It should be noted that their destructive aims were accomplished only after many Muslims were martyred in the skirmishes. The Wahhabis did not stop at killing; they made sure to plunder the mausoleums afterwards.
Destruction and Disrespect of Baqi’
It was on Wednesday, 8th Shavval 1344 A.H. i.e. 21st April 1925, under the commandership of Abdul Aziz b. Saud – the Wahhabis surrounded Madinah and fought its defenders and evicted the officials of the Ottoman government out of Madinah and then went on to destroy the graves of Imams (a.s.) i.e. grave of Imam Hasan-e-Mujtaba (a.s.), Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s.), Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) and Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.).
Other graves were also not spared viz. those of Abbas b. Abdil Muttalib, Safiyya bint Abdil Muttalib, Aatika bint Abdil Muttalib, Ibrahim son of Messenger (s.a.w.a.), Ummul Baneen, Ismael b. Imam Sadiq (a.s.), Abdullah b. Jafar-e-Tayyaar, Halimah-e-Sa’diyyah and approximately seven thousand companions of Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.a.). Imam Malik’s grave was also demolished.
Killing and Plunder by the Wahhabis
Whenever the Wahabbis attacked the holy places, they not only killed Muslim men, women, children and the aged, but also plundered the streets and markets and escaped with abundant wealth.
Historians have documented that the Wahhabis looted forty trunks of diamonds, ornaments, and rubies and nearly one hundred swords with pure gold sheaths laden with diamonds and rubies from the mausoleums of Baqi’ in Madinah.
The Ruthlessness and Mercilessness of the Wahabbis
Noted historian Jameel Siddiqui Zahavi has documented details of the Wahhabi attack on Taaef – The head of a suckling child was severed while still clutched to the mother’s neck. People gathering the Holy Quran were killed. When houses were abandoned out of fear, they entered shops and mosques and killed the people in varying states of worship – be it bowing or prostration. Books, mostly Quran and books of jurisprudence including extracts from Sahih-e-Bukhari and Muslim were thrown in the markets and trampled on.
Such killing and plundering was not surprising from the followers of Muhammad b. Abdul Wahhab as they deemed other Muslims as disbelievers and polytheists and considered Makkah and Madinah as House of War and House of Disbelief which they redeemed after gaining control over it.
Views of the great jurist Ayatullah al-Uzma Lutfullah Saafi Gulpaigani (r.a.)
The great and renowned jurist and Marja-e-Taqleed of the Shias, author of various books, defender of Imamat and Wilayat of Ahle Bait (a.s.), the propagator of Imamat and Wilayat with the special grace of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.), the author of the renowned book Muntakhab al-Asar fi al-Imam al-Saani Ashar, declared Sunday 8th Shavval, as a day of great calamity for the Muslim nation. He declared – This calamity has occurred not only on the Shias and the Ahle Bait (a.s.) but on the entire Muslim nation and is a loss and detriment which has befallen on Islam through this most deplorable incident and appalling action. It is a loss equal to several losses put together.
The Holy Mausoleum in the History of Islam
Ayatullah Saafi Gulpaigani (r.a.) has declared the blessed mausoleums and other effects related to Imams (a.s.) as the complete history of Islam. He stated – Wahhabis have destroyed the history of Islam and worse is that in these eighty years, they did not stop at only this act but destroyed and desolated everything which bore a trace the Prophet’s Ahle Bait (a.s.). These were memorials of Islam, blessings of Islam and the history of Islam does not have any apparent signs without them.
This great jurist of the Shias has pointed towards the fact that all nations and religions have protected and renovated their historical signs and effects. This act persuades the Muslims to protect and safeguard the corporal history of Islam. He declared – Just as these symbols are protected in the entire world, the signs of Islam should also be protected so that whoever is blessed with the visitation of Makkah and Madinah, witnesses Islam closely even centuries after its advent.
Ayatullah Saafi Gulpaigani (r.a.) blames the enemies of Islam and the selfish nature of the Salafis for this incident and elaborates – The real intention of the enemies of Islam and the Salafis is to destroy Islam and since they found this act as a debasement and an ignominy for themselves, they persuaded a group to commit this crime.
A ‘Day of Grief’ for Muslims
Ayatullah Saafi Gulpaigani (r.a.) addressed the Muslims, particularly the Shias and said – The Shias and Muslims should be aggrieved and sorrowful on this day (8th Shavval) and should curse and condemn these criminals.
Certainly the Proof of Allah – Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) is also mournful and grief-stricken when he witnesses the desolate state of Baqi’, particularly the state of his grandmother, Hazrat Zahra (s.a.) and his forefathers’ (a.s.) graves.