From where does holiness come to holy lands?
by Usthad Rasheed Hajjul Akbar Amir,
Sri lanka Jama’athe Islami
Holy lands are indeed sacred and they exist on this earth as sites that are respected and that should be respected, not only by the people who believe in the particular faith but by every one in the civilized world. As people who live by Islamic faith, we have sensitivity over this delicate subject because Islam too has its own proclaimed sacred places. These places belong to every Muslim in world and it is their refutable obligation safeguarding and cherishing those places. The countries that have those sacred places within their geographical areas cannot proscribe Muslims coming to their countries for just about any reason.
Upon this reason, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which has two of the three Islamic holy places in its country, issues an exclusive Visas to pilgrims and does not levy any charges to grant these Visas if the visitor’s sole purpose is pilgrimage. At the same time, the Kingdom does not allow non Muslims to enter those holy places mainly to avoid them taking advantage of this Visa concession and also to protect the sanctity of the holy places. Since we Muslims have such phenomenon in our religion, we already possess capacity to understand this concept and do not have any difficulty accommodating the idea of holy sites and respecting stipulations related to them. Accordingly, we would like to approach the issue of attacking a mosque in Dambulla from this perspective.
Therefore, it is not an issue of inadequacy from our part to recognize the holy sites of another faith but the question is what the definitions of those sites are. And it is a question of the aspects of whom, when and what with regard to the globally accepted norms for such a proclamation. As Muslims we have explicit definitions for these matters. Each and every run away Muslim or a group of Muslims do not have the authority to proclaim holy places for Islam. Only the God Almighty has the authority for such proclamation which He did with the communication of His Final Prophet. And those places were declared at the very inception of Islam some 14 centuries ago and with globally acceptable credibility that are entwined with revelation and events of Islam.
As we mentioned there are three holy places of Islam in the world. Two of them are in the form of entire cities that are situated in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, namely Makka and Madeena. The third holy place of Islam, which is a mosque, is situated in the city of Jerusalem called Baithul Muqaddas also referred to as Mosque of Al Aksa. No one has the authority to declare a fourth place as holy for Muslims and no one has ever tried it. Even if the entire world becomes Islamic, no one could make such a proclamation. In essence, sacred lands are essentially foundations of particular religions which should be pronounced by the founders or the highest authorities of those faiths to have unquestionable credibility. If a person, a group or even a government proceed to spontaneously declare places and sites as sacred, especially if the that person, the group or the government is distanced by several centuries from the original and phenomenal events of the faith in question then such a proclamation is very likely to end up as a religious arrogance and extremism that would only trigger trouble and unrest as we ourselves witness today in this very country. Also it would be yet another weapon given to the hands of evil elements that is always in the look out for ways to create disunity among different communities peacefully living in this country.
A group is trying to claim a particular place as sacred today inflicting distress among other religious people and tomorrow it could be yet another person or group in yet another place just because those groups do not have or do not care about definitions for such proclamations. Where would this propensity lead this multi religious country? Even a small group of fanatics could be tempted to make such a claim elsewhere purely to revenge an ethnic group living among them. When and who is going to stop this injurious trend? Islam has historic example for respecting other faiths. Umar, the second Kalifa of Muslims was speaking with some Christian theologians sitting in their church when he visited Jerusalem. Then the time for obligatory prayer occurred and the Kalifa stood up to leave the church to observe his ritual. Then the Christian colleagues offered him a place in their church to offer the prayer but the Muslim leader declined it and left the church to offer his prayer outside of the church.
The reason for this refusal stated by the farsighted Islamic leader is that if he prays in the church at least once while he was the leader of the Muslims, some insensitive one or a group coming in a future era might get the notion that it is necessary to raze the particular church and build a mosque, which would trigger unrest among communities. This was the stance of Islam and Islamic leaders on religious coexistence and upon the concept of holy sites. Similarly the Gouthama Buddha might have proclaimed holy places for Buddhists and he might have prescribed rituals pertaining to those scared places. And if so it is a top most duty to safeguards such places of sanctity not only upon the Buddhists but also upon us and every one in this world regardless of their religious orientations. And if Muslims have built inadvertently or otherwise mosques or any holy shrines in such historically existing original Buddhist sacred places, we do not have any objection whatsoever in razing and obliterating such buildings from those lands. And we also would like to be elucidated what purpose Buddhists are trying to serve by such actions of spontaneously claiming scared sites. And does anyone naively believe that this kind of supercilious actions would instill any reverence for a religion or help it proliferate.
We would like to remind once again that Islam which is among the biggest faiths in the world with 1.4 billion followers spanning over 56 countries in the planet has not proclaimed a fourth sacred place after its original three even after 1400 years and even when it is the fastest spreading religion. And the fact that Islam has been a super power in world for close to 10 centuries also should be weighed here. What would be the situation if Muslims have had started to declare sacred places wherever they ruled? They did not because they knew the meaning of sacred land concept in its most accurate form
(This is a translation of original Tamil article)