An eternal right of Saudi Arabia
Islam is the fastest growing and second largest religion of the world. Around 1.6 billion people around the globe are Muslims with their main concentration in Asia, Middle East and African region. These huge numbers of Muslims are very sensitive towards Islam’s two holiest cities – Makkah and Madinah, both are located in the Saudi Arabia. Makkah holds the holy Kaaba, known as the house of Allah and Madinah houses the shrine of the Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (SM).
There is no place on Earth as revered, as central or as holy to as many people as Makkah. By any objective standard, this valley in the Hijaz region of Arabia is the most respected place on Earth. For a very just reason, Saudi Arabians are the natural custodians of these two holy places. But other Muslim and Non-Muslim tyrants or powers have at many times tried to seize the control of these cities and still today there is a division of opinions over this issue.
Every year millions of Muslims rush to the Makkah to perform Umrah and the holy hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam. The Saudi government welcomes this huge number of pilgrims and arranges for their stay, travel and makes all necessary provisions. Accommodating a sea of visitors from around the world is a very critical matter, but the Saudi government has been playing successfully their role as the convener of holy hajj. Except a few stray incidents and accidents, performing the Hajj and Umrah under overall supervision of the custodians of these two holy mosques has been peaceful and without any major concern.
Since time immemorial Makkah is recognized to world travelers for Baitullah, the House of Allah. Its sanctity and antiquity is older than history itself. It is known that the Kaaba was ordained by Allah to be built in the shape of Baitul Ma’amoor, the House in Heaven. Prophet Adam (AS) was the first to build this place. He was the first man on earth and that was the first house ever built.
Quran decisively establishes the fact that Ibrahim (AS) was the real founder of the Holy Shrine. Quran says, “Allah has spoken the Truth, therefore follow the creed of Ibrahim, a man of pure faith and no idolater”. When Prophet Ibrahim built the Holy Shrine in Makkah, his prayers were that this place should remain a centre of worship for all good and pious people; that Allah should keep his family the custodians of the Holy place.
Ever since, Ismail (AS), the son of Ibrahim, who helped his father to build this place and his descendants remained the custodians of the Holy Shrine. History tells us that centuries passed and the guardianship of the Kaaba remained in the family of Ismail until the name of Abde Manaf, who inherited this service, came into the limelight. His son Hashim took this leadership and extended it to many other towns and so many pilgrims gathered annually to this place and enjoyed Hashim’s hospitality.
Prophet Ibrahim built this House for devout worship to one God, Allah. But within his lifetime people disobeyed his orders and began to put idols inside the Kaaba. It was over four thousand years later that the last Prophet (SM), entered Makkah triumphantly, went inside the Kaaba and destroyed all the idols of Kaaba with his own hands. The Prophet recited the Verse from the Quran: “Truth hath come and falsehood hath vanished.”
After Ibrahim, during Kusayi’s time it was rebuilt and fortified. During the early years of Prophet Muhammad (SM) before he announced his ministry, the Kaaba was damaged by floods and it was rebuilt again. Many other structural developments and construction works were done later and is still ongoing.
This is the story of the Kaaba and the persons who protected it and remained its custodians and protectors from the satanic and evil forces throughout history. Muhammad (SM) and the people of his household were the protectors of the Kaaba, and currently the 12th Imam from the direct descent of the Prophet of Islam is the real protector, its custodian and guardian and shall remain as such while in concealment.
The guardianship of the Kaaba is still inherited by the sons of Shaybah and their successors, a tradition instituted by the Prophet after the conquest of Makkah. He entrusted the key of the city to Uthman Ibn Abi Talha and deemed the caretaking of the Kaaba to be uniquely and eternally bestowed upon the line of the sons of Shaybah. The prophet’s words were: “Take it, Oh Bani Talha, eternally up to the Day of Resurrection, and it will not be taken from you unless by an unjust, oppressive tyrant.”
Prophet Ibrahim entrusted, in turn, the guardianship of the Kaaba to his son Ismail, who continued the tradition until his passing. Afterwards, the tradition was taken over from the sons of Ismail against their will by the tribe of Jarham and then to the tribe of Khuzaah, but its possession was regained by Qusai ibn Kilab ibn Murrah, third great grandfather of the prophet Muhammad and a descendent of Ismail, the first to serve as the Kaaba’s caretaker.
The caretaking of the Kaaba is inherited by the eldest son of each family and it was passed until it transferred to Uthman Ibn Talha who lived during the prophet’s times. As the prophet Muhammad entered Makkah, its people were accepting Islam, but Uthman was hiding. The prophet Muhammad then ordered Ali Ibn Abi Talib (R) to take the key from Uthman.
Ali went to find Uthman, and asked for the key but Uthman did not give it to him. Ali then snatched the key from him. They opened the door and the prophet entered the Kaaba and prayed two rakah Salaah.
At that time, Abbas Ibn Abd Al-Muttalib, the uncle of the prophet, was there and requested that the key must be kept with the family and then Gibrail (AS) came down with a verse and revealed inside the Kaaba, “Indeed, Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are belong to …..”, indicating the Shaybah family to be the keepers of the Keys and assured that Allah desired so.
Soon as that verse was revealed, Prophet Muhammad ordered Ali to return the key to Uthman Ibn Talha. Ali then went to Uthman and gave back the key and apologized for forcibly taking the key. That shocked Uthman and Ali explained to him that a verse was revealed for him, Allah instructed the prophet to return the trust to whom it belongs to. The guardianship of the Kaaba remained in Bani Shaybah, which is bestowed upon the elders of the family until today.
Sheikh Abdul Qadir bin Taha bin al-Shaibi who served the Kaaba for four years witnessed the change of the Kaaba’s lock by the order of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.
Prince Khaled al-Faisal handed him the lock on behalf of the King on the occasion of the cleaning of Kaaba. The functions of the caretaker are now limited to the opening and closing of the Kaaba. The royal family of Saudi Arabia has been playing the role of custodians of Kaaba for decades now.
It is from the words of Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Ibrahim that, the guardianship of the Kaaba will remain with their successors largely known as the Quraish. There is no option to go out of that for the Muslims.
Similar is the case with the Masjid-e-Nabawi in Madinah as the Prophet had assured the rights of the Madinah residents as he advised his followers to purchase something from Madinah with an intention to help those who provided shelter to the Prophet (SM) when he needed one badly.
There is no way to deny the claims of the Saudi Arabians on these two holy cities as they have been blessed by the Almighty Allah and Prophet himself prayed for them. But they need to manage the facilities for the whole Muslim Ummah as it is a bestowed responsibility as per Quran and Hadith.
Recently few other Arab countries have been demanding joint guardianship and management, which we believe will lead to a bigger conflict as the joint management of Makkah and Madinah will not protect the sovereignty of the Saudi Arabia, which is a right of every nation as per the UN convention.
Hence, the other Muslim countries should not get into disorder or controversy over the guardianship of Makkah or Madinah as guided by the Quran and Hadith. Rather, they should support the Saudi government in better management of these two holy cities to ensure a safe, secure and comfortable performance of hajj for the millions of pilgrims every year. As Muslims, we only pray for everlasting purity and sanctity of these two places held in high esteem by the Muslims from all around the world.
The writer is the Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Vice Chairman, Democracy Research Centre (DRC)