By:  Jerrmein Abu Shahba

Remember when the 9/11 events took place and the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists who hijacked two planes causing its collapse within minutes? What was the reaction of the American people during that time and till this day? Outrage, disappointment, grief and more! No one can forget the combination of these numbers 9-11. It was not just a tragic case where thousands of victims who were injured or killed. After all, history has witnessed over time many such tragedies where masses of people are killed or injured in some type of natural or imposed catastrophe.

But this news was not like any news. That is because the World Trade Center was a symbol that represents the hub of American economic prosperity. It was not just the people who were attacked; the identity of the United States was compromised and challenged! And when we heard news that terrorists also attacked the Pentagon in Virginia, all of America was petrified as the Pentagon is the headquarters of the US Department of Defense, and attacking it meant direct confrontation to its defense system.

Imagine if the media releases breaking news today that the White House has been attacked and the oval office destroyed? What would be the reaction of the American people, let alone the government officials and the Congressmen and women? Even if we were told that the President is safe along with his Cabinet and family members, still, the media, the common people, and every American will be outraged and offended. The reason is simple. The White House represents the sanctity of the American government and its officials, from the President to the least superior worker serving in the White House. The White House represents the face of America and all the values and ideologies that this democratic system stands for. Therefore, disrespecting or belittling the White House as a historical monument and physical entity immediately translates into disrespect and offense to what it represents.

What about when we hear that religious holy sites, cemeteries, and mausoleums related to divine personalities are destroyed, demolished, or desecrated? Shall we not then have a right to get enraged, offended, and rise up to defend these holy places with all the energy that we can muster? Even if these divine personalities such as prophets and Imams are not affected directly by this demolition, still the message of disrespect has reached us. Our love and veneration for these holy personalities will prompt and drive us to condemn such actions and do everything within our ability to speak against and prevent future acts of violation to the holy places of veneration.

It is a natural tendency to create an association in order to identify a place, person, or thing. For example, if we want to identify a country, we remember its flag. If we want to identify a police officer, we look at his police uniform and badge. If we want to identify a soldier, we imagine him with the military costume. If we want to envision a doctor, we associate him with a white coat and stethoscope.

At the same time, we recognize fully that the absence of the flag does not mean that the country does not exist. The absence of a police badge or weapon does not mean that the officer does not have the right of authority as a policeman. The absence of white coat or scrubs does not mean that the doctor does not have the knowledge and license to treat and operate the patient. Likewise, the absence of destruction of holy shrines does not mean that the holy personalities no longer enjoy their esteemed ranks and lofty position in front of the Almighty God and their devotees.

However, the flag, badge, military outfit, and white coat are all physical aspects which symbolize the person, place, or entity. These items represent the identity of the people who wear them. In the same

token, we apply the same logic when it comes to the holy shrines, sanctuaries, and mausoleum of our prophets and divinely appointed Imams. These divine personalities such as Prophets Ibraheem, Musa, ‘Isa and Muhammad, as well as the 12 Infallible Imams from the last prophet’s progeny are holy and sanctified due to their divinely-appointed roles, their established track record of piety and righteousness, and their pure autobiographies. It is due to their high level of sanctity that any relics or items associated to them are also considered holy and sanctified. Therefore, it is not surprising that their places of burial become a special recognized place where we witness multitudes and flocks of believers come to pay their respects, request their needs, experience miracles, and worship God within its vicinity.

Unfortunately in the past century we have witnessed the Wahhabi Saudi-based regime desecrating holy places with great historical and religious significance such as al-Baqee cemetery which house graves of many Islamic esteemed personalities such as four of the infallible Imams and members from the family of the Holy Prophet (SA). Furthermore, the Saudi Wahhabis continue to take plan and action to destroy and demolish other holy sites in the region till this very day. It is an ideology based corrupted policy that is rooted in extremism and yields acts of terror to places that are sanctified by many due to the great significance of religious personalities in history.

As believers we must condemn these acts of terrors to our heritage and our holy sites and relics which carry its holiness due to its association to the divine personalities. These holy sites represent our heritage and our own identity as Muslims, as believers, and as lovers and devotees of the Prophet and his purified progeny. Striving to rebuild the holy places which represent the essence of our faith is an obligation, not a recommendation.

Why is it that the American people and government invested great efforts to recover and rebuild the World Trade Center such that less than two decades have passed and today we see it standing up high with dignity as a symbol of American prosperity and determination to fight for its freedom regardless of its enemies?

Why is it that the holy places of worship and historical sites, and places where holy divine personalities are buried are left destroyed without enough resistance to bring about the rebuilding and reconstruction of these holy sites? Aren’t these holy sites the face of the pure Islam and the identity of the Muslim believers which must be preserved, protected, and re-installed? Are the secular places of historical significance more important and valuable than the spiritual and religious sites which touch the heart of every believer? This is something for every Muslim to reflect and ponder upon.

Lastly, why is it that when the 9/11 attacks took place, everyone including the media labelled it as a terrorist attack which it certainly is. However, no one on a global level labels the Saudi aggression and violation against the religious symbols and holy sites as an act of terrorism? Terrorism of a dangerous type that intimidates and prevents the right of a human being from practice their faith and exercising their worship and religious rites!

About Jerrmein Abu Shahba

Jerrmein, originally from Egypt and guided by the grace of Allah (SWT) to the truth path of AhlulBayt (AS), obtained her bachelors degree in Biology and masters in Chemistry. She contributed as a writer in the past for the Islamic Insights, AIM, Muslims4peace, and Voice of Unity magazines. Jerrmein volunteers as an editor for the al-Islam.org website, and translates Islamic literature.