One of the things that makes Christianity different from other religions is that it is essentially a religion of history. That is, the core tenets of the Christian faith are not philosophical ideas or theories, but are historical events and historical realities—such as the incarnation of Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, His sinless life, His crucifixion, His resurrection, His ascension, and His future return in glory. Even justification by faith is something that involves an actual change in the justified individual, who receives a new nature through regeneration at the same time as he is made right in his standing before God. Christians have always had a fascination with archeology, because of the way in which archeological discoveries illumine the Bible and corroborate Christian beliefs.
Recently there was an editorial in the New York Times, written by a Muslim, who says that “the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the clerics have a deep hatred of history,” and they have intentionally destroyed nearly every site of historical or archeological significance in Mecca. The structures they have razed in Mecca include ancient mosques, the houses of Muhammad’s wives and companions, and houses from the Ottoman era, among many others. In their place the Saudis have constructed an ultra-modern city of skyscrapers, highways, and luxury shopping malls. Muhammad’s house still stands, but it is off-limits and the Saudi clerics want it destroyed. Even the scenic mountains which once ringed Mecca are gone, having been flattened by Saudi bulldozers and demolition crews. The Sacred Mosque at the center of the hajj (pilgrimage) is now closely hemmed in by skyscrapers, including some of the world’s largest, and plans have already been made to demolish the ancient mosque itself and replace it “with an ultra-modern doughnut-shaped building,” according to the article. Muslims who come to Mecca for the hajj are now assigned to a tour group, which restricts their ability to move about and to interact with people outside of their group. This not only keeps visitors from looking for historical sites in Mecca, it also keeps the Saudi people from hearing alternative interpretations of Islam.
It is clear that the Saudis are trying to erase all traces of the past in Islam’s holiest city. But why? The Islamic religion, especially in its strict form practiced by the Saudis, is a religion of laws and principles, not history. A search for the historical basis for these religious principles would potentially undermine them. Rather than asking and investigating such questions as how the Koran was written and standardized, how Muhammad developed and promulgated his religious convictions, and how Islamic traditions subsequently developed, the Saudis want to focus on the Islamic religion as it is taught and practiced by them today, and they want to prohibit the expression of contrary ideas. The self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has also earned a reputation for hating history, and for destroying ancient mosques, churches, shrines, and archeological sites. Their creed is a philosophical system, not a history. History is a threat to them, since there are many historically dubious claims made in the Koran and other Islamic traditions, and the history of the development of Islam shows that it is a manmade religion. The attempt by the Saudis and other strict Muslims to erase all memory of the past in Islam speaks volumes for the largely unspoken problem of finding an authentic historical basis for the beliefs and practices of the Islamic religion.
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