The Razing and Preservation of Historical Sites

The current Custodians of the Sacred Sanctuaries consider it necessary to expand the Mosque of the Sacred Sanctuary in order to accommodate the projected quantities of future Pilgrims. They have decided to raze several historical mosques and sites in order to carry out this expansion.

There has been a lot of heated discussion concerning the issue. So far I have not seen solid, shari‘ah-grounded justifications from either side which is binding upon their disputant.

I personally am against razing the buildings for various reasons and would rather see them left alone or somehow preserved within the expansion. Unfortunately, none of these reasons is so compelling that it would require an opponent to change his mind. Some of these reasons include:

  • That they have been preserved until now is an argument based on presumption of continuation (istishab), which is not universally accepted and, in any case, still leaves us asking why it was the the case to being with.
  • Coupling the above with consensus of prior generations holds no water with those who consider consensus to exist only within the earliest generation(s). It also does not hold water if the consensus is based upon interests (maslahah) or custom (‘urf) if either one has changed.
  • That the buildings are endowments (awqaf) and cannot be removed is a strong argument for those who consider it impermissible to move an endowment. But it holds little weight with those who consider it permissible to sell the land of the endowment and to relocate it elsewhere (when certain conditions are met). Those in favor of razing the building need only adhere this latter opinion and claim that the conditions are met. One might object that there is a conflict of interest or bias if the expansion and awqaf being razed are being managed by the same body.
  • That the buildings are places of barakah and for this reason should not be destroyed is, for some, sufficient reason to raze the buildings.
  • That the buildings are a historically significant, a tie to and reminder of the past which should be maintained for future generations of Muslims carries little weight with urban planners who see that the benefits of the expansion outweigh the benefits of the buildings.

Would it possible to have a discussion on shari‘ah-grounded justifications for and against their preservation? (Keep it civil.)