Ina Parlina, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Fri, September 05 2014, 9:30 AM
The Religious Affairs Ministry has called on Muslims in the country to remain calm in response to a rumor about a plan to relocate the tomb of Prophet Muhammad in Saudi Arabia, saying that the purported plan, first raised by a British media outlet, would never see the light of day.
On Monday, United Kingdom-based news portal The Independent posted a story about proposals that were part of a 61-page consultation document by leading Saudi academics calling for the transfer of Muhammad’s remains to the nearby al-Baqi cemetery in Medina.
In the post, titled “Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb”, it was said that the proposals had been revealed by another Saudi academic who did not support the proposal to destroy holy places and artifacts in Mecca.
The news has quickly captured public attention and sparked concerns from Muslim religious leaders in the country.
Social media has also been abuzz with rejections from Muslims in the country who believe the tomb is a sacred place and must be preserved.
Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin responded quickly to the controversy.
On Thursday, Lukman, who was appointed Religious Affairs Minister in June, visited the Saudi Arabian Embassy to discuss the issue with Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Indonesia Mustafa bin Ibrahim al -Mubarak.
Later in the day, during a press conference held at his office, Lukman said the ambassador confirmed that the news was misleading.
“The ambassador has clarified that the rumor is groundless and that the Saudi Arabian government has no plans to move the tomb. Therefore, Indonesians should remain calm and should not be provoked by the issue,” Lukman said.
Lukman, however, confirmed that there were indeed a number of people who came up with a plan to expand the Al-Nabawi mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, which could affect on the Prophet’s tomb as it is located in the vicinity of the mosque. The plan, however, was never an official stance of the Saudi Arabian government.
“I call on Indonesian Muslims to only trust the official stance of the Saudi Arabian government,” said Lukman, who claimed that he was also shocked about the news.
British newspaper first broke news of tomb removal
Religious Affairs Minister confirms baseless rumor
Islamic organizations condemn the plan
A number of prominent religious leaders in the country have expressed their condemnation of the purported plan.
Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of country’s biggest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), and its former chairman, Hasyim Muzadi, had earlier expressed their condemnation.
Antara news agency has reported that Said “condemned and strongly opposed” the relocation idea.
Said said that NU would ask President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to demand that the Saudi Arabian government not demolish and remove the tomb.
Meanwhile, Hasyim said “Saudi will be doomed if it goes ahead with the plan. Hasyim said that the plan could be the outgrowth of a plan made by Saudi Wahabis who grew concerned that the tomb could lead to the practice of idolatry, otherwise known as shirk in Islam.
NU executive board member Masdar Farid Mas’udi has also said that the Koran cited several historical sites in its verses, including the tomb, Ka’bah and Masjidil Haram.
Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra praised Lukman’s move, saying that it was necessary to maintain calm.
Azyumardi, however, said Lukman would face an uphill struggle to quell the rumor given that Muslims in the country believed that the Wahabis were controlling Saudi Arabia.
“The ministry’s call is positive, however it is difficult to dispel perception on Wahhabism,” he said.
Nadjamuddin Ramly, a member of the Institute for Wisdom and Public Policy (LHKP) at the country’s second-largest Islamic organization, Muhammadiyah, said that with the minister’s clarification should put an end to the controversy.
“The minister has confirmed that the Saudi government did not have such a plan; so all Muslims in the country, regardless of their backgrounds, should no longer prolong the controversy as it could be used to provoke them,” he said on Thursday. (ask)