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Disrespecting Grand Mosque!
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 27 - 03 - 2017

LAST week a video clip of a Turkish TV channel correspondent, who was in Saudi Arabia for Umrah, fulfilled the wish of his fiancée who had asked him to present to her the wedding ring while kneeling in front of the Holy Kaaba inside the Grand Mosque in Makkah. She had also asked him to film the event. And the clip went viral. According to reports, the correspondent had presented the wedding ring to his fiancée in front of the Holy Kaaba in 2012 but she refused to marry him unless he presented her the ring and asked her hand in marriage while kneeling down.
This action of the TV correspondent triggered an immediate debate on the propriety of his action. People were split vertically between those who did not see anything wrong with what the TV correspondent did and those who saw the action as a clear disrespect of the holy place.
Those who sided with the correspondent's action were charitable in their defense of his action. They called his action romantic and extended the justification by stating Saudi and expat families do hold small ceremonies of signing marriage contracts at the Grand Mosque and see this action as equal to that.
Those who were against it saw the couple's action as frivolous and grandstanding while wasting precious time that could be used for worship. They felt that instead of using the little time they had in Makkah for worship or performing Umrah, they chose to bring a Western custom into the holy place. They argued that this type of marriage proposal is not Islamic at all, nor kneeling for any person, let alone doing it few meters from the Holy Kaaba.
I remember writing an article in July of 2015, titled "Disrespecting Prophet's Mosque," followed by another one exactly a year later, titled "Disrespecting the Prophet's Mosque Again." In both the articles I cited examples of having seen negative acts by worshipers inside the Prophet's Mosque that included, playing cards or being overtly busy with mobile phones instead of praying, street peddlers blocking pathways to the Prophet's Mosque, people talking loudly over the phone inside the Prophet's Mosque, sleeping and snoring inside, and allowing children to run and play inside the Prophet's Mosque instead of teaching them how to respect it. That and many other negative acts I had noticed.
For those who argued that Makkah people hold their marriage contract ceremonies inside the Grand Mosque, all I can say to that well it is an old Hijazi tradition and it is a very simple ceremony where members of both families gather in a respectful manner to witness the signing of the marriage contract after agreement over the conditions and dowry. The tradition is popular because of the cost of holding such ceremonies outside is high. The only thing that is done here is to witness the contract and bless the wedding without any additional frills in the ceremony. This custom became popular with expatriate families residing in the Kingdom and the people from neighboring regions come to the Grand and Prophet's Mosque to follow this tradition.
The lucky ones at the Grand and Prophet's Mosque are the ones who devout their entire time in worship, reading Qur›an, praying or listening to an Islamic lecture. They know that the place is sacred and they choose not to waste time in doing any other thing than worship. The more they pray and worship, the more they are rewarded. Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, said, "One prayer in my Mosque is better than one thousand prayers in any other mosque excepting Al-Masjid-AI-Haram."
Some people I have spoken to about this incident, said that the whole thing does not deserve that much attention and it was only widely publicized because he was a TV correspondent and well known. They state that many ordinary people commit much worse acts but they do not get publicized because they are ordinary. Some people condoned the correspondent's action by finding the excuse that probably the man did not know what is a good or bad behavior inside the Grand Mosque, like many other worshipers, so why target him.
Like I said in an earlier article, "Authorities have created an anti-negative phenomenon committee to fight violations around the Prophet's Mosque such as begging and selling illegally. It is time now for a similar committee inside the Grand Mosque. The committee should have people speaking different languages so they are able to give people of different nationalities proper advise and seeing that the people heed the advise and act correctly.
"Respecting the place does not require any teaching but true love and respect for the place. Guidelines should be put in place and all should be aware of it and practice it. We should not be in a situation to receive any guidance from authorities on how to behave inside the Prophet's Mosque."
I make a similar call for such a committee in the Grand Mosque too, such that the parameters of behavior inside the holy places are set and it does not violate the holy places' sanctity. The pilgrims once made aware of the need for propriety inside the Grand and the Prophet's Mosque, would be the best advocate of behavior for future pilgrims.
The writer can be reached at [email protected] Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng

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