Saudis claim Ottoman governor planned to 'steal Prophet's body'

Saudis claim last Ottoman governor planned to 'steal Prophet Muhammad's body'
3 min read
11 March, 2020
The Arabic hashtag #desecration_of_the_prophets_grave has now appeared in thousands of posts across Twitter and Facebook.
The new document alleges that the Ottoman governor planned to exhume Muhammad’s grave [Getty]
New evidence that suggests the previous Ottoman governor of Medina aimed to desecrate the grave of Muslim Prophet Muhammad has provoked uproar among Saudi social media users, many of which believe it to be characteristic evidence of alleged Turkish animosity towards the kingdom’s holy cities.

Fakhri Pasha, who commanded the Ottoman Army from 1916 to 1919, held back multiple Arab attempts to wrest control of the city away from its caliphal grip.

During the siege of the city, Pasha sent religious artefacts and manuscripts to Istanbul. While most were later returned to Medina, some remain in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.

The new document, which comprises an early 20th century French diplomatic correspondence, allege that the governor planned to exhume Prophet Muhammad’s grave in order to assure himself that it did indeed house the prophet’s body.

Afonso de Albuquerque, the feared 16th century Portuguese Christian conqueror, is the only figure in history known to have tried to do the same. His attempt to tackle the holy site was an alleged bid to gain a potential bargaining chip that would be used to force the Mamluk empire out of the Holy Land.

Read also: Turkey-Arab relations 'not in best state': UAE official

The Arabic hashtag #desecration_of_the_prophets_grave has now appeared in over 7,500 posts across Twitter and Facebook, with enraged Saudi users decrying the historic act of ''Turkish'' blasphemy. Some of the users claimed Pasha’s real intention was to transport the Prophet’s body from Medina to Constantinople.

Meanwhile, some users drew parallels between the Ottoman empire’s buttressing of the governor and Erdogan’s apparent contemporary support for ''insurgent activity against Arab states''.

Others regarded the revelation as forming an apparent time-honoured tradition of ''malignancy and criminal intent'', which today extends to stealing ''oil and territory''. 

''Turks are a nation of thieves. They are bandits and criminals. They are a nation who feel that they are lacking. They have hearts which are neither European nor Arab,” one impassioned user wrote.

The Ottoman governor was most recently the centre of a flare up between Turkish and Arab rulers in 2017, when the UAE’s foreign minister accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ''ancestors'' of theft as well as mistreating Arabs during Ottoman rule.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan retweeted a post which alleged that the Ottoman governor "committed a crime against the people of Medina by stealing their money, kidnapping them and putting them on trains that took them to Syria and Istanbul".

In response, Turkey accused Nahyan of spreading a "propaganda lie that seeks to turn Turks [and] Arabs against one another," according to Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah.

A street housing the UAE embassy in Ankara was renamed to Fahreddin Pasha Street in the aftermath of the spat.

Kamal Afzali is a journalist at The New Arab

Follow him on Twitter at @KNIAfzali

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