Destruction Tomb of Al-Nawawi by Al-Qaeda

Destruction of tomb of great Sunni scholar famous not only for his works but for his deeds

Nawa, Syria

Coordinates: 32.888006, 36.038097

Imam Nawawi, was a Sunni Shafi’ite jurist and hadith scholar. He authored numerous and lengthy works ranging from hadith, to theology, biography, and jurisprudence. Al-Nawawi never married.

An-Nawawi’s lasting legacy is his contribution to hadith literature through his momentous works Forty Hadiths and Riyadh as-Saaliheen.

This made him respected in all madhabs, despite of him being of Shafi’i jurisprudence.

According to Al-Dhahabi, Imam Nawawi’s concentration and absorption in academic love gained proverbial fame. He had devoted all his time for learning and scholarship.

Imaam an-Nawawi had three distinctive commendable qualities in his person. If anybody has only one out of these three, people turn to him in abundance for guidance. First, having knowledge and its dissemination. Second, to evade completely from the worldly inclinations, and the third, inviting to all that is good (Islam) enjoining virtue and forbidding vice. Imaam an-Nawawi had all three in him.

Destruction of tomb

In 2015, during the ongoing Syrian Civil War, his tomb was demolished by rebels linked to Al Nusra

The Nusra Front, who are directly affiliated with al-Qaida, have blown up the tomb of Imam Nawawi, a well-respected Sunni cleric. The attack is nothing new, with Salafi militants attacking Sunni heritage sites a number of times previously

Although the cleric was respected among Sunnis and did not promote an esoteric understanding of Islam, his tomb has become the target of the al-Qaida affiliated militants, who have adopted the Salafi Wahhabi understanding of Islam that aims to impose a strict version of religious jurisprudence. In media outlets, it was claimed that the militants targeted the tombs of Shiite Muslims, but the last attack showed they have no respect for Sunnis either.

In the areas where the Salafis dominate societies, people are forced to abandon their traditional Islamic understanding, and fall in line with Salafi clerics’ Islamic thought. Salafis are known for the “takfir” issue, which means declaring a Muslim an infidel due to his/her approach to Islam.

For instance, the Sufi Muslims who promote peaceful ways of solving problems are regarded as infidels and apostates, as those Muslims admit the superiority of clerics and believe that the death of Muslim saints can help them in the eternal world.

Another issue frequently raised by the Salafis, is the clothing of women. Although Muslim people across the world have adopted several veiling styles in accordance with their tradition, Salafis claim that the niqab, which covers the whole body of a woman including her face, is the only correct way of veiling.

They also force men to have long beards, as if it were an essential issue of faith in Islam.

Salafis also oppose any other source except the Quran and hadith, while many Muslim scholars admit that reason must come into effect when the primary sources remain silent on some issues.

Salafis strictly oppose traditional Islam and aim to destroy its heritage. The attack on the tomb demonstrates that the militants threaten not only non-Muslim, Christian groups and other minorities but also Sunni Muslims who refuse to adopt their religious understanding in their daily lives.