While many countries compete to get the attention of travelers to pay them a visit, Saudi Arabia’s Mecca and Medina takes the opposite end of the spectrum and forbids entry of non-Muslims.
Many theories, some of which can easily be classified as hearsay emerge on why non-Muslims are not allowed to enter Mecca and Medina. However, many of such theories are not even based on what is written on Islam’s holy book – the Quran. Maureen Dowd, a renowned traveler has touched this issue during one of her travels in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and she has some very valid Islamic explanations on why non Muslims aren’t allowed in Mecca and Medina.
First, let’s have a background on the Islamic faith. Muslims pray five times a day, and they can pray anywhere they are, as long as they face the right direction and the place is clean and there are no images and statues in front of them. When they pray, they should be facing Mecca – their holy land. For many centuries, the Muslims have built wonderful mosques all around the world. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit these places of worship. However, visitors should be properly dressed.
If a Muslim can afford it, he or she is encouraged to make a Hajj or a pilgrimage in Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime. Those who are already living in these two most sacred places mostly spend their time praying and offering their lives to Allah. Muslims firmly believe that Mecca and Medina are places that are open to Muslims only for prayer, and that non-Muslims have no business there, so they should not be open to those who do not belong to the Islamic faith.
Actually, those who have driven near the path towards Mecca and Medina will clearly see traffic board instructions that tell Muslims where they should be heading for and directing non Muslims on the path where they can drive to. There are also strict check points in Mecca and Medina. Even before, embassies of non Muslim nations do inform their citizens that if they visit or work in Saudi Arabia, they are not allowed to enter Mecca and Medina if they are non Muslims.
Here is what the Quran clearly states about Mecca and Medina, “Oh you who believe! Truly the idolaters are unclean, so let them not, after this year, approach the Sacred Mosque.” Therefore, all Muslims strictly follow these words from the Quran. It is sad to note how the Muslims have been criticized for this act because they are merely following the words of their sacred scriptures.
So what happens if a non-Muslim is caught by authorities in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina? The offender will be presented to a judge and will be meted with punishment. Usually, the punishment depends on how the violator was caught. If the violator is clearly unaware that he or she isn’t allowed to enter Mecca and Medina, the offense might just be deportation, penalty or a lifetime ban. For those who plan to defame Islam or does any activity against Islam, they might be sentenced to death.
Since all religions have restrictions and rules that we need to respect, we should view the Holy places of Mecca and Medina as places that only Muslims can worship. Though we may be curious to enter it, we ought never to do anything sacrilegious. Let us honor the faith of our Muslim brothers and sisters for they have allowed us to visit and work in their nation. Respect and understanding should be upheld at all times.