Militants of the Jabhat al-Nusra -- al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate -- destroyed a thirteenth-century tomb of Imam Nawawi, a revered Islamic scholar, on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, in a statement released Thursday. The tomb, located in the southern Syrian city of Nawa near the Jordanian border, is the latest historical site to fall prey to the protracted conflict in Syria.
According to a report by Al Jazeera, the Syrian government condemned the destruction of the tomb as an attack on the “country’s history and heritage.” The city of Nawa, which lies in the southern Daraa Governorate, has been a site of frequent conflict between moderate Syrian rebels, al Qaeda-backed militants and government troops since early last year. Imam Nawawi, born in 1233 AD, is believed to have written several books on Islamic studies and Quranic verses. After his death in 1277 AD, he was buried in his hometown of Nawa.
The militants of Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda and the Islamic State group follow a puritanical Salafist doctrine that prohibits the construction and veneration of tombs and shrines, which are viewed as un-Islamic and sacrilegious. A number of Salafist groups have also been implicated in attacks on Sufi shrines in Libya and Tunisia, according to media reports.
In a report published in December last year, the United Nations had said that satellite images had shown “alarming” damage to nearly 300 historical sites, including several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In the city of Raqqa, which is the de-facto headquarters of ISIS, the Sufi Muslim Uwais al-Qarni Mosque and a shrine to Ammar ibn Yasir, believed to be one of Prophet Muhammad’s companions, have also been destroyed, the U.N. had said, in its report.
“The alarming level of damage to many of these areas do call for increased international and national attention to better protect the rich cultural heritage of Syria,” the U.N. said, in its report.