In an interview to New York Times, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has vowed to return the Islam in the country as it was before 1979.
Many will question what had happed in 1979 which changed the society of Saudi Arabia. Although 1979 has great significance in Saudi Arabia’s history but the year is remembered for attack on Kaba and its siege for two weeks.
Thirty years ago, hundreds of Islamic extremists walked into the Grand Mosque in Makkah. They slipped weapons into the holiest site in Islam, and they started one of the events of 1979 that still affects the Muslim world today.
On December 4, in 1979 Saudi government with the help of French Commandos, Pakistani army and Saudi military ended the fight which began on November 20. The attackers were led by Juhayman ibn Muhammad ibn Sayf al-Otaybi. He was highly impressed by the teachings of noted religious scholar of Saudi Arabia Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah bin Baz.
Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah bin Baz was against the royal attempt to modernize Saudi Arabia during 1940 to 1950. He was later appointed as central mufti by the Saudi government. Juhayman ibn Muhammad ibn Sayf al-Otaybi also joined Salafi Jamat which aimed at retaining the original form of Islam in Saudi Arabia and to end the negative influence of television, rising westernization, intermingling of sexes in Saudi Arabia.
Otaybi’s extremism increased by each passing day. He was arrested by Saudi government in 1978. Even after his release his views didn’t change. Then he planned the attack and entered into Kaba along with his 500 friends made about 100,000 people who appeared in the Grand Mosque of Makkah for the dawn prayer as hostages. The attackers entered the mosque with weapons, overpowered the guards, shut down the gates and proclaimed the arrival of the savior, the Mahdi, that would cleanse the Muslim world from its impurities brought in by the Westerners. Otaybi declared his brother in law Mohammed bin Abdullah AlQahtai as Imam Mehdi.
This was the first time that Kaba was closed for general public. According to unofficial sources over 1000 people including extremists, devotees and military were killed in the incident.