Recently, a construction crane in the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, collapsed while working on the Grand Mosque, both causing damage to the mosque and killing a large number of people. The purpose of the present sample essay provided by Ultius is to discuss this event in greater depth.
Crane collapse at the Grand Mosque In Saudi Arabia
The essay will begin by describing the event itself. After this, the essay will consider the significance of the event from the perspective of the Grand Mosque’s significance for Islam. Then, the essay will also consider the significance of the event from the perspective of the strange fact that the collapse occurred on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. Finally, the essay will engage in a philosophical reflection regarding the nature and value of drawing implications from these coincidences.
Description of the event
To begin this discussion, it is worth turning to Hubbard’s basic summary of what actually happened:
“A large construction crane toppled over and crashed into the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca on Friday, killing at least 107 people and raising fears about the safety of the site before the yearly hajj pilgrimage that is expected to bring in millions of visitors to Saudi Arabia this month” (paragraph 1).
What essentially happened, then, was a construction accident. The idea was to expand the Grand Mosque in order to make it more adequately prepared to handle the influx of crowds it sees on an annual basis as a result of the holy Islamic pilgrimage known as the hajj: in past years, hundreds of pilgrims have been killed in stampedes, calling attention to the need for such efforts to improve security and expand space.
However, the construction process clearly ended up going wrong. Now, it will be necessary not only to work toward improving the safety of the mosque relative to past years, but even to work toward ensuring that the previous, pre-construction levels of safety are restored in time for the pilgrimage.
According to some videos of the event, the event consisted of
“the crane falling amid heavy winds and rain as well as chaos inside the mosque facility as the machinery crashed through the building. Images circulated on social media of worshipers covered in blood resting on the floor and laborers removing green carpets and cleaning puddles of blood” (Hubbard, paragraph 3).
The same scene within the mosque has been more or less confirmed by the news feed that has been provided by Kaplan. Although some of the images that initially emerged on the platforms of social media, most seem to have been confirmed by now in terms of validity and credibility.
In any event, irrespective of potential natural causes that could have led to the crane collapse, Saudi Arabia has moved to place the blame on the construction company itself: the Saudi Binladin Group. This name is not a coincidence: the crane did in fact belong to the family of the terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, who was of course widely considered to be the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks against the United States.
As the Agence France-Press has reported:
“The firm’s executives have been forbidden from leaving the kingdom pending the completion of legal action against the company. During the same period, the company will also be excluded from new public project” (paragraph 4).
Wahab has clarified that the Saudi Arabian government does not suspect the Saudi Binladin Group of actual criminal intent, and that it does acknowledge the strong role played by natural environmental factors in the accident. Nevertheless, the Saudi government does in fact suspect the construction company of negligence, as had the company been working in accordance with adequate safety standards, it should have been able to ensure safety regardless of those environmental factors.
Significance with respect to Islam
The site of the crane collapse, the Grand Mosque, happens to be the holiest place in the entire religion of Islam. In fact, this is the very reason why construction was occurring there in the first place. As Jelloun has indicated, the hajj, or pilgrimage to the Grand Mosque in Mecca, is one of the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith: every devout Muslim is expected to make this trek at least once at some point in his or her life; and many devout Muslims take it upon themselves to travel to the Grand Mosque many more times than that.
The mosque houses the Kaaba, which is cubicle structure that is considered the House of God within the Islamic religion. It was primarily to accommodate the logistical demands of this pilgrimage that construction on the Grand Mosque was commissioned. The intention was for the construction to be completed before the hajj season began this year. Of course, it will now no longer be possible for this to happen, and the government of Saudi Arabia will need to take other efforts in order to ensure the safety of the pilgrims.
It would seem that by and large, the crane collapse has done nothing to detract from the intention of hajj pilgrims to undertake their journey this year: the number of pilgrims already arriving in Saudi Arabia is fully congruent with expectations prior to the accident (Rawlinson and Chulov). This is logical, given how much the pilgrimage really means to devout adherents of the Islamic faith.
Again, the hajj is one of the most fundamental tenets of the faith; and it is easy to understand how in the eyes of a believer, it would take more than a worldly accident to dissuade him from keeping his commitment with his God. Moreover, it is expected that the actual damage sustained by the mosque will be repaired in a matter of days. There is still the matter of ensuring that the millions of pilgrims are able to have a safe experience; but then again, this has been an issue for many years, and is not strictly conditioned by or dependent on the crane collapse per se.
One danger, at the level of the public consciousness, is that the crane collapse in the Grand Mosque may be read by some groups, especially conservative Christians, as a kind of judgment by God against the Islamic faith itself. Such a perspective could be undergirded, for example, by the fact that terrorism in the modern world has become primarily aligned with Islamic groups, or that groups such as ISIS have had the unfortunate effect of creating an alliance between the concept of Islam and the concept of barbarity.
For example, in some disreputable sources in the blogosphere that are not worth directly citing here, the suggestion has been made that the crane in the Grand Mosque was not just blown over but was rather struck by lightning—with the lightning itself being associated with a kind of divine intention. Such perceptions are of course both empirically absurd and disrespectful toward Islam; but they do seem to be floating around in the air of the general consciousness.
Significance in light of the date
One of the most uncanny aspects of the event under consideration occurred on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks—and that the crane that collapsed was owned by the family of Osama Bin Laden. As Hohmann has pointed out:
“The Binladen Group was founded by Osama Bin Laden’s billionaire father Mohammed and the sprawling construction conglomerate runs a large amount of major building contracts in the Saudi kingdom” (paragraph 10).
So, the crane that collapsed in holiest site of Islam, in Saudi Arabia; the crane was owned by Bin Laden’s family; Bin Laden was responsible for planning the 9/11 terrorist attacks; and most of the persons who actually perpetrated the attacks were from Saudi Arabia; and all believed themselves to be attacking in the name of their Islamic faith.
When these various facts are considered in tandem, it is perhaps easy to understand why many people may be tempted to read some kind of cosmic or metaphysical significance into the event of the crane collapse that is being discussed here. In particular, the conjunction of the fact that the accident occurred on an anniversary of 9/11 and the fact that the crane was owned by Bin Laden’s family could potentially strike people as too uncanny to be a matter of pure coincidence.
At this point, however, it may be worth turning to a more general reflection on the nature and value of judgments and inferences of this kind. Otherwise, people will run a strong risk of getting carried away by irrational ideas that serve little purpose other than to breed hatred or intolerance.
Philosophical reflection after the crane collapse
As the philosopher Spinoza noted a long time ago, most people tend to think a rather superstitious way; and this is based on their assumption that everything that happens in the world happens with their own individual selves in mind. For example, if a man’s house gets struck by lightning, then he would perhaps be likely to begin wondering about what moral wrongs he has done in his life to have deserved such a fate.
That is, he will seek some kind of meaning or moral logic for the event; he will be unlikely to simply accept that the world strikes things with lightning out of its own internal laws, and that those laws have nothing necessarily to do with the meaning that he would like to find in the event as experienced from his perspective. In short, it may be generally wise to exercise skepticism when people begin making claims about the underlying cosmic meanings of seemingly mundane events: often, this may simply be a reflection of people’s imaginations getting the better of them.
Turning to the specific situation of the crane collapse in the Grand Mosque now, what this train of thought means is: it would be unwise to leap to conclusions about how the accident must be read as a sign of divine anger against the religion of Islam, or justice against the Bin Laden family in particular and Saudi Arabia in general. If some people feel moved to draw such inferences, then this really reveals much more about their own psychological states than it does about any objective phenomenon that is actually happening in the world.
For example, a person who would like to read the crane collapse as vengeance against Islam is merely showing that he personally—and not whatever God—is upset with Islam. In other words, when analyzing the empirical event of the crane collapse itself, it would perhaps be a good idea to stick to the facts. These facts indicate that due to the negligence of a construction company, over a hundred people are dead, and that this is tragic, especially in light of the fact that millions of people care deeply about the site of the accident.
People are of course entitled to have their own personal opinions and interpretations that go further than this; but those subjective considerations probably should not affect the public response to the event at a more generally human level.
In summary, the present essay has discussed the recent event of the collapse of a crane in the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia. After describing the event itself, the essay proceeded to consider the significance of the event and the interpretations that have been laid over the event by various parties. These interpretations are primarily based on the facts that the accident happened at an Islamic holy site, that the accident occurred on 9/11, and that the Bin Laden family owned the crane that caused the accident. The conjunction of these facts is admittedly rather uncanny. However, the suggestion has been made here that people should not let their imaginations get in the way of responding with empathy to a human tragedy.
Agence France-Presse. “Mecca Crane Collapse: Saudi King Sanctions Binladin Group. Guardian. 15 Sep. 2015. Web. 21 Sep. 2015. .
Hohmann, Leo. “Bin Laden Crane Collapses, Kills 107 on 9/11 Anniversary.” WND. 11 Sep. 2015. Web. 21 Sep. 2015. kills-107-on-911-anniversary/>.
Hubbard, Ben. “Scores Killed in Mecca as Crane Crashes into Grand Mosque.” New Yorker. 11 Sep. 2015. Web. 21 Sep. 2015. .
Jelloun, Tahar Ben. Islam Explained. New York: Free Press, 2004. Print.
Kaplan, Michael. “Saudi Arabia Grand Mosque Crane Crash Death Toll: Deadly Accident at Holy Site Injures Dozens.” International Business Times. 11 Sep. 2015. 21 Sep. 2015. .
Rawlinson, Kevin, and Martin Chulov. “Hajj Pilgrimage to Go Ahead Despite Tragic Crane Collapse at Mecca’s Grand Mosque.” Guardian. 12 Sep. 2015. Web. 21 Sep. 2015. haj-pilgrimage>
Spinoza, Benedict de. “Ethics.” The Essential Spinoza: Ethics and Related Writings. Ed. Michael Morgan. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2006. 1-161. Print.
Wahab, Siraj. “Saudi Binladin Group Sanctioned over Deadly Crane Crash.” Arab News. 17 Sep. 2015. Web. 21 Sep. 2015. .