Several manuscripts were burnt in the fire, notably ‘Annaqd’, a book that’s part of the work of the ‘wali’ (saint) the mausoleum was erected for, and which carries the wali’s ‘tariqa’ teachings. These manuscripts are extremely rare; only a few copies exist. Korans were also burnt. They were precious because they were decorated with calligraphy by Sidi Bou Said’s closest disciples.
A local resident holding a burnt manuscript. Photo posted on Twitter by ayalez_hdi.
With the repeated attacks on mausoleums, the authorities could have put the manuscripts in a safe place. But the guardians of the mausoleums, who are usually the descendents of the wali, have stubbornly refused to hand over the books. They even refuse to allow researchers to have access to them.
If you ask me, the Wahhabis are, without doubt, behind this attack. They want to impose their extremist doctrine on Tunisians. It’s not a recent conflict. In the 19th century, Tunisians refused to follow this movement. [In the book ‘Le dromadaire de Najd’, the writer Ridha Ben Slama describes how Ibn Saud and Muhammed ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, the founders of the Wahhabi movement, tried to convert the Hammouda Pacha Bey (1759-1814), the second Bey of Tunis, to Wahhabism around 1810.]
After the fire, local rseidents came to see the destruction. Photo sent by Zayani Monem.
This religious doctrine considers the preservation of sacred mausoleums and prayers to saints as a form of “shirk” – the sin of associating other gods or beings with Allah. But people are not idiots. They know that saints are not gods but scholars and devout men.
The day after the fire, local residents organised a march to the presidential palace to condemn what they see as inaction on the part the authoties to deal with extremists
In the 1920s, the extremists went as far as destroying the homes and mausoleums of the Prophet Muhammed’s companions in Saudi Arabia. They even tried, but failed, to destroy those of the Prophet himself. I am convinced that today, in Tunisia, the fundamentalists have a timetable to destroy all traces of this tradition from people’s memories.