Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Is saying something is the “Mecca” of something okay to say as a figure of speech?
For example, if someone said “Madison Square Garden is the Mecca of basketball” just to emphasize how many people go there and that it’s the center of the sport, would that be okay?
In the Name of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate
May Allah bless you for your concern, and increase you in all good and goodness.
This is clearly superior for a believer to avoid, given that Allah Most High has commanded us to have the utmost respect (ta‘dhim) for all matters of religious consequence (sha‘a’ir).
Allah Most High says, “And whoever honors the symbols of Allah, it is certainly out of the piety of the heart.” [Quran, 22:32]
This respect and honor that is due is (a) a sign of piety (taqwa), (b) upholds piety, and (c) cultivates piety in our lives. [Abu’l-Su‘ud, Irshad al-Aql al-Salim; Ibn Ajiba, al-Bahr al-Madid; other]
However–while improper–describing something permissible and dignified as “the mecca” of something is not inherently impermissible. This is common usage in English, and what is understood is “a place that attracts people.” [Webster’s] And we recognize that words can have original (haqiqi) and customary (urfi) usages.
It is related from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that he said, “This Community will remain on good as long as they have deep respect for this Sanctity (hurma) as it truly deserves. If they squander it, they shall be ruined.” [Ibn Maja and Ahmad; Ibn Hajar said in Fath al-Bari that its chain is sound (hasan)]
The purpose of deep respect of religious symbols is expressing and reaching the realities of deep respect of Allah the Most Real, and having proper manners with Him, in His Presence. [Ibn ‘Ajiba, al-Bahr al-Madid]
May Allah make us attain these realities. And Allah is the giver of success and facilitation.
[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.