There are certain pillars in the Prophet’s masjid ﷺ in Madinah which have a special significance. Alhamdulillah, the locations of these pillars have been preserved till today. Signs were placed to indicate the names of these pillars known as ‘Ustuwaanah’ in Arabic.
Many people who visit the Prophet’s masjid are oblivious to these pillars or are unaware of the history behind them so in this article, I will illustrate the location of each pillar and tell you the story behind them which took place during the time of the Prophet ﷺ. If you are fortunate enough to visit the Prophet’s ﷺ masjid, try to visit these locations. Mulla Ali Qaari writes:
“Those pillars of the Masjid, which are of special virtue and blessed should be visited by the visitor of Madinah. There he should keep himself busy with optional prayers and supplication.”
1. Ustuwaanah Hannaanah
This pillar is located behind the mihrab of the Prophet ﷺ on its right hand side and is the most blessed of the pillars for this was the Prophet’s ﷺ place of prayer. On this spot there once used to grow a date palm. The Prophet ﷺ used to lean on it while delivering the khutbah (sermon). When a minbar was made, the Prophet ﷺ began delivering his sermon from there. When this happened, the sound of crying was heard from the tree and it could be heard around the whole masjid. The Prophet then went to the tree, placed his hand on it and the crying stopped. He then said:
“The tree cries because the remembrance of Allah was near it, and now that the minbar is built it has been deprived of this remembrance in its immediate vicinity. If I did not place my hand on it, it would have cried till the Day of Judgement.”
The pillar which has been placed in its place is called Ustuwanah Hannanah because the word ‘hannaanah’ is used to describe a crying camel.
2. Ustuwaanah A’ishah (May Allah be pleased with her)
This is also called the Ustuwaanah Muhajireen because the Muhajireen (emigrants from Makkah to Madinah) used to sit near this spot. The Prophet ﷺ used to offer his prayers at this place before he moved to the place at Ustuwaanah Hannanah. It is also called the Ustuwaanah Qur’ah. The reason for this is that A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that the messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
“In this Masjid is one such spot that if people knew the true blessed nature thereof, they would flock towards it in such that to pray there they would cast lots (Qur’ah).”
People asked her to point out the exact spot which she refused to do. Later on, after Abdullah Ibn Zubair (may Allah be pleased with him) persisted, she pointed to this spot. It is called Ustuwaanah A’ishah because the Hadeeth is reported by her and the exact spot was shown by her.
3. Ustuwaanah Tawbah / Abu Lubabah
During the battle of Banu Quraydhah, after the enemies had been surrounded by the Muslims, the besieged tribe called on Abu Lubabah (may Allah be pleased with him) to tell them what the Muslims were planning to do with them. Abu Lubabah had previously had dealings with the Banu Quraydhah and after seeing their crying and wailing, he told them what the Muslims were planning to do.
He wasn’t suppose to reveal anything to the enemy and realising his mistake, he became grieved and proceeded to go to the Masjid. He came to a date tree and tied himself to it saying:
“As long as my repentance is not accepted by Allah, I shall not untie myself from here. And the Prophet ﷺ himself must undo my bonds.”
When the Prophet ﷺ heard this, he said:
“If he had come to me I would have begged forgiveness on his behalf. Now he had acted on his own initiative, so how can I untie him until such a time that his repentance has been accepted.”
For many days he remained tied there without food and water, except for prayers and when he had to answer the call of nature. Then one morning, after a few days, he received the good news that his repentance (tawbah) had been accepted. The companions conveyed the news to him and wanted to untie him but he refused, saying:
“As long as the Prophet ﷺ does not untie me with his blessed hands, I shall not allow anyone else to do so.”
When the Prophet ﷺ entered for Fajr prayers, he untied him. The pillar is called Ustuwaanah Tawbah (repentance) or Abu Lubabah as it was this very spot in which Abu Lubabah tied himself seeking repentance.
4. Ustuwaanah Sareer
‘Sareer’ means sleeping place. It is reported that the Prophet ﷺ used to make i‘tikaaf here (seclude himself in the Masjid) and used to sleep here while in i‘tikaaf. A platform of wood used to be put here for him to sleep on.
5. Ustuwaanah Hars / ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him).
‘Hars’ means to watch or protect. This used to be the place where some of the companions (may Allah be pleased with them) used to sit when keeping watch or acting as gatekeepers. ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) used to be the one who would do this often due to which it is also known as Ustuwaanah Ali.
When the following verse was revealed, the Prophet ﷺ told his companions that he no longer needed people to keep watch as Allah had promised to protect him.
“..And Allah will protect you from the people..” Surah Al Ma’idah, Verse 67
6. Ustuwaanah Wufood
‘Wufood’ means delegations, whenever a delegation arrived to meet the Prophet ﷺ on behalf of their tribes, they would be met at this place where he used to meet them, converse with them and teach them about Islam.
Left: Ustuwaanah Wufud, Middle: Ustuwanah Ali/Haras, Right: Ustuwanah Sareer
7. Ustuwaanah Tahajjud
It is reported that this was the spot where late at night a carpet was spread for the Prophet ﷺ to perform tahajjud prayer after the people had left. There used to be a niche at this place to indicate the Prophet’s ﷺ place of performing Tahajjud but it has now been hidden with a bookcase as you can see above.
These historical photos show what is hidden behind the bookcase:
8. Ustuwaanah Jibra’eel
This was the usual place where the angel Jibra’eel used to enter to visit the Prophet ﷺ. Today it cannot be seen as it lies inside the sacred room of the Prophet ﷺ.
These eight places are special but so is the entire Masjid and the city of Madinah. You cannot take a step except imagine that the Prophet ﷺ or his companions must have tread on that exact space many years ago.
There are also pillars which indicate the boundary of the original masjid as it was at the time of the Prophet ﷺ. Written on the top of each pillar is ‘this is the Masjid of the Prophet ﷺ’
The orange circles indicate some of these pillars found in the masjid:
Ten Things You Didn’t Know About The Kaaba
There is no place on Earth as venerated, as central or as holy to as many people as Mecca. By any objective standard, this valley in the Hijaz region of Arabia is the most celebrated place on Earth.
Thousands circle the sacred Kaaba at the centre of the Haram sanctuary 24 hours a day. Millions of homes are adorned with pictures of it and over a billion face it five times a day.
The Kaaba is the epicenter of Mecca.
The cube shaped building is at the heart of the most well-known real estate in the history of mankind; it is shrouded in black and its fair share of mystery.
Here are just a few things that most people may not know about the Kaaba:
10. It has been reconstructed several times
The Kaaba that we see today is not exactly the same Kaaba that was constructed by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail From time to time, it has needed rebuilding after natural and man-made disasters.
Of course, we all know of the major reconstruction that took place during the life of the Prophet before he became a Prophet . This is the occasion when the Prophet averted major bloodshed by his quick thinking on how to place the Black Stone using a cloth that every tribe could lift up.
Since then, there has been an average of one major reconstruction every few centuries. The last renovation took place in 1996 and was extremely thorough, leading to the replacement of many of the stones and re-strengthening the foundations and a new roof. This is likely to be the last reconstruction for many centuries (inshā’Allāh) as modern techniques mean that the building is more secure and stable than ever before.
9. It used to have two doors … and a window
The original Kaaba used to have a door for entrance and another for exit. For a considerable period of time it also had a window situated to one side. The current Kaaba only has one door and no window
8. It used to be multi-coloured
We are so used to the Kaaba being covered in the trademark black Kiswah with gold banding that we can’t imagine it being any other colour. However, this tradition seems to have started at the time of the Abbasids (whose household colour was black) and before this the Kaaba was covered in multiple colours including green, red and even white.
7. The keys are in the hands of one family
At the time of the Prophet , each aspect to do with the rites of Hajj was in the hands of different sub-groups of the Quraish. Every one of these would eventually lose control of their guardianship of a particular rite except one. On the conquest of Mecca, the Prophet was given the keys to the Kaaba and instead of keeping it in his own possession; he returned them back to the Osman ibn Talha radi Allahu ‘anhu of the Bani Shaiba family. They had been the traditional key keepers of the Kaaba for centuries; and the Prophet confirmed them in that role till the end of time by these words
“Take it, O Bani Talha, eternally up to the Day of Resurrection, and it will not be taken from you unless by an unjust, oppressive tyrant.”
Whether Caliph, Sultan or King – the most powerful men in the world have all had to bow to the words of the Prophet and ask permission from this small Makkan family before they can enter the Kaaba.
6. It used to be open to everyone
Until recently, the Kaaba was opened twice a week for anyone to enter and pray. However, due to the rapid expansion in the number of pilgrims and other factors, the Kaaba is now opened only twice a year for dignitaries and exclusive guests only.
Watch the video attached here to witness the doors of the Kaaba being opened (at 50 seconds) – and the simultaneous gasps of a Million people as they cry out at this auspicious moment.
5. You used to be able to swim around it
One of the problems with having the Kaaba situated at the bottom of a valley is that when it rains – valleys tend to flood. This was not an uncommon occurrence in Mecca and the cause of a lot of trouble before the days of flood control systems and sewage. For days on end the Kaaba would be half submerged in water. Did that stop Muslims from performing the Tawaf? Of course not. As the picture below amply shows – Muslims just started swimming around the Kaaba.
Modern adjustments to the surrounding landscape and flood prevention techniques mean we may never see such sights again. Or will we? Check out this recent video.
4. The inside contains plaques commemorating the rulers who renovated it
For years many have wondered what it looks like inside the Kaaba. Relying on second or third hand accounts from those who were lucky enough to enter just wasn’t satisfying enough. Then one lucky person who went inside took his camera phone in with him and Millions have seen the shaky footage online.
The interior of the Kaaba is now lined with marble and a green cloth covering the upper walls. Fixed into the walls are plaques each commemorating the refurbishment or rebuilding of the House of Allāh by the ruler of the day. Watch the video below of the only place on Earth that you can pray in any direction you want, the House of Allāh, the first place of worship for mankind – the Kaaba.
3. There are two kaabas!
Directly above the Kaaba in heaven is an exact replica. This Kaaba was mentioned in theQurʾān and by the Prophet .
The Messenger of Allāh said narrating about the journey of ‘Isra wal Miraaj
“Then I was shown Al-Bait-al-Ma’mur (i.e. Allāh’s House). I asked Gabriel about it and he said, This is Al Bait-ul-Ma’mur where 70,000 angels perform prayers daily and when they leave they never return to it (but always a fresh batch comes into it daily).”
2. The Black Stone is broken
Ever wondered how the Black Stone came to be in the silver casing that surrounds it?
Some say it was broken by a stone fired by the Umayyad army laying siege to Mecca whilst it was under the control of Abdullah ibn Zubair ®.
However, most agree that it was most damaged in the middle ages by an extreme heretical Ismaili group from Bahrain called the Qarmatians who had declared that the Hajj was an act of superstition. They decided to make their point by killing tens of thousands of hujjaj and dumping their bodies in the well of Zamzam.
As if this act of treachery was not enough, these devils took the Black Stone to the East of Arabia and then Kufa in Iraq where they held it ransom until they were forced to return it by the Abassid Caliph. When they returned it, it was in pieces and the only way to keep them together was by encasing them in a silver casing. Some historians narrate that there are still some missing pieces of the stone floating around.
1. It’s not supposed to be a cube shape
Yes, ladies and gentleman… the most famous cube in the world actually started out shaped as a rectangle.
I’ll give you a moment to pick your jaws off the floor.
Right, where were we?
Oh yeah, the Kaaba was never meant to be a cube. The original dimensions of The House included the semi-circular area known as the Hijr Ismail.
When the Kaaba was rebuilt just a few years before the Prophet received his first revelation, the Quraish agreed to only use income from pure sources to complete the rebuild. That meant no money from gambling, looting, prostitution, interest etc. In the ultimate sign of how deeply mired in wrongdoing the Jahili Quraish were, there was not enough untainted money in this very wealthy trading city to rebuild the Kaaba to its original size and shape!
They settled for a smaller version of the Kaaba and put a mud brick wall (called “Hijr Ismail” although it has no connection to the Prophet Ismail (A) himself) to indicate the original dimensions. Towards the end of his life, the Prophet intended to rebuild the Kaaba on its original foundations but passed away before he could fulfill his wish. Apart from a brief interlude of a few years during the reign of Caliph Abdullah ibn Zubair ®, the Kaaba has remained the same shape that the Prophet saw it in.
The history of the Kaaba is not just an interesting story from our past. The Kaaba is a real and present symbol that connects all Muslims together wherever they may be. It also connects us to our glorious and not-so-glorious past so that we may derive lessons and feel that we are a part of an eternal mission. In a day and age where Muslims are increasingly disconnected from our history,as well as each other, the Kabaa reminds us of our shared heritage and bonds. It is a symbol of unity in an Ummah sorely in need of it.
9 Things You Didn’t Know About The Prophet’s Mosque
9. The first place in the Arabian Peninsula to have electricity
When the Ottomans introduced electricity to the Arabian Peninsula, the first place to be lit up was the mosque of the Prophet (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). By some accounts, it would be a few more years before the Sultan himself had full electricity in his own palace in Istanbul.
8. The current mosque is larger than the old city
The current mosque is more than 100 times the size of the original building. This means that the current mosque covers almost the entire area of the old city itself. This is evident from the fact that whereas Jannat Al-Baqi cemetery was on the outskirts of the city during the time of the Prophet (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), it now borders the precincts of the current mosque grounds.
7. There’s an empty grave in the Prophet’s (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) room
It has long been the stuff of legend that there is an “empty grave” next to where the Prophet (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), Abu Bakr (radi Allahu ‘anhu) and Umar (radi Allahu ‘anhu) are buried. This was confirmed, however, when the individuals who went in to change the coverings in the hujrah in the 1970s noted the presence of an empty space. Whether or not it is meant for Isa (‘alayhi wa sallam) when he returns.
6. It was destroyed by fire
The majority of the old mosque, including the original mimbar of the Prophet (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), was destroyed in a fire that swept through the mosque centuries after the Prophet (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) died. The fire was so extensive that the roof and even some of the walls of the room of the Prophet (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) collapsed, revealing his resting place for the first time in 600 years.
5. There was no dome before, now there are two!
For more than 650 years after the Prophet (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) passed away, there was no dome over his (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) grave. The first one was built in 1279 by a Mamluk sultan and was made of wood. The green dome that we see today is actually the outer dome over the room of the Prophet (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) There is an inner dome that is much smaller and has the name of the Prophet (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), Abu Bakr (radi Allahu ‘anhu) and Umar (radi Allahu ‘anhu) inscribed on the inside.
4. The dome used to be purple!
Yup – purple. It turns out that the dome has been through various colours and renovations before it reached its current form and colour about 150 years ago. At one point it used to be white and for the longest period it was a purple-blue colour that the Arabs of Hijaz were particularly fond of.
3. It has 3 mihrabs
Most mosques only have one mihrab, but the Prophet’s (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) mosque has three. The current mihrab is the one used nowadays for the imām to lead prayers. The next mihrab is set back and is called the Suleymaniye or Ahnaf mihrab. It was made on the orders of the Sultan Solomon the magnificent for the Hanafi imām to lead prayers whilst the Maliki imām lead prayers from the Prophetic mihrab. The Prophetic mihrab completely covers the area that the Prophet (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to lead prayers from except where he placed his feet.
2. What lies in the room of Fatima (radi Allahu ‘anha)?
Items belonging to the Prophet (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) were housed in his room or the room of Fatima (radi Allahu ‘anha) which was incorporated into his room after a major expansion. When Madīnah was under siege during World War I, the Ottoman commander had many priceless artifacts evacuated to Istanbul, hidden in the clothes of women and children. They can now be seen in the Topkapi Palace. However, intriguingly, some items still remain but are undocumented.
1. It is FULL of secret signs
Yes, the mosque of the Prophet (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is covered with so many subtle signs and secrets that it makes the DaVinci Code look like a cheap puzzle for pre-schoolers. Each pillar, each dome, each window carries a story and indicates the location of events that carry historical and spiritual significance. The people who constructed the Prophet’s Mosque realised that it would be impossible to put up signs everywhere as it would distract from the main purpose of prayers. Therefore, they came up with an ingenious way of indicating a location of importance through minor changes in the design of surrounding objects. What are the secrets? Well, that is a story for another day inshā’Allāh.
The mosque of the Prophet (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was never just a mosque. It was the centre of the first Islamic community and nation. It was the scene of our greatest triumphs and tragedies. It was a community centre, homeless refuge, university and mosque all rolled into one.
Like the Muslim community, it has grown over the years and become more modern with each passing generation. But despite the exponential growth and changes from the simple Hijazi date palm trunk interior to the marble and gold clad structure we have today – the inner core remains the same. Perhaps there’s a lesson in there for us all.
A Journey through the Islamic faith provides a short introduction to the beliefs, teachings and social practices of a religion that encompasses a fifth of the world`s population. This guide is an informative publication on the Islamic faith, history and civilisation, and helps to answer questions that many people have about a faith that is so relevant to the modern age.
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(CNN) — An Ottoman-era portico in Mecca’s Grand Mosque has become the latest battleground in a conflict between those who want to preserve the city’s architectural heritage and Saudi authorities pushing for redevelopment.
The 17th century portico — one of the oldest parts of the Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest — is being removed by Mecca authorities as part of an expansion project to create more space for soaring numbers of pilgrims.
Millions of people visit Mecca and Medina annually (two million of them during the Hajj pilgrimage alone), a number that is only expected to grow rapidly in the coming years.
However, one UK-based Saudi historian says what Saudi authorities are doing in Mecca amounts to “cultural vandalism.”
Mohammed Jom’a, Saudi Binladin Group
Irfan Al Alawi, executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, which seeks to preserve historical sites in Saudi Arabia, says significant features of Mecca and Medina’s architectural history are being lost on account of the renovations.
He has called on the Muslim world to voice its disapproval at the demolitions, which he likened to the torching of ancient manuscripts by Islamists in Timbuktu, Mali.
Every follower must carry out the Hajj once in their lives, if physically and financially able to do so. Overcrowding at the Hajj has resulted in fatal stampedes on a number of occasions, with 1,426 pilgrims killed in 1990 and more than 350 killed in 2006.
Saudi Binladin Group’s Mohammed Jom’a, the supervisor of the project at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, told CNN the expansion would triple the amount of space there.
“(The authorities) want to offer more space to the pilgrims to avoid crowds,” he said.
But Al Alawi says there’s a better way.
“I’m not against expanding the mosques at all, but there are ways you can go about it without destroying the historical aspects of these sites,” he said. “Rather than engaging with heritage concerns, the Saudis are simply not interested.”
Clashes with Turkey
Turkey says it is alarmed by the loss of the Ottoman portico and its Foreign Affairs Ministry has been in correspondence with the Saudis over the matter since 2010.
“It is very important to preserve the Kaaba porches as the legacy of the Ottoman Empire where they stand,” Turkey’s Directorate for Cultural Properties and Museums said in a statement to CNN.
Irfan Al Alawi, executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation
CNN contacted the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, local officials in Saudi Arabia, including the Mayor and Municipality of Mecca and the Saudi Embassy in London. But we were unsuccessful in getting a response to our request for comment.
Al Alawi said the authorities were inclined not to value aspects of Mecca’s heritage that dated from before Saudi control over the city — such as the portico, going back centuries to Ottoman sovereignty over the city — because that evidence of a pre-Saudi Mecca undermined the kingdom’s important position in the Islamic world as guardians of the city.
This is not the first time Saudi authorities have clashed with Turkey over the destruction of Ottoman-era buildings in Mecca, which Turkey views as in important part of a shared Islamic heritage.
In 2002, Ankara made a heated protest about the destruction of Mecca’s Al Ajyad fortress, built on a hill overlooking the Kaaba in the late 18th century.
Both the citadel and the hill it sat on were demolished to make way for the skyscraper city that today looms over the Grand Mosque, prompting Turkey’s then Minister of Culture, Istemihan Talay, to accuse the Saudis of an “act of barbarism.”
Mecca’s changing face
Over the past 10 years, Mecca’s skyline has transformed.
Lavish skyscrapers now tower over devotees circling the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque.
Most imposing is the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, a 120-floor hotel that resembles London’s Big Ben and which, at 601 meters, is the world’s second tallest building.
The U.S.-based Institute for Gulf Affairs estimates that 95% of Mecca’s millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades.
Saudi authorities say the changes are part of a push to modernize offerings to pilgrims, who have traditionally stayed in austere lodgings.
The Saudi government is also pushing forward with major redevelopments at Medina’s Mosque of the Prophet — where the Prophet is believed to be buried.
Al Alawi claims the threat to the heritage of the mosques adds to a wider pattern of destruction of historic sites in Saudi Arabia. He says it reflects an ideological agenda stemming from the kingdom’s ultraconservative Wahhabist brand of Islam.
He added that the Wahhabis place great emphasis on avoiding the sin of “shirq” — idolatry, or polytheism — which they believe is encouraged by shrines, tombs or anything that could promote alternative forms of worship, or the veneration of an entity other than Allah.
The Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice says it plans to close or eradicate 14 historic sites around Mecca, so that pilgrims from other countries cannot engage in idolatrous rituals there, the Saudi Gazette reported last month.
Sheikh Ahmed Yousef, leader of Egypt’s Ansar Al Sunna Al Muhammadyeh
As a consequence of their Wahhabist beliefs, said Al Alawi, the Saudis had systematically destroyed such sites since the early days of the kingdom.
Demolitions over the decades
In 1925, the year the first Saudi king, Ibn Saud, captured Medina, the Saudis demolished the mausoleums in al-Baqi cemetery attached to the Mosque of the Prophet.
The raids at al-Baqi — which is believed to house the remains of number of the prophet’s wives, children and other relatives — and at the Mualla cemetery in Mecca, caused an outcry from the international Muslim community. Some still mourn the destruction as a “day of sorrow.”
Separately, the site of the house said to belong to the prophet’s first wife, Khadijah, which Al Alawi was involved in excavating in the 1980s, today contains a toilet block for pilgrims, while the site believed to be the prophet’s birthplace was a cattle market before being turned into a library.
Some Salafist groups abroad, such as Egypt’s Ansar Al Sunna Al Muhammadyeh, support the renovations around the Grand Mosque.
“We do not sanctify places or people, but we go according to what the Quran said and what the Prophet said,” the group’s secretary general, Sheikh Ahmed Yousef, told CNN.
“There is no place that is holier than the Kaaba, so if the Saudi government decided to expand then this is because they care about Islam more than the heritage.”
Bayt al-Mawlid- or the Prophet’s Birthplace (salla Llau ‘alayhi wa sallam) – will be destroyed by the Grand Mosque expansion. The final structure, set to be the largest, ‘grandest’ religious structure, is should accommodate an extra 1.2 million pilgrims each year. Still inside the Grand Mosque complex, the house of the Prophet’s first wife Khadijah is now a toilet block.
In 1802, AN ARMY LED BY THE SONS of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism) and Muhammad ibn Saud occupied Taif and began a bloody massacre. A year later, the forces occupied the holy city of Mecca. They executed a campaign of destruction in many sacred places and leveled all the existing domes, even those built over the well of Zamzam. However, after the army left, Sharif Ghalib breached the truce, inciting the Wahhabis to reoccupy Mecca in 1805.
In 1806, the Wahhabi army occupied Medina. They did not leave any religious building, including mosques, without demolishing it, whether inside or outside the Baqi’ (graveyard). They intended to demolish the grave of the Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, many times, but would repeatedly change their minds. At this time, non-Wahhabi Muslims were prevented from performing the Hajj (pilgrimage). In 1805, Iraqi and Iranian Muslims were refused permission to perform Hajj, as were the Syrians in 1806 and Egyptians the following year. The Saudi leader at the time wanted the pilgrims to embrace his Wahhabi beliefs and accept his Wahhabi mission. If they refused, he denied them permission to perform the Hajj and considered them heretics and infidels – ignoring the word of God in Sura al-Baqara:
And who is more unjust than he who forbids that in places for the worship of God, His name should be celebrated? Whose zeal is (in fact) to ruin them? It was not fitting that such should themselves enter them except in fear. For them there is nothing but disgrace in this world, and the world to come, an exceeding torment. (Qur’an 2:114)
The Wahhabi army’s destruction campaign targeted the graves of the martyrs of Uhud, the mosque at the grave of Sayyid al-Shuhada’ Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib and the mosques outside the Baqi’: the Mosque of Fatima al-Zahra, the Mosque of al-Manaratain, and Qubbat’ al-Thanaya (the burial site of the Prophet’s incisor that was broken in the battle of Uhud). The structures in the Baqi’ were also leveled to the ground and not a single dome was left standing. This great place that was visited by millions of Muslims over many centuries became a garbage dump, such that it was not possible to recognize any grave or know whom it embraced.
The occupation of the holy places by the army and their preventing Muslims from performing Hajj led thousands of people to flee Mecca and Medina to escape religious persecution. The Muslims started to complain and express their concerns, and public opinion put pressure on the Ottoman Caliph to liberate and rebuild the two holy places and once again permit the Muslims to perform the pilgrimage. Accordingly, an army led by Muhammad Ali Pasha, the Caliph’s viceroy in Egypt, was sent. When the forces arrived in the Hijaz, a number of tribes marched in support of the army, which regained control over Medina and then Mecca.
In 1818, the Wahhabis were defeated and they withdrew from the holy places. The Prophet’s Mosque, the Baqi’ and the monuments at Uhud were rebuilt during the reigns of the Ottoman sultans ‘Abd al-Majid I, ‘Abd al-Hamid II and Mahmud II. From 1848 to i860, the buildings were renovated and the Ottomans built the domes and mosques in splendid aesthetic style. They also rebuilt the Baqi’ with a large dome over the graves of the Prophet’s daughter Fatima al-Zahra, Imam Zainul ‘Abidin (‘Ali bin al-Hussain), Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Baqir and Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq.
The graves of others related to the Prophet found at the Baqi’ include those belonging to Ibrahim (son), ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan (Companion and son-in-law), Saffia bint Abdul Muttalib (aunt), Atika bint ‘Abd al-Muttalib (aunt), Al-’Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib (uncle), Fatima bint Assad (Imam Ali’s mother), ‘Abd Allah ibn Ja’far bin Abi Talib (cousin) and Aqil ibn Abi Talib (The Prophet’s cousin).
The grave of the Prophet’s father ‘Abd Allah was in Dar al-Nabigha of the Bani Najjar, the house of where the Prophet learned to swim. However, his father’s grave was exhumed 17 years ago and transferred to the Baqi’. The area of the house today lies under the marble covering the plaza surrounding the mosque.
A number of the Prophet’s wives (the Mothers of the Faithful) were buried in the Baqi’: ‘A’isha, Hafsa, Juwayriya, Saffia, Sawda, Zaynab bint Khuzaima, Zaynab bint Jahsh, Umm Habiba and Umm Salama. The tomb of Khadija, the Prophet’s first wife, is in Mecca because she died before the Hijra (migration of Muslims to Medina). Her grave is in the Hajun cemetery, known as Maqbarat’al-Ma’la. The tomb of Maimouna, another wife, is also in Mecca in an area known as Sarif, which lies on the side of the Hijra Road, nearly 13 miles (20 kilometers) outside Mecca.
On April 21, 1925, the domes in the Baqi’ were demolished once more along with the tombs of the holy personalities in Maqbarat’al-Ma’la in Mecca, where the Holy Prophet’s mother, wife Khadija, grandfather and other ancestors are buried. Destruction of the sacred sites in the Hijaz continues till this day. Wahhabis say they are trying to rescue Islam from what they consider innovations, déviances and idolatries. Among the practices they believe are contrary to Islam are constructing elaborate monuments over graves and making supplications there.
The Mashrubat Umm Ibrahim – which was built to mark the location of the house where the Prophet’s son, Ibrahim, was born to Mariah, his Egyptian wife – also contained the grave of Hamida al-Barbariyya, the mother of Imam Musa al-Kazim. These sites were destroyed over the past few years.
I recently met with one of the leading political leaders of Medina and took the opportunity to speak to him about the destruction of these holy sites. He told me that the sites were not being demolished, but that torrential rain in Medina was washing away the old buildings! I told him the mosque and tomb of Sayyid Imam al-Uraidhi ibn Ja’far al-Sadiq, four miles from the Prophet’s Mosque, was destroyed by dynamite and flattened on August 13, 2002. Imam al-Uraidhi is ninth in line from the Prophet. I also asked him about the plan to demolish the last remnant of the historical vestiges of the Messenger of God, namely his noble birthplace, which has been converted into a library, “Maktabat Makka al-Mukarrama.” There was no answer.
Within the last 10 years, Muqbil ibn Hadi al-Wadi’i, a student at the University of Medina, wrote a thesis titled “About the Dome Built over the Grave of the Messenger,” sponsored by Sheikh Hammad al-Ansari. In this paper, the student demands that the noble grave be brought out of the Mosque. He says the presence of the holy grave and noble dome are major innovations and that they both need to be destroyed! His thesis received very high marks. Last year, the city planning board of Medina painted the famous green dome of the Prophet’s Holy Mosque silver. After intense protests by the citizens of Medina, the board restored the dome to its original color.
In the Ottoman part of the Prophet’s Mosque, at the center of the three sections raised a bit from the ground level are three circles. The first, toward the west, corresponds to the grave of the Prophet. The next two toward the east correspond to the graves of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq and ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab. Above the circles are invocations including ” Ya Allah” and “Ya Muhammad.” The latter was removed and replaced it with ” Ya Majid” by adding the dot under the ‘ha of Muhammad to make itjim and two dots under the second mint of Muhammad to make it ya. There are qasidas written by rulers of the Muslim world, such as Sultan ‘Abd alHamid. Many verses of the famous Burda of al-Busayri had also been painted over. On the Qibla side, the brass partition that is divided into three sections between two columns, the authorities have also tried to cover the famous two verses inscribed in the east from the story of al-’Utbi as mentioned by Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir. “O best of those whose bones are buried in the deep earth, and from whose fragrance the depth and height have become sweet! May I be the ransom for a grave in which you dwell, where purity, bounty and munificence.”
If one raises his head a bit, he will see on the first section of this partition a green banner, on which the words of the Almighty are framed in yellow:
O you who believe! Raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet, may blessings and peace be upon him and his family, nor speak aloud to him in talk, as you speak aloud to one another, lest your deeds be rendered fruitless while you perceive not. (Qur’an 49:2)
The Sacred Chamber has four exterior doors: on the south, Bab al-Tawba (The Door of Repentance), on the north, Bab al-Tahajjud (The Door of Night Prayer), on the east, Bab Fatima (the Door of Fatima), and on the west, Bab al-Nabi (The Door of the Prophet) – also known as Bab alWufud (The Door of Delegations). These gates have been present since the year 668 AH except for the Gate of the Night Prayer, which was installed in 729 ah. Inside there are two gates, one on either side of the triangular part of the interior compartment. All of these doors are covered by brass shelves holding Qur’ans, an attempt to prevent the public from looking inside the Sacred chamber.
The Wahhabi religious authorities are, unfortunately, on a fast track. In 1998, the grave of Amina bint Wahb, the Prophet’s mother, was bulldozed in Abwa and gasoline was poured on it. Even though thousands of petitions throughout the Muslim world were sent to Saudi Arabia, nothing stopped this action. One of my late teachers, Sheikh Sayyid Muhammad ibn ‘Alawi al-Maliki, a Meccan who was a great historian on the holy sites and inherited his knowledge from his father and forefathers who were all teachers of the holy Haram, showed me pictures of the grave of Sayyida Amina marked with a pile of stones after the destruction. The House of Khadija was excavated during the Haram extensions, then hurriedly covered over so as to obliterate any trace of it. This was the house where the Prophet received some of his first revelations and it is also where his children Umm Kulthum, Ruqqaya, Zaynab, Fatima, and Qasim were born. Dar al-Arqam, the first school in Islam where the Prophet taught has also been demolished. It was in the area of Shi’b ‘Ali near the Bab ‘Ali door opposite the king’s palace. It is now part of the extension of the Haram.
The authorities plan to demolish the house of Mawlid, where the Prophet was born. About 60 years ago, this house, which used to have a dome over it, was turned into a cattle market. Some people then worked together to transform it into a library, which it is today. It is lined with shelves of books about Mecca, most of them written by Meccans. But the library is under threat again because of the new Jabal ‘Umar project, one of the largest real estate development projects near the Grand Mosque. The birthplace of the Prophet is to make way for a car park and hotels. About 99% of real estate owners in the Jabal ‘Umar area are shareholders in this company. The owners have been provided with financial incentives, including what they used to receive as rents, combining five-star facilities under the luxurious Le Meridien banner. The Meridien Towers will allow several thousand housing units in Mecca to be available during specified periods of time, for a one-off, fixed fee, giving the towers 25 years of shared ownership in Mecca. This scheme allow outsiders, whether Muslim or not, to invest in the city; they will be allowed to buy from a range of properties that can be used, sublet, resold or given as a gift.
For the holy month of Ramadan in Mecca, authorities built a wall enclosure in the Haram for women to pray there so men will not be able to see them. However, this has also blocked women’s visibility of the Ka’ba while they perform their prayers. The tawaf (circumambulation) for women has also been restricted to certain times. We don’t know if these changes are permanent or just for Ramadan.
In Medina, of the seven mosques at the site of the Battle of the Trench (Jabal al-Khandaq), where Sura al-Ahzab was revealed, only two remain. The others have been demolished and a Saudi bank’s cashpoint machine has been built in the area. The remaining mosques will be demolished as soon as the new mosque being constructed is ready. One of the mosques slated for destruction is Masjid Fath, the mosque and rock of victory, where the Prophet stood during the battle of the trench praying for victory. On the rock is where he received God’s promises of victory and of the conquest of Mecca.
Copyright @ Islamica-Magazine
EVERY YEAR, Muslim holy sites are destroyed at an alarming pace. What is perhaps more alarming is that some Muslims see no problem with this.
Rather, they may even feel that this is a good thing because an “exaggerated emphasis” is placed on the holiness of such sites. This overstated emphasis, they fear, could weaken or cloud sound understanding of the Oneness of God and reliance solely upon Him.
However, Muslims from the earliest generations have sought blessings (tabarruk) of individuals, objects, places and times.
The Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him) vied with each other for his hairs, sweat, leftover water from wudu, and objects related to him, as established in rigorously authenticated hadiths.
We see this practice in subsequent generations, too. Imam Shafi’i washed a shirt sent to him by Imam Ahmad and drank the water it was washed in (Ibn ‘Asakir, Tarikh Dimashq, 5.312).
Imam Shafi’i also would visit the grave of Imam Abu Hanifa and pray there when he had some pressing need and ask God to fulfill that need, which would invariably be fulfilled. (al-Baghdadi, Tarikh Baghdad, 1.122)
Imam Ahmad made a bequest that he be buried in Bab al-Tibn in the Qati’a cemetery. When asked about this, he responded, “I have strong proof that there is a prophet buried in Qati’a, and I would rather be buried close to a prophet than to my very own father” (Ibn Abi Ya’la, Tabaqat al-Hanabila, 1 . 188).
The question arises, then: why this emphasis on the baraka (blessedness) of buildings, relics and individuals? The Qur’an talks about the baraka of certain individuals (such as Jesus), places (such as the Levant), things (such as the olive tree), texts (such the Qur’an), words (such as the greeting of salam, peace), and times (such as Laylat al-Qadr, when the Qur’an was first revealed).
Raghib al-Asfahani explains that baraka is “affirming Divinely-placed good in something” (Asfahani, Mufradat Alfadh al-Qur’an, 119).
Blessed individuals, objects and places are signs of the Divine. Beautiful in themselves, in meaning or form, they remind us of the Divine – of Divine Beauty, Oneness and of the ways of approaching the Divine.
They are a means of remembering God. They awaken us to the reality that the forms of created things have a meaningthey are all, in fact, signs of God. As the poet said,
In everything there is a sign, Indicating that He is the One
God tells us in the Qur’an, “And whosoever venerates the sacred things of God, it shall be better for him with his Lord” (Qur’an 22:32), and, “And whosoever venerates God’s waymarks, that is of the godliness of the hearts” (Qur’an 22:36). Qurtubi explains that the “sacred things of God” (sha ‘a’ir Allah) are the distinguishing signs of His religion (Qurtubi, al-Jami’li Ahkam al-Qur’an, 12.55).
This is why Muslims throughout the ages have loved, venerated and sought the blessings of righteous individuals and places of significance, such as mosques, historical sites and the graves of the righteous. It is an expression of the love of God to see and celebrate His signs and to love those things beloved to Him. As the poet said,
We see this in the very practice of the Beloved of God, for Ibn ‘Umar relates that, “The Messenger of God (peace and blessings of God be upon him) used to ask for water to be brought from purificationpools. He would drink from this water, seeking the blessing of the hands of Muslims” (Related by Tabarani in alAwsat, 1.243, and Abu Nu’aym in al-Hilya, 8.203; Haythami said in his Majma ‘ al-Zawa ‘id, 1.214, that its chain of transmitters is reliable).
In an age of increasing meaninglessness, the loss of these persons and places that remind us of God, and of the ways to approach Him, is unfortunate indeed.
Written by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani in Islamica Magazine, issue 15 pg. 21