SECRETS OF THE PROPHET’S MASJID – THE PILLARS

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

ustuwanah hannanahThis 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)

ustuwanah aisha

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).”

aisha

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

ustuwanah 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.”

abu lubabah tawbah

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

‘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.

ustuwanah 3 pillars

Left: Ustuwaanah Wufud, Middle: Ustuwanah Ali/Haras, Right: Ustuwanah Sareer

7. Ustuwaanah Tahajjud

mihrab tahajjud location

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:

mihrab tahajjud old

mihrab tahajjud old 2

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’

this is masjid of prophet

The orange circles indicate some of these pillars found in the masjid:

masjid nabi boundary pillars

masjid nabi boundary pillars 2

from: http://ilmfeed.com/secrets-of-prophets-masjid-pillars/

 

Ten Things You Didn’t Know About The Kaaba

Ten Things You Didn’t Know About The Kaaba

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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and Ismail ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) before he became a Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). This is the occasion when the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

The Messenger of Allāh ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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.

Source: http://muslimmatters.org/2012/11/15/ten-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-kaaba/

9 Things You Didn’t Know About The Prophet’s Mosque

9 Things You Didn’t Know About The Prophet’s Mosque

9 Things You Didn’t Know About The Prophet’s Mosque

Seeing a scene of impeccable beauty, we often hear the term “Heaven on Earth!” But there is only one place that literally has the right to proclaim itself heaven on Earth. There, deep in the mosque of the Prophet (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) (masjid Nabawi), covered by green carpets and the tears of millions, lies a “garden from the gardens of paradise.” It is a place known to every Muslim who has ever lived, yet there’s still much we don’t know about it. Here are just some of the interesting facts and mysteries of the Prophet’s (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) 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.

first place to get electricity in arabia

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.

current mosque is larger than the entire city

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.

Purple Dome

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.

secret signs in the mosque

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.

Source: http://muslimmatters.org/2013/05/24/9-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-prophets-mosque/

A Journey through the Islamic Faith

coverr

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.

IMPORTANT NOTE – READ BEFORE DOWNLOAD – You agree not to make any changes to this document and acknowledge that this pdf copy of the book is not print-ready.

Link: http://www.exhibitionislam.com/resources/FreeDownloads/2_A_Journey_through_the_Islamic_faith_really_lores_website.pdf

Mecca redevelopment sparks heritage concerns

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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.”

(The authorities) want to offer more space to the pilgrims to avoid crowds
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.

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“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.

Rather than engaging with heritage concerns, the Saudis are simply not interested
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.

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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.

If the Saudi government decided to expand then this is because they care about Islam more than the heritage
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.

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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.”