Masjid-e-Nabawi expansion project risks razing holy sites

The multi-billion project's plan includes demolishing Prophet (pbuh), Caliph's graves and three historic mosques.

Web Desk October 29, 2012

MADINA: Faced with the problem of accomodating an ever growing number of pilgrims to Makkah and Medina every year, the Saudi Arabian government has launched an ambitious expansion project of Masjid-e-Nabawi, which potentially includes razing of Riyad-al-Jannah (Garden of Paradise) and the graves of Holy Prophet (pbuh) and caliphs Hazrat Abu Bakar (RA) and Hazrat Umar (RA).

According to a report by United Kingdom daily The Independent, the project, due to start after this year’s Hajj pilgrimage ends, will turn the mosque into the world’s largest building, expanding its current capacity to hold 1.6 million worshippers.

Riyad-al-Jannah is believed to be a holy site, with Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) once having decreed that the area between his house and pulpit was one of the gardens (rawdah) of Paradise.

The multi-billion dollar plan further includes demolishing three of the world’s oldest mosques dedicated to the aforementioned Caliphs and Masjid Ghamama, built to mark the spot where the Prophet is believed to have given his first Eid prayers.

This plan has already received a lot of flak from Muslims around the world, including heritage campaigners, having already criticised the Kingdom’s disdain for preserving the historical and archaeological heritage of the country’s holiest city, Makkah.

Most Muslims and heritage campaigners were appalled to see historic locations of Makkah and Medina bulldozed to make way for gleaming shopping malls, luxury hotels and towering skyscrapers.

The Washington-based Gulf Institute had estimates that 95 per cent of the 1,000-year-old buildings in the two cities have been destroyed in the past 20 years.

“No one denies that Medina is in need of expansion, but it’s the way the authorities are going about it which is so worrying,” says Dr Irfan al-Alawi of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation. “There are ways they could expand which would either avoid or preserve the ancient Islamic sites but instead they want to knock it all down.” Dr Alawi has spent much of the past 10 years trying to highlight the destruction of early Islamic sites.

With a booming middle class in Muslim countries, both Makkah and Medina are struggling to cope with the 12 million pilgrims who visit each year – a number expected to grow to 17 million by 2025.

The Independent’s report further says that other historic sites lost to ‘development’ include the Prophet’s birthplace – now a library – and the house of his first wife, Khadijah, which was replaced with a public toilet block.

Neither the Saudi Embassy in London nor the Ministry for Foreign Affairs had responded to the Independent's requests for comment. However the Saudi government has defended its expansion plans in the past.


Ahsan Qadir Munshi | 8 years ago | Reply

If the news given by The Express Tribune is correct. it is a real shock for all muslim ummah.

The suadis have no right to demolish the blessed places of Muslims just in the name of expansion.

Ali | 8 years ago | Reply Point # 1 - Who made these mosques? Prophet or his companions? the answer would be NO. Point # 2 - Who declares these mosques as sacred apart from being a routine mosque elsewhere in the world? Allah or Prophet the answer would be NEITHER. Point # 3 - Who is praying in these mosques leaving behind the opportunity to pray in the sacred Masjid e Nabwi? THE MOSQUES ARE CLOSED DUE TO BIDAH Point # 4 - Who are Alawis? - The Answer is Alawis are the people who consider Ali Radi Allah Anho as Allah. Ali Radi Allah Anho order to burn the people with such a belief alive. I don't comment if they can ever be considered Muslims. Point # 5 - What's the place of Archaeology or History in Islam? None other than the importance of such things in the heart of Mostly South Asian Muslims (or other week believers elsewhere in the world). Point # 6 - Does anyone have any authentic proof from Islam, that these sights are to be preserved at the cost of Expansion of the Mosque of the Prophet or House of Allah? I challenge any person on the planet. Prove it with authenticity. How about this quote "According to ‘The Independent’, the predominant Wahabi ideology in the Kingdom is to blame, as hard line Wahabis believe visiting shrines and archeological sites promotes polytheism. But locals living in the two holy cities are less than impressed at the destruction of their towns. Particularly disgruntled were those driven out of their homes to make room for the new super-fast train lines." Doesn't that sound like inciting sectarianism? How wrong is the thought of Polytheism in visiting shrines? Who do we believe in? Allah and his Prophet or these non-Muslims? Hats off to Saudi Govt. Keep up the good work. Expand the mosque and build simple and economical hotels. not the elite ones
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