Masjid-e-Nabawi expansion project risks razing holy sites

Published: October 29, 2012
The multi-billion dollar plan further includes demolishing three of the world’s oldest mosques dedicated to the aforementioned Caliphs and Masjid Ghamama.

The multi-billion dollar plan further includes demolishing three of the world’s oldest mosques dedicated to the aforementioned Caliphs and Masjid Ghamama.

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.

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Reader Comments (51)

  • It Is (still) Economy Stupid
    Oct 29, 2012 - 9:54PM

    “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).”

    Question from an infidel: What is more outrageous to a pious Muslim an anti Muslim cartoon or movie or raging the graves of Holy Prophet (pbuh) and caliphs Hazrat Abu Bakar (RA)?

    Almighty dollar wins again.


  • Tahir
    Oct 29, 2012 - 9:55PM

    This is surely a calamity and disrespect to the founders of Islam.
    The public should complain to the Saudi embassies around the world.


  • Trojan
    Oct 29, 2012 - 10:05PM

    This is not be the 1st time Saudis will resort to razing Islamic historical sites.

    Expansion of the two most holiest sites in Islam to ‘accomodate’ Muslims is just a lame reason used by the Wahabi House of Saud to wipe out the Islamic Heritage.
    To them they are a source of ‘bidah’.
    Already an ugly Las Vegas type hotel (MeccaClock Tower) has been built around Masjid al Haram, which has completely defaced the scenic beauty.
    And the insult to injury are those Muslims going ‘ohh aah’ and clapping with joy over this plan.


  • Chaigram
    Oct 29, 2012 - 10:07PM

    Nations who do not respect their past, do not expect to live. It is very disturbing to read that religious past is being decimated by the current rulers of Wahabi Arabia. While they preserve their history in Darayia (mud palaces, old cars, clothes of king Abdul Aziz etc etc…).

    How can the Muslim Umma allow these convoluted, ignorant morans to destroy our Islamic heritage. This belongs to entire Muslim world and not just Saudi Arabia. Shame Shame…


  • Awais
    Oct 29, 2012 - 10:22PM

    Why is it ok if the Saudis are doing it? can you imagine the outrage if some non arab country tried to do this? Lets burn our cities down over cartoons but buldozing by the sauids is ok…because they are the ‘real muslims’ anyway, I have heard people refer to them as real muslims as if we are some second grade people…oh and yes because they give us lots of money, thats another reason to just stay quite on whatever they want to do.


  • It Is (still) Economy Stupid
    Oct 29, 2012 - 10:25PM

    “Ten years ago, a mosque which belonged to the Prophet’s grandson was dynamited. Pictures of the demolition that were secretly taken and smuggled out of the kingdom showed the religious police celebrating as the building collapsed.”- source Independent

    Question from an Infidel: What is more outrageous demolition of Babri Masjid or a mosque which belonged to the Prophet’s grandson?


  • Khushk
    Oct 29, 2012 - 10:31PM

    this is pack of lies…everybody knows how reliable is the body can ever dare to raze those graves..


  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Oct 29, 2012 - 10:58PM

    Nobody can touch those graves and holy sites. Who would go to Medina, if Muhammad’s (PBUH) grave is not there.


  • Moosa Khan
    Oct 29, 2012 - 11:01PM

    They are doing it dude. They did raze some in Mecca like, Hz.Khadija’s (rz) house to make a path for new washrooms. These Saudis have gone insane. It feels like they were actually behind cartoons and movie. :(


  • Numbed
    Oct 29, 2012 - 11:02PM

    What can one expect from Wahabis ?Recommend

  • Oct 29, 2012 - 11:17PM

    This is not new, there’s been damage and destruction to a lot of historical and Islamic sites, and sadly most have hypocritically looked away being apologists for the authoritarian regime, many of whom probably share their supremacist beliefs and practices. Their puritanical, totalitarian and absolutist ideology has been a bane globally.

    Suggest reading the full article in the Independent, which is embedded in the article above.


  • Akshay, India
    Oct 29, 2012 - 11:22PM

    So, no TRUE MUSLIM will burn Saudi flags, or burn their embassy? Oh, I forgot, the anger of Muslims is reserved for the infidels.


  • Hammad
    Oct 29, 2012 - 11:24PM

    Am I the only one who sees a common ideology behind Taliban bombing of the Budha statues, bomb attacks on pakistani shrines and Saudi razing of old mosques?


  • Khan
    Oct 29, 2012 - 11:27PM

    @It Is (still) Economy Stupid:
    Why would you poke your nose in such matters I wonder? The answer to your question is obvious .. IF true every one will protest like no other in the history and this is coming from a Liberal and secular person forget about pious or sinner religious follower.
    Saudi Kingdom, instead of investing in schools that teach hatred, should invest in population awareness and proper education around the world.
    That link you gave doesn’t exist on Wikepedia .. either provide a live link or stop spreading rumors.


  • Foreign Leg
    Oct 29, 2012 - 11:28PM

    Let me introduce you to Capt. Sir Richard Francis Burton (Has any non-Muslim ever made the pilgrimage to Mecca?) who went to Mecca sometime around 1850..

    His book (The Guide-book. A Pictorial Pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina) describes the tombs and a couple of things I remember from it are:

    He faced considerable difficulty locating and reaching the tombs on his way back from Mecca and Medina primarily because the natives in the vicinity of the tombs did not want anyone to sanctify the tomb of the Prophet or anyone close to the Prophet. Apart from him, there were only a handful of others back then.
    His described the tombs as a ramshackle place in danger of falling apart and being consigned to oblivion in time.

    Imagine my surprise then to find that the tombs are now enclosed in a gigantic mosque courtesy of the Saud family circa 1970.


  • Sharjeel Jawaid
    Oct 29, 2012 - 11:29PM

    If true, the plan is outrageous!


  • Parvez
    Oct 29, 2012 - 11:42PM

    …………..but the Lal Masjid can’t be touched.


  • Hammad
    Oct 29, 2012 - 11:45PM

    His link didn’t work but he is right. Google “Destruction of sites associated with early Islam” and you will find the wikipedia link.


  • Romo
    Oct 29, 2012 - 11:53PM


    Trojan forgot to separate the words in the name with underscores. Easy to check.


  • Historian 1
    Oct 30, 2012 - 12:02AM

    Hajj and Umrah are the major sources of income ( since pre islamic era) by Saudis. As oil reservoirs are depleting fast saudis need expansion to continue hajj/ umrah income after oil.


  • lovePak
    Oct 30, 2012 - 12:10AM

    @It Is Still…..
    ET has become infested with Indians, that is why anti-Pakistan and anti-Islamic comments get the most recommendations. How about sticking to your own forums so as not to pollute our ones. I can’t figure out why Indians are so interested in Pakistan anyway. “OMG 26-11, Pakistan is moving towards the border, they’re raising the war-rhetoric…of course our being there from before is a sign of goodwill.”.

    When will you self-proclaimed infidels finally realize that one third rate anti-Islam video does not prompt anyone to suddenly go on a spree. Those were the results of years of destruction of Muslims all over the world. Violence only broke out in countries affected by America. The pressure had been building up for a long time, and this just blew the top because after basically poisoning Iraq with DU ammo, they are ignorant enough to still attack religions.

    And no one regards KSA as the champions of Islam, they are a disgrace to Islam. They even built a hotel right beside the Kaaba to insult it. They are after all slaves of America.


  • Usman
    Oct 30, 2012 - 12:14AM

    @Historian 1: Wrong analysis from a drawing room historian. Hajj is one for the biggest logistical operation undertaken by any government in the world go and look up income from hajj vs the cost on the overall operation. And pre Islam there was no Hajj or Umrah pilgrims use to come for worship but not for Hajj and Umrah lol.


  • Rex Minor
    Oct 30, 2012 - 12:15AM

    I fully agree with Khan! Ths is the arena which even the muslims should carefully tread on. Saudis monarchs and his advisers know what the implications of their actions are for the great Nation of Islam!

    Rex Minor


  • Nein
    Oct 30, 2012 - 12:15AM

    No one will protest. You are too naive. Do you think our protests represent anything real? They do not – people just respond like puppets to their puppet masters. And the puppet masters of protests, the mullahs, get their money from the Saudis. There will be no protests against Saudis ever.


  • Schabboo Khan
    Oct 30, 2012 - 12:17AM

    Dream on, baby!


  • AA
    Oct 30, 2012 - 12:21AM

    So their hands reached to the most sacred place. It had to happen as we all remained silent when Jannat ul Baqee and other spiritual/historical places were being demolished (even to build the car parkings)


  • Trojan
    Oct 30, 2012 - 12:41AM

    If you have relatives in Saudi Arabia, ask from. Or May Allah grant you the chance to go to Makkah and Madina and see for yourself.
    The danger is that if Saudis go ahead with this demolition spree, people like you will deny it.
    How will the future Muslim generation believe that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) received commandment from Allah in Ghar e Hira when there will be no Mount Jabalan nuur?


  • Falcon
    Oct 30, 2012 - 3:37AM

    This is not the first time this issue has been raised. The original article from the UK newspaper also cites name of their so-called scholars who have supported this in the past. In fact, this was recommended in a thesis by one of their PhD students at Medina University and they shelved the idea then because of expected political backlash. But the problem is that they are so rigid in their theological framework that this issue was expected to re-surface. It has been done in the past with destruction of shrines of companions of the Prophet (PBUH) few centuries ago and it can happen again (albeit with a larger magnitude). Muslims must protest against this.


  • Ali
    Oct 30, 2012 - 3:45AM

    The Independent a highly authentic source for news on Saudi Arabia. Kudos ET!


  • imran
    Oct 30, 2012 - 4:05AM

    dear brothers & sisters, raise awarness among masses about such a bad news and let us start campaign for highlighting this serious issue..


  • Sarah Amir
    Oct 30, 2012 - 4:57AM

    Saudis have already turned Makkah into the English word Mecca now it is Medinat ul Nabi’s turn to convert Wahabism. Btw Saidis have preserved the entire villages belonging to their ruling clan in Dariya near Riyadh. So they can spare us the doze of true Islam.


  • Imran Ahsan Mirza
    Oct 30, 2012 - 6:05AM

    As a Muslim I don’t see a problem at all. Saudis will be in fact building better place for millions of people to come in the next centuries and pay homage and get blessings by praying at the bigger Masjid-un-Nabwi. I am not a Wahabi but as a Muslim I congratulate Saudi royal family to take this decision despite chances of heavy opposition from other sects. We have to think of the growing numbers of Muslims visiting these holy sites and the practical needs of this great Holy Mosque. Saudis must take pragmatic approach and expand it.


  • Amir
    Oct 30, 2012 - 7:13AM

    Govt will invite Azab e Ilahi


  • The Khan
    Oct 30, 2012 - 7:21AM

    Saudi government is in a dilemma. On one hand you need to build bigger sites for the ever growing pilgrim industry but on the other hand that would mean destroying historic buildings which many Muslims hold dear. They should be careful in this regard considering the volatile environment all around


  • Imran Ahsan Mirza
    Oct 30, 2012 - 8:23AM

    All comments stating that somehow it is against Islam to do this is all absurd. Ka’aba is being constructed many times in history and even expanded. Masjidul Haram is also expanded many times. There is nothing wrong in fact by all means good to expand Masjid un Nabwi. I have not read a single comment against this in the above lines explaining any reasons. Saudis would not touch the holy grave of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) but remake the structure and buildings around it. Islam does not teach emotionalism without basis, but instead pragmatic approach towards the needs of its adherents. Saudis being Muslims, would certainly take all the sensitivities into account and pursue this project. I am fully with them.


  • Ahmad Hassan Awan
    Oct 30, 2012 - 9:50AM

    This story is pack of lies. We Muslims should believe in One God “Allah”. Hazrat Muhammad(Peace be upon Him) was his prophet/ Messenger/Courier. The most respected HUMAN on planet Earth. But we do/should not worship him But ALLAH. ALLAH is the creator and owner of us and whole universe. This is the message of Hazrat Muhammad (Peace be upon him). This story is fabricated to create/widen the schism within Islam. We should not jump to conclusion until Saudi Government clear cut policy statement on this issue. Wahabis are what the Muslims should be. They Believe in One God. They just Worship Allah. If anyone thinks/believes that other than Allah can benefits him/her or Allah needs help in listening their prayers he or she is not Muslim Period. Inshallah This story will prove not true. Understand and act the crux of Islam that is Toheed.


  • Naeem Siddiqui
    Oct 30, 2012 - 10:03AM

    A cap of One Hajj in a life time for a person must be applied all over the world to keep the number of people doing Hajj under control. otherwise it gonna be never ending story.


  • helping out
    Oct 30, 2012 - 10:09AM

    “In the age of technology, Ignorance is a choice” So separating the “infidels” and the “indians” who as some of you have said should mind their own business. FYI, I am Karachi. Also for a moment forget that world peace and security is their business. And lets assume that this story is planted by the great satan to upset 2 bit, wanna be journalist hacks who won’t believe anything you tell them anyway. Further more lets also assume that the Saudi’s represent all that is good and right in the way of world religions……. notice a pattern here, in order to sustain so many of your crazy idea’s about Pakistan and how you personally interpret Islam, so many of you have to suspend so many aspects of reality. The facts of life are these, without foreign aid there would be no Pakistan, we simply spend too much money and dont take enough in by way of taxes and trade. Saudi’s control oil and as long as the world has a petroleum economy, they can pretty much do what they want and YOU can’t stop them. China is not Pakistan’s friend, China spends money here because it fears India’s growing, skilled and cheap labor force. And most importantly, Pakistani’s need to be educated, don’t take the Mullah’s word for it, read the Quran yourself. Understand that Pakistan is a developing nation, and that we have a ways to go. Discounting the opinions of the those you disagree with doesn’t make you look smarter it makes you look dumber. Make your point rationally and sensibly based on the facts.


  • Zeeshan
    Oct 30, 2012 - 10:11AM

    This is wrong muslim commounity should stand together & stop Saudi’s.
    This is for all muslims to comment on what they feel.
    May Allah show the wrongdoers.


  • Fawad
    Oct 30, 2012 - 10:35AM

    @Imran Ahsan Mirza:

    I highly doubt that all this expansion has been done to accomodate the pilgrims. What does the pilgrims have to do with luxurious five-start hotels with 24/7 butler services and beauty spa’s. Do you really think all the big shopping complexes they are constructing are for the benefit of the pilgrims? Please go through numerous reports published in The Guardian U.K highlighting the motive behind this bizzarre construction all around, when all of the muslim media is keeping its eyes closed on the subject.


  • Jaffar
    Oct 30, 2012 - 10:43AM

    We must condemn these thing and start campaign against it


  • M.Ahmer Ali
    Oct 30, 2012 - 11:18AM

    In Islam performing the Hajj is once obligatory in life only for those who can afford or have enough resources to perform and Saudi government must implement a law thru which man can perform Hajj only once or maximum 3 times only in life instead of damaging the holy places to expand the Prophet’s mosque……Recommend

  • Inni
    Oct 30, 2012 - 1:40PM

    A story sourced from a british newspaper on a place where no non-muslim can enter. wonderful! It is a pack of lies in anycase. If you people were to visit the holy mosques you would realize how many people frequent the place and how difficult it is to accommodate them all. The riaz al jannah is inside in the masjid already and so is the rawdah. There is no need or question of demolishing them. So please pause, read up on the subject, visit the place before you start ranting.


  • Trojan
    Oct 30, 2012 - 1:50PM

    @Ahmad Hassan Awan:
    The Saudi’s will bulldoze the Rauza-e- Mubarak and still you’ll believe it to be a false news.
    When people get angry over this proposed demolition to be, it’s not that they place or revere Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) above Allah.
    It’s anger over eradicating an Islamic historical site.


  • lovePak
    Oct 30, 2012 - 4:58PM

    @helping out:
    If you were referring to me in your comment, you might want to read “It is still…” comment where he says “Question from an infidel”. I never call anyone an Indian or an infidel unless he himself makes it clear. And he has! Stop bashing everyone who disagrees with you. And I did not discard his opinion, how about reading the second and third paragraphs where I answered them. And yes, it was based entirely on facts.

    And how on Earth is Pakistan dependent on foreign aid!? All that aid goes into the hands of politicians, it’s not even spent on the country, in fact it doesn’t even go to the military except the high command. Aid is destroying our country. China spends in Pakistan because it fears India??? They do it because Pakistan is strategic, and they really need warm water ports right outside the Persian Gulf. And minerals…a list of reasons. Everyone knows they don’t do it in goodwill, because no one in the world does. And so, it’s an advantage for us, so they are our friend if there ever is such a thing in politics. Certainly America isn’t.

    And I don’t have crazy ideas about Pakistan, I love it as you should too and I prefer it much more than Canada. But it’s clear that it needs development, and it motivates me to do my best for it. How about starting with a bit of positivity?


  • Ahsan
    Oct 30, 2012 - 5:09PM

    Islam’s core tenet is the recognition and worship of one supreme, non-Trinitarian God, which it shares with Judaism. Islam espouses the direct link between a believer and the God and rejects the intercession or the existence of a medium between the two. Although this position can be considerably more complex within the different schools and strains of Islamic theology, the conservative orthodoxy of Wahhabism adheres strictly and literally to this position and prefers to abide by a more narrow and safeguarded interpretation.

    The widespread demolition of gravesites, tombs, mausoleums, birthplaces, mosques or locations otherwise connected with the prophet Muhammad, his family and companions, pious individuals or important events in Islamic history after the Saudi conquest of the Hejaz was an attempt to eradicate non-orthodox practices that had become established in regional Islam during that time. The ongoing demolition of similar places until the present day may constitute the continued effort by Saudi authorities to safeguard Islamic monotheism against non-orthodox practices that are not recognized by Islam.{wikipedia}


  • Asma
    Oct 30, 2012 - 5:15PM

    Day of th Judgment is near.


  • FJ
    Oct 30, 2012 - 5:41PM

    Why this news on the front anymore! I am so worried, how on earth they can do this. How on earth we the Muslims will let them do this??


  • Irfan Afridi
    Oct 30, 2012 - 7:54PM

    At least Madina has a capacity of people to bear, where the Saudi Govt will manage them? If they make a law to stop people in such a great number coming to Madina, you guys will abuse them as well. Let the decision be cleared. Those historical places may be protected any way but how to adjust those people i.e 1.7Million? Allah, In Pakistan, we suspend cellular service due to a congregation. They give you facilities but you guys have got the habit of negative remarks.


  • Ali
    Nov 7, 2012 - 6:30PM

    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 onesRecommend

  • Ahsan Qadir Munshi
    Nov 10, 2012 - 10:51AM

    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.


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