Saudis Report Revised Plans for Modernization of Prophet's Mosque in Madinah
by Irfan Al-Alawi
Reliable sources in Saudi Arabia have informed the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation that King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz has called for revision of plans for an expansion of the Mosque of Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam in Madinah Al-Munawwarah.
A project drawn up by the official Wahhabi ulema in the desert kingdom provided for expansion in a westerly direction of the Prophet's Mosque. Such enlargement would extend across an area presently occupied by the mosques of two righteous khalifas, or successors to the Prophet, Abu Bakr and Umar, as well as the Masjid Ghamama. The last structure marks the place in Madinah Al-Munawwarah where Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam is believed to have first prayed for the festival of Eid Al-Fitr.
It is also said the Prophet prayed at the Ghamama mosque, otherwise known as the mosque of the clouds, for rain, which then fell.
Saudi Arabia had announced no intent to preserve any of these three mosques, dating from the early history of Islam. All three are now protected by Ottoman-era structures. The Wahhabi conception of architectural augmentation also failed to anticipate archaeological examinations of the sites.
We had protested against the possibility of vandalism against the three mosques in an interview with The Independent in London, which may be accessed at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/medina-saudis-take-a-bulldozer-to-islams-history-8228795.html.
Reaction to the probability of such Wahhabi destruction caused consternation throughout the Muslim communities, both in Muslim countries and among Muslim minorities, which was a result of the continuing work of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation.
In the wake of the controversy, we learned that a new plan for expansion of the western side of the existing mosque has been cancelled. The Prophet's Mosque will be enlarged in a northerly direction.
We hope fervently that this news is correct and that the historical and spiritual legacy of the Prophet's Mosque and its surroundings will be maintained appropriately.
Dr. Irfan Al-Alawi
Executive Director, Islamic Heritage Research Foundation
International Director, Centre for Islamic Pluralism, www.islamicpluralism.eu