The expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque (Part 3)
The approved scale model of the Prophet’s Mosque.
Muhammad Sayed Al-Jakni
MADINAH — A new site drawing (first model) was carried out by the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques’ Affairs. Despite the fact that it is an exquisite drawing that focuses on accommodating the largest number possible of Muslims through its spacious areas, it, however, contradicts the concept of expansion introduced to the Prophet’s Mosque, which the Prophet (peace be upon him) endorsed and legislated and which the caliphs and the generations who came after them complied with.
The new drawing (first model) suggested by the Presidency will turn the original area of Prophet’s Mosque and all areas expanded since the time of Caliph Omar and Caliph Othman into annexes to the expansion project.
Does this drawing (first model) want to turn the Prophet’s Mosque into a place for visiting only when it suggests that the ‘Mihrab’ should be moved to Al-Anbariyah District? If the ‘Mihrab’s’ location is changed, that means the area where the Prophet (pbuh) and all Imams performed prayer will be a deserted place. It is not possible to place the ‘Mihrab’ 300 meters west to the Prophet’s Mosque while the Imam performs prayer behind the rows of Muslims.
In addition, what will happen to the ‘Minbar’ (the pulpit) that Imams have stood on for hundreds of years? Will another pulpit be erected next to it?
What does the imam do when he finishes the Friday sermon? Will he walk to the distant mihrab or will there be two imams, one for the sermon while the other for leading Muslims when they perform prayer? One cannot overlook these questions when we see the new drawing (first model). One cannot help but wonder whether the new expansion will turn the mosque into a new mosque, one that is different from that of the Prophet’s (pbuh) and whether there will be an Imam for the Prophet’s Mosque and another one for the new mosque.
I believe the new drawing (first model) contradicts King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’s directives, which include completing the multi-billion project in line with previous expansions. In my humble opinion, the drawing (second model) made by the committees headed by the Emir of Madinah, takes into consideration several things.
The drawing (second model) is consistent with the expansions which Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) legislated and allowed. All of the expansions were implemented in the western and northern sides of the mosque from the time of the Prophet (pbuh) until the era of Al-Saud as previously mentioned.
The ‘Qiblah’ inside the Prophet’s Mosque faces the rainwater gutter of the Ka’ba and it was set by Angel Jibreel who told the Prophet (pbuh) about its right direction. The ‘Mihrab’ expansion during the era of Caliph Othman also faced the rainwater gutter of the Ka’ba, a condition that the new expansion drawing made by the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques’ Affairs does not fulfill.
When King Abdul Aziz took over, he gave directives to expand the Prophet’s Mosque and issued a royal decree in April 1949 to this effect. The first expansion was completed during the era of King Saud in 1956 and it focused on the western and northern sides of the Prophet’s Mosque. The second Saudi expansion took place in 1985 during the era of King Fahd and it was in line with previous expansions.
No historian has ever mentioned that a caliph or ruler expanded the Prophet’s Mosque beyond the areas of the ‘Mihrab’ and the holy pillars, at which Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) urged Muslims to perform prayer and supplicate, because these pillars are very significant. The second model made by the committees headed by the Emir of Madinah keeps the ‘Mihrab’ area as it is, without introducing any changes to it.
The second model takes into consideration the fact that huge numbers of visitors try to perform prayer inside these areas during peak seasons.
Since the time of the Prophet (pbuh), the ‘Adhan’ has been called from the center area of ‘Al-Rawda Al-Sharifah’ and never has been called from another place. According to the first model of the proposed expansion, the center area has to be moved to the Al-Ghamama Mosque. The second model suggests that the area stays where it is.
The expansion of the second model suggests building additional floors in the mosque in order to accommodate more visitors. There is also the possibility of keeping some floors inaccessible to visitors during off seasons because this strategy will save a lot of money, which can then be used to improve services inside the mosque.
The second model proposed by Madinah committees has taken into consideration that all previous expansions to the roofs of the mosque need shading and air-conditioning services.
Both models will create space for 1.8 million prayer performers after expansions have been made.
Keeping ‘Rawdah Al-Sharifah’ in its place and not introducing any expansion to it means that Al-Ghamama Mosque, the mosque where the Prophet used to perform Eid prayer, will be preserved. It is one of the few archeological sites in Madinah.
The overall design focuses on using some buildings to build hotels in some neighborhoods near the Prophet’s Mosque. Visitors who stay at these hotels will enjoy the proximity to the mosque.
Some of the things that have been noticed about the second model designed by Madinah committees include the fact that it does not provide enough spacious courtyards in the new expansion to accommodate pilgrims and visitors during the peak seasons of Ramadan and Haj.
Also, the second model will lead increased expansion in the eastern side opposite to Al-Baqi Cemetery, something which has not been seen in the previous expansions and which might prompt some people to speak out against it. To keep the beautiful design consistent, I suggest that this part is left as it is.
It can be used to build a new library for the Prophet’s Mosque as the current space of the library cannot accommodate the huge number of visitors. I also suggest that all Madinah libraries, which have been endowed, should be incorporated in this library and the name “King Abdullah Complex for Madinah Endowed Libraries” should be given to this project.
King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, is known for his love for education. Besides, the Prophet’s Mosque enjoys a respectable status when it comes to education.
Imam Ahmad reported that the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Whoever will come to my mosque with the only intention to conduct teaching/learning activities and to promote beneficial knowledge will have a reward equivalent to the person who fights for the sake of Allah.”
These libraries have received the full attention and care of the Saudi government. King Saud built King Saud Library and ordered that all endowed libraries in Madinah be incorporated in this project for fear of loss. This happened during the first expansion.
King Faisal laid the foundation stone for King Abdul Aziz Library, which had under its roof all endowed libraries in Madinah.
I hope that the complex will have an electronic library serving researchers all over the world and I hope it will have a high-class museum.
In conclusion, I hope these suggestions and remarks will be of some value to the project. We all love Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). May the Almighty Allah help us benefit from the Prophet’s (pbuh) intercession on the Day of Judgment. Amen. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “My intercession on the Day of Judgment is a reality – so whoever does not believe in it will not deserve it.