Mecca: Bulldozing the birthplace of Prophet Mohammed – Anna Edwards

House of Mawlid: The library marking the birthplace of Muhammad

Binladin Group, Saudi ArabiaPlans to demolish the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed to make way for the imam‘s residence and a presidential palace are set to go ahead.

The plans proposing to erect a modern complex on the house said to be where the Prophet was born are part of a multi-billion-dollar redevelopment of the pilgrimage city of Mecca.

To make way for the new development, library steps leading away from the Masjid al-Haram, or Grand Mosque, which sits on top of what is believed to be the place where the Prophet was born, will be swept away.

Last year Saudi Arabia’s royal family dropped initial plans to replace the sacred library, which stands on a raised plinth.

There had been proposals to replace it with either a metro rail station that would serve pilgrims – or a sweeping new library dedicated to King Abdul Aziz, founder of the modern kingdom.

The Saudi Binladin Group who are in charge of the development, propose that it be razed to the ground and replaced with the imam’s residence and an adjacent presidential palace, The Independent reported.

King Abdullah of Saudi ArabiaThe Saudi royal family follow the Wahabi faith, that has served as the kingdom’s official religion ever since the al-Sauds rose to power in the 19th century.

The kingdom’s rulers, who deny Mohammed was born in what is known as the House of Mawlid, are opposed to preserving relics of the Prophet because they say it encourages shirq, the sin of worshipping idols other than God.

The proposals are sure to provoke fury from Muslims around the world as the Grand Mosque is the focal point of the Islamic faith, where pilgrims flock to pray.

The annual hajj pilgrimage, which sees millions of pilgrims descend on the beautiful structure, must be performed at least once in their lifetime by all Muslims capable of making the expensive, difficult journey, a duty that applies equally to Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims at a time of tension between Islam’s main sects.

In 2012, nearly three million pilgrims performed the hajj, with roughly a third from inside the conservative kingdom.

All Muslims must face towards the Kaaba, the huge black cube at the centre of the Grand Mosque, five times a day for prayer, making a visit to the sanctuary a powerful experience. Pilgrims must circle it seven times when they arrive in Mecca.

Saudi Arabia’s king is formally titled Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the ruling family has long based its claims to reign on its guardianship of Islam’s birthplace.

Over the past decade it has spent billions of dollars expanding the Grand Mosque and building new infrastructure to avert the stampedes and tent fires that marred past pilgrimages with hundreds of deaths. 

The last deadly stampede was in 2006, when 360 people were crushed to death. – Daily Mail, 21 February 2014

» Anna Edwards is a news anchor and broadcast journalist in London.

Grand Mosque (center), Mecca