The Prophet Muhammad’s remains are buried beneath a green dome of the Masjid al-Nabawi mosque in Medina
Published at 12:01AM, September 3 2014
Religious authorities in Saudi Arabia are considering moving the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad to an unmarked grave, threatening uproar in the Islamic world.
The plan, put forward by an ultraconservative cleric, proposes removing the Prophet’s remains from beneath a green dome of the Masjid al-Nabawi mosque in Medina to an anonymous plot in a nearby cemetery. It also calls for the destruction of rooms surrounding the tombs – which were used by his family – a proposal which threatens to inflame tension between conservative Sunni supporters of the plan, and Shia muslims, because of their association with the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima.
The proposal has emerged with the haj pilgrimage only a month away, when up to four million pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia to pray at holy sites in Mecca and Medina.
In a 61-page document submitted to the committee that oversees development of the two cities, the cleric Ali bin Abdulaziz al-Shabal suggested that allowing worship at the Prophet’s grave encouraged idolatry.
Much of Saudi Arabia subscribes to Wahhabism, an ultraconservative branch of Sunni Islam that views acts of devotion towards anyone but God as idolatrous. Absolutist Wahhabis see any shrine to the Prophet as idolatry and want to remove any trace of him.
Further suggestions involve removing a column that marks where the Angel Gabriel is believed to have given revelations to the Prophet. Mr al-Shabal even proposes tearing down the mosque’s green dome.
There is no sign that the plan will go ahead, but some Muslims are unhappy at the development at holy sites in Saudi Arabia. In Mecca, home of the Grand Mosque and Islam’s holiest site, the Kaaba, ancient sites have been razed for hotels and malls. Irfan al-Alawi, a British-based Saudi academic, warned the latest plan could cause outrage.