The government of Saudi Arabia has dismissed reports that it will destroy one of Islam’s most revered holy sites – the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed – and relocate it to an anonymous grave.
The proposal, which has sparked criticism globally, is part of a consultation document by a leading Saudi academic, Dr. Ali bin Abdulaziz al-Shabal, of Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh.
The document was reported to have been circulated among the supervisors of the al-Masjid al-Nabawi Mosque in Medina, The Independent of the United Kingdom reported had on Monday.
However, the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, in Saudi Arabia on Friday, described it as an opinion of a researcher, an Arabian newspaper, Saudi Gazettereported.
“What is being circulated in the media about the chamber where the Prophet’s grave is situated at the Prophet’s Mosque is related to a special study carried out by a researcher.
“It does not represent either the opinion of the presidency or the directive of the state, which has utmost keenness in serving the two holy mosques and maintaining their sanctity,” the spokesman for the Presidency, Ahmad al-Mansouri, said.
Similarly, another newspaper, Arab News, quoted al-Mansouri as saying, “This is the personal opinion of a researcher, who had expressed his views in a study, and it does not reflect the views of the Presidency or the Kingdom.”
The Presidency was reported to have threatened to take legal action on the report.
The mosque, where the tomb of the Prophet are housed under the Green Dome, is visited by millions of pilgrims and venerated as Islam’s second-holiest site.
The Independent UK had quoted the Director, Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, Dr. Alawi, as saying the document had been circulated to the Committee of the Presidency of the Two Mosques.
“Several pages of the consultation document had been published in the Presidency’s journal. They call for the destruction of the rooms surrounding the tomb, which were used by the Prophet’s wives and daughters, and venerated by the Shia because of their association with his youngest daughter, Fatima.
“The document also calls for the Green Dome, which covers the tomb and these living quarters, to be removed,” the journal added.
Saudi Arabia’s monarch, King Abdullah, is the official custodian of the tomb.
The UK-based journal reported that the plan to relocate the tomb was made public by another Saudi academic who had exposed and criticised the destruction of holy places and artefacts in Mecca – the holiest site in the Muslim world.
The plan also includes the destruction of chambers around the Prophet’s grave, which are particularly venerated by Muslims of the Shia sect.
The Independent UK reported that the 61-page document also called for the relocation of Prophet Mohammed’s tomb to the nearby al-Baqi cemetery, where they would be interred anonymously.
Dr. Alawi was further quoted as saying, “The al-Baqi cemetery already contains the graves of many of the Prophet’s family, including his father, who was removed there in the 1970s.
“In 1924, all the grave markers were removed so pilgrims would not know who was buried there, and so be unable to pray to them.”
“The Prophet would be anonymous. Everything around the Prophet’s mosque has already been destroyed. It is surrounded by bulldozers. Once they’ve removed everything, they can move towards the mosque. The imam is likely to say there is a need to expand the mosque and do it that way, while the world’s eyes are on Iraq and Syria.
“The Prophet Mohamed’s grave is venerated by the mainstream Sunni, who would never do it. It is just as important for the Shia too, who venerate the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima.
“I’m sure there will be shock across the Muslim world at these revelations. It will cause outrage.”