The Prophet’s Mosque: Great status and vast expansions in the Saudi era

The Prophet’s Mosque: Great status and vast expansions in the Saudi era
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The Prophet’s Mosque underwent several expansions throughout its history, starting with the days of the Caliphs, followed by the Umayyads, the Abbasids, the Ottomans, and finally, the Saudi era. (AFP)
The Prophet’s Mosque: Great status and vast expansions in the Saudi era
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The Prophet’s Mosque: Great status and vast expansions in the Saudi era
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The Prophet’s Mosque: Great status and vast expansions in the Saudi era
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Updated 15 August 2018

The Prophet’s Mosque: Great status and vast expansions in the Saudi era

The Prophet’s Mosque: Great status and vast expansions in the Saudi era
  • The Prophet’s Mosque underwent its first expansion in the days of Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab in 17 AH (638 AD)
  • The largest expansion of all time in the Prophet’s Mosque took place during the reign of the late King Abdullah alongside his umbrella project

The Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah is a place Muslims from around the world visit while performing Hajj and Umrah, or simply to pray (performing the salat) and visit Prophet Muhammad’s tomb.
One of the world’s largest mosques, the Prophet’s Mosque underwent several expansions throughout its history, starting with the days of the caliphs, followed by the Umayyads, the Abbasids, the Ottomans, and, finally, the Saudi era, during which it underwent the largest expansion in its history and was the first place in the Arabian Peninsula to be lit by electric light bulbs in 1909 (1327 AH).
The Prophet’s Mosque, also known as Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi, was the second mosque built by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the first year of Hijrah (the Prophet’s migration with his followers from Makkah to Madinah, which was called Yathrib at the time).
The land on which the mosque was built belonged to two orphans, Sahl and Suhail, and was used as a place for drying dates. The Prophet planned the mosque’s structure to occupy a 50 by 49 meter tract of land and built it facing Jerusalem, the Muslim’s Qibla at the time. He dug the foundation and used palm leaves for the roof and trunks of palm trees as columns.
The Prophet also built his mosque with three doors, one of which was in the back and was called “Atikah” or the “Door of Mercy,” while the other was the “Door of Gabriel” and was the Prophet’s preferred entrance.
In the back of the mosque, there was a shady area for sheltering the poor and strangers known as “Al-Saffa.”
Prophet Muhammad did not build a roof for the entire mosque, so when it rained, water would drip on worshippers. The worshippers asked the Prophet to support the roof with mud, but he refused and said: “No, an arish like that of Moses” — a trellis roof like that of Moses.
In its early days, the mosque’s floor was not covered with anything until in 3 AH (624 AD), when it was covered with pebbles.
When the Qibla was changed to face the Kaaba instead of Jerusalem, Al-Saffa, which was in the southern part of the mosque, was moved to the northern part. The back door was closed, and a new door was opened in the north.
The Prophet’s Mosque underwent its first expansion in the days of Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab in 17 AH (638 AD). Caliph Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq did not work on expanding the mosque since he was busy with the Ridda Wars, also known as the Wars of Apostasy.
The mosque became very crowded with worshippers in the reign of Caliph Umar, so he bought the surrounding houses and included them in the mosque to expand it by 20 cubits from the west, 10 cubits from the south (the Qibla part), and 30 cubits from the north. No expansion, however, took place in the eastern part of the mosque as the rooms of the prophet’s wives were located there.
After that expansion, the mosque’s length became 140 cubits from north to south and its width 120 cubits from east to west. It was built in the same form chosen by Prophet Muhammad; the walls were built of bricks, palm-tree trunks were used as columns, the 11-cubit-high roof was made of palm leaves, and the flooring was made of garnet grits. Caliph Umar also added a 2-cubit-high smock to the mosque.
The expansion that took place in the days of Caliph Umar was estimated at about 1,100 square meters. It also gave the mosque six doors: Two in the east, two in the west, and two in the north.
During the reign of Caliph Othman in 29 AH (650 AD), the mosque became too small for the large number of worshippers, so he consulted the Prophet’s companions on expanding it and they found it a good idea.
Caliph Othman had the mosque’s walls built of carved stones and plaster, its columns of engraved stones and iron rods installed in lead, and its roof of teak wood. The six doors were left as they were following the expansion done by Caliph Umar.
The Prophet’s Mosque remained as it was after the expansion carried out by Caliph Othman and until the reign of Al-Walid bin Abdul-Malik in 88 AH (707 AD). Al-Walid wrote to the ruler of Madinah, Omar bin Abdul Aziz (86-93 AH / 705-712 AD), ordering him to buy the houses around the Prophet’s Mosque in order to expand it. He also directed him to include the rooms of the Prophet’s wives in the expansion.
Following the directives of Al-Walid, Omar bin Abdul Aziz expanded the Prophet’s Mosque and made the Prophet’s tomb part of it. Therefore, Al-Walid’s expansion was from three sides — east, north, and west — and the southern wall’s length became 84 meters, the northern wall 68, and the western one 100. The whole expansion was estimated at about 2,369 square meters.
The expansion during the reign of Al-Walid bin Abdul-Malik included building a hollow mihrab and minarets for the first time in the Prophet’s Mosque. A total of four minarets were built, one in every corner, as well as terraces on the mosque’s roof.
No expansion was done in the Prophet’s Mosque after Al-Walid’s expansion, but there were some repairs and renovations.
A fire erupted in the Prophet’s Mosque in 654 AH (1256 AD), and a number of Muslim caliphs and leaders contributed to restoring it. The first to contribute to was the last Abbasid Caliph, Al-Musta’sim Billah, who sent supplies and builders from Baghdad to fix the mosque in 655 AH (1257 AD).
The Abbasid caliphate ended with the fall of Baghdad at the hands of the Tatars. After that, a second fire erupted in 886 AH (1482 AD), destroying many parts of the mosque’s roof. Sultan Qaytbay, ruler of Egypt at the time, received word of the incident and, subsequently, sent supplies, workers, and materials and the mosque was roofed in 888 AH (1484 AD).
Qaytbay’s expansion, estimated at 120 square meters, was completed in 890 AH (1486 AD) and was the last done before the Ottoman and Saudi eras.
No change took place in the Prophet’s Mosque since Qaytbay’s expansion and reconstruction work for 387 years, but during this period, a lot of repair and renovation work was done to the minarets, walls, and doors, and the crescents above the minarets as well as the dome were replaced. Nevertheless, no complete demolition and reconstruction took place until the reign of Sultan Abdulmejid.
The Ottoman Caliph, Abdulmejid II, sent architects, builders, workers, supplies, and materials in 1265 AH (1849 AD) to reconstruct and expand the mosque. The process took 13 years. Materials used included red stone from Al-Jamawat Mountain west of Madinah (known today as Al-Haram Mountain). These stones were used for building columns, while walls were built of black basalt stone.
The largest expansion of all time in the Prophet’s Mosque took place during the reign of the late King Abdullah alongside his umbrella project. He ordered the installation of 250 umbrellas on the columns in the mosque’s courtyards to shade 143,000 square meters around the mosque. More than 800 worshippers can pray under each of these umbrellas.
Moreover, six tracks in the southern part of the mosque were shaded to protect pedestrians.
The umbrellas were specially made for the courtyards of the Prophet’s Mosque. They employ modern technology and operate with high proficiency. They were also tested in the manufacturing country and designed to be of two different heights to overlap and ensure no sun rays or rain reach worshippers. The height of the first group of umbrellas is 14.04 meters, while the second group is 15.03 meters tall. The height of all umbrellas when closed is 21.07 meters.
Madinah saw the largest expansion in the history of the Prophet’s Mosque in late 1433 AH (2012 AD), when King Abdullah laid the foundation stone to expand the mosque so it would be able to accommodate two million worshippers once the project was completed.
King Salman took up the torch after King Abdullah died, and stressed the importance of resuming work in the expansion project and other work that serves Islam and Muslims. Saudi Arabia’s leaders are all very keen to serve and enhance the Two Holy Mosques and provide all services in the holy sites so that pilgrims can easily complete Hajj and Umrah.


Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots

Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots
Updated 21 April 2021

Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots

Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots
  • Room is fitted with strategically placed sensors that allow the machines to move about and take food to customers

MAKKAH: We’ve all been there … you order a meal in a restaurant, and the waiter arrives with a pasta salad instead of a chicken biryani.
There are no such issues at Restaurant Robot in Jazan. As the name suggests, the waiters are not fallible human beings, but robots powered by sophisticated artificial intelligence.
Six robot assistants are operating in the city center restaurant to deliver trays of Asian dishes to patrons. The system was originally set up as a precaution to reduce human contact during the coronavirus pandemic, but it has proved a hit with visitors.
In a system designed by young Saudi engineer Reham Omar, the restaurant interior has been fitted with strategically placed sensors that allow the robots to move about and take food to customers.
“Thanks to the sensors, the robots can sense anything standing near them, allowing them to stop walking or change their routes accordingly,” she told Arab News
“Each robot has had a map of the restaurant interior and the location of each table programmed into their memory. When the robot gets to the targeted table, customers can pick up their food and order the robot to leave.”
Omar said the idea had been developed by drawing on the experiences of other countries, and with support from the Saudi government for the food industry.
“We are proud of our project, as small as it is,” she said. “Customers are loving the robots and are impressed with the idea.
“Cultures are changing, and people are now eager to discover new technologies that can improve their quality of life.”


Saudi Arabia re-elected to Chemical Weapons watchdog’s Executive Council

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) held the 25th Session of the Conference of the States Parties in The Hague, Netherlands. (Twitter/@OPCW)
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) held the 25th Session of the Conference of the States Parties in The Hague, Netherlands. (Twitter/@OPCW)
Updated 21 April 2021

Saudi Arabia re-elected to Chemical Weapons watchdog’s Executive Council

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) held the 25th Session of the Conference of the States Parties in The Hague, Netherlands. (Twitter/@OPCW)
  • OPCW oversees the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention
  • The Kingdom has been a member of the council since 1997

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has been re-elected as a member of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), in the Asia section, until 2023.
It happened at The Hague, in the Netherlands, on Tuesday during the 25th Session of the Conference of the States Parties, which oversees the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
Ziyad Al-Attiyah, the Saudi ambassador to the Netherlands and the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the OPCW, thanked the nations that supported the re-election of his country, and said that it is a reflection of Saudi Arabia’s status under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 
The Kingdom looks forward to working with the rest of the council’s members to enhance the implementation of the CWC, he added.
Al-Attiyah affirmed his country’s desire to strengthen cooperation as part of the efforts to prohibit weapons of mass destruction and prevent their proliferation, and to ensure the Middle East becomes a region free of such weapons to enhance international peace and security.
He added that the Kingdom’s chemical industries sector is one of the largest in the region and growing steadily, which makes it one of the leading countries in this field among the membership of Executive Council.
Saudi Arabia has been a member of the council — the main body of the OPCW — since its inception in 1997. It’s membership is made up of 41 countries, representing five geographic areas, that are elected for terms of two years at a time.


Saudi Arabia calls for Iran to engage in talks, avoid escalation

Saudi Arabia calls for Iran to engage in talks, avoid escalation
Updated 21 April 2021

Saudi Arabia calls for Iran to engage in talks, avoid escalation

Saudi Arabia calls for Iran to engage in talks, avoid escalation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia renewed its call for Iran to engage in ongoing negotiations in Vienna, avoid escalation and not expose the region to more tension.
This came following a council of ministers meeting, chaired by King Salman on Tuesday.

The Cabinet reiterated that it is closely following the current developments related to Iran's nuclear program, citing the emphasis of the Kingdom's call for Iran to get involved in the current negotiations, prevent escalation and desist from jeopardizing the regional security and stability to further tension. 
The Saudi government also urged the international community to reach an agreement with stronger and longer determinants that are implemented through monitoring and control measures to prevent the Iranian regime from obtaining nuclear weapons and developing the necessary capabilities.

The Cabinet also renewed condemnation of the Iran-backed Houthi terrorist militia's attempts to target civilians as well as civilian facilities in the Kingdom in a systematic and intentional manner, through using bomb laden drones and ballistic missiles.


Saudi Arabia’s virus cases surge past 1,000

Saudi Arabia’s virus cases surge past 1,000
The authority reiterated that it was continuously monitoring the safety of the vaccines available in Saudi Arabia by studying cases of side effects. (SPA)
Updated 21 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s virus cases surge past 1,000

Saudi Arabia’s virus cases surge past 1,000
  • The ministry said 940 people recovered from the virus over the past 24 hours, meaning 390,538 people have made full recoveries

JEDDAH: The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) on Tuesday confirmed 34 cases of blood clots or thrombosis and low platelet count among people who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
“The authority suggests the existence of seven possible cases of thrombosis that are related to the vaccine, due to the absence of other reasons for the appearance of clots in them,” the SFDA said in a statement.
However, the authority also said that thrombocytopenia and blood-clotting immune response associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine is yet to be confirmed in these cases.
It said based on the local reports received, the rate of occurrence of these symptoms in conjunction with the administration of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the Kingdom is “very rare.”
The SFDA said that all approved vaccines for the coronavirus (COVID-19) being used in the Kingdom are safe. It stressed that the desired benefits of the vaccine in question outweigh the potential risks.
The authority reiterated that it was continuously monitoring the safety of the vaccines available in Saudi Arabia by studying cases of side effects along with the local and international scientific evidence and data available.

FASTFACTS

• The Kingdom reports a 55 percent increase in the number of cases among women.

• 1,070 new infections were reported on Tuesday.

The SFDA advised recipients of the vaccine to consult a doctor or go to the nearest health center if any of the following symptoms appear or continue for more than three days after receiving a vaccine: Dizziness, severe and persistent headache, nausea or vomiting, issues with vision, shortness of breath, severe pain in the chest or abdomen or coldness in the extremities, swelling of the legs, small blood spots under the skin other than the injection site.
Dr. Abdullah Asiri, an infectious diseases consultant at the Saudi Ministry of Health, allayed public fears following the reports.
“How can a wrong conclusion deduced from a generalization become the most circulated news?” he wrote on Twitter. “In short, not every blood clotting after vaccinations is due to vaccinations. Thanks to vaccines, lives are saved every day. We have not yet had confirmed cases of platelet deficiency and blood clotting immune responses associated ‘hypothetically’ with COVID-19 vaccines.”
Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly, a Ministry of Health spokesman, said: “We are still monitoring an increase in the number of COVID-19 infections, which is the highest since the beginning of this year. There has also been an increase in cases among females by 55 percent.”
The Ministry of Health reported 1,070 new confirmed cases in the Kingdom over the past 24 hours, meaning 407,010 people have now contracted the virus. Of the 9,626 active cases, 1,105 were in critical condition. There were 12 fatalities, which brought the national death toll to 6,846.
The ministry said 940 people recovered from the virus over the past 24 hours, meaning 390,538 people have made full recoveries.


Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness

Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness
The Saudi Sports for All Federation launched a campaign encouraging people to walk or run 20 kilometers for 20 days during Ramadan. (SPA)
Updated 20 April 2021

Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness

Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness
  • The Saudi Sports for All Federation launched ‘Step Together’ campaign to help people stay active during the holy month

JEDDAH: While consuming excessive food during the month of Ramadan goes against the purpose of the holy month, for many Saudis and people of the region, it is a time to indulge in special foods, which often leads to overeating.

For years, Saudis have been facing problems with obesity, with unhealthy diets leading to a variety of poor health conditions. While numerous campaigns have been launched to combat this issue, including by the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA), their advice seems to fall on deaf ears during Ramadan.
Arab News spoke to experts — nutritionists and fitness trainers — who discussed their tips to help curb hunger and maintain a healthy weight.
Saudi fitness trainer Nouf Hamadallah, 37, explained that there is no best time to exercise during Ramadan; rather, the time and intensity of the workout can vary from person to person.
“Exercising during Ramadan depends on the flexibility of one’s schedule. There’s no specific time to work out. Most people who believe this are misinformed by what they read,” she told Arab News.

FASTFACTS

• A nationwide cross-sectional survey conducted over phone interviews across 13 regions of the Kingdom in June 2020 showed that the national weighted prevalence of obesity was 24.7 percent.

• It highlighted that obesity was significantly associated with Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, among other diseases.

“One common bit of advice in popular articles says that if people work out before iftar, they will burn calories and lose weight. But this depends on their goals and calorie
intake. Some people cannot work out while fasting because they feel sick and nauseous, and their blood sugar drops. Then they become discouraged from exercising, not knowing that all they have to do is change the timing and nature of their workout. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.”
She added that it is easy to lose muscle mass if people do not choose the right foods for iftar and sahoor, also stressing that it is essential to hydrate during breakfast. Should one choose to work out right before iftar, a protein shake and a nutrient-dense meal with few carbs are advised in breaking fast.

If anyone wants to adopt healthy habits or break bad ones, Ramadan is an excellent chance to do so.

Arwa Bajkhaif, Dietician

“What you eat for sahoor will determine your energy levels for the next day, too. It should be a meal with a good amount of protein and vegetables,” said Hamadallah. “When your body is depleted of energy, the first thing you look for is sugar, and that’s what we want to avoid.”
Digestive problems such as acid reflux also occur due to poor eating habits in Ramadan, she added, and people with such digestive issues need to take note of the specific foods that irritate their stomachs.
She recommended that they avoid these foods if they are planning to exercise and instead have a few dates, soup and maybe a cup of coffee before beginning their workout, saving a full meal for afterward.
Iftar and sahoor also need to be divided into portions to avoid digestive problems, she added.
Saudi clinical and sports dietitian Arwa Bajkhaif, 29, said Ramadan is a “golden opportunity” to fast and practice self-control. If anyone wants to adopt healthy habits or break bad ones, Ramadan is an excellent chance to do so.

What you eat for sahoor will determine your energy levels for the next day.

Nouf Hamadallah, Fitness trainer

“People should know their dietary requirements and follow a suitable diet for their particular health situation during the holy month of Ramadan,” Bajkaif told Arab News
“For individuals with chronic diseases such as diabetes, I recommend seeing an endocrinologist for insulin and medication adjustments and a clinical dietitian for follow-ups to adjust the amount and type of carbohydrates accordingly.”
As for changing one’s eating habits, she suggested that people should not adopt more than three easy and healthy habits. “Being realistic and specific is key to achieving health goals.”
Saudi dietitian Alaa Gotah advised people to drink plenty of water between iftar and sahoor, avoid sugary drinks especially during iftar to maintain insulin levels, and eat plenty of hydrating food such as salads while limiting the intake of carbohydrates and sweets.
She stressed that fasting cleanses the body of toxins and forces cells into processes that are not usually stimulated when a steady stream of fuel from food is always present.
“Sahoor should include a healthy amount of fiber, which stays for a long time in the intestines. To reduce the feeling of thirst and hunger, it’s recommended to eat fruits that contain dietary fiber and magnesium, such as bananas, dates and watermelon,” Gotah told Arab News.  
A nationwide cross-sectional survey conducted over phone interviews across 13 regions in June 2020 titled “Obesity in Saudi Arabia in 2020: Prevalence, Distribution, and its Current Association with Various Health Conditions” showed that the national weighted prevalence of obesity was 24.7 percent.
The study highlighted that obesity was significantly associated with type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, among other diseases.
The Saudi Sports for All Federation launched a campaign to help people stay active during the holy month, presenting the Ramadan edition of “Step Together,” where people are encouraged to walk or run 20 kilometers for 20 days during Ramadan.