Medina, Saudi Arabia, Asharq Al-Awsat- The decision to demolish al Katibiyya mosque in the center of this western city has sparked controversy and polarized experts between those who want to preserve the historical monument and those against it, fearing the mosque will become a shrine.
Last May, a project to improve the area around the Prophet’s mosque, “the central zone” reached the mosque. When it appeared that the mosque will be demolished with the surrounding old buildings on the road leading to the Qiba’ mosque, residents of Medina pleaded with Prince Abdulaziz bin Majid, Governor of Medina, to investigate the issue and suspend the demolition process, which he did.
In the eyes of opponents of the demolition, the mosque is important because it is where of Rafeh bin Malik al Ajlan al Zarqi, a companion of the Prophet who died during a battle against pagans from the al Qureish tribe in 625, was laid to rest. He belonged to Bani Zuraiq, whose homes extended from Bab al Anbariyyah to the mosque, which explains why his remains could be located there.
Not everyone is sure the Prophet’s companion is buried in al Katibiyyah mosque. While some believe he was laid to rest in the northern section of the mosque, others claim al Zarqi was buried elsewhere in the city, citing historical texts to this effect, and supporting plans to build a new road and knock down the mosque.
A third group believes the mosque should remain standing for a several reasons reasons: it is one of the houses of God, doubts remain on the exact location of al Zarqi’s final resting place, the surrounding area is in need of one and al Katibiyyah was built 177 years ago in a distinct architectural manner, making it one of Medina’s historical landmarks.
The secretariat of Medina and the executive committee to develop the central zone told Asharq al Awsat, “Projects are carried out according to research conducted by the Center for Research and Study in Medina .”
According to the study, al Katibiyyah was built in 1829 by Sharif Mohammed bin al Sanussi and rumors grew of a mysterious tomb inside it. It concluded that al Zarqi was not buried in the mosque, with the historian Sayyid Ahmad Yassin al Khayari, the only one claiming the contrary. Relying on other historical evidence, the study showed that the Prophet’s companion was laid to rest in a different area in Medina .
Dr. Abdul Bassit Badr, director general of the Center, said the authorities will resolve the issue according to religious rules.
For his part, Ans Yaqub al Katbi al Husni, an Arab historian, told Asharq al Awsat, “Much has been said about the proposal to demolish the mosque and the possibility that a companion of the Prophet was buried there. Al Khayari said he was buried there but did not back this thesis. Some residents of Medina say they were aware a companion of the Prophet was buried there and claim they used to visit the mosque since childhood. We’re not exactly sure we the tomb is located in the city.”
“The committee should take into consideration historical sites in this holy city and safeguard them. Development shouldn’t cause us to demolish our mosques and history. Although the majority of historians did not specify where Zarqi was buried in the city, Sheikh Ibrahim al Ayyashi indicated that the companion of the prophet’s burial place was located inside the mosque complex after it was expanded.”
Even if is it shown that al Zarqi’s tomb is not in al Katibiyyah, “We should not demolish the mosque because it is a historical landmark”, he added.
“I believe there is a tomb in the mosque but it is unknown who is buried there. It is probably that of a worshiper of Allah, if not al Zarqi. We should change the proposed road’s course and save the mosque from demolition. The authorities should establish a committee to preserves the old landmarks of Medina”.