Saudi academic slams UK media ‘lies’ over Prophet’s tomb

The Independent newspaper reported that the tomb of the Prophet Mohammad in the holy city could be 'destroyed'

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A Saudi academic has accused Britain’s The Independent of fabrication after the newspaper reported Monday that he had suggested the tomb of the Prophet Mohammad in Madinah could be “destroyed” or reinterred in an anonymous grave.

Dr. Ali bin Abdul Aziz al-Shabal, a member of the teaching staff at the Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, said the report was a “fabricated lie.”

The Independent newspaper reported on Monday that the tomb of the Prophet Mohammad in the holy city could be “destroyed” and the Prophet’s remains removed to an anonymous grave. The daily said the controversial proposals were part of a consultation document by Shabal that has been circulated among the supervisors of the Prophet’s Mosque.

The Independent has been accused by Mowafaq al-Nowaysar – deputy editor in chief of Saudi Arabia’s “Makkah” Newspaper – of “theft” and “mistranslating” of the Arabic article that appeared in the Saudi daily on Aug. 25 on the subject.

The article states that there are calls for the Prophet’s tomb to be “isolated,” not destroyed, explained Nowaysar, who also accused The Independent of previously stealing content from his newspaper.

In response to the allegations of “theft,” Deputy Managing Editor at The Independent, Will Gore, told Al Arabiya News on Wednesday they were “not aware of Makkah’s report” a week earlier.

The Independent is claiming the story as an exclusive, and many British news sites carrying the news have credited the paper as breaking the story.

Shabal, speaking to attendees of the First Science Council, denied outright the claims in the paper, saying his study had made no such proposals.

He added that he was “not qualified to say so, and in fact, no one is.”

“The Prophet … was buried where he died and this is where the Prophet should be buried,” he explained.

“The Sahabah [the Prophet’s companions] did not find difficulties in choosing where to bury the Prophet when he died. Some of the companions might have suggested that the Prophet should be buried in Baqi and others that he should be buried alone. However, Abu Bakr … said: ‘I heard the Prophet say that the Prophet should be buried where he dies.’”

“No one shall change this. This is our religion and the teachings of our Prophet. What was attributed to me is a lie that aims to confuse the people of the Ummah. This is the plan of the people of sedition who aim to confuse people in order to achieve their plans,” he added.

Turmoil has swept the Arab and Islamic world in the past over the study, which has been rejected by Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh says the proposal was by an academic published in a specialized magazine and is not a government decision.

In a statement earlier this week, the General Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques said the study that has been circulated is the view of an academic and does not reflect any direction by the government, which is keen on serving the Two Holy Mosques.

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