Attempts to Steal the Body of the Prophet (s.a.w.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following are documented attempts to move the bodies of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and his companions from the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) mosque in Madina.

In the beginning of fifth century hijrah, the first attempt was made to transfer bodies of Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w.) and his two companions from Madina to Egypt.  The order was issued by the Fatimid ruler, Abu ‘Ali Manswur Thariq al-Hakim, also known as al-Hakim bi ‘Amr Allah; literally, “Ruler by Allah’s Command.”  He was the sixth Fatimid caliph and 16th Isma’ili imam.  He was a tyrant.  al-Hakim is an important figure in a number of Shi’ah Isma’ili factions, such as the Nizaris, and in particular, the Druze, whose eponymous founder ad-Darazi proclaimed him as the incarnation of Allah (s.w.t.) in 1018 CE.

Abu al-Fathuh, the governor of Makkah and Madina, was to carry out this plot.  ibn Najjar wrote in his book, “History of Baghdad”, al-Hakim hatched this plot to attract the attention of the world to Egypt, thus allowing the residents of Egypt to gain great respect.  The ruler spent a lot of money to build an expensive enclosure for this purpose.  He then sent Abu al-Fathuh to Madina to carry out the plan.  When Abu al-Fathuh arrived in Madina, the residents of Madina came to know about his plot.  They gathered around him.  The qari, az-Zalbani recited the following verses of the Qur’an:

But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and attack for your faith― fight ye the chiefs of unfaith: for their oaths are nothing to them: that thus they may be restrained.  Will ye not fight people who violated their oaths, plotted to expel the Messenger and were aggressive by being the first (to assault) you?  Do ye fear them?  Nay it is Allah whom ye should more justly fear, if ye believe! (Surah at-Tawbah:12-13)

The residents of Madina were furious and were about to kill Abu al-Fathuh and his soldiers.  This scared Abu al-Fathuh.  He promised, “I shall never carry out this dirty plan even if the ruler kills me.”  A big storm swept through this area that evening.  Many houses were damaged and animals were killed by this storm.  Abu al-Fathuh found a good excuse to run away from Madina.

al-Hakim was not to be deterred.  He hatched a second plot.  The poet, ibn Sa’dun, reported that al-Hakim sent some people to carry out his plans.  These people started residing in a house near the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) Mosque and started digging an underground tunnel to reach the grave of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  During this time, fearful lightning struck the area and the following voice was heard, announcing loudly, “Your Prophet’s grave is being dug!”  The residents of Madina rushed out of their houses and started investigating.  They got hold of the culprits and killed them.

In 557 AH / 1164 CE, it was reported that some Christians made an effort to remove the body of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  There was a very pious ruler of the Zengid dynasty.  It is sometimes Arabicised to Zanki.  He was Atabeg Nur ad-Din Abu al-Qasim Mahmud ibn Imad ad-Din Zanki (r.a.).  His general, Asad ad-Din Shirkuh ibn Shadzi, is the uncle of the great Swalah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub (r.a.), conqueror of Jerusalem.

One night, after tahajjud, Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) saw the Prophet (s.a.w.) in a dream.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) pointed towards two persons of reddish hair colour and said, “Mahmud, save me from them.”  Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) woke up perplexed.  He did ablution, performed his swalah and went back to sleep.  He again had the same dream.  He woke up and again offered his swalah and went to sleep.  He had the same dream the third time.  He awoke and called for his advisor.  He described his dreams to his advisor, Shaykh Jamal ad-Din al-Mawswili (r.a.).  Shaykh Jamal ad-Din al-Mawswili (r.a.) said to him, “Why are you still sitting here?  You should go to Madina immediately.”  He added, “Do not relate this dream to any other person”.

Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) and his advisor left for Madinah in a large caravan which one historian, Majd ad-Din al-Matsari, said comprised of a thousand camels.  They carried many expensive gifts with them for charity.  They crossed the distance from Syria to Madinah in sixteen days.  The Atabeg went directly to the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) Mosque, performed swalah and recited swalawat.  He then sat there, bewildered at what to do next.  Shaykh Jamal ad-Din (r.a.) asked the Atabeg if he could recognise the two men if he saw them, and when the Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) replied in the affirmative, the advisor summoned the citizens of Madina and asked them to present themselves so that the Atabeg could bestow alms on them.

Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) looked at each recipient carefully to identify if they were the same as those seen in the dreams.  Finally, after all the residents had been presented with alms, Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) inquired, “Have all the residents presented themselves?”

The answer from the residents was, “Yes, indeed.”

Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) asked, “Are you really sure?”

Some people said, “There are two pious Moroccans who do not accept alms.  They rather feed the needy very generously.  They fast regularly.  Perform tahajjud and offer swalawat upon the Prophet (s.a.w.) day and night.  They also visit Quba once a week.”

Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) exclaimed, “Subhanallah”.  He then ordered that both of them be presented to him.  Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) recognised them immediately.  He asked them, “Where do you come from?”

They replied, “We are Moroccans.  We came here for hajj and wish to stay here as neighbours of the Prophet (s.a.w.).”

Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) said, “Why do you not speak the truth?”  At that, they kept quiet.  Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) enquired about their residence.  Their residence was near the Sacred Chamber.  Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) accompanied them to their residence.  He found a lot of expensive goods lying around there.  There was nothing to be found until as if by inspiration, he removed an old piece of rug from the floor of the house.  Beneath it was a wooden board.  It was lifted up and a newly-dug tunnel was discovered there. leading to the Sacred Chamber.  The men were terrified.  Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) said to them, “Now tell me the truth”.

They confessed, “We are actually Christians.  A king of Iberia sent us here as pilgrims from Morocco.”  He had given them a tremendous sum of money to remove the Blessed body of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  In order to do that, they had rented the house nearest to the Sacred Chamber.  They dug the tunnel at night and carried the mud in Moroccan bags to Baqi’ cemetery and spread the soil around the graves.  They said that when they neared the Sacred Chamber, a fearful thunder struck and an earthquake shook the earth.  Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) ordered the execution of these criminals.  He thanked Allah (s.w.t.) Who Honoured him by allowing him to secure the body of the Prophet (s.a.w.).

After this third plot, Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) ordered a deep trench dug around the Sacred Chamber.  He had it filled with molten lead.  In this way nobody would ever be able to reach the graves through underground tunnels.

Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) stayed in a house in Madina called Dar az-Zi’affah and distributed charity to the residents of Madina from this location.  This house existed just outside the door, Bab ‘Umar.  This house was included in the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) Mosque during the second Wahhabi extension of the Mosque.  The site where the lead was melted was just outside Bab Salam and was known as Saqifat ar-Raswasw, the Shed of Lead.  The house where the Andalusian Christians stayed and dug the tunnel was located outside the present window across the Sacred Chamber in the southernmost wall of the mosque.

Shaykh ‘Ali ibn al-Atsir (r.a.) said, in at-Tarikh al-Atabakiyyah, “Sultan Nur ad-Din Zanki was a pious and just ruler.”

According to William of Tyre, although Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) was “a mighty persecutor of the Christian name and faith,” he was also, “a just prince, valiant and wise, and according to the traditions of his race, a religious man.”  Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) was especially religious after his illness and hajj.  He considered the Crusaders foreigners in Muslim territory, who had come to plunder the land and profane its sacred places.  Nevertheless, he treated the Christians who lived under his authority well, aside from the Armenians of Edessa.  He regarded the Emperor Manuel of Byzantium with deep respect.  When he learned of the death of King Baldwin III of Jerusalem, his fiercest opponent amongst the Crusaders, out of respect for such a formidable opponent, he refrained from attacking the Crusader kingdom.  William of Tyre reported that Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) said, “We should sympathise with their grief and in pity spare them, because they have lost a prince such as the rest of the world does not possess today.”  In contrast to Atabeg Nur ad-Din's (r.a.) respectful reaction to the death of Baldwin III, Amalric I, his successor, immediately besieged Banias upon learning of the atabeg's death, and extorted a vast amount of money from his widow.

Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) also constructed universities and mosques in all the cities he controlled.  These universities were principally concerned with teaching the Qur’an and ahadits.  Atabeg Nur ad-Din (r.a.) himself enjoyed memorising and learning ahadits.  His shuyukh even awarded him an ijazah in ahadits.  He had free hospitals constructed in his cities as well, and built caravanserais on the roads for travellers and pilgrims.  He held court several times a week so that people could seek justice from him against his generals, governors, or other employees who had committed some crime.  In the Muslim world, he remains a legendary figure of military courage, piety, and modesty.  Even his foes, the Christians acknowledged said that he loved, above all else, justice.

The famed historian, geographer and poet, Shaykh Abu al-Husayn Muhammad ibn Jubayr (r.a.) detailed the fourth attempt to remove the blessed body of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  He said, “On 29th Dzu al-Qa’idah 578 AH, I arrived in Alexandria during my excursion tour of Egypt.  We left Alexandria on the 8th of Dzu al-Hijjah.  We saw there that a very big crowd of people had come out of their homes to see the Roman Christian prisoners.  These prisoners were brought to the city on camels with their faces towards the tails of the camels.  Bugles were being blown and other music was being played around them.  We enquired about these prisoners.  We were given a detailed picture of their cruel activities, which was as follows.

The Christians of Syria had built some boats near Mediterranean Sea and transported these boats on the backs of camels to the shores of the Red Sea.  There, they equipped the boats for war activities.  They then set out in the sea with these boats and plundered the caravans of pilgrims for Makkah.  When they reached the River Naam, they burnt sixteen boats of other people.  Then they reached Eizab and captured a caravan of pilgrims coming from Jeddah.  Similarly they overpowered a caravan which was traveling from Qaus towards Eizab and killed all the people.  Two boats of traders were coming from Yemen with food grain for Makkah and Madina.  They burnt the storage of this food grain.  They carried out many such criminal activities.  Their most treacherous plan was to remove the body of the Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w.) from the Sacred Chamber.  They announced it boldly and started heading towards Madina.  When they were about one day’s journey away from Madina, the famous Haji Luhluh came with a few Moroccan youths who were experts in sea warfare.  They arrested these Christians and killed some of them.  They also sent some of these prisoners to other cities to be put to sword.  Some prisoners were sent to Makkah and Madina.  The prisoners whom we saw were brought to Alexandria.  In this way, Allah (s.w.t.) Saved his Prophet (s.a.w.) from these criminals.”

With regards the fifth attempt, Imam ibn Jarir ath-Thabari (r.a.), described it as follows: “The head of the service personnel of the Prophet’s Mosque was Shams ad-Din Swawab Lamti who was very gentle and a kind person.  Swawab said that he had a close friend who happened to be known to the ruler of Madina.  This friend often kept him informed about the major news.  One day, this friend said to Swawab, ‘A big event is about to take place.  Some people have come from Halb in Syria.  They have bribed the ruler of Madina and have demanded from him the bodies of Abu Bakr (r.a.) and ‘Umar (r.a.).  The ruler has consented to it.’

Swawab got very worried.  Shortly thereafter, a messenger of the ruler of Madina brought Swawab to the ruler.  The ruler said to Swawab, ‘Some people will knock at the door of the Prophet’s Mosque at night.  Open the door for them and let them do what they want to do.  Do not interfere in anyway.’  Swawab said that he answered the ruler the way the ruler wanted him to answer.  He then came back and said he was crying bitterly.

After swalah ‘isha’, the doors of Prophet’s Mosque were closed as usual.  Shortly afterwards, somebody knocked at the door known as Bab Salam.  The ruler of Madina used to live in a fort in front of Bab Salam.  Swawab opened the door.  Forty people entered the mosque; he counted them one by one.  They had equipment to demolish buildings and were carrying torches with them.  They were heading towards the Sacred Chamber.  They had not yet even reached the pulpit when the earth split under their feet and they were buried with all their equipment.  There was no sign left of their presence on the surface of the ground.

The ruler waited for them for a while.  Finally he sent for Swawab and asked him, ‘Swawab, did some people not come to you?’

He replied, ‘Yes, indeed.  They were, however, buried in the earth.’

The ruler said, ‘Think before you speak.  How can this happen?’

Swawab invited him to see the spot with his own eyes.  The ruler said, ‘Leave the matter as it is.  Do not mention this to anybody.  I will cut your head off if you mention it.’”

The historian, Shaykh as-Samhudi (r.a.) said, “Abu Mohammad Abdullah Marghani has also described this plot briefly in the “History of Madina”.  He has, however mentioned that the number of these people was fifteen or twenty and they were swallowed by the earth when they had gone only a few steps towards the Sacred Chamber.”

Remember how the unbelievers plotted against thee, to keep thee in bonds, or slay thee, or get thee out, (of thy home).  They plot and plan and Allah too Plans but the Best of Planners is Allah. (Surah al-Anfal:30)

It is amazing that there are still people of the Wahhabi sect who plot and plan to remove the bodies of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and his two companions, Abu Bakr (r.a.) and ‘Umar (r.a.) from the Sacred Chamber.  But Allah (s.w.t.) has Promised:

… and Allah will Defend thee from men (who mean mischief) ... (Surah al-Ma’idah:67)


  1. Assalam un Alaikum,

    Thanks for posting worth for reading Nicely explain. I search a lot then found this article. Jazakallah

    1. Wa 'Alaykum as-Salaam,

      You are welcome.

  2. I was just looking for these facts especially in the light of today news in independent UK newspaper that so called saudi academics has circulated papers on removal of prophet body and as well destruction of green minaret. I hope they are well aware of history. Let's hope and pray king abdullah will veto any such rubbish suggestions.

  3. Assalaam alaikum.
    Thanks for posting. And for knowledge


  4. thanks for posting this site


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