Five Attempts to Steal the Prophet’s Body
At the beginning of the fifth century Hijra, the first attempt was unable to transfer bodies of Prophet Muhammad [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] and his two companions from Madina to Egypt. The order was issued by Egyptian Fatami ruler Ba Amrullah. Abul-Fatuh, the governor of Makkah and Madinah, was to carry out this plot. Ba Amrullah was the sixth Obeidi ruler. He was very cruel and a criminal. Daruz of Lebanon still regards him as a holy person. May Allah’s curse be upon him.
Ibn Najjar wrote in his book, ‘History of Baghdad’, Ba Amrullah hatched this plot to attract the attention of the world to Egypt and thus allowing the residents of Egypt to gain respect. The ruler spent a lot of money to build an expensive enclosure for this purpose. He sent Abul-Fatuh to Madina to carry out the plan. When Abul Fatuh arrived in Madinah, the residents of Madina came to know about this plot. They gathered around him. Qari Zalbani recited the following verses of the Qur’an there:
‘But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and attack your religion with disapproval and criticism, then fight the leaders of disbelief – for surely their oaths are nothing to them – so that they may stop. Will you not fight a people who have violated their oaths and intended to expel the messenger while they did attack you first? Do you fear them? Allah has more right that you should fear Him if you are believers.’ (al-Tawbah 12-13)
The residents of Madina got very furious and were about to kill Abul-Fatuh and his soldiers. This made Abul-Fatuh scared. He said, ‘I shall never carry out this dirty plan even if the ruler kills me.’ In the meanwhile, a big storm swept through this area that evening. Many houses, animals and people died of this storm. Abul-Fatuh found a good excuse to run away from Madina. Allah saved the Prophet [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] and his companions from these criminals.
Ruler Ba Amrullah hatched a second plot but failed again. Ibn Sa’doon has reported this in his book that Ba Amrullah sent some people to carry out his evil plans. These people started residing in a house near the Prophet’s mosque and started digging an underground tunnel to reach the grave of the Prophet [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam].
During this, a bolt of fearful lightning struck the area and the following voice was heard, announcing very 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 all.
It took place in 557H (1164C). Samhoudi reported that the Christians made this plot very carefully to steal the body of the Prophet [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam].
There was a very pious ruler of Egypt at that time known as Sultan Nuruddin Zanki. One night after Tahajjud, he saw the Prophet [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] in his dream. The Prophet [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] was pointing out towards two persons of a reddish colour and saying, ‘ ‘ i.e. Save me from these two persons. Nuruddin woke up and was perplexed. He did ablution, performed his Salaat and went back to sleep. He again saw the same dream. He woke up and again offered his Salaat and went to sleep. He saw the same dream the third time. He lost his sleep and described his dreams to his advisor, Jamalud-din al-Musali. The advisor said to him, ‘Why are you sitting here? You should go to Madinah immediately.’ He added, ‘Please do not relate your dream to any other person.’
Nuruddin started his journey towards Madina the next morning. He took twenty persons with him including the advisor. They carried many expensive gifts with them for charity. They reached Madina in sixteen days. Nuruddin entered the Prophet’s mosque and offered Salaat. Then he did salutation to the Prophet [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] and his companions. Nuruddin sat down in the mosque wondering what to do next. The advisor announced, ‘Sultan has brought lots of gifts for charity. These gifts will be distributed among the residents of Madina. Sultan granted a gift to each resident of Madina turn by turn. Sultan looked at each recipient very carefully to match the features with those seen in the dreams. Finally, Sultan enquired, ‘Have all the residents visited me?’ The answer from the residents was, ‘Yes, indeed.’ Sultan said, ‘Are you sure?’ People said, ‘There are two pious Morrocans who do not accept anything from others. They rather fed the needy very generously. They fast regularly. Offer Tahajjud and offer salutation to the Prophet [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] day by night. They also visit Quba mosque once a week.’
Sultan explained, ‘Subhaanallah’. Sultan then ordered that both of them be brought to him. The Moroccans said, ‘We are very rich and don’t need charity.’ On the insistence of the Sultan, they were brought to him. Sultan recognized them and asked them, ‘Where do you come from?’ They said, ‘We are Moroccans. We came here for Hajj and wish to stay here as neighbours of Prophet [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam].’ The Sultan said, ‘Why don’t you speak the truth?’ At that, they kept quiet. Sultan enquired about their residence. Their residence was near the Sacred Chamber. Sultan accompanied them to their residence. He found a lot of expensive good lying there. Sultan kept roaming around the house alone till he removed an old piece of rug from the floor of the house. He saw a newly dug underground tunnel there leading to the Sacred Chamber. The men got terrified. Sultan said to them, ‘Now tell me the truth.’ They confessed, ‘We are Christians. The King has sent us here as Hajji from Morocco. He gave a lot of money to us so that we could remove the body of the Prophet. To achieve our goal, we started residing in this house nearest to the Sacred Chamber. We dig an underground tunnel at night and carry the mud in Moroccan bags to Baqee cemetery and spread the mud around the graves. When we reached near the Sacred Chamber a bolt of very fearful lightning struck and an earthquake shook the earth. Now you have arrived and caught us. We confess that we were about to commit the crime.” The Sultan ordered the execution of these criminals. He thanked Allah who chose him to discover the plot.
First, two plots were made between 386H and 411H. The third plot took place in 558H. After this third plot, Sultan Nuruddin ordered to dig a deep trench around the Sacred Chamber. He filled this trench with molten lead. In this way, nobody will ever be able to reach the graves through underground tunnels.
It will be appropriate to mention here that the Sultan stayed in a house in Madina called Daar al-Ziaafa and distributed charity to the residents of Madina from this location. This house existed just outside the door known as Baab Umar. This house was included in the Prophet’s Mosque during the second Saudi extension of the Mosque.
The site where the lead was melted was just outside Baab salaam and was known as Saqeefautr rasaas. When Qamash market caught fire on the 18 Rajab 1397H, this house was also burnt in the fire.
The house where the Christians stayed and dug the tunnel was located outside the present window across the Sacred Chamber in the southernmost wall of the mosque.
Ibn Aseer said, ‘Suldan Nuruddin Zanki was a very pious and just ruler.’ (Wifa-ul-Wifa)
Ibn Jubayr [ra] has given detail of this plot. He said, ‘On 29th Dhul-Qa’adah 578H, I arrived in Alexandria during my excursion tour of Egypt. We left Alexandria on the 8th of Dhul-Hijjah. We saw there that a very big crowd of people came 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 built some boats near the Mediterranean sea and transported these boats on the backs of camels to the bank of the 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 river Naam where they burnt sixteen boats of other people. Then they reached Eizaab and captured a caravan of pilgrims coming from Jeddah. Similarly, they overpowered a caravan which was travelling from Qaws towards Eizaab and killed all the people. Two boats of traders were coming from Yemen with food grain for Makkah and Madinah. They burnt the storage of this food grain. They carried out many such evil activities. Their most treacherous plan was to remove the body of the Prophet Muhammad [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] from the Sacred Chamber. They announced it boldly and started heading towards Madinah. When they were about one day’s journey away from Madinah, the famous Haajib Lu-lu came with a few Moroccan youths who were expert in sea warfare. They arrested these Christians and killed some of them then and there. They also sent some of these prisoners to other cities to be put to the sword. Some prisoners were sent to Makkah and Madinah. The prisoners whom we saw were brought to Alexandria. In this way, Allah saved his Prophet [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] from these criminals.’
Tabari, the famous historian, has described it as follows:
‘The head of the service personnel of the Prophet’s mosque was Shamsuddin Sawab Lamti who was a very gentle and kind person. Sawab said that he had a close friend who happened to be known to the ruler of Madinah. This friend often kept him informed about the major news. One day this friend said to Sawab, ‘A big event is about to take place. Some people have come from Halb in Syria. They have bribed the ruler of Madinah and have demanded from him the bodies of Abu Bakr [Radhiallaahu anhu] and Umar [Radhiallaahu anhu]. The ruler has consented to it.’
‘Sawab got very worried. Shortly afterwards a messenger of the ruler of Madina came and took Sawab to the ruler. The ruler said to Sawab, ‘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. Don’t interfere in any way.’ Sawaab said that he answered the ruler the way the ruler wanted him to answer. He then came back and I was crying bitterly. After Salaatul Isha, the doors of the Prophet’s mosque were closed as usual. Shortly afterwards, somebody knocked at the door known as Baab salaam. The ruler of Madina used to live in a fort in front of Baab salaam. Sawab opened the door. Forty people entered the mosque; he was counting them one by one. They had the equipment to demolish the building 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 their equipment then and there. There was no sign left about their presence on the surface of the earth.’
‘The ruler waited for them for a while. Finally, he sent for Sawab and asked him, ‘Sawab, did some people not come to you?’ He said, ‘Yes, indeed. They were, however, buried in the earth.’ The ruler said, ‘Think before you speak. How can this happen?’ Sawab invited him to see the spot with his own eyes. The ruler said, ‘Leave the matter as it is. Don’t mention this to anybody. I shall cut your head off if you talked about it.’
Samhoudi said, ‘Abu Muhammad Abdullah Margani 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.’
Note that the enemies of Allah make plans and Allah also makes plans. However, Allah is the Best planner. ‘They were plotting and Allah too was plotting and Allah is the Best plotter (or planner).’ (al-Anfaal 30)
Indeed, Allah fulfilled his promise to Prophet Muhammad [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] as mentioned in Surah al-Maaidah 67, ‘and Allah will protect you from the people.’
Allah subhanwata’ala knows best.
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