The second-holiest site in the world for Muslims may be moved under controversial new plans.
The tomb of the Prophet Mohammed is located in the Saudi Arabian city of Medina. The prophet's remains are under the Green Dome in the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi mosque, which is visited by millions of Muslims every year.
According to the U.K.'s Independent, however, a 61-page consultation document outlines plans for destroying chambers around the tomb, which are especially revered by Shi'ite Muslims, and removing the prophet's remains to an anonymous grave.
The document was exposed by a Saudi academic, the Independent said, but there is still no indication that the Saudi goverment has adopted the plans. The document was given to supervisors of the mosque in Medina.
Dr. Irfan al-Alawi, director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, has said that given that the site is important to both Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, any alterations could spark unrest at time when tensions are already high amid conflicts in Iraq and Syria.
“People visit the chambers, which are the rooms where the Prophet’s family lived, and turn towards the burial chamber to pray," the Independent cited Dr Irfan al-Alawi, as saying.
“Now they want to prevent pilgrims from attending and venerating the tomb because they believe this is shirq, or idolatry. But the only way they can stop people visiting the Prophet is to get him out and into the cemetery.”
Moving the tomb would shock both Sunnis and Shi'ites, al-Alwai said. “I’m sure there will be shock across the Muslim world at these revelations. It will cause outrage.”
The city of Medina is near Mecca, where Muslims make the Hajj pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of Islam. In Mecca Muslims visit the Kabaa, a cuboiid building at the center of Islam's most sacred mosque, Al-Masjid al-Haram, which, according to traditional was built by Abraham. Afterward, pilgrims often travel on to Medina, the Independent said.