Worshippers sleeping in Prophet’s Mosque raises hackles

Saudi social media users engage in debate over best way to deal with situation

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Gulf News

Manama: A Saudi national has urged the authorities overseeing the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah to leap into action and deal with people, mainly foreigners, who had turned the sacred place of worship into a dormitory.

“Most of these people are Pakistani nationals who abuse the occasion of the last 10 days of Ramadan to sleep all over the praying halls of the mosque, depriving worshippers of the opportunity to perform prayers or sit to read verses from the Quran,” the Saudi said as he recorded the sight of hundreds of people lying next to one another on the carpets and alleys.

“We do welcome all people coming into Madinah and Makkah and we are not being racists. But the abuse of the mosque in such a shocking manner is not acceptable, and there should be prompt action by the authorities to ensure a minimum of comfort for those who head to the mosque to pray and read Quran,” said the man who did not give his name, but said he was from Madinah.

He added that upon seeing the people sleeping all over the place, he had the feeling there was an invasion of the sacred mosque.

“Unfortunately, most of the people do not speak English or Arabic and it is very difficult to communicate with them. The authorities do need to step in and end this highly deplorable situation.”

Most persons who commented on social media echoed the call for prompt action to impose a better sense of discipline.

However, some comments highlighted the significance of “itikaf”, the religious tradition of going into seclusion in a mosque during the last 10 days of Ramadan for the sole purpose of worshipping God and staying away from worldly affairs.

Those who criticised the video said that all Muslims in Makkah and Madinah were God’s guests and deserved to be treated with respect.

“He is absolutely wrong in criticising the situation and he should leave the worshippers alone. They did not come to sleep in his house, but in a public mosque, so he has no right to criticise them,” Naqed posted.

However, those who supported the clip said there was a need to put an end to the situation.

One user said that legal action should be taken against the foreigners’ sponsors if they lived in Saudi Arabia or against those who brought them into the country if they were just visitors.

“Some operators help them come into Saudi Arabia, but do not provide them with hotels or accommodation and persuade them to sleep in the mosque claiming it was part of the rituals, while in fact it was a ruse to save money.”

A woman, writing under the moniker of Visitor, said that she had been unable to pray inside the mosque “due to the presence of women sleeping inside.”

“I have spent four days in Madinah and I could not perform a single prayer inside the mosque,” she posted. “Women were sleeping inside the women’s section and due to the smell, the situation was untenable.”

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