Pilgrims are seen at the Prophet Mosque in Madinah. Presently, the ground floor of the mosque has an area of 98,500 square metres and accommodates 167,000 worshippers. Image Credit: Reuters

Manama: Up to 1.6 million people can worship together at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah under a new plan to expand its capacity.

King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz has already approved the expansion plan, Ebrahim Al Assaf, the finance minister, has told the Saudi News Agency.

“The new expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque is part of King Abdullah’s efforts in the service of Islam and Muslims, the latest of which was the unprecedented expansion of the Grand Mosque in Makkah,” he said.

The expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque will allow pilgrims and visitors to pray comfortably in the mosque and the surrounding areas, he said.

The expansion project will be implemented in three phases. “The first phase will accommodate more than 800,000 worshippers while the second and third will accommodate an equal number of worshippers bringing the total number of people the mosque can accommodate to more than 1.6 million at any given time,” he said, quoted by local daily Arab News.

The expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque will complete the other projects that the king has ordered for the welfare and comfort of pilgrims and visitors, he said, referring to the ongoing expansion of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, the expansion of the Massa (pathway between Safa and Marwa), the enlargement of the area of the Jamarat bridge, the Makkah Development Plan, the Haramain Express Train, the Makkah Gate and the new King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah.

The Prophet’s Mosque has been expanded twice, the Saudi daily said.

The first one was mooted during the time of King Abdul Aziz, the Kingdom’s founder, in 1949. Work on the expansion started in July 1951 and took nine years to complete. Four minarets and 18 ordinary staircases were added.

During the second expansion, between 1984 and 1994 and named after the then King Fahd, six new minarets were added to bring their total number to 10. Six electric staircases were established raising the number of staircases to 24.

The mosque was built by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in the city of Madinah and is the second holiest site in Islam, after the Masjid Al Haram in Makkah.

It was the second mosque built in history and is one of the largest mosques in the world today. It incorporates the site of the graves of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the first and second caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar.

The original mosque was an open-air building and its basic plan has been adopted in the construction of other mosques throughout the world. One of its most notable features is the Green Dome.

Today, the ground floor of the mosque has an area of 98,500 sq. metres accommodating 167,000 worshippers, the roof has an area of 67,000 sq. metres accommodating 90,000 worshippers and the surrounding square is 235,000 sq. metres accommodating 450,000 worshippers.

The total area of the mosque and its square is 400,500 sq. metres accommodating 707,00 worshippers but at the peak time as many as a million worshippers can be in the mosque at one time.