History : When two men disguised as Moroccan pilgrims tried to steal the Prophet’s tomb

Historical accounts suggest that in 557 A.H, two men disguised as Moroccan pilgrims, planned to steal to the Prophet’s grave in Madina. The story is linked to an Egyptian sultan and a dream he saw.

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The history of Islam is marked by interesting, odd and unusual stories, which emerged after the death of Prophet Muhammad. When the Messenger of God passed away, In June 632, his companions decided to make of his wife’s house Aisha his last resting place.

Years later, during the reign of the Umayyad Caliphate (661–750), it was decided to expand the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi mosque in Madina to include the Prophet’s tomb. The latter had seen a couple of attempts that jeopardized the Messenger’s body.

Several historical accounts suggest that there were five attempts to steal the body of the prophet. One of these endeavors was reportedly led by two Moroccans, or at least two men who pretended they were from the North African Kingdom.

An attempt to steal the Prophet's tomb

The story indicates that the attempt to steal the Prophet’s body took place 532 years after his death. It was first narrated by Islamic scholar Nur al-Din Ali bin Ahmad al-Samhudi. In his book «Wafa al-Wafa bi akhbar Dar al-Mustafa», a four-volume book that gathered everything connected to the city of Madina, al-Samhudi referred to the story that involved an Egyptian ruler, two men disguised as Moroccans, and a dream that was about to come true.

The Prophet's tomb in Madina. / Ph. DRThe Prophet's tomb in Madina. / Ph. DR

Quoted by several other authors and historians, al-Samhudi’s book recalls that in the year of 557 A.H., two Christian men from Andalusia, traveled to Madina. According to the Islamic scholar, the plot carried by the two men was thoroughly studied. They pretended that they were Muslims, rented a house near the mosque that hosted the Prophet’s tomb and made sure to remain discreet and close-lipped.

In their rented house, the two «Moroccan» men dug a tunnel that was leading to the Prophet’s tomb, in an attempt to retrieve his body and flee with it. Their plan was in action and the two men succeeded in not attracting unwanted attention.

al-Samhudi wrote in his book, that after digging the night, the two men used to carry the mud in bags and head to Jannat al-Baqi, the first Islamic cemetery of Madina, and discreetly throw it around graves.

The dream of sultan Nur ad-Din Zengi

The plot of the two men disguised as Moroccans was never achieved, according to al-Samhudi. The latter said that while the two «Christian men» were executing part of their plan in Madina, Egypt ruler Sultan Nur ad-Din Zengi had a weird dream, in which he was «urged by prophet Muhammad» to protect him from «two reddish men».

The sultan had the same dream three times. «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 Madina immediately», al-Samhudi wrote.

Urged by his advisor to leave Egypt for Madina, Zengi arrived in the city in sixteen days with 20 men. In Madina, he ordered his advisor to meet all the men staying at the city and kept looking at their faces in an attempt to recognize the men he saw in his dreams.

«Sultan enquired, ‘Have all the residents visited me?’ The answer from the residents was, ‘Yes, indeed.’ Sultan said, ‘Are you really sure?’ People said, ‘There are two pious Moroccans», wrote Radio Islam, which quotes al-Samhudi.

The Egyptian sultan ordered his advisor to bring the two «Moroccan pilgrims». At the moment he saw them, Zengi knew that they were the «men he saw in his dreams». The sultan asked to visit their place, where he found a whole in the floor, covered by a rug. At that moment he realized that he, indeed, stumbled upon the men that the «prophet referred» to in his dream.

The two men were executed after their plan was discovered, said al-Samhudi, adding that Sultan Zengi ordered «to dig a deep trench around the Sacred Chamber (…) and filled this trench with molten lead» to protect the Prophet's tomb from future attempts.

The story of the sultan of Egypt and his miraculous dream was of doubtful origin. This account was poorly backed, especially as Sultan Zengi did not visit Madina during the same year, when the attempt would have taken place.

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