Saudi Arabia is expanding the Grand Mosque in Mecca, according to wire reports, which contains the Kaaba, so that 2.2 million people can visit there simultaneously. The area of the Mosque will be increased by 400,000 square metres (4.3 million square feet).
Because of the construction, only half of the normal number of pilgrims making the haj from Saudi Arabia and 20% of foreigners will be able to do so this year. 3.1 million Muslims made the haj in 2012, with the bulk of the number coming from outside Saudi Arabia.
The Kaaba is a cube-shaped building within the Grand Mosque; Muslims face it when they pray.
There is controversy over the expansion; some Muslims are upset with the destruction of ancient and historical relics of islam’s past, including the removal of Ottoman and Abbasid columns. Dr, Irfan al-Alawi, executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, said, “It matters because many of these columns signified certain areas of the mosque where the Prophet sat and prayed. The historical record is being deleted. A new Muslim would never have a clue because there’s nothing marking these locations now. There are ways you could expand Mecca and Medina while protecting the historical heritage of the mosque itself and the surrounding sites.”
The Bayt al-Mawlid, an area which contains the building where Muhammad was born, will be removed under present plans of construction..
But many senior Wahabis want to destroy the historical Islamic sites that link to Mohammed because they fear it encourages idol worshipping.