Five recently restored historic mosques have finally started welcoming back worshipers in Saudi Arabia.
Located in Mecca and Al Baha, the mosques had not witnessed a single devotee in four to six decades, though one of them was built during the era of one of Prophet Muhammad's aṣ-ṣaḥābah (companions). Jarir Al-Bajali, named after that companion, was once considered highly valuable in the region and used by people as a central site to conduct marriage contracts, issue fatwas, and hold sermons. It is now one of the oldest standing mosques in Mecca.
The five mosques were restored as part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Reconstruction of Historic Mosques program. The latter aims at restoring 130 neglected historic mosques throughout the kingdom.
So far, 30 houses of worship have been completed with MBS' help.
The second mosque to reopen to people - located in Mecca, more specifically in Taif - is the Sulaiman Mosque. Built in the year 300 Hijri (912 - 913 AD), it is the largest of the five mosques and one of the most historically prominent sites. It is said that Prophet Muhammad stopped his companions at this spot, where he believed Prophet Sulaiman had once camped.
The remaining three mosques are located in Al Baha, a city in the western region of Saudi Arabia also known as the Hejaz area. The largest of the three, Al-Atawilah Mosque, can hold up to 130 worshipers at one time and was the only mosque in Al-Atawilah to hold Friday prayers.
On the other hand, the smallest of the five, Al-Malad Mosque, can only harbor 34 people at a time. Being the only mosque in town at the time, people turned it into an educational center where they would learn to write and read the Quran among other things.
The fifth and final mosque is Al Dhafir. Size-wise, it stands midway between the prior mosques with an 88-person capacity. It is one of the oldest-known located in the village of Al Dhafir. People from surrounding towns and villages would gather in it for meetings and lessons.
The Reconstruction of Historic Mosques program
By December 2019, the program had successfully renovated and rejuvenated 30 mosques in 10 different regions of Saudi Arabia. It took over 423 days and 50 million riyals ($13.3 million) to complete the first phase of the initiative.
MBS approved and directed the restoration of 130 mosques during November 2018 with the aim to recondition these sites by keeping in mind their original aesthetic and design. The mosques would be recreated with new and improved materials, and essential facilities would be added to include spaces for women and the disabled.
Initially, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) partnered up with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Al-Turath Charitable Foundation to develop a program called the "Reconstruction of Historic Mosques." By mid-2018, the program had allowed SCTH to identify more than 1,140 historical mosques, as well as restore and rehabilitate a total of 80 of them. With the crown prince's support, that number has now grown to a total of 110 revamped historic and forgotten mosques across the kingdom.