History Middle East

38 Years Ago Today: 402 Dead in Hajj Protests, Plan to Burn Kaaba Thwarted

Written by Shoaib

As I begin to write this article on the 6th of Dhul Hijjah 1445AH between the hours of Asr and Maghrib, the enormity of what happened between the hours Asr and Maghrib 38 years ago on 6th Dhul Hijjah 1407AH sits heavily on my mind. Protestors and rioters who wanted to burn down the Kaaba and kill pilgrims almost made it into Masjid Al Haraam.

This article discusses how and why such events unfolded, and why the President of the Holy Mosques Shaikh Abdul Rahman As-Suddais warned from protests at this year’s Hajj, just as his predecessors have warned during all previous occasions of Hajj since the early 1400s.

[The featured image of this article shows a photo taken of the rioters in Makkah heading for Masjid Al Haraam. This article was published on 7th Dhul Hijjah 1445AH. It is built on the witness testimonies and accounts detailed in the publication “ماذا حدث في مكة المكرمة ,القصة الكاملة للفتنة الخمينية في رحاب الحرم” by the Ministry of Information]

6th Dhul Hijjah 1407

A few moments after Asr crowds started gathering outside Masjid Al Haraam. Initially this seemed inconspicuous for the first few hours, but when 70,000 Iranian Shi’ite and Iran-funded militants gathered trying to force their way into Masjid Al Haraam carrying suspicious items, the security personnel at Masjid Al Haraam stopped them.

Saudi forces in Hajj1445 are working around the clock to give pilgrims the peace of mind that they can complete their worship in peace

It was discovered that Zam-Zam containers loaded with petrol, bags full of knives, sticks, and huge placards of Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini were attempted to be carried into Masjid Al Haraam. The security guards on that day spotted the plan, blocking them from entering the Holiest place on Earth.

The riot that was planned near the Kaaba was now starting to take place outside the gates of Masjid Al Haraam. Placards of Khomeini went up just outside the doors of Masjid Al Haraam, and the militants sent for this very purpose began fighting the guards to be allowed entry. When they were unable to set the Kaaba ablaze, they set cars alight and all the rioters commanded to block the gates of Masjid Al Haraam, blocked all roads into and out of Masjid Al Haraam.

The Saudi security guards, trained to place their own lives down for the sanctity of the Kaaba, sprung into action. Scholars of the past had not allowed security guards to carry lethal weapons due to the sanctity of Masjid Al Haraam. Little did those scholars know, that at the turn of the 1400’s people would become so evil that this would become a basic requirement in today’s world.

Not having any lethal weapons and only batons, the security guards formed a wall. Behind them were 700,000 terrified worshippers at the House of Allah. In front of them an organised mob, 70,000 strong, trying to kill the worshippers and defile the sanctity of the House of Allah.

All rioters were taken by ambulances to perform the rites of Hajj, despite intending to harm pilgrims and the sanctity of Makkah.

The rioters kept pushing forward, having been given false guarantees of heaven by their leaders if they succeeded.

By Esha Salah, 402 people died (or died consequently) during the violent riots causing Saudi forces to take control and arrest many people. 82 brave security personnel paid with their lives to protect the worshippers and the House of Allah (may Allah accept them as shuhada). The majority of those who died, were killed by protestors stampeding and clashing. This meant most civilian deaths were women.

And [mention] when Abraham said, “My Lord, make this a secure city and provide its people with fruits – whoever of them believes in Allāh and the Last Day.”
[Allāh] said, “And whoever disbelieves – I will grant him enjoyment for a little; then I will force him to the punishment of the Fire, and wretched is the destination.”

– Surah al Baqara, Ayah 126

The peace and security of the Holy city of Makkah, having stood as such since the prayer of Ibrahim (as), was back to peace and security through the actions of the Saudi security personnel.

King Fahd’s Mercy

In a dramatic turn of events, King Fahd decreed that almost all 70,000 violent rioters were allowed to perform Hajj, even those under arrest were to be escorted for every rite of Hajj. Those injured were taken to perform the rites of Hajj by Saudi security personnel and alongside the 700,000 ordinary worshippers they had tried to kill.

Ambulances were taken to Arafat, Mina, Muzdalifa and Makkah to ensure those most severely injured could also perform Hajj. All the costs of this was paid for, not by those who instigated the riots in the State of Iran but instead by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

King Khalid (left), who was King at the time of Khomeini’s revolution standing with his younger brothers who became Kings after him, King Fahd (right), who had mercy on the rioters and the current King of Saudi Arabia, King Salman (centre).

How could such an event take place?

What came to light after the event was that this was not the first time this had been attempted. Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, corresponding to 1399AH, Khomeini and his Shi’ite revolutionary forces had almost immediately attempted to push the revolution into Saudi Arabia and other Sunni countries.

In fact it was recorded at the time that one of their highest goals was to dig up the graves of the closest senior companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) Abu Bakr and Umar (ra) and desecrate their bodies. One Shi’ite leader even added to this goal saying they should dig up and stone the body of the Mother of the Believers, Ayesha (رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا), whose innocence was revealed in the Quran by Allah Himself.

The desecration of the Holiest place on Earth has taken place before. In 930 CE, the Ismaili Shi’ite Qarmatians sacked Makkah killing 80,000 pilgrims leaving Ihram covered bodies unburied but only after filling the well of Zam-Zam with the bodies of dead pilgrims.

After the desecration of the Zam-Zam well, they stole the Black Stone for two decades, leaving it to sit upon filth as they kept it in their Kingdom.

In more recent times Saudi Arabia anti-missile defences have stopped several attempts by Shi’ite Houthi rebels who tried to send Iranian missiles from Yemen toward the Kaaba. One ballistic missile was a mere 6 seconds from Makkah before the Saudi military intercepted it.

This was after the senior leader of the Houthi’s Abdul-Karim al-Khiwani, said “We will circle the Kaaba next Hajj in Makkah as conquerors”. Khiwani was killed days later.

The aim to harm the Kaaba comes from various groups not just extremists among Shi’ite groups. In 1979 Sunni takfiri extremists stormed Masjid Al Haraam and took over after Fajr prayers under Juhayman al-Otaibi and his accomplice the false Mahdi Muhammad Bin Abdullah al-Qahtani.

Muhammad bin Abdullah, a false claimant to being Imam Mahdi

In 2016 a Sunni Takfiri suicide bomber almost made to the mosque of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) in Madinah, Masjid Nabawi. Only the kindness of the security guards in helping him open his fast foiled his plans causing him to detonate his bomb just outside the entrance of the Mosque.

Hajj 1399

In 1399AH Khomeini started preaching that the Kaaba should be used for political marches, speeches and gatherings. To calm tensions, King Khalid invited leaders including Khomeini and the new Iranian government to Saudi Arabia as personal guests for Eid ul Adha, and despite leaders of other nations attending, Khomeini chose not to attend.

An Iranian delegation attended, headed by Muhiyuddin Anwari. He spoke Arabic fluently, often even delivering speeches in Arabic, chose to speak Farsi to his Saudi counterparts. This was a practice carried out by Khomeini, some speculated as a way to stop direct communication and the rapport which may follow.

Anwari made demands, he said that the Mataaf (the white area around the Kaaba) should be emptied of all Hujjaj for him and his Iranian hujjaj alone. This would enable them to shout their own slogans and form a political rally in place of tawaf.

Anwari said that other world leaders are given VIP security protection as they make tawaf, therefore clearing the Mataaf for Iranian pilgrims should not be difficult for Saudi security personnel. He said that protesting was everyone’s natural right and his purpose was to spread the Iranian revolution spreading it to every Muslim home.

In reality, Saudi security personnel protect and escort other world leaders when making tawaf, however they do not stop the tawaf from ordinary pilgrims.

The Saudi hosts replied that this was not possible and Tawaf is the right of every pilgrim. They said they could provide some security as they go around Saudi Arabia, as is often done for VIPs but they could not empty the Mataaf or allow a protest. They said the Kaaba was not a place to hosts protests but rather a place of worship, and the practice of protests of protests at the Kaaba is unknown in Islamic history.

Dr Mustafa, an eye witness, gives his testimony saying he heard the rioters regularly chant “the Kaaba of the Muslims is not the one in Makkah but instead in Kaaba of the Muslims is in Qom (Iran), the Hajj of the Muslims does not count to the Kaaba in Makkah and it is unaccepted.” (Ironically, while on Hajj in Makkah)

The Saudis granted cars for the security of the Iranian pilgrims in their tents, they offered Anwari and his delegation to be given VIP protocol. In exchange the Saudis requested the Iranians give up their insistence on using Hajj as a time of political rallies.

The Saudis have never interfered in political rallies in Iran. The Saudis explained that they were welcome to do anything they liked in their own country but the Two Holy Cities were not for such activities instead for worship.

Anwari, who initially agreed, but when commanded by Khomeini in a phone call, backtracked saying they believe protests are obligatory on every Muslim. Things eventually calmed down when the Saudis showed they had intelligence of what the Iranians pilgrims had been actually planning in the form violent protests.

Muharram 1400

The sanctity of the Haram was at risk again, but this time due to a sunni extremist group. A group of extremists naming themselves “Ikhwan”.

On 1st Muharram 1400 the “Ikhwan” extremists took over Masjid Al Haraam by hiding guns under the shrouds of the dead as the entered Masjid Al Haraam in the early hours of the morning. Led by Juhayman al-Otaibi they opened fire from the top of the minarets using snipers.

Saudi forces maintained the sanctity of the Holy Mosque by conducting live fire only in certain areas to usher the terrorists into the lower ground of Masjid Al Haraam. When they were there they flooded it slightly and electrocuted them. Some took refuge inside the Kaaba itself, knowing that killing them inside the Kaaba was sacrilegious. The Saudi forces brought them out by smoking them out of the Kaaba, so as to make sure no blood was spilled inside the Kaaba.

Juhayman al-Otaibi,who led the attack on Masjid Al Haraam in 1979, he founded the “Ikhwan” group which killed pilgrims who refused to pledge allegiance to their fake Mahdi.

Saudi forces maintained their commitment in each phase of the battle to ensure as little blood is spilled in the Holy Mosque. The perpetrators were arrested then taken to court, where they were sentenced to death.

As news spread across the world of Juhayman’s take over of the Holy Mosque, Khomeini made a broadcast over Radio Tehran calling on everyone, including the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia, to rise up and protest while the Saudi Army worked to rid the Holy Mosque of Juhayman and the Ikhwan.

Protests spread at the command of Khomeini in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Türkiye, and the Philippines. However Anwari feared what would happen if Iranian pilgrims heard this command from Khomeini and the blowback if they began protesting in Makkah and Madinah while the Holy Mosque in Makkah was under attack, a unanimously condemned event by the Muslim world.

Fearing such a volatile political climate and how Iranian protests would only add fuel to the fire, Saudi authorities spoke to Anwari expressing their concerns. They then arranged 54 buses from the Saudi authorities for Iranian pilgrims to leave immediately before Khomeini’s calls for riots could be heard. Iranian pilgrims were transferred to Jeddah airport and air tickets were finalised to leave the country, leaving Khomeini’s call unheeded.

Hajj 1400

This time Khomeini’s government had come up with a plan. They decided to

  • Increase the number of youth who could carry out violent commands given better than older pilgrims
  • Send hidden publications inciting their revolution while on Hajj
  • Hide weapons in the doors of cars
  • Planned protests in Makkah, Madinah, Mina, and Arafat

This plan was stopped through diplomacy by the then Crown Prince and later King, Fahd bin Abdul Aziz. Fahd treated two delegates close to Khomeini very well turning their hearts away from this plan.

As a result only small protests took place and all political slogans hung from the accommodation of Iranian pilgrims were taken down in Madinah. A sit-in protest was organised at Masjid Al Haraam in Makkah, which the security spotted almost immediately and the plan was thwarted. Hotel lobbies were used for political speeches but through diplomacy Fahd bin Abdul Aziz kept things calm.

Crown Prince Fahd’s diplomacy was in fact so good that even Khomeini commented that his heart had been softened towards Saudi Arabia as a result of Fahd’s kindness.

Anwari requested that he be given a seat in the Haram and be able to deliver political speeches from there. It was explained to him that the seats are reserved for scholars and only for teaching the religion, not for any political speeches and rallying. Shaikh Abdullah Al-Uqla explained that the sanctity of the Two Holy Mosques is such that it can not be compromised by political rallying.

As a compromise to try and keep their violent ideas under control, Shaikh Abdullah Al-Uqla agreed to let him give a speech in the courtyard of Masjid al Nabawi to the Iranian pilgrims only, from where he delivered a fiery speech written by Khomeini calling for the Iranian Shi’ite revolution to be spread across the Muslim world.

Hajj 1401

King Khalid wrote a polite letter to Khomeini in 1981, corresponding 1401AH. King Khalid advised him to stop activities attempting to bring the Shi’ite revolution to Saudi Arabia.

Khomeini responded and said that because conquests had been launched by rulers of the past, why could political rallies, marches, protests and the like not be held now? Of course, his response ignored the difference between a ruler launching a battle and a group of individuals protesting for their own political agenda.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s image was raised outside Masjid Al Haraam and Masjid an-Nabawi and hung from the walls of Baqi graveyard while Iranians protested for the advancement of their revolution.

The Saudi stance was that if every political ideology in the Muslim world was given permission to hold rallies, the purpose of Hajj would diminish.

Khomeini was invited by the Saudis to many Islamic summits since his Shi’ite revolution of 1979. Each time Khomeini expressed Makkah being the only place to attend such a summit. He said in the name of unity (between Shi’ites and Sunnis), he should be allowed to speak in Makkah.

A grand summit was then even held in Makkah in tehe following year of 1981 CE, however Khomeini still refused to attend. The same Khomeini who had responded to King Khalid calling on Saudi to let him speak in the name of unity, refused to attend the Makkah summit of 1981 because other Sunni Muslim leaders were in attendance with whom he held enmity.

Hajj 1402-1406

The Saudi authorities thwarted several plans by the Iranians to disrupt Hajj during this period.

In 1404 the Minister of Hajj and Umrah Professor Abdul Wahhab Abdul Wasi met with Khoeini, the representative of Khomeini. He refused to speak Arabic and began an emotional speech about how Iranian pilgrim’s bags were searched at the airport and items were taken away. He complained that pictures of Khomeini were not allowed to hung up in Makkah and Madinah.

Professor Abdul Wahhab explained photos of any political figure could not be hung and explained all pilgrims would have their bags searched regardless of who they were. He also explained that they never confiscated items but only to check and return them.

During these years plans continued to be thwarted. What then occurred in 1407 was beyond anyone’s imagination. 402 people died due to this planned riot. Cars were burned, the image of Khomeini waved outside Masjid Al Haraam and violence in the Holiest place on Earth pursued.

The greater plan, however, of entering Masjid Al Haraam to kill pilgrims and the burning the Kaaba was stopped.

Khomeini funding Sunni Militants

While many were surprised that Khomeini funded Sunni militant groups in Afghanistan and Palestine, the reality of this came to light when all Sunni militants on Khomeini’s payroll were suddenly commanded by Khomeini to attend Hajj.

Thinking it was a great command from their newfound Imam and benefactor, they attended Hajj. However from 1st to the 4th Dhul Hijjah Khomeini’s representatives visited these Sunnis militants and informed them of a command from Khomeini.

They were told that not following this command would not only forfeit any funding to their militias but would also put their personal lives at risk.

What was the command? To enter Masjid Al Haraam with the rioters and kill pilgrims
The time? After Asr on 6th Dhul Hijjah 1407

Those who were caught described how they were commanded to buy kitchen knives and fill up petrol in Zam-Zam containers to make fuel bombs. All in preparation of wreaking havoc, killing, and destruction on Makkah.

After 1407

In 1409 Shi’ite militants from Kuwait, who later admitted being funded by Iran, brought bombs into Makkah, their plans were stopped once again by the Saudi security forces. When they were caught heading towards the Kaaba, they detonated their bombs outside Masjid Al Haraam. The survivors were all arrested and executed.

Memorial commemorating the rioters of Makkah. Built in Tehran, Iran

After this point Saudi Arabia decided the only way to protect the two Holiest sites was to increase security. Scholars issued verdicts saying that necessity now demands security must have guns and other weapons to protect the life of pilgrims.

Shaikh Suddais’s pre-Hajj speech 1445

In a Friday sermon last week, Shaikh Abdul Rahman as-Suddais repeated advice for pilgrims often repeated since the 1407 incident: Hajj is for worship, not for protests and political rallying.

Even today Iran-backed social media pages twisted this to make it seem like Shaikh Suddais was trying to silence protests in favour of Gaza; a complete lie.

Almost every week from the beginning of the genocide in Gaza, the Imams of Masjid al Haraam in Makkah and Masjid an-Nabawi in Madinah have regularly made dua for the Palestinians in Gaza and against the Zionist regime, oftentimes by name.

Throughout the night prayers in Makkah and Madinah prayers were said for the Palestinians and against Zionists.

Shaikh Abdul Rahman As-Suddais’s voice is loved by millions across the globe. He encouraged Muslims to make dua for their Palestinian brothers after making dua for them while leading the prayer at the Holy Mosque throughout Ramadan. He encouraged pilgrims to focus on worship and not to be distracted with politics.

This did not stop Iran-backed groups spreading lies that pilgrims were banned from making dua for Palestine (one has to wonder how would anyone know what personal duas anyone made?), banned from wearing Palestinian Keffiyahs, banned from posting duas for Palestine online. All lies were proven by millions of social media posts to be a lie as pilgrims comfortably wore Keffiyahs, made public duas for Palestine and answered duas by the Imams.

In the age of social media, Saudi Arabia has stopped pilgrims being distracted by making videos for TikTok and Instagram etc. For example one pilgrim who tried to film himself while trying to wave the Palestinian flag around the Kaaba for a video was stopped.

All nation’s flags and protests remain banned at the Kaaba, as the sanctity of Masjid Al Haraam means it is not the appropriate place for flag waving and protests. The scholars have also warned from using the Kaaba and other sites of worship for social media posts and for the sake of growing followers.

Similarly scholars from all schools of thought of Islam have stated that the Kaaba is not a place of political rallying and never has been. Instead it is a place to make dua. Scholars have advised that dua for the Palestinians and others oppressed will achieve a greater result than any protest or rally.

Al-Khiwani of the Houthis, said ‘We will circle the Kaaba next Hajj in Makkah as conquerors’ in 2015. He died in 2016 without achieving this but his group continued to launch missiles towards the Kaaba.

Today Saudi Arabia has released images showing its advanced preparedness for attacks and plans. The army presence in Makkah to protect the pilgrims remains a stable comfort that plots against the guests of Allah can be stopped.

As I finish this article after Esha on 7th Dhul Hijjah 1445, I am reassured that 38 years after after Esha on 7th Dhul Hijjah 1407, Saudi security had taken full control of the situation and protected 700,000 pilgrims who were inside Masjid Al Haraam.

As a Muslim, one can only make dua that Allah continue to protect the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from such plans that risk the sanctity of the Haramain.

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About the author


CEO of Hujjaj.co | Director of the Organisation for the Conservation of Islamic Heritage | President of itiba.tv | Editor Muslim World Journal | Pharmacist | You can find me on Instagram and Facebook


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