I’m not Muslim but this prophecy of bedouin building skyscrapers is interesting to look into in detail.–kas
By MuslimAnswers.net Team
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم
There are among the non-Muslims those who suppose that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ did not make any predictions about future events, and that he concerned himself only with the immediate matters that were in front of him. For such people, the supposed lack of “prophecies” is an apparent proof that Muhammad ﷺ could not be a true Prophet, since for them a “Prophet who does not prophesize” about the future is no true Prophet at all.
The thought of our opponent in this case is incorrect, insofar the main Islamic words associated with Prophethood and Messengership, “Rasul” and “Nabi”, do not intrinsically carry the meaning of a person who is compelled to give non-stop predictions about future events.
The second instance where many non-Muslims make a mistake is in trying to look for predictions about future events exclusively in a translation of the Qur’an (without the interpretation of an expert in exegesis), supposing that the Qur’an contains the original verbatim sayings of Muhammad ﷺ, much in the same way that the Bible is said to contain the sayings of the Israelite Prophets according to the Jews and Christians. In addition to this, they do not look into other primary Islamic sources when trying to find out more about the predictions that Muhammad ﷺ made, which places them at a marked disadvantage in making proper conclusions about the predictions the Last Prophet and Messenger of Allah (Salla Alalhu Alayhi Wa Sallam) made.
In this article we will look at one of the more revealing predictions from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ concerning the emergence of tall skyscrapers built by indigent bedouins in the Arabian Peninsula. We will see how the text of the narrations, and the interpretations given centuries ago conform very closely with the situation we are witnessing nowadays in many of the countries of the Arabian Peninsula.
The narrations and their interpretation
In a number of narrations, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ expressed the fact that the Day of Judgment would not pass until the appearance of high-rise buildings among the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, in Sahih al-Bukhari we read that among the signs of the Day of Judgment is “when the destitute (al-buhm) camelherds compete in building tall structures.” In Sahih Muslim it is written: “you shall see the barefoot, naked, indigent (al-`âla) shepherds compete in building tall structures.”
Closely associated with this phenomenon is the fact that such destitute people will become the leaders and kings of the Earth, as mentioned in some of the versions of such narrations. For example, one version in al-Bukhari has: “when the barefoot and the naked are the top leaders (lit. “heads”) of the people.” A wording from in Saheeh Muslim has: “when you see that the barefoot and naked, the deaf and dumb are the kings of the earth.”
In Fath al-Bari (the famous commentary on Sahih Bukhari), Ibn Hajar (d. 1448 CE) comments by saying:
It was said that “bear-foot and naked,” “deaf and dumb” are their attributes by way of hyperbole, showing how coarse they are. That is, they did not use their hearing or sight in anything concerning their Religion even though they are of perfectly sound senses. The Prophet’s (saws) words: “The heads of the people” means the kings of the earth. Abu Farwas’ narration names the kings explicitly. What is meant by them is the people of the desert country, as was made explicit in Sulayman al-Taymi’s and other narrations: “Who are the barefoot and naked?” He answered: “The Bedouin Arabs.”
Al-Tabarani relates through Abu Hamza, on the authority of Ibn `Abbas from the Prophet Muhammad, sallahu alayhi wa sallam, that “one of the signs of the change of the Religion is the affectation of eloquence by the rabble and their betaking to palaces in big cities.”
Al-Qurtubi said: “What is meant here is the prediction of a reversal in society whereby the people of the desert country will take over the conduct of affairs and rule every region by force. They will become extremely rich and their primary concern will be to erect tall buildings and take pride in them.
Likewise, Imam an-Nawawi (d.1278 CE) (in his interpretation of Sahih Muslim) mentions:
The people of badia (the desert Bedouins) and their like are people of need and poverty. (A time will come) when the world will be laid open for them until they compete with one another in (the construction of) buildings, and Allah knows best.
Also, Imam al-Khatibi (d.388 AH) writes that the predictions of these narrations are:
The spread of the Islamic religion, and the conquering of the lands, so much so that the camel-herders will reside in them. And the Bedouins, who have no permanent residence, will have recourse to the sources of abundant (wealth), and they will race with each other in the (construction) of buildings.
In the wording of the narration and its interpretations by the scholars of Islam we see then a specific situation being mentioned, where the Bedouins achieve power and wealth, and compete with one another in the construction of super-tall buildings. It should not be lost in our readers that the interpretations provided were written down no later than five centuries ago, thus eliminating any possibility that such elucidations are circular “self-fulfilling interpretations”.
The present situation
If we see the evolution of material human achievements, we see that for many centuries the “modern skyscraper” was unknown to the world. We read:
Modern skyscrapers are built with materials such as steel, glass, reinforced concrete and granite, and routinely utilize mechanical equipment such as water pumps and elevators. Until the 19th century, buildings of over six stories were rare, as having great numbers of stairs to climb was impractical for inhabitants, and water pressure was usually insufficient to supply running water above 50 m (164 ft).
Not only this, but at the time of the Prophet’s ﷺ mentioning about the future building of high-rise buildings, the tallest structure was the “Great Pyramid” at Giza in Egypt, which had an height of 146.5 metres (480.6 ft). This structure remained as the tallest man-made structure for almost 700 years after the Prophet’s ﷺ passing. In total, the “Great Pyramid” was the world’s tallest structure from around 2570 BCE up to 1311 CE. It is very interesting to note that even up to 1889, the tallest building in the world was the Washington Monument, and this structure outstripped the “Great Pyramid” by only 23 meters. So it is clear that the true competition in building very high structures globally is a matter that has become prominent only recently, and that before this time such buildings were simply impractical to construct, even if abundant wealth was available to any given people.
But the narrations under discussion specifically mention the desert-bedouins as being the ones who will have access to massive wealth and will then embark on constructing super-tall buildings in a competitive frenzy. When we see the history of skyscrapers in the Arabian Peninsula we realize that until the past few decades, there were absolutely no tall structures of any type in the skylines of the Gulf countries. The reason for this is, of course, that for most of their history, the majority of the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula were nomadic Bedouins, and this situation continued for many centuries until the middle of the twentieth century (1950’s and 1960’s) when a combination of geographic, demographic, and political factors forced large numbers of Bedouins to settle in the large cities of the Middle East. At this point, it is important to note that the major ruling families in the Gulf states are from bedoiun ancestry, much like the rest of the native population in the Gulf countries.
Even after the rule of these families had been cemented, the construction of buildings was not started right away, and there was no real competition for a number of years. Thus, the Dubai World Trade Center (standing at 184 meters of height) and the Riyadh TV Tower (at 170 meters) were constructed in the late 1970’s, and considering that other super-tall buildings were not present in any other of the Gulf countries, this hardly constituted competition among the various rulers and their respective countries/cities towards making taller structures.
The situation changed in the last decade of the twentieth century and the beginning of the present century, when building after building was approved for construction in all the major cities of the Gulf states. Today, if any list of the tallest buildings in these countries is consulted, one can see that the majority of them were completed and inaugurated in the last 15 years, if not in the past 5 or 10 years.
For example, the listing at the emporis building website shows that in Kuwait City, all of the nine structures above 100 meters have a completion date of 1996 or later. In Abu Dhabi, the thirteen buildings above 100 meters were completed in 1993 or later. In Saudi Arabia, 7 of the 9 buildings with these criteria were completed in 1990 or later, while in Bahrain and Doha, all the 15 buildings listed as over 100 meters were completed in the last 10 years.
Finally, we need to deal with Dubai, which is a special case even in this category. For example, we see that in the book “The Approach of Armageddon? An Islamic Perspective” published in 2003, Shaykh Muhammad Hashim Kabbani mentions the building of the Faisaliyah Tower at 269 meters and the construction of the Kingdom Center at 300 meters (both in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia), and he mentions these two examples as proof of the competition between the destitute Bedouins in building of tall structures. So a mere seven years ago, the construction of two tall buildings above 269 meters in one city of the Arabian Peninsula was seen as proof of the realization of the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ prophecy.
Now consider that today in Dubai there are 12 buildings higher than 300 meters after 2003, and 17 buildings in total over 269 meters after 2003, all of them inaugurated after the publishing of Kabbani’s work. If one sees the list of the 75 tallest buildings in Dubai, it will be noticed that:
- The shortest one stands at 182 meters tall, 36 meters taller than the “Great Pyramid”, and 13 meters taller than the Washington Monument, the record-holder for the tallest building in the world up to 1889.
- Only the Dubai World Trade Center was built before 1999.
Even if we use the data at another site (such as emporis which we used for the other cities), then according to this we would see that Dubai has 140 buildings above 100 meters in height, with only four of them having been built before 1995. These facts show that the competition in the building of skyscrapers has fully materialized to a level that could not be fully grasped even a mere seven years ago by a Shaykh trying to point out that the “competition” had started in earnest; it also shows that what had been prophesized from the narration of the Prophet ﷺ has come to pass with amazing accuracy.
The future plans
The above was about what we are currently witnessing in different cities in the Arabian Peninsula. It is interesting to note that the skyscraper boom in Dubai has made other cities and countries in the immediate region to consider plans to build their own high-rise towers, with some places hoping to surpass the tallest building in the world (the Burj Khalifa in Dubai), a perfect example of competition in building construction as foretold by the Prophetﷺ. Explaining this phenomenon, one travel blog comments:
In a flurry of construction prowess that rivals the decades-long competition between Chicago and New York City at the turn of the 20th century, the Persian Gulf has gone skyscraper-crazy in recent decades. Everyone is aware of the significant skyline development in Dubai of course (the emirate has a near-monopoly on tower cranes) but consider the seismic shift toward contemporary architecture in Abu Dhabi, Doha, Manama and Jeddah.
Barely in time for us to digest the enormity of Burj Khalifa, Manama, the capital of Bahrain, has a project in the works by a Danish firm that will dwarf the Dubai tower by 172 m. If built, the Murjan Tower will top out at 1 km. Not to be outdone of course, Dubai could well counter (financial crisis aside) with the improbable Nakheel Tower. The current spire summit scenario of 1.4 km seems in a word, insane.
We could go on and on about projects in the Arabian Peninsula that defy description. Projects like Saadiyat Island (Abu Dhabi), The World archipelago (Dubai) and Mile High Tower (Jeddah).
The first place to look at such future plans for construction is in Dubai itself, where fifteen more towers above 300 meters, and 21 above 269 meters are in the construction stages. In total, there are 40 buildings already under construction which will have an estimated height of 200 meters or higher upon completion.
As mentioned above, other cities and countries have taken it upon themselves to embark on their own construction of skyscrapers. We see then that in Saudi Arabia, there are four buildings under construction with a height of 250 meters or higher. Of note are the two highest structures, the Abraj Al Bait Towers in Makkah and the Mile High Tower in Jeddah. About the Abraj Towers, it is noted that “the tallest tower in the complex would stand as the tallest building in Saudi Arabia, second tallest building in the world, tallest and largest hotel in the world, with a planned height of 595 m (1,950 ft).” 
The Mile High Tower in Jeddah is, as the name suggests, a proposed 1.6 kilometer-high tower, which would be nearly twice the height of the Burj Khalifa structure when completed.
The other major Gulf countries also have plans in place for building gargantuan buildings which in some cases would outstrip the Burj Khalifa if and when completed. Thus, we see proposals in Bahrain for the building of the Murjan Tower (at a proposed height of 1022 meters), and in Kuwait for the Burj Mubarak al-Kabir (proposed height of 1001 meters). In Qatar, the seven tallest buildings under construction or approved for construction are planned to be 230 meters or taller, with the tallest one being the Barwa Tower (proposed height 570 meters). 
Costs of constructing the buildings
The previous exposition was about the height of such buildings. If we consider the expenses incurred to finance such construction plus what is planned as expenditures for future skyscrapers, we see that the costs are astoundingly high, a suitable correlation to the height of the buildings being constructed.
Thus, among the already completed and the proposed skyscrapers in the Arabian Peninsula, we find the following estimates given for the price of their construction:
- Burj khalifa, Dubai: 1.5 billion USD
- Burj al Arab, Dubai: 2.0 billion USD
- Abraj al bayt, Makkah: 2 billion USD
- Rose Tower, Dubai: 180 million USD
- Aspire Tower: 173 million USD
- Kingdom Center, Riyadh: 453 million USD
- Proposed: Burj Mubarak al-Kabir, Kuwait: 7.3 billion USD
- Proposed: Mile High Tower, Jeddah: 13.6 billion USD
It is interesting to note that while some of the “older” buildings had an approximate price in the hundreds of millions of dollars for their construction, the newer buildings and the proposed buildings have much higher price tags which reach into the billions and tens of billions of US Dollars.
On one level this is all part of the way skyscrapers are to be managed, as we see in the following piece:
Financing skyscrapers is a huge undertaking, costing hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars. Many factors must be weighed which include not only interest rates, cost of supplies, labor and other construction costs, but environmental and social impacts of the area and economy surrounding the skyscraper. In addition, skyscrapers have structural and other engineering and logistical challenges that must be faced. Often design elements must be changed after wind tunnel and other tests, which can change the design and therefore the costs of the project.
On the other hand, this lavish spending of money on such buildings across the Arabian Peninsula is part of the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Prophetﷺ, wherein he mentioned that the means to wealth would be opened to the previously destitute and indigent rulers of this region, allowing them to embark on the skyscraper craze we see in our times, all with the intention of claiming the mantle of having the “tallest building in the world”.
The significance of this Prophetic Sign
There are a number of significant things we learn from the accumulation of wealth in the Arabian Peninsula and its use for the building of high-rise structures.
To begin with, those who had doubts about whether the Last Prophet of Islam ﷺ made any predictions or prophecies about future events can rest assured that indeed he made very accurate predictions about the trials and occurrences preceding the Day of Judgment.
Secondly, those amongst the Muslims who may have been influenced by the talk of the disbelievers concerning the imagined non-availability of prophecies given by Muhammad ﷺ can also know that such sayings from the disbelievers is false and holds no merit.
(It should be mentioned here that the Islamic position is that the truthfulness of a Messenger or Prophet of Allah does not rest on whether he made prophecies that come true at a later time. In fact, such criteria would render the Prophet or Messenger severely disabled in his ability to properly convey the message he has been given to mankind, since people in his own time would not pay any attention to him, or at most would half-heartedly listen to his prophecies and claim that they can only know the truth of his mission many centuries later. If such were the case, the main message brought forth by the Prophet or Messenger would never be known properly since the mass transmission of his sayings, actions, and any revealed book he may have brought would be non-existent, and it would be very easy –when the predictions or prophecies have been shown to be true- for any charlatan to make up narrations concerning the Messenger’s actions or even concoct “revelations” and attribute them to the Messenger or Prophet. On the contrary, Islam says that mankind should first know the rational explanations for the Existence of the Divine Being, followed by the proofs for the decisiveness of Muhammad’sﷺ coming as the Messenger of Allah along with whatever he brought of revelations from Allah, his actions and his sayings.)
Another noteworthy point about this prophecy is that it should serve as a wakeup call to all the believing Muslims who know about these narrations, in that the reality of this prophecy is transpiring in front of the world’s eyes, and that the Muslims cannot be complacent about their day-to-day lives, but should know that the approach to the Day of Judgment, along with all of its extreme trials and tribulations, is fast approaching and that our deeds should reflect the worried state we should be in about ourselves, our families, and the Muslim community at large.
To conclude, we hope and pray that this article has served as an eye-opener, for both Muslims and non-Muslims, concerning the truth of the message of Muhammad ﷺ, the truth of his prophecies, and by extension, the truth of all the warnings and glad tidings he brought concerning those who reject his call and those who accept him as a Messenger of Allah, respectively. By the Will of Allah, the non-Muslims will take this prophecy by the Messenger of Allah ﷺ as one of their starting points for their research about Islam, and deeply investigate the message of Islam, and hopefully embrace the pure and unspoiled way of Allah, while the Muslims will endeavor more and more towards improving themselves and striving so that the Word and Way of Allah is the highest on this Earth. Amin.
 Narrations are presented as translated in http://sufijourneys.blogspot.com/2007/08/signs-of-last-hour-tall-buildings.html
http://www.al-eman.com/hadeeth/viewchp.asp?BID=12&CID=12#s1. Translation from “The Approach to Armageddon? An Islamic Perspective” by Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, p.90. (also found on the following link: http://www.sunnah.org/fiqh/usul/nature_of_ignorance.htm)
 Sharh Sahih Muslim, Vol. 9, p.28 (shamela version)
 I’lam al-Hadith fi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, p.183, First Edition, 1409 H, Umm-Al Qura University, Markaz Ihya’ at-Turath al-Islami.
By doing a simple search regarding the ruling families of the Gulf countries, one can see that they are mostly descended from traditional bedouin “tribes”, such as the Anizah, the Bani Yas, and the Banu Tamim.
http://www.emporis.com/en/wm/ci/bu/?id=100346. This is based on those buildings whose dates are explicitly given, while it is possible that buildings whose dates are not given may have been completed earlier.
http://blog.ratestogo.com/inside-makkah-abraj-al-bait-towers/. Such comments by non-Muslims show that the rapidly changing skyline of the cities in the Arabian Peninsula has gathered a lot of attention all over the world, with many commentators noting the competitive nature of such endeavors.
The fact that one of the tallest buildings in the world will be next to the entrance of the Masjid-ul-Haram in Makkah shows that the competition in building of tallest structures will know no bounds and that even the most sacred of cities in the Arabian Peninsula would feel its impact.
Among one of the more saddening consequences of the continuous rush to build ever-taller skyscrapers is that even the non-Muslims can easily notice this competition. Kenneth Frampton writes in “Modern Architecture”:
“Skyscrapers of a much greater height are equally symptomatic of our ‘society of spectacle’, in which cities compete with each other for the dubious honour of realizing the world’s tallest building. As of now Dubai, although hardly a city, is the leading contender, with its 160-storey Burj Tower…”
This quote shows that even the non-Muslims sense the futility of competing in the construction of tall buildings, rightly noting that being the city with the tallest tower in the world is in reality a “dubious honour”.