Dr. Muhammad Kamal Isma’eel: The Man Behind the Modern Designs of Masjid al-Haram and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi

Dr. Muhammad Kamal Isma’eel (1908-2008) was an Egyptian engineer and architect whose contributions to Islamic architecture remain largely unknown to the public. A man of great humility, he avoided the limelight despite his monumental achievements.

Early Life and Education

  • Young Prodigy: Dr. Isma’eel holds the record as the youngest person in Egypt’s history to complete high school, enroll in the prestigious Royal School of Engineering, and graduate from it.
  • Academic Excellence: He was sent to Europe to earn three doctorates in Islamic architecture, and he was also the youngest recipient of the “Nile” scarf and the rank of “iron” from the king.

Architectural Contributions

  • Haramain Expansion Project: Dr. Isma’eel was the chief engineer and architect for the expansion of the two holy mosques, Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina.
  • No Financial Compensation: Despite being offered substantial sums by King Fahad and the Bin Laden Company, he refused to accept payment for his work on these sacred projects, insisting he could not take money for his service to Allah.

Personal Life

  • Late Marriage and Devotion: He married at 44, had a son, but his wife passed away shortly after. He remained single thereafter, dedicating his life to worship and his work.
  • Longevity in Service: Dr. Isma’eel lived over a century, spending his life serving the holy mosques, away from media attention and fame.

The Marble Miracle

  • Heat-Absorbing Marble: To cover the floors of the Masjid al-Haram with heat-absorbing marble, he sourced a rare type from a mountain in Greece. He purchased almost half of the mountain’s marble.
  • Unexpected Supply: Fifteen years later, when the Saudi government wanted to use the same marble for the Prophet’s Mosque, Dr. Isma’eel faced a dilemma as he had already bought half of the available supply. Returning to Greece, he discovered the rest had been sold.
  • Providence at Work: After diligent searching, he learned that the remaining marble had been purchased by a Saudi company but never used. When Dr. Isma’eel approached the company, the director, upon learning it was for the Prophet’s Mosque, refused any payment, seeing it as a divine purpose.

Dr. Muhammad Kamal Isma’eel’s story is a testament to his unwavering faith, dedication to his work, and his exceptional contributions to Islamic architecture. His legacy continues to inspire, though he preferred to remain a humble servant, away from the accolades and recognition his work undoubtedly deserved.

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