Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished Mosques

Dec 22, 2016 3 comments

In the late 1990s, amidst rising poverty and with four million residents on the verge of famine, the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein decided to spend hundreds of million dollars on three grandiose projects in a bid to bolster his Islamic credentials and preserve his tyrannical legacy. Only one was completed.

The Umm al-Ma'arik mosque —Umm al-Ma'arik meaning "Mother of All Battles"— was designed to commemorate the First Gulf War of 1991-92, and at the same time, serve as a personal tribute to Saddam himself. The huge blue-and-white mosque, completed in April 2001, just in time for the ten-year anniversary of the Gulf War, is full of subtle and some not-so-subtle references to the war and Saddam.


The unfinished Al-Rahman mosque in Baghdad. Photo credit:

The mosque’s four towering minarets is said to resemble the barrel of Kalashnikov rifles, while the four inner minarets are shaped like Scud missiles sitting on launch pads. The Kalashnikov-like minarets stand 43 meters tall that signify the 43 days of conflict with the US that occurred during Operation Desert Storm. The inner minarets, that look like Scud missiles, are 37 meters tall that represent the year of Saddam's birth, 1937.

The central dome of the mosque is set in the middle of a reflecting pool of water shaped like the Arab world, in which is a 25-feet wide mosaic representation of Saddam's thumbprint with an inset magnified version of his initials, made from gold. The pool’s 28 fountains, the four inner minarets and their 37-meter height taken together represent the date of the megalomaniac leader’s birth —28 April 1937.

The most chilling link to Saddam can be found inside the mosque. Encased in glass cases are 605 pages of the Koran that the dictator had written, according to Iraqi propaganda, with his own blood. The custodian of these pages say that Saddam had donated 24 liters of blood over a period of three years that was mixed with ink and preservatives and put on paper by a Iraqi calligraphy artist. The western media is dismissive of this dubious and unverifiable claim, pointing out that the blood could easily have been of his victims’ instead.

Following the fall of Saddam Hussein, in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the mosque was taken over by Sunni Muslims and renamed Umm al-Qura ("Mother of All Cities") mosque.


Umm al-Ma'arik mosque. The four outer minarets look like Scud missiles on launch pad. Photo credit: SPC Jeffrey Allan Backowski II/Wikimedia


Umm al-Ma'arik mosque. The inner minarets is said to look like the barrel of Kalashnikov rifles. Photo credit: amjedshmr/Panoramio


Umm al-Ma'arik mosque. Photo credit: Omar al-Tikriti/Panoramio


Umm al-Ma'arik mosque. Photo credit: zeyadtr2/Panoramio


Iraqi Imams view the 605-page Koran written in Saddam Hussein's own blood at Umm al-Maarik mosque in Baghdad. Photo credit: Scott Peterson/Getty Images

Saddam’s other two mosques couldn’t be completed on time. One of these mosques, the "Great Saddam Mosque", was supposed to be the third biggest in the world after those of Mecca and Medina. It would have been a replica of the Umm al-Ma'arik mosque, but five times larger. Its dome would have been 60 meters high and 300 meters across. Surrounding the mosque there would have been eight towers, each 200 meters tall. Construction of this mosque didn’t progress much when the Gulf War broke out. By then, only a few columns had been erected. The unfinished mosque will now be redesigned into a parliament building.

The third and the last of Saddam’s follies is the Al-Rahman mosque, meaning "The Most Merciful” mosque. Located near the old racecourse, this massive mosque has an uncompleted central dome still open to the sky, surrounded by eight smaller domes, each featuring eight even smaller domes integrated in their walls. Giant metal cranes hang motionless over the half-built structure as if the mosque is still in construction. The mosque has been in this state of abandon since 2003.

Related reading: Al-Shaheed Monument, Baghdad


Al-Rahman mosque. Photo credit:


Al-Rahman mosque. Photo credit:


Al-Rahman mosque. Photo credit:


Al-Rahman mosque. Photo credit: Omar Chatriwala/Flickr

Sources: Independent / Guardian / Global Security / Guardian / Telegraph / Wikipedia / Wikipedia


  1. I admire it as a piece of architecture!

  2. The article is contradictory in its descriptions of the inner & outer towers being described as SCUDs & Kalashnikovs.


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