Serene, the room felt as though time itself had come to pay its respects; to look upon the eyes which have witnessed realities beyond this temporal realm.
The history of ‘the Guardians’, or eunuch servants, of the Prophet ﷺ’s masjid dates back to mid-12th century and had originated from Abysynnia, most likely under Nur al Din Zangi or Salahuddin al Ayyubi, may Allah be pleased with them both. The group were once over one-hundred strong but today, only a handful remain as this tradition is brought to an end. The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs has decreed that the current generation of Guardians would be the last. Of the eight photographed here by Adel Quraishi, three have since passed away. May Allah have mercy upon them.
Pictured in this London exhibition in November 2015, the Guardians were once in charge of the entire Masjid al Nabawi (the Prophet ﷺ’s masjid in Madinah), yet today they hold only the keys to the Prophet ﷺ’s resting chamber and that of his minbar (pulpit). Although they are pictured here in their formal state attire, in reality their daily lives consist of a humble routine of carefully cleaning the Prophetic resting place, washing the floor with rosewater and spending their days in a modest room connected to the sacred chamber.
The Guardians lead a pious and simple lifestyle, away from recognition and fame. They are found praying alongside pilgrims, gladly meeting visitors to the sacred resting chamber and breaking their fasts with a piece of bread and coffee from a plastic cup. Such is their disinterest with the world that, when being photographed for this exhibition, many of them left as soon as their image had been taken.