Incident Report Feature: al-Qadim Mosque

DigitalGlobe satellite imagery details the level of damage to al-Qadim Mosque, an Abbasid-era site in the Old City of Raqqa.

Undated photograph of al-Qadim Mosque, seen from the west, prior to damage (ESyria; September 20, 2014)

Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur built al-Qadim Mosque in 772 CE [1]. In 1166 CE, during the reign of Zengid Emir Nur ad-Din, the mosque underwent extensive renovations as development in the city flourished [2]. In 1265, Raqqa was sacked by the il-Khanids, a Mongol dynasty that ruled Iran from 1256 to 1335, and the mosque was destroyed.

The original mosque structure originally consisted of a rectilinear structure with rounded towers on all four sides [4]. A single large courtyard lay inside. Multiple arched colonnades flanked the courtyard on all four sides. The mosque’s minaret stood in the northeastern corner of the courtyard and a cistern was located in the northwestern corner [5].

Much of the mosque’s original structure has disappeared in the centuries since its destruction. However, the exterior wall of the mosque, the minaret, the cistern, and the northernmost colonnade on the southern side of the courtyard remain largely intact.

Between 1983 and 1987, the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) conducted restoration activities of the site [6].

Al-Qadim mosque with surrounding damage shown by red arrows (DigitalGlobe NextView License; August 13, 2017)

Damage to southeastern part of barrier wall around al-Qadim mosque indicated by red arrows (DigitalGlobe NextView License; August 25, 2017)

The first damage to al-Qadim Mosque occurred under ISIS-control of the city. DigitalGlobe satellite imagery illustrated that between October 2013 and February 2014, a small Ottoman-period shrine at the center of the mosque complex was destroyed and the debris cleared away. The shrine, built in 1836 CE, was built over the purported grave of Wabisa ibn Ma’bad al-Asadi, a companion of the prophet Muhammad. The destruction of the shrine was part of a larger ISIS campaign carried out by ISIS militants targeting Shia, Christian, and Sufi sites in the city of Raqqa.


Undated photograph showing ISIS militants bulldozing shrine on ground of al-Qadim Mosque (Al-Gherbal; June 20, 2015)

In June 2017, at the start of operations by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the local activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) and the Raqqa Media Office reported that shelling had struck the mosque and the surrounding areas, resulting in casualties.

As the clashes around the Old City of Raqqa continued, RBSS reported that local residents, unable to safely reach local cemeteries, had begun using the courtyard adjacent to al-Qadim Mosque to bury those killed in the ongoing clashes and aerial bombardment. DigitalGlobe satellite imagery shows that burials in the courtyard occurred as early as 2014, but increased in frequency between May 30 and June 24, 2017. A satellite image captured on May 30 shows a group of mourners gathered at a recent burial.

al-Qadim Mosque with some earlier modern burials in the courtyard (DigitalGlobe; February 3, 2017)

New burials highlighted with a red box. The one on the left appears to be a group of people, possibly gathered for a burial (DigitalGlobe; May 30, 2017)

Video footage published in August 2017 shows additional damage to al-Qadim Mosque as a result of heavy fighting and airstrikes in the Old City of Raqqa. Additionally, the site has suffered from exposure to the elements and lack of maintenance.

Video still of the mosque, seen from the southwest, with damage to entranceway and walls circled in red by ASOR CHI (Private Twitter Account; August 21, 2017)

Devastation in neighborhood surrounding al-Qadim Mosque, seen from the southwest (RBSS; August 19, 2017)

On September 4, 2017, the SDF captured the al-Qadim Mosque. On September 11, 2017, a photograph published online shows significant damage to several standing architectural elements.

Photograph of al-Qadim Mosque, seen from southeast, with damage circled in red by ASOR CHI (Private Twitter Account; September 11, 2017)

For the full Incident Report see ASOR CHI August 2017 Monthly Report.


[1] Hagen, N., M. al-Hassoun, and M. Meinecke (2004) “Die grosse Moschee von ar-Rāfiqa,” in Baudenkmäler und Paläste I, ed. Verena Daiber and Andrea Becker. Raqqa III. Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 37.

[2] Jenkins-Medina, M. (2006) Raqqa Revisited: Ceramics of Ayyubid Syria. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 6-7.

[3] ibid.

[4] Hagen et al. (2004) 26.


[6] ibid.

[7]  Heidemann, S. (2003) “Die Geschichte von ar-Raqqa/ar-Rāfiqa – ein Überblick,” in Die islamische Stadt, ed. S. Heidemann & A. Becker. Raqqa II. Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 55.

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