Al-Masjid an-Nabawi

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The Prophet's Mosque
المسجد النبوي
Al-Masjid an-Nabawi is located in Saudi Arabia
Al-Masjid an-Nabawi
Al-Masjid an-Nabawi
Location in present-day Saudi Arabia
Coordinates: 24°28′06″N 39°36′39″E / 24.468333°N 39.610833°E / 24.468333; 39.610833Coordinates: 24°28′06″N 39°36′39″E / 24.468333°N 39.610833°E / 24.468333; 39.610833
Location Medina, Hejaz, Saudi Arabia[1]
Established c. 622
Branch/tradition Islam
Administration Saudi Arabian government
Leadership Imam(s):
Abdur Rahman Al Huthaify

Salaah Al Budair

Sheikh Dr. Abdulbari Awadh Al-Thubaity

Sheikh Abdulmohsen Al-Qasim

Sheikh Hussain Abdul Aziz Aal Sheikh

Sheikh Ahmed bin Talib Hameed

Sheikh Abdullah Bu'ayjaan

Architectural information
Style Classical and contemporary Islamic; Ottoman; Mamluk revivalist
Capacity 600,000 (increased to 1,000,000 during the Hajj period)
Minaret(s) 10
Minaret height 105 meters (344 ft)

Al-Masjid an-Nabawī (Arabic: المسجد النبوي‎), also called the Prophet's Mosque, is a mosque established and originally built by the Islamic prophet Muhammad, situated in the city of Medina. Al-Masjid an-Nabawi was the second mosque built in the history of Islam and is now one of the largest mosques in the world. It is the second-holiest site in Islam, after al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca.

The site was originally adjacent to Muhammad's house; he settled there after his Hijra (emigration) to Medina in 622 CE. He shared in the heavy work of construction. The original mosque was an open-air building. The mosque also served as a community center, a court, and a religious school. There was a raised platform for the people who taught the Quran. Subsequent Islamic rulers greatly expanded and decorated it. In 1909, it became the first place in the Arabian Peninsula to be provided with electrical lights.[2] The mosque is under the control of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The mosque is located in what was traditionally the center of Medina, with many hotels and old markets nearby. It is a major pilgrimage site. Many pilgrims who perform the Hajj go on to Medina to visit the mosque due to its connections to the life of Muhammad.

After an expansion during the reign of the Umayyad caliph al-Walid I, it also now incorporates the final resting place of Muhammad and the first two Rashidun caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar.[3] One of the most notable features of the site is the Green Dome in the south-east corner of the mosque,[4] originally Aisha's house,[3] where the tomb of Muhammad is located. In 1279, a wooden cupola was built over the tomb which was later rebuilt and renovated multiple times in late 15th century and once in 1817. The current dome was added in 1818 by the Ottoman sultan Mahmud II,[4] and it was first painted green in 1837, hence becoming known as the "Green Dome".[3]


Al-Masjid an-Nabawi during the Ottoman Era, 19th Century

First built[edit]

The original mosque was built by Muhammed and his companions next to the house where he settled after his journey to Medina in 622 CE. The original mosque was an open-air building (covered by palm fronds) with a raised platform for the reading of the Quran. It was a rectangular enclosure of 30 m × 35 m (98 ft × 115 ft) at a height of 2 m (6 ft 7 in) wall which was built with palm trunks and mud walls. It was accessed through three doors: Bab Rahmah (Door of Mercy) to the south, Bab Jibril (Door of Gabriel) to the west and Bab al-Nisa' (Door of the Women) to the east.[citation needed]The basic plan of the building has since been adopted in the building of most mosques throughout the world.[citation needed]

Inside, Muhammed created a shaded area to the south called the suffah and aligned the prayer space facing north towards Jerusalem. When the qibla (prayer direction) was changed to face the Kaaba in Mecca, the mosque was re-oriented to the south. The mosque also served as a community center, a court, and a religious school.[citation needed]

Seven years later (629 AD/7 AH), the mosque was doubled in size to accommodate the increasing number of Muslims. The area of the mosque was enlarged by 20 m × 15 m (66 ft × 49 ft) and became almost a square 50 m × 49.5 m (164 ft × 162 ft).[citation needed] The height increased to became 3.5 m (11 ft) and the mosque encompassed 35 columns.[citation needed]

The mosque remained like that during the caliphate of Abu Bakr until the caliphate of 'Umar bin al-Khattab, who enlarged the area of the mosque to 3575 m2 and built more wooden columns.[citation needed]

During the time of Uthman ibn Affan an arcade of stone and plaster was added to the mosque and the columns were remolded and built of stone.[citation needed]


Subsequent Islamic rulers continued to enlarge and embellish the mosque over the centuries. In 707, Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik (705-715) replaced the old structure and built a larger one in its place, incorporating the tomb of Muhammad. This mosque was 84 by 100 m (276 by 328 ft) in size, with stone foundations and a teak roof supported on stone columns. The mosque walls were decorated with mosaics by Coptic and Greek craftsmen, similar to those seen in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (built by the same Caliph). The courtyard was surrounded by a gallery on four sides, with four minarets on its corners. A mihrab topped by a small dome was built on the qibla wall.[citation needed]


Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdi (775-785) replaced the northern section of Al-Walid's mosque between 778 and 781 to enlarge it further. He also added 20 doors to the mosque: eight on each of the east and west walls, and four on the north wall.[citation needed]


During the reign of the Mamluk Sultan Al Mansur Qalawun, a dome was erected above the tomb of Muhammad and an ablution fountain was built outside of Bab al-Salam (Door of Peace). Sultan Al-Nasir Mohammed rebuilt the fourth minaret that had been destroyed earlier. After a lightning strike destroyed much of the mosque in 1481, Sultan Qaitbay rebuilt the east, west and qibla walls.[citation needed]


The Green Dome ca. 1850

The Ottoman sultans who ruled Medina from 1517 until World War I also made their mark. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520–1566) rebuilt the western and eastern walls of the mosque and built the northeastern minaret known as al-Suleymaniyya. He added a new mihrab (al-Ahnaf) next to the Prophet's mihrab (al-Shafi'iyyah), and placed a new dome covered in lead sheets above the tomb of Muhammad.

The Rawdah (referred to as al-Rawdah al-Mutaharah), covered by the dome over the south-east corner of the mosque,[4] was constructed in 1817C.E. during the reign of Sultan Mahmud II. The dome was painted green in 1837 C.E. and came to be known as the "Green Dome".[3]

During the reign of Sultan Abdul Majid I (1839–1861), the mosque was entirely remodeled with the exception of Prophet Muhammad's Tomb, the three mihrabs, the minbar and the Suleymaniyya minaret. The precinct was enlarged to include an ablution area to the north. The prayer hall to the south was doubled in width and covered with small domes equal in size except for domes covering the mihrab area, Bab al-Salam and Muhammed's Tomb. The domes were decorated with Quranic verses and lines from Qaṣīda al-Burda (Poem of the Mantle), the famous poem by 13th century Arabic poet Busiri. The qibla wall was covered with glazed tiles featuring Quranic calligraphy. The floors of the prayer hall and the courtyard were paved with marble and red stones and a fifth minaret (al-Majidiyya), was built to the west of the enclosure.


Inside view of al-Masjid an-Nabawi

When Ibn Saud took Medina in 1905, his followers, the Wahhabis, demolished nearly every tomb dome in Medina in order to prevent their veneration,[5] and the Green Dome is said to have narrowly escaped the same fate.[6] Muhammad's tomb was stripped of its gold and jewel ornaments, but the dome was preserved either because of an unsuccessful attempt to demolish its hardened structure, or because some time ago Ibn Abd al-Wahhab wrote that he did not wish to see the dome destroyed despite his aversion to people praying at the tomb.[5] Similar events took place in 1925 when the Saudi ikhwans retook—and this time managed to keep—the city.[7][8][9][10] In the Wahabi interpretation of Islam, the veneration of tombs and places thought to possess supernatural powers was an offense against tawhid.[11]

After the foundation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, the mosque underwent several major modifications. In 1951 King Ibn Saud (1932–1953) ordered demolitions around the mosque to make way for new wings to the east and west of the prayer hall, which consisted of concrete columns with pointed arches. Older columns were reinforced with concrete and braced with copper rings at the top. The Suleymaniyya and Majidiyya minarets were replaced by two minarets in Mamluk revival style. Two additional minarets were erected to the northeast and northwest of the mosque. A library was built along the western wall to house historic Qurans and other religious texts.

In 1973 Saudi King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz ordered the construction of temporary shelters to the west of the mosque to accommodate the growing number of worshippers in 1981, the old mosque was surrounded by new prayer areas on these sides, enlarging five times its size.

The latest renovations took place under King Fahd and have greatly increased the size of the mosque, allowing it to hold a large number of worshippers and pilgrims and adding modern comforts like air conditioning. He also installed twenty seven moving domes at the roof of Al-Masjid an-Nabawi.[12]

In 2007, according to The Independent, a pamphlet, published by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs and endorsed by the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, stated that "the green dome shall be demolished and the three graves flattened in the Prophet's Masjid".[13]

The original mosque was not very large, and today the original exists only as a small portion of the larger mosque. The newer and older sections of the mosque are quite distinct. The older section has many colorful decorations and numerous small pillars.


Pedestrian View of Retractable Umbrellas 
Al-Masjid an-Nabawi at night. 
Umbrellas for the Piazza of al-Masjid an-Nabawi. 

Architecture and special structures[edit]

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi
One of two courtyards inside the mosque
Interior view of the new section
Sun rises over al-Masjid an-Nabawi

As it stands today, the mosque has a rectangular plan on two floors with the Ottoman prayer hall projecting to the south. The main prayer hall occupies the entire first floor. The mosque enclosure is 100 times bigger than the first mosque built by Muhammad and can accommodate more than half a million worshippers.[citation needed]

The mosque has a flat paved roof topped with 27 sliding domes on square bases.[14] Holes pierced into the base of each dome illuminate the interior. The roof is also used for prayer during peak times, when the domes slide out on metal tracks to shade areas of the roof, creating light wells for the prayer hall. At these times, the courtyard of the Ottoman mosque is also shaded with umbrellas affixed to freestanding columns.[15] The roof is accessed by stairs and escalators. The paved area around the mosque is also used for prayer, equipped with umbrella tents.[16] Sliding Domes and retractable umbrella-like canopies are designed by the German architect Mahmoud Bodo Rasch and his firm SL Rasch GmbH and Buro Happold.[17]

The north facade has three evenly spaced porticos, while the east, west and south facades have two. The walls are composed of a series of windows topped by pointed arches with black and white voussoirs. There are six peripheral minarets attached to the new extension, and four others frame the Ottoman structure. The mosque is lavishly decorated with polychrome marble and stones. The columns are of white marble with brass capitals supporting slightly pointed arches, built of black and white stones. The column pedestals have ventilation grills that regulate the temperature inside the prayer hall.[citation needed]

This new mosque contains the older mosque within it. The two sections can be easily distinguished: the older section has many colorful decorations and numerous small pillars, and fans have been installed in the ceiling; the new section is in gleaming white marble and is completely air-conditioned.[citation needed]

Riad ul-Jannah[edit]

The heart of the mosque houses a very special but small area named Riad ul-Jannah (Gardens of Paradise). It extends from Muhammad's tomb (Rawdah) to his pulpit (minbar). Pilgrims attempt to visit the confines of the area, for there is a tradition that supplications and prayers uttered here are never rejected. Entrance into the area is not always possible, especially during the Hajj season, as the space can only accommodate a few hundred people.

Riad ul-Jannah is considered to be a part Jannah (Paradise). It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that Muhammad said, "The area between my house and my minbar is one of the gardens of Paradise, and my minbar is on my cistern (hawd)."[18]


Main article: Green Dome
View of the Rawdah from the side
Tomb windows of Muhammad (left), and his Caliphs (right) Abu Bakr as-Siddiq and Umar bin Al-Khattaab

As per Muhammad, Rawdah is also in Heaven, the same Rawdah which is currently in Al-Masjid an-Nabawi. It is a small place in Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, floored with Green Carpet just to identify it, and the entire Mosque is floored with red carpet. The Rawdah is one of the most important features of the site. It holds the tomb of Muhammad and two of his companions and first Caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab. A fourth grave is reserved for Jesus, as it is believed that he will return and will be buried at the site. The site is covered by the Green Dome. It was constructed in 1817 C.E. during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II and painted green in 1837 C.E.[3] The Rawdah has two small gateways. The original pulpit was much smaller than the current one, and constructed of palm tree wood, not marble. The current marble pulpit was constructed by the Ottomans.[citation needed]


The mosque currently has two Mihrabs, of which the largest is currently used by the imam to lead the prayers.


Muhammad sometimes preached while standing by a wood of palm trees. In 628 a minbar replaced it so that Muhammad was able to raise above the crowd and lead prayer. It was a one-meter-high wooden pulpit with three steps. A fire destroyed it in 654. The minbar which was built in the reign of Ottoman Sultan Murad III is still in use.[citation needed]


The mosque has 10 minarets built in different eras. The largest 6 were constructed during the reign of King Fahd.[citation needed]

Imams and Muadhins[edit]

Key Imams:

  • Muhammad (Prophet of Islam and first imam)
  • Abu Bakr (Senior companion, first caliph and second imam)
  • Umer Bin Khattab (Senior companion, second caliph and third imam)
  • Uthman ibn Affan (Senior companion, third caliph and fourth imam)
  • Ali Bin AbiTalib (Senior companion, fourth caliph and fifth imam)

Current Imams:

  • Shaykh Ali Abdul Rahmaan Al Hudhaify ( Chief of Imams )
  • Shaykh Salaah Al Budair ( Deputy Chief of Imams )
  • Shaykh Hussain Ale Shiekh
  • Shaykh Abdul Bari Ath Thubaity
  • Shaykh Abdul Muhsin Al Qaasim
  • Shaykh Abdullah Abdul Rahmaan Al Bu'ayjaan (Appointed as a Taraweeh Imam on the 15th Night of Ramadhaan 1434 and later appointed as a permanent Imam on the 10th October 2013)
  • Shaykh Ahmad Taalib Hameed (Appointed as a Taraweeh Imam on the 16th Night of Ramadhaan 1434 and later appointed as a permanent Imam on the 10th October 2013)
Shaykhs who have led in Masjid Nabawi
  • Saad Al Ghamdi (2009)
  • Khalid Al Ghamdi (2010 and 2012)
  • Muhammad Ayub (1990-1999)
  • Abdullah Juhany (1998)
  • Maahir Muaquily (2005)
  • Ali Al Sudais (1995)
  • Abdul Wadood Haneef
  • Imaad Zuhayr Haafiz (2011)
  • Ibrahim Al Akhdar (1990-)
  • Abdul Aziz Bin Saalih
  • Bilal Habshi
  • Umar Sunbul
  • Essam Bukhari
  • Saud Bukhari
  • Hussain Rajab
  • Umar Yusuf Kamal
  • Maajid Hakeem
  • Abdul Maajid Surayhi
  • Abdul Rahmaan Khashugji
  • Ashraf Afeefi
  • Ayyad Shukri
  • Faisal Numaan
  • Abdul Muttalib Najdi
  • Abdul Aziz Bukhari

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Google maps. "Location of Masjid an Nabawi". Google maps. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  2. ^ The History of Electrical lights in the Arabian Peninsula
  3. ^ a b c d e Ariffin, Syed Ahmad Iskandar Syed (2005). Architectural Conservation in Islam : Case Study of the Prophet's Mosque. Penerbit UTM. pp. 88–89,109. ISBN 9789835203732. 
  4. ^ a b c Petersen, Andrew (2002-03-11). Dictionary of Islamic Architecture. Routledge. p. 183. ISBN 9780203203873. 
  5. ^ a b Mark Weston (2008). Prophets and princes: Saudi Arabia from Muhammad to the present. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 102–103. ISBN 978-0-470-18257-4. 
  6. ^ Doris Behrens-Abouseif; Stephen Vernoit (2006). Islamic art in the 19th century: tradition, innovation, and eclecticism. BRILL. p. 22. ISBN 978-90-04-14442-2. 
  7. ^ The second plunder by the Wahhabis
  8. ^ Mark Weston (2008). Prophets and princes: Saudi Arabia from Muhammad to the present. John Wiley and Sons. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-470-18257-4. 
  9. ^ Vincent J. Cornell (2007). Voices of Islam: Voices of the spirit. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-275-98734-3. 
  10. ^ Carl W. Ernst (2004). Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World. Univ of North Carolina Press. pp. 173–174. ISBN 978-0-8078-5577-5. 
  11. ^ Peskes, Esther (2000). "Wahhābiyya". Encyclopaedia of Islam 11 (2nd ed.). Brill Academic Publishers. pp. 40, 42. ISBN 9004127569. 
  12. ^ "The Prophet's Mosque (Al-Masjid an-Nabawi) - Medina, Saudi Arabia". Medina, , Saudi Arabia: 2009-10-19. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  13. ^ Jerome Taylor (24 September 2011). "Mecca for the rich: Islam's holiest site 'turning into Vegas'". The Independent ( Retrieved 2012-04-13. 
  14. ^ Frei Otto, Bodo Rasch: Finding Form: Towards an Architecture of the Minimal, 1996, ISBN 3930698668
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Walker, Derek (1998). The Confidence to Build. p 69: Taylor & Francis. p. 176. ISBN 0-419-24060-8. 
  18. ^ Islam-QA: "Islamic Guidelines for Visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque" Islam-QA website section 5- It is prescribed for the one who visits the Prophet’s Mosque to pray two rakats in the Rawdah or whatever he wants of supplementary prayers, because it is proven that there is virtue in doing so. It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said, "The area between my house and my mimbar is one of the gardens of Paradise, and my mimbar is on my cistern (hawd)." Narrated by al-Bukhari, 1196; Muslim, 1391.

External links[edit]