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Al-Masjid al-Nabawi

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Masjid al-Nabi in Medina, the holiest mosque in the world of Islam which was built by Prophet Muhammad (s)

Al-al-Masjid al-Nabawi (Arabic: المسجد النبوي) is a mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia where Prophet Muhammad (s) is buried. Second to Masjid al-Haram, al-Masjid al-Nabawi is the holiest mosque in the world of Islam which was built by Prophet Muhammad (s) in the first century after Hijrat; it was later expanded in different eras. The houses of Prophet Muhammad (s) and 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) and Lady Fatima (s) were built next to this mosque, which were later added to the mosque. Al-Masjid al-Nabawi is among the most important shrines for Muslims, which is highly revered by Shiites.

Names of the Mosque

This mosque is called al-Masjid al-Nabawi, the Grand Mosque of Medina, Masjid al-Rasul, Masjid Rasul Allah, Masjid al-Nabi and the mosque of Medina. The most famous name of the mosque is "al-Masjid al-Nabawi". Prophet Muhammad (s) used to say daily congregational prayers in this mosque and he promoted political and social frameworks in this mosque, as a result it was called as Masjid al-Nabi in its early days. In addition, as the house of Prophet Muhammad (s) was added to the mosque and he was buried there, it was named as the mosque of Prophet Muhammad (s), al-Masjid al-Nabawi. Furthermore, Prophet Muhammad (s) called this mosque "masjidi" (my mosque) in a narration.

Geographical Location

Al-Masjid al-Nabawi is located at 24.46 N 39.61 E in the center of Medina in Saudi Arabia. It is situated 597 meters above sea level.


In the Time of Prophet Muhammad (s)

When Prophet Muhammad (s) entered Yathrib, he let his camel to stop wherever it wanted and the place was supposed to be where Prophet (s) would live, the camel finally stopped in the current place of al-Masjid al-Nabawi. Then Muslims began to build a house for Prophet Muhammad (s) and a mosque there. Also other Muslims, built houses around the mosque with their doors which were opened to the mosque. The first structure of the mosque was built by sun-dried mud bricks in an area of 1050 square meters. Ashab Suffa (people of al-Suffa) where started living in the northern side of the mosque which had a ceiling made of palm leaves. When Qibla of Muslims was changed from Masjid al-Aqsa toward Masjid al-Haram, it changed from north of al-Masjid al-Nabawi to its southern side, as a result the southern doors of the mosque were closed and new doors were made in northern side; also the roofed part was moved from the north to the south of the mosque. In the seventh century A.H. it became necessary to expand the mosque as the number of Muslims increased. Then the mosque was expanded to 2475 square meters and it changed to a square shaped area.

In the Time of 'Umar b. Khattab and 'Uthman b. 'Affan

In 17/838 the houses around the mosque were added to the area of al-Masjid al-Nabawi and it was expanded five meters from south, ten meters from west and fifteen meters from north. Later in 29/649-670 in the time of 'Uthman b. 'Affan, despite disagreements of the neighbors, Masjid al-Nabi was expanded by destruction of the houses around the mosque and its area was expanded by 496 meters. He also ordered to use stones masonry art in decorations and teakwood in repairing its roof. In addition, a Maqsura, a place where the Imam of prayer should stand, was built in front of the mosque.

In the Time of to Umayyads

'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz the governor of Medina vastly expanded al-Masjid al-Nabawi between 88/707 to 91/710. It is said the area of the mosque was expanded to 6400 or 7500 square meters. He was also ordered by Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik, the caliph of the time, to build a wall around the grave of Prophet Muhammad (s) and the houses of Prophet's (s) wives were added to the mosque. In addition, the house of Lady Fatima (a) was added to the mosque; in that time Fatima al-Sughra, the daughter of Imam al-Husayn (a), and the wife of Hasan b. al-Hasan b. 'Ali were living in that house. Some believe that the main goal of Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik in expanding the area of the mosque, especially its eastern side, was seizing the house of Hasan b. al-Hasan's house from him in order to keep him away from al-Masjid al-Nabawi. As a result, for years people avoided saying prayers in that area as they believed it was confiscated from him. The strength of the structure of the mosque was increased and it was decorated with skillful Roman workers. Walid asked the Roman Emperor o help building new structure for the mosque and he sent a large amount of gold with one hundred skillful workers to Walid.

In Abbasid Era

Mahdi b. Mansur, the Abbasid caliph expanded al-Masjid al-Nabawi 2450 square meters in 161/777-8 or 162/778-9. He also ordered to increase the number of the columns and gates of the mosque. In that time al-Masjid al-Nabawi had twenty gates, four in northern side, eight in western side and eight in eastern side. Meanwhile most of the houses around al-Masjid al-Nabawi which were occupied by famous companions of Prophet Muhammad (s) were destroyed and were added to the mosque, including the houses of 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud, Shurahbil b. Hasana and Miswar b. Makhrama.

Three years before the fall of Abbasid dynasty, in 654/1256 al-Masjid al-Nabawi was on fire and it was massively destroyed. Then Egyptian Mamluks sent architectures to repair the mosque. Later, Nasir al-Din Muhammad b. Qalawun a Mamluk Sultan of Egypt ordered to build the roofs in the western and eastern sides of the mosque. In 705/1305-06 and 706/1306-7 new courtyards were built for the mosque as well.

In 886/1481-2 the mosque was hit by a lightning and it was on fire. Again Egyptian Mamluks sent workers to repair al-Masjid al-Nabawi. They also built a ribat (hostel), a school and kitchens for it. In that time the area of the mosque was increased to 9010 square meters.

In Ottomans Era

It took thirteen years for Sultan 'Abd al-Hamid I to reconstruct al-Masjid al-Nabawi in a firm and beautiful way which finished in 1265/1848-9. Some believe the structure built in that time was the strongest structure the mosque had until that time.

In Saudi era

In 1373/1953-4 'Abd al-'Aziz expanded the mosque up to 16327 square meters from its northern, western and eastern sides. 6025 square meters were added to the area of the mosque and an area of 16931 meters around the mosque which included houses were destroyed in order to build the streets and squares leading to al-Masjid al-Nabawi.

The last expansion of al-Masjid al-Nabawi took place in 1405/1984-5 by Malik Fahad b. 'Abd al-'Aziz in which the area of the mosque was increased to 82000 square meters. The vast floor of the ground mosque of the mosque could contain 137000 people to say prayer plus 90000 people could say prayer on the roof parts. Accordingly the capacity of the mosque was increased up to 257000 people to say prayer. Also numerous places were built for Muslims to perform Wudu' (ablution) and a lot of spotlights were set on the stone columns of the mosque. In addition, large-scale convertible umbrellas were built in some of the courtyards of al-Masjid al-Nabawi which protect people from the sunlight. Also six minarets were added to the mosque with the height of 104 meters; today the mosque has ten minarets.

The Significance of the Mosque

The Religious and Spiritual Significance

The names of Shia Imams (a) on the wall of Masjid al-Nabi

Second to Masjid al-Haram, al-Masjid al-Nabawi is the holiest Mosque for Muslims and it has its own special fiqh rules. Also having special places in the mosque and around it increased the significance of the mosque, including the burial place and the house of Prophet Muhammad (s) and al-Baqi' Cemetery where grand figures of Islam are buried. Muslims usually pay a visit to al-Masjid al-Nabawi before performing Hajj, as they believe it will complete their spiritual journey of Hajj. al-Masjid al-Nabawi is significantly important among Muslims, here are a number of the reasons:

  • Sadd al-Abwab event, in which Prophet Muhammad (s) was ordered by God, to close all the doors which opened to al-Masjid al-Nabawi except for the door of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a)'s house.
  • Lady Fatima (a) is possibly buried in al-Masjid al-Nabawi, between the burial place of Prophet (s) and the Minbar (pulpit) of Prophet (s).
  • Al-Baqi' Cemetery, which is located near al-Masjid al-Nabawi and four Shiite Imams (a) are buried there.

Political and Social Status

From the early years of Islam, Muslims came to al-Masjid al-Nabawi in order to say prayers and worship, furthermore it has been a place that Muslims gathered together which played a huge role in representing unity of Muslims. Significant political decisions related to Muslims community were made in this mosque. Also Prophet Muhammad (s) managed Muslims territory in al-Masjid al-Nabawi and he held military, political and social meetings there.

Specific Rituals and Manners

It is recommended that when you enter al-Masjid al-Nabawi, stop by its gate and read Idn dukhul (permission for entrance). Then you should enter with your right foot from the gate of Gabriel and repeat Allah Akbar (God is the Greatest) for hundred times. Then a two rak'a (unit) prayer of the mosque is recommended to be performed.

Other fiqh rules related to al-Masjid al-Nabawi are:

The travelers are allowed to say prayers in al-Masjid al-Nabawi in usual fashion or traveler's fashion.

It is haram (forbidden) for those who are required to perform Ghusl al-Janaba, Ghusl al-hayd and Ghusl al-nifas to enter al-Masjid al-Nabawi; but they are allowed to enter from one gate and exit from another.

Special Places in al-Masjid al-Nabawi

The House and the Burial Place of Prophet Muhammad (s)

The house and the burial place of Prophet Muhammad (s) were located out of the mosque when it was not expanded. But later they were added to the area of the mosque and a pentagon-shape wall was built around them; it is said the wall was not built in a square shape so that it would not look like Ka'ba. As it was likely for the Crusades to attack Medina and destroy the burial place of Prophet Muhammad (s), hence for protection a wall of stone and molten lead metal was constructed around the burial place of Prophet (s). Later in 668/1269-70 and 694/1294-5 a number of Sultans built wooden maqsuras for the house in the mosque.

The House and the Burial Place of Lady Fatima (a)

The house of Lady Fatima (a) was located behind the house of 'Aisha, Prophet Muhammad's (s) wife. The door of her house was on the western side of the house which led to Prophet(s)'s house. Today the house is gone and it was added to the mosque, which is now located in the shrine and the house of Prophet Muhammad (s). Sunni scholars believe she was buried in al-Baqi' cemetery, while the majority of Shi'ite scholars believe she was buried in her house, today it is located in al-Masjid al-Nabawi. However Shi'ite scholars are not sure about the burial place of Lady Fatima (s), but they believed that she was most likely buried in al-Masjid al-Nabawi.

The Doors of the Mosque

The books on Medina studies largely talk about the doors of al-Masjid al-Nabawi. The number of the doors of the mosque have always been changed from the first century after Hijrat until now.

al-Masjid al-Nabawi had three doors in the beginning:

  1. The door on its southern side was closed when Qibla was changed to Ka'ba, instead another door was opened in its northern side.
  2. The door in the western side called "Bab 'Atika" which is now known as "Bab al-Rahma". It was called 'Atika as it was opened to the house of 'Atika the daughter of 'Abd Allah b. Yazid b. Mu'awiya. Later t was called Rahma, based on a narration from Prophet Muhammad (s) that one day a person came from this door to Prophet (s) and he asked him to pray to God to rain and it happened, then after seven days rain stopped because that man had asked for it.
  3. The door on the eastern side known as "Bab 'Uthman", "Bab al-Nabi" and "Bab al-Jabra'il" because this door was opened to the house of 'Uthman b. 'Affan, also Prophet Muhammad (s) used to enter the mosque from this door and Gabriel (Jabra'il) came to Prophet Muhammad (s) from this door in the time of the battle of Banu Qurayza.

Throughout different eras, doors were added and built for the mosque and even some of them were closed. Currently al-Masjid al-Nabawi has eighty six doors.


According to Rasul Ja'fariyan, about 2104 pillars exist in al-Masjid al-Nabawi and the most notable ones are: the pillar of Hannana, the pillar of Tawba and the pillar of Haras.


In early days of Islam, whenever Prophet Muhammad (s)] wanted to give a speech or sermon, he used to lean against a palm tree. Then in 7/628-9 or 8/629-30 a minbar (pulpit) was built for him. It had two steps and a seat. In some narrations, merits of the pulpit are mentioned from Prophet Muhammad (s). After the demise of Prophet (s), the pulpit was used until the time of Mu'awiya. But then Mu'awiya tried to bring the minbar from Medina to Sham and to his palace in order to gain respect and authority which was opposed by people and it remained in the mosque. When al-Masjid al-Nabawi was on fire in 654/1256 the minbar was burnt as well. Later the Sultan of Egypt sent another minbar to al-Masjid al-Nabawi. It was replaced a number of times in the next centuries. The current minbar in al-Masjid al-Nabawi was sent by Sultan Murad, an Ottoman king, in 998/1589-90.


A number of Mihrabs now exist and some existed before in al-Masjid al-Nabawi, the most important ones are:

  1. Mihrab of Prophet Muhammad (s): There is a Mihrab in al-Masjid al-Nabawi which is attributed to Prophet Muhammad (s), but it did not did exist during the lifetime of Prophet (s). It was built later, apparently in the time of 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz on the place where Prophet (s) used to say prayers; which is regarded sacred to Muslims.
  2. Mihrab of Tahajjud: This Mihrab does not exist now, it was located near the pillar of the same name. Prophet Muhammad (s) used to stand next to this pillar when he kept vigil and worshiped God at nights. In following centuries a commemorative Mihrab was built there which became famous as Mihrab of Tahajjud (worship and vigil); however it was later removed by Saudi government.
  3. Mihrab of Lady Fatima (a): This Mihrab is located in the south of Mihrab of Tahajjud inside maqsura or the house of Lady Fatima (a) which was added to the mosque; it can be seen from the current windows in the mosque. This Mihrab was mentioned in some narrations: for example Imam al-Hasan (a) said, "I saw my mother on a Thursday night saying prayers in Mihrab until morning and she prayed for all the believers. I told her why didn't you pray for yourself? And she said, oh my son, our neighbors have priority over our family".

The Green Dome

The first dome of al-Masjid al-Nabawi was built by Sultan Al-Mansur Qalawun al-Mamluki in 678/1279-80. Later Sultan Qaitbay repaired the dome in 887/1482-3 as it was damaged by fire. Also it was rebuilt in the time of Sultan Mahmud the Ottoman king in 1233/1817-8. In the time Sultan 'Abd al-Hamid, the Ottoman king, the color of the dome was changed to green which became famous as Qubbat al-Khazra' (the Green Dome). It has become a tradition to repaint the dome green once a couple of years.

Related Books

The books written on al-Masjid al-Nabawi can be categorized into two groups, those which exclusively introduced the mosque and those which were written about Medina and they also discussed al-Masjid al-Nabawi as a subtopic.

Akhbar al-Madina written by Muhammad b. Hasan al-Makhzumi, known as Ibn Zabala (d. 200 A.H.) appears to be the first book which had some parts about al-Masjid al-Nabawi. He also discussed the area of the mosque and explained the places and houses in the mosque.

Tarikh al-Madina al-Munawwara written by Abu Zeyd 'Amr b. Shu'ba al-Numayri, known as Ibn Shu'ba (d. 262 A.H.); its manuscript has been found in recent decades. The book has been published a number of times. The author discussed Medina in three parts, the time of Prophet Muhammad (s), the time of 'Umar b. Khattab and the time of 'Uthman b. 'Affan. Ibn Shu'ba talked about al-Masjid al-Nabawi and its related traditions as well.

• The book Islamic places in Mecca and Medina written by Rasul Ja'fariyan (contemporary) has been published a number of times by Mash'ar publication.

The history of al-Masjid al-Nabawi al-Sharif written by Muhammad Ilyas 'Abd al-Ghani (contemporary). The author exclusively discussed al-Masjid al-Nabawi in this book.


al-Masjid al-Nabawi