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Al-Masjid al-Nabawi is a mosque established by the Prophet Muhammad (s). Situated in the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia, it is one of the holiest sites in Islam second only to Masjid al-Haram in Mecca.

Mosque or Masjid (Arabic:المَسجِد) is a special place in Islam for worshiping God. It can be a building or a land. Masjid al-Quba is the first mosque built in Islam. Mosque has special rulings and etiquettes. Mosque is mainly used for collective acts of worship or religious activities. The most common worship performed in a mosque is Salat al-Jama'a (Congregational Prayer). For Muslims, mosque had other social, political, educational or judicial functions, some of which have survived into the present time. Mosques in Iran played an important role in the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.


Masjid is an Arabic word derived from "سَجَدَ" which means to put the forehead on the ground and to prostrate as sign of great humility. Literally Masjid means a place of prostration. Some believe that the word Masjid is derived from an Aramaic word "msgd'" - meaning the place of worship - which is found in Aramaic texts of the 5th century B.C.E. Before Islam, this word was used to refer to any place where God was worshiped. Some believe that the word "masajid" in the 40th verse of Sura al-Hajj is used with this meaning. Citing ancient sources and mentioning several examples form them, Dihkhuda wrote that the Arabic word "Masjid" was originally the Aramaic word "Mazgit." When the word entered Arabic language the letters "z," "g," and "t" were changed to "s," "j," and "d," and Masjid in Arabic means the place of prostration. According to these sources, "Mazgit" meant the place of prayer, God's house, a place which was built for worshiping God and anyone can worship God in it and other meanings like these. Currently, Masjid is a common term that refers to the special place of worship and performing prayers for Muslims. It is said because Muslims perform Sajda (prostration) in their prayer (Salat) and Sajda is a sign of complete submission, the place of their worship is called Masjid - the place of prostration. Jurisprudentially, Masjid has special rulings. On the physical level, a Masjid can be a complete building or a land without a roof or even surrounding walls. "Masjid al-Jami'" is also used with the meaning of Masjid; however, it often refers to a big Masjid or that in which Friday Prayer is held.

Masjid in the Qur'an

The word Masjid is mentioned twenty-eight times - in single or plural form - in the Holy Qur'an. Some of these verses are about the importance of Masjid and maintaining it, such as: "Only those shall maintain God's mosques who believe in God and the Last Day, and maintain the prayer and give the Zakat, and fear no one except God. They, hopefully, will be among the guided." (9:18) Masjid is described as a property of God in the Qur'an (72:18). Imam al-Sadiq (a) was asked about the cause of respecting Masjids, he answered: "Because Masjids are God's houses on the earth." According to the Qur'an, Mecca's Masjid - Masjid al-Haram - is a place for religious activities and also a place for gathering (2:125) and this Masjid is the first house erected to worship God (3:96).

History of Masjid in Islam

According to the teachings of prophet Muhammad (s) worshiping God does not require a special place and a Muslim can worship God anywhere; as it is narrated in a Hadith form the Holy Prophet (s): "Every clean land is a Masjid and a purifier for me." Accordingly, before Hijra (immigration) Muslims had no special place to perform prayer and they performed their prayers wherever possible. Prophet Muhammad (a) and a handful of Muslims performed their prayer in secret. Based on reports from Islamic history sources, after that the Holy Prophet (s) publicly called people to Islam, he sometimes performed his prayer near the Ka'ba.

Masjid al-Quba in the suburbs of Medina. It is said that the first stone of this mosque was placed by Holy Prophet (s).

Masjid al-Quba is the first Masjid built in Islam. On his way from Mecca to Medina, prophet Muhammad (s) stayed in Quba for a week. During this time, Masjid al-Quba was built by the request of the people. Some reported that it was built at the suggestion of 'Ammar b. Yasir. As Muslims immigrated to Medina, the Holy Prophet (s) chose a place to perform congregational prayer and also for gathering of Muslims. By the help of other Muslims, he prepared that place for these purposes. This Masjid was called Masjid al-Nabi (the Prophet's Mosque) and soon it got a special status among Muslims as a place for worshiping, religious education, social activities and important political decisions. The Holy Prophet (s) had performed prayer in various locations in Mecca; but he has never determined a place as a Masjid.

After Hijra, in addition to worshiping, Masjid was a center of administration and also was used as a place for education and Tabligh (propagation of Islam). Later, when Dar al-Hukuma and schools were built, Masjids were dedicated to worshiping; although they were occasionally used as a school. During the conquest of Iraq and north Africa in the 1st/7th century, emulating the Holy Prophet (s) in Medina, Muslims dedicated the center of their military camps to be used as Masjid. As these military camps changed into cities, such as Basra, Kufa, Fustat and Kairouan the dedicated places were changed to the main Masjids of those cities. The same pattern was applied in building Baghdad in the 2nd/8th century and Cairo in the 4th/10th century. In conquered cities, such as Damascus, Jerusalem and Mada'in Muslims would build their Masjids at temples, Churches and palaces. After building Masjid al-Quba and Masjid al-Nabi, other Masjids were built in Muslim cities. In 17/638 Masjid al-Kufa, in 21/642 Masjid al-Fustat and in 24/645 Jami' al-Basra were built by Muslims.

According to Ibn Khaldun (d. 808/1406) there were two kinds of city Masjids: big Masjids which were under the authority of the government and were used for important gatherings of Muslims and performing Friday Prayer, and small Masjids which were built and managed by various urban communities. During the early period of Islam, inspired by Prophet Muhammad's (s) act, the Caliphs and their governors built their residence next to the main Masjid of the city (Masjid al-Jami'), while each tribe built a Masjid at the location of the tribe. As the power and wealth of the Islamic empire increased and the residence of governors separated form Masjids, the number of governmental and non-governmental Masjids increased greatly. Both kinds were usually built and maintained by people's donations and endowments.

The most prevalent function of Masjids was performing daily prayers and Friday prayer, which were mostly attended by men. Women were located behind men, while a curtain separated them from men, or in a separated room or in the upper floor of the Masjid.

Due to special rulings of Masjid, a place for making Wudu is built out of the religious limits of the Masjid. Shi'a dynasties such as Fatimid and Isma'ilisim (the 4th to the 6th centuries) built many Masjids in North Africa, Egypt and Hijaz. Likewise, Safavid built many Masjids in Iran and Persian Gulf countries. However, when the Shi'a states were defeated by Sunni forces, not only did the movement of building Masjids slow down to a great extent; but also holding rituals, such as Friday Prayer, in Masjids began to decrease.

Rulings and Etiquette

From the time that the institution of Masjid was established in Islam, its rulings and etiquette had been mentioned in the Holy Qur'an and Hadiths. Apparently, the first ruling and etiquette was about Tahara and cleanliness of Masjid. For instance, there are strong recommendations from the Holy Prophet (s) about the reward of cleaning Masjid, and Hadiths reproving those who make it dirty. There are also special jurisprudential rulings for the performer of Prayer in Masjid, for example: entering Masjid in the state of Janaba is forbidden (Haram), wearing white and clean clothes when attending Masjid is recommended (Mustahab); while wearing black and dirty clothes is disliked (Makruh).

Importance and Merits

Influenced by the Holy Qur'an and Hadiths, Masjid is regarded sacred and of important status in Islamic culture. The Qur'an denotes that only those who believe in God and the Day of Resurrection are qualified to maintain Masjid. Sacredness and merits of Masjid among Muslims is one of the factors of preserving this institution. According to Islamic teachings, Muslims felt obliged to maintain and preserve Masjids, therefore each Muslim would try to take part in building, repairing and maintaining a Masjid.


Around the world, Masjids are very similar to each other architecturally. However, Masjids have adopted the architectural features of their regions leading to their differentiation. Thus, the architecture of Masjids of each region is a sample of the indigenous architecture of that region. Although the architecture of Masjids differs, they all share some parts.


Before the emergence of Islam there was no Minbar (pulpit) in Hijaz, and lecturers would lean on a spear and deliver their speech. At the beginning of his prophethood, prophet Muhammad (s) delivered his sermons while standing and leaning on a tree, until Muslims built a Minbar of three or four steps for him. As it is used in some Hadiths, the word "Minbar" was probably common during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (s). There are disagreements about the one who built the first Minbar for the Prophet (s). Sources have mentioned a slave of a woman form Ansar, a slave of a woman from Muhajirun, one of Sahabas or a Roman man as the one who built the first Minbar. At the beginning, Minbar was the place where the Holy Prophet (s) delivered his sermons and recited the new revealed verses of the Holy Qur'an for people. After the Prophet (s), Muslims built Minbars for the main Masjids of Muslim cities and gradually during the next centuries it became an essential part of each Masjid. Throughout Islamic history, Minbar was one of the most important components of a Masjid. It was regarded as the Islamic government's media for delivering sermons and declaring political, social and cultural stances. As time went by, Mubalighs and preachers used Minbar for Tabligh (propagation) of Islam, Faqihs used it to explain religious rulings and teaching Islamic thoughts, exegetes used it to explain the Qur'an's verses, and hadith scholars used it for reading and dictating Hadiths.


Mihrab of the Mosque of Cordoba, Spain.

Mihrab is an arched niche in the wall of the Qibla (the wall of a Masjid that is the nearest wall to Mecca) and it indicates the direction of Masjid al-Haram. Mihrab originated in the late 1st/7th century. Before that, the direction of the Qibla was known by a rod stuck in the ground of the Masjid or - like what was used in the Prophet's house in Medina - by a stone.


Minaret of the Great Mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia is the oldest minaret in the Muslim world (1st/7th century) which is still standing.

Minaret is an architectural structure akin to a tower. The original function of Minaret was calling for daily prayers by saying Adhan on its top. "Mi'dhana," "Minar," "Suwmi'i," and "Guldasti" are other names referring to this structure. At the time of the Holy Prophet (s), Masjids did not have Minaret. As the Islamic government developed and cities expanded, it became necessary to build a Minaret next to each Masjid for saying Adhan and informing people about prayer times. Nowadays that Muslim know about prayer times by other means, Minarets are considered as a decoration of the Masjid building and also as way of distinguishing a Masjid from other buildings in a city. The number of Minaret of a Masjid is not the same in all regions. In Iran, usually two Minarets are built for a Masjid. Umayyad Mosque in Damascus had four Minarets, each one were built in a corner of the Masjid; however, only two of them have survived to the present time. According to some sources, the first Minaret was built in 44/664 or 45/665 in Masjid al-Kufa.


Maqsura - literally means a small room - is an enclosure in the front part of Masjid and Mihrab, in which the Caliph or the Imam would perform his prayer. A Maqsura had a latticed window, through which Muslims could see the prayer leader. Some historians reported that 'Uthman b. 'Affan was the first person who built Maqsura for his own safety, some mentioned Marwan b. Hakam or others as the innovators of Maqsura.


Throughout the history, Masjid had various roles and functions, which indicate its importance and credibility in Muslim communities. Masjids were a center of worship, a judicial office, a place for maintaining Hisbiyya affairs, a center for social communications, a military base, an educations center and so on. Functions of Masjid started form the time of the Holy Prophet (s); however, it is said that utilizing Masjid for these purposes culminated during the Ottoman Empire, as it is evident from the title "Kuliyya" used for addressing Masjid complex during this period. For instance, al-Kuliyya al-Sulaymaniyya (10th/16th century) in Istanbul consisted of a Masjid al-Jami', five schools, two preliminary schools, a hospital, a medical school, a Khanqah for Sufis, an inn, a public bathroom, a public kitchen, accommodation for teachers and janitors of the Masjid, a sport field, a coffee shop, a shopping center, royal tombs and a cemetery.

Educational Function

As Masjid was a suitable place for gathering of Muslims form all social ranks with various professions, this religious place become a perfect site of educational purposes from its early existence. During the early period of Islam, Muslims mostly asked the Holy Prophet (s) their religious questions in the Masjid. The Prophet (s) recited verses of the Holy Qur'an for people in the Masjid and answered their questions. As time went by, some other non-religious topics were discussed in Masjids, it is reported that even some discussions about literature and poetry were held in Masjids. During the years after the Prophet (s), studying religious studies and sciences in Masjids gradually became more common. Muslims learned the Qur'an, Hadith, Fiqh, Arabic grammar in Masjids. Even some creditable religious figures spent specific times in Masjids preaching and speaking about Islamic teachings.

Social Function

Before the modern times, when there was no medium of communication, Masjid was a perfect place to inform Muslims about the important issues of society. Muslims form various social ranks and classes met each other in Masjids on a daily basis and gave each other the important news and information about the society. According to some reports, Masjids were also utilized to deal with emergency situations and crisis management. It is reported that in early Islam, during the Battle of Khandaq, Masjid was used as a hospital to take care of the wounded during the battle. According to historical reports, by the order of the Holy Prophet (s), Rafida - the Muslim woman of early Islam - set up a tent in the Masjid for the treatment the wounded of the battle. Based on some Hadiths reported in Sunni Hadith sources, it is recommended (Mustahab) to officiate a marriage in a Masjid; however, Shi'a scholars do not believe so.

Role of Masjid in Victory of Islamic Revolution in Iran

Before the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the revolutionaries who had Islamic tendencies, started their fight against the Pahlavi regime form Masjids. Revolutionaries used Masjid as a center for awareness and promotional activities, such as: copying and distributing pamphlets, leaflets as well as cassette tapes containing speeches against Shah. The success of Masjid in creating such a relationship had various factors, one of which was taking advantage of the face to face communication, that due to the oral culture of Iranian society had a significant effect. Moreover, Masjids played an important role in funding the Revolution. Connection between Masjid and bazaar in Iran has a long history. During the Revolution, Masjid played a significant role as a medium between merchants and revolutionaries and could deliver the financial assistance of merchants to the revolutionaries. In addition, due to their relations with Masjid, merchants became an important part of the society, who had an impact on the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.



  • The material for this article is mainly taken from مسجد in Farsi WikiShia.