Al-Masjid al-Nabawi. Mosque in Saudi Arabia, Middle East

Al-Masjid al-Nabawi

Mosque in Saudi Arabia, Middle East

Looking westward at the umbrellas of Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (The mosque of the Prophet) Photo © Omar A.

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Al-Masjid al-Nabawi

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Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (The mosque of the Prophet) - Al-Masjid al-Nabawi
Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (The mosque of the Prophet) - Al-Masjid al-Nabawi. Photo by Omar A.
Al-Masjid al-Nawabi in Medina, Saudi Arabia, is the second mosque built in Islamic history. Also called the Prophet’s Mosque, it is considered after Masjid al-Haram in the city of Mecca, as the second holiest site in Islam. Initially a small place of worship built by the Prophet and his followers, it is now a sprawling complex and is among the largest mosques in the world. Within the mosque are the sites of the final resting places of Prophet Mohammad and the first two Caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar.

Millions of pilgrims and tourist visit the mosque every year. Muslims who perform the Haj at the Kaaba (Wikipedia Article) in Mecca, mostly visit Medina to see the Prophet's resting place.

History and Architecture

In 622 AD, the year of the Hijra (Wikipedia Article) and the first year in the Islamic calendar, Mohammad learnt of a plot to assassinate him. Along with his followers, he escaped from Mecca and proceeded towards the city of Yatrib, where he later settled. Yatrib was renamed Madinat un-Nabi (City of the Prophet) and is now called Medina (City).

When first built, the mosque was a 30 m by 35 m rectangular, open-air enclosure covered only with palm fronds. The walls were made of split palm trunks and mud. There were three doors to the mosque, one to the west (Bab Jibril or Door of Gabriel), the south (Bab Rahmah or Door of Mercy) and the east (Bab al-Nias’ Door of the Women). The mosque had a religious school and served as a community center.

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	Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi - Al-Masjid al-Nabawi
Day 42/365 Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi. Photo by Ahmad Nawawi

 - Al-Masjid
Al-Masjid al-Nabawi. Photo by Omar A.
Since then the mosque has been expanded, modified, and decorated by the successive rulers. Initially, the mosque was oriented to the north and the qibla (direction of prayer) was toward Jerusalem. When the Prophet announced that the qibla will be towards the Kaaba in Mecca, the orientation of the mosque was changed to the south. In 629, the followers of Mohammad doubled the size of the mosque in order to accommodate more worshipers.

Caliph Umar again increased the size of the mosque during his reign. Caliph Uthman had the columns built with stone and the walls with stone and plaster. The Umayyad Caliph, Abdu al-Malik rebuilt the whole structure and built the tomb of the prophet. The walls were redone with decoration of mosaics and galleries were added to the courtyard. Over the years, successive rulers added 20 doors, three minarets, the minbar (pulpit from where the imam preaches), and a small dome was built over the mihrab.

The notable inclusion was the dome built above the tombs of Mohammad, Abu Bakr (Wikipedia Article), and Umar during the reign of the Mamluk Sultan, Al Mansur Qalawun. The Green Dome, as it is now known, is located to the southeast of the mosque and is believed to have been the location of the house of Alisha, the Prophet’s favorite wife. The Mamluk Sultan, Qaitbay, and Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottomans, contributed by rebuilding the walls of the mosque.

 - Al-Masjid
Al-Masjid al-Nabawi. Photo by Omar A.
In 1932, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established and major modifications were made to the mosque and around it. Structures around the mosque were demolished in order to enlarge the prayer hall and a library with historic Quranic and religious texts was added. The structure was reinforced with concrete columns and two more minarets were added. King Faisal had shelters built on the sides of the mosque and increased the prayer areas. King Fahd enlarged the whole complex and increased the area of the mosque to five times the area it then occupied. He had the whole mosque air-conditioned.

Today, the mosque is a sprawling complex and can accommodate 500,000 worshipers at a time. A hundred times bigger than the original mosque, 27 sliding domes surmount the flat roof. The domes are designed to slide out, and umbrellas mounted on freestanding columns provide shade to the pilgrims during the peak periods. Seven porticoes, three on the north side and two each on the east and the south have been added.

Inside, the newer additions can be clearly distinguished from the older mosque within. The main prayer hall occupies the entire area of the ground floor of the two-floored structure with the Ottoman prayer hall extending to the south. A series of windows and the holes in the base of the domes provide illumination for the interior. The mosque is lavishly decorated and has white, marble columns.

Interior - Al-Masjid
Interior - Al-Masjid al-Nabawi. Photo by Omar A.

Visiting the Prophet’s Mosque

 - Al-Masjid al-Nabawi
Al-Masjid al-Nabawi. Photo by Hossam all line
Medina is connected to most of the major cities in the Arabian Peninsula (Wikipedia Article) by air. It can also be reached by taxi from Jeddah and from Mecca.

The mosque is visited by Muslims for religious purposes. Although three is no compulsion that a Muslim performing the Umrah (pilgrimage to Mecca) should visit the Prophet’s mosque, most do because the mosque contains the tomb of the Prophet. Non-Muslims are strictly prohibited from entering the center of the city. Though Medina and the Prophet’s mosque are places of interest, they cannot be treated as a tourist destination by a non-Muslim traveler.

Muslim men can offer prayers at the mosque 24/7, but women are only allowed entry after dawn and after the afternoon prayers. Pilgrims are not allowed to touch the fencing of the Prophet’s tomb or the tomb itself as it is considered idolatry.

Where to Stay

North entrance - Al-Masjid
North entrance - Al-Masjid al-Nabawi. Photo by Omar A.
There are many hotels in Medina close to the mosque and also further. There are low cost hotels as well as five-star hotels. A tourist looking for budget hotels and low cost accommodation will have to seek them some distance from the mosque. On the outskirts of the city and closer to the airport are hotels where non-Muslims can stay. There are restaurants serving food from all over the world. Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Arabic restaurants abound. Chinese restaurants and American and European fast food outlets cater to visitors also.

Other Places of Interest

On the outskirts of Medina is the Quba Mosque at Quba (Wikipedia Article), the first mosque built in Islam. Initiated by the Prophet, it was completed by his followers. Jannatul Baqui, a huge graveyard where the Prophet's followers are buried, and Masjid Qiblatayen where the Prophet decreed that Mecca will be the new quibla are other places to see.

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Author: jackmartis. Last updated: Jan 06, 2015

Pictures of Al-Masjid al-Nabawi

Alien Landing in Madinah - Al-Masjid al-Nabawi
Alien Landing in Madinah - Al-Masjid al-Nabawi. Photo by Yasser Abusen


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