The Prophet's Mosque or Al-Masjid an-Nabaw?

Al-Masjid an-Nabaw? ("Mosque of the Prophet"), often called the Prophet's Mosque, is a mosque built by the Islamic prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.s.) situated in Medina. It is the second holiest site in Islam (the first being the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca). Al-Masjid an-Nabaw? is a major pilgrimage site and many people who perform the Hajj go on to Medina before or after Hajj to visit the mosque.

The Prophet's Mosque was the second mosque built in history and one of the largest mosques in the world.

The site was originally adjacent to Muhammad's (s.a.a.s.) house; he settled there after his Hijrah (emigration) to Medina. According to history, the manner in which the Prophet (s.a.a.s.) decided on its location, was to let his camel loose, and choose the site where it finally stopped to rest.

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 Qur'an.


The original mosque was built by the Prophet (s.a.a.s.) himself, next to the house where he settled after his journey to Medina in 622 AD. It was an open-air building with a raised platform for the reading of the Qur'an.

A square enclosure of 30x35 meters, the mosque was built with palm trunks and mud walls and accessed through three doors: Bab Rahmah to the south, Bab Jibril to the west and Bab al-Nisa' to the east. The basic plan of the building has since been adopted in the building of other mosques throughout the world.

Inside, Muhammad (s.a.a.s.) 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.

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 ? 15 m (66 ? 49 ft) and became almost a square 50 ? 49.5 m (160 ? 162.4 ft). The height increased to became 3.5 m (11 ft) and the mosque encompassed 35 columns.

The mosque remained like that during the Caliph Abu Bakr until the Umar who enlarged the area of the mosque to 3575m2 and built more wooden columns.

During the Uthman ibn Affan an arcade of stone and plaster was added to he mosque and the columns were remolded and built of stone.


Subsequent Islamic rulers continued to enlarge and embellish the Prophet's Mosque over the centuries. In 707, Umayyad Caliph al-Walid (705-715) tore down the old structure and built a larger one in its place, incorporating the house and tomb of the Prophet.


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.


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 Muhammad 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.


The Ottoman sultans who controlled 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 Muhammad's mihrab (al-Shafi'iyyah) and placed a new dome covered in lead sheets and painted green above Muhammad's house and tomb.

During the reign of Ottoman Sultan Abdul Majid I (1839–1861), the mosque was entirely remodeled with the exception of 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 Muhammad's Tomb. The domes were decorated with Quranic verses and lines from Qa??da 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.


After the foundation of the Saudi Kingdom of Arabia in 1932, the Mosque of the Prophet underwent several major modifications. In 1951 King Abdul Aziz (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.

Notable features

The new Prophet’s Mosque contains the older mosque within it. The two sections can be easily distinguished: the older section has many colourful decorations and numerous small pillars; the new section is in gleaming white marble and is completely air-conditioned.

One of the most notable features of the site is the Green Dome over the center of the mosque, originally Aisha's house, where the tomb of Muhammad is located; early Muslim leaders Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab are buried in an adjacent area as well. It is not exactly known when the green dome was constructed but manuscripts dating to the early 12th century describe the dome. It is known as the Dome of the Prophet or the Green Dome.

At the heart of the mosque is a small, special area named ar-Rawdah an-Nabawiyah (The garden of the Prophet), which extends from the tomb of the prophet to his pulpit.

Ar-Rawdah has two small gateways manned by Saudi soldiers charged with preventing overcrowding. The green fence at the tomb of the Prophet is guarded by volunteers; they stop pilgrims from touching the fence, a gesture of worship regarded as idolatry.

The structure called Muhammad’s pulpit is also guarded by a volunteer, who attempts to keep pilgrims from touching the pulpit. The current marble pulpit was constructed by the Uthmaniyyah caliph, replacing the original palm wood structure.