Masjid al-Nabawi (Mosque of the Prophet)

By the Editors of the Madain Project

al-Masjid an-Nabawī (Arabic: المسجد النبوي‎), also called the Prophet's Mosque, is a historic mosque originally established and built by prophet Muhammad, situated in the city of Medina. al-Masjid an-Nabawi was the second mosque built, first being the Quba Mosque, in the history of Islam and is now one of the largest mosques in the world. The current plan of the mosque dates back to the early years of 1990s and incorporates the constructions from late Ottoman era to early and modern Saudi periods. Today the Mosque of the Prophet is an extensive complex of buildings and structures that not only covers nearly all of the Medina of the early seventh century CE; it also incorporates several other sites like Jannatul Baqi and Saqifah Bani Saidah that were located clearly outside of the city bounds.


Horizon view of the Prophet's Mosque, with the Green Dome far in the background. It is the second-holiest site in Islam, after the Great Mosque of Mecca. It is always open, regardless of date or time. The site was originally adjacent to Muhammad's house; the original mosque was an open-air building and served as a community center, a court, and a school as well.

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 connection to Muhammad. The mosque has been extended over the years, the latest being in the mid 1990s. One of the most notable features of the site is the green dome over the centre of the mosque, where the tomb of Prophet Muhammad and early Islamic leaders Abu Bakr and Umar are located.

In order to finance the scholarly and educational activities in the Masjid al-Nabawi as well as the renovation and reconstruction projects, several foundations were started to be established in the Umayyad era, and they have been increasing in number since then.

Masjid al-Nabawi (The Prophet's Mosque in Medina)

Brief History of Masjid Nabawi

circa 622 CE

The mosque was originally built by the prophet Muhammad in 622 CE after his arrival in Medina (called Yathrib at the time) has a long and storied history of nearly fifteen hundred years. The land for the mosque was purchased from two orphans, Sahl and Suhayl. The price of the buying was paid for by Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, and it took seven months to complete the construction of the mosque. At the time the Prophet's Mosque was not only used as a prayer house, rather as a community, social services and administrative center, court house and a town hall. Various kings, sultans, ameers and other notable people have contributed towards its construction and expansions which has led to the current development and architecture of current building.

Current Architecture

circa 622 CE

Riyad ul-Jannah, Masjid al-Nabawi

Architecture of the Mosque
The modern architecture of the Prophet's mosque, originally constructed by Prophet Muhammad himself shortly after his migration from Makkah to Madinah in 622 CE, has undergone extensive renovations and expansions over the centuries. The expansions and reconstruction (contributing to its unique architectural identity) have been so extensive that none of mosque structure before the late Ottoman period has survived. As a symbol of spiritual enlightenment and communal gathering, the architecture of Masjid Nabawi not only reflects the principles of Islamic aesthetics but also serves as a beacon of reverence and unity for Muslims worldwide.

Notable Architectural Elements

circa 622 CE

Riyad ul-Jannah, Masjid al-Nabawi

Rawdah Riyad ul-Jannah
The Rawdah ul-Jannah (Garden of Paradise), also spelled as the Riaz ul-Jannah, is the oldest and most important part which is sitated at the heart of Masjid al-Nabawi. It extends from Muhammad's tomb (Rawdah) to his pulpit (minbar). Ridwan (Arabic: رضوان‎ Riḍwān) means "pleased". In Islamic tradition, Ridwan is the name of an angel in charge of maintaining Jannah. 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)", hence the name. There are several notable and historical interests in this area, including the Mihrab nabawi, Minbar Nabawi, Bab al-Taubah, some eigth notable pillars, and the Mukabariyya.

circa 610 CE

Golden grills of the Prophet Muhammad's Tomb enclosure.

Rawdah Rasool
The Rawdah Rasool (literally meaning the garden of the prophet, referring to the tomb of prophet Muhammad) is located in the south-eastern corner of the Ottoman prayer Hall, the oldest part of the current mosque complex. Generally this part of the mosque is refered to as the Rawdah al-Sharifah (the noble garden). The grave of prophet Muhammad it self is not visible from any point outside or inside the current grilled structure. The small cmaber containing the grave of prophet Muhammad and two of his companions (abiBakr and Umar) is a small 10'x12' room again surrounded by at least two more walls and one blanket shroud. The Riyadhul Jannah is considered to be the holiest part of the Prophet's Mosque where pilgrims try the hardest to offer nawafil (voluntary prayers).

circa 622 CE

Bab as-Salam Minaret, Masjid al-Nabawi

Minarets of Masjid an-Nabawi
The Prophet's Mosque is adorned with minarets, which were added during various expansions and renovations of the historic mosque. After the renovation project of 1994, today the mosque has ten minarets in total which are 104 metres (341 feet) high. Out of these ten the Bab as-Salam Minaret is the most historic one, located over the Bab as-Salam is one of the four minarets situated on the southern flank of the Prophet's mosque. It was added by Muhammad ibn Kalavun and was renovated by Mehmed IV in 1307 CE. The minarets' upper, bottom and middle portion are cylindrical, octagonal and square shaped respectively. The newer minarets, added during the reign of King Abdul Aziz al-Saud and subsequent period, have four sections topped by a balcony.

circa 1279 CE

The Green Dome of the prophet Muhammad's Tomb.

Green Dome
The Green Dome (القبة الخضراء‎) is a distinctive green-colored dome built over the tomb of the prophet Muhammad and early Muslim Caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar, in the oldest part of the al-Masjid an-Nabawi. The dome is located in the south-east corner of al-Masjid al-Nabawi's (Mosque of the Prophet) current structure and is the most recognizable symbol in Medina. The structure dates back to 1279 CE, when an unpainted wooden cupola was built over the tomb. The dome was first painted green in 1837, and hence became known as the Green Dome.

circa 622 CE

Oldest part of the Prophet's Mosque.

Ottoman Prayer Hall
The Ottoman Hall is the oldest part of the mosque and is situated in the southern most part of the modern Masjid an-Nabawi. The Qibla wall is the most adorned wall of Masjid an-Nabawi and dates back to late 1840s reconstruction and expansion of the prophet's mosque by Ottoman Sultan Abdulmajid I. The Qibla wall is adorned with some 185 names of prophet Muhammad. Other inscriptions and calligraphy includes the verses from Quran, a few Hadiths etc.

circa 622 CE

First courtyard of Masjid Nabawi.

Ottoman Courtyards
During the Ottoman era the Prophet's Mosque had two inner courtyards, these two courtyards were retained in the subsequent Saudi expansions and reconstructions. Seen here is the first courtyard (حصوة الاولى) with colonnade of first Saudi expansion (left), and Ottoman prayer hall to the right with al-Qubah al-Khaḍrā (القبة الخضراء‎), in background. During the expansion of the mosque the extended courtyard to the north of the Ottoman prayer hall were demolised and rebuilt by al-Saud ibn 'Abdulaziz. While the prayer hall where the tomb of the prophet and Riyad ul-Jannah is located dates back to the Ottoman period. The expansion of ibn 'Abdulaziz has two courtyards, shaded with 12 large umbrellas. Before the modern renovations, maybe before the first Saudi expansion, this area had a small garden (inspect), known as the "Garden of Fatimah" (حديقة فاطمة).

circa 800 CE

Dikkat al-Aghwat.

Dikkat ul-Aghwat and al-Suffah
The Dikkat Al-Aghwat (دكة الأغوات), usually confused with the al-Suffah (الصُّفّة) is a rectangular raised platform near Riyad ul-Jannah immediately south of the Prophet Muhammad's tomb enclosure within the mosque. The modern platform is located slightly south-west of the original site of the Suffah. This particular location marks the spot where Turk soldiers used to sit under shade while guarding the mosque. It is located near the (north of) Dikkat ul-Tahajjud. The original Suffah (literally meaning mud-bench) was a place that was available at the rear side of Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (Muhammad's Mosque), during the Medina period.

circa 622 CE

Masjid al-Nabawi Library

Library of the Prophet's Mosque
The Maktaba Masjid al-Nabawi (Prophet's Mosque Library) is located within the western wing of mosque complex and serves as a modern library and archive of hand written manuscripts and other artefacts. Library has four main sections i.e. the main library, the antique manuscripts hall A and B, the principality exhibition of Masjid al-Nabawi's construction and history. Originally extablished circa 1481/82 CE (886 Hj.), it was destroyed in a later fire that gutted the mosque entirely. The modern library was most likely re-established in circa 1933/34 CE (1352 Hj.). It includes books donated by philanthropists as endowments from several notable people.

circa 622 CE

Bab al-Malik Fahad, Masjid al-Haram

Gates of Masjid an-Nabawi
Today the main complex of the Prophet's Mosque has 42 gates in total, having varying number of portals. King Fahad Gate (Bab al-Malik Fahad), pictured here, is one of the major gates of Prophet's Mosque (Masjid an-Nabawi), it is situated on the nothern side of the mosque. Originally mosque of the prophet had only three small doors on three sides, today the mosque has in excess of two hundred gates, portals and access ways to accommodate the swathes of people. Over the years as the mosque was expanded, the number and location of the gates changed significantly as well. Today the location of only a few original gates is marked or known.

circa 1991 CE

Foundation stones of Masjid Nabawi.

Foundation Stones of Expansions and Reconstructions
A large number of foundation Stones are installed around the entire premises of the mosque for the various expansions and reconstructions of Masjid al-Nabawi. The prophet's mosque has undergone various rebuilding, construction and expansion projects, one after the other Islamic rulers greatly expanded and decorated it. From a small mud wall building measuring some 30.5 m × 35.62 m (100.1 ft × 116.9 ft) today the area of the mosque spans some 1.7 million square feet and can accommodate 0.6-1 million people at a time.

circa 610 CE

Sliding domes of the Masjid Nabawi.

Sliding Domes
The Masjid Nabawi has a flat paved roof topped with 27 sliding domes on square bases. Masjid an-Nabawi's second expansion increased the roof area extensively. 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. The idea of sliding domes to regulate the internal climate of the mosque was conceived by Kamal Ismael. These domes are adorned with Islamic geomatric patterns, mostly in blue color.

circa 610 CE

Masjid Nabawi's architecture.

Piazzas and Umbrellas
al-Masjid an-Nabawi Umbrellas are convertible umbrellas erected at the piazza of al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina, Saudi Arabia. The shade of the umbrella is spread in the four corners, and the area covered by the shade extends to 143,000 square meters. These umbrellas are aimed to protect worshipers from the heat of the sun during prayer, as well as from the risk of slipping and falling in the event of rain.

circa 610 CE

Jannat ul-Baqi or Baqi ul-Gharqad

Jannat al-Baqi'
The Jannatul Baqi' graveyard is located on the eastern flank of the Prophet's Mosque and covers some 170,000 square meters of area. Modern day view of the Jannat al-Baqi. According to Islamic Tradition, more than ten thousand companions of prophet Muhammad are buried here. Some of the graves are that of Fatima bint Muhammad, Imam Hassan ibn 'Ali, Zain ul-'Abideen, Imam Baqir, Imam Jaffar Sadiq. Many traditions relate Muhammad issuing a prayer every time he passed it. Although originally it was located on the outskirts of the city of Medina, today it is an integral part but separate of the mosque complex.

circa 610 CE

Saqifah Bani Sa'idah

Saqifah Bani Sa'idah
A small garden marks the site of a communal building situated to the north-west of the Masjid Nabawi. The significance of the site arises because of an event in early Islam when some of the companions of the prophet Muhammad pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr as the first caliph and successor to Muhammad shortly after his death in 632 CE (11 Hijri). It is not certain what kind of structure or building stood here at the time of the Bay't of Abu Bakr. The Arabic word saqifa denotes a covered communal place for conversation but today the term is synonymous in historical texts with the specific meeting immediately after prophet Muhammad's death in which his succession was debated.

Gallery Want to use our images?

An illustration of the Masjid Nabawi in early twentieth century CE.
An aerial view of the Masjid Nabawi (looking towards the first Saudi expansion part of the mosque).
Panoramic view of al-Masjid Nabawi from the north-west.
Aerial view of the Masjid Nabawi complex, view from the south-west.
Interior of the Masjid Nabawi.

Recommended Readings

Visiting the Prophet's Mosque and Guidelines for Visitors

Dr 'Abdullah Ibn Naji Al-Mikhliif

This book is presented in a simple style and it is comprehensive in the topics it deals with. It comprises the key aspects that should be taken into consideration by visitors. Praise be to Allah Who made visiting the Prophet's Mosque one of the most pious acts and prayer therein a means for gaining higher ranks.
See on Amazon

The Sirah of the Prophet A Contemporary and Original Analysis

Yasir Qadhi

This book provides a refreshing insight into the life of the Final Messenger and contextualises the sīrah in the modern-day context. It is not just a chronological account but also offers beneficial and actionable lessons, relating the biography of the Prophet (PBUH) to our daily lives.
See on Amazon

See Also


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