Masjid an-Nabawi at the time of Prophet Muhammad

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Masjid al-Nabawi was originally built by prophet Muhammad in the first year of the Hijrah (circa 622 CE), after his arrival in Medina. The land was owned by Sahal and Suhayl, partly as a place for drying dates, and at one end had been previously used as a burial ground. Refusing to "accept the land as a gift", he bought the land and it took seven or eight months to complete.


A model of the original mosque, at Dar al Medina, built by prophet Muhammad after he arrived in Medina following Hejrah from Mecca.

In 622 CE, following his migration to ancient Yathrib, which was already an ancient oasis town inhabited for some 1500 years at the time, the development of an early concept of a Muslim state began to take shape. During this peiod a number of "public" buildings were constructed, including the Masjid an-Nabawi, and the Prophet Muhammad personally oversaw the construction of the mosque. Mounted on his camel named Qaswa, he reached the site, part of which was initially functioning as a burial ground. Remarkably, when offered the land as a gift by the two orphans, Sahl and Suhayl, who were its owners, Muhammad declined the generous gesture. Instead, he opted to purchase the land, with the financial support provided by Abu Ayyub al-Ansari.

The entire construction process spanned seven months, during which the mosque took shape under the careful guidance of Prophet Muhammad. The Masjid Nabawi, commonly known as the Prophet's Mosque, was initially an open air mud-brick and stone wall enclosure. The simple masjid underwent many phases of expansion, the first being seven years after its construction, during the lifetime of prophet Muhammad.

This initiative not only established a sacred space for worship but also showcased his humility and commitment to the establishment of a basic social and administrative paradigm in the Medinan society. The mosque's inception marked a significant moment in the history of Islam, serving as a pivotal center for spiritual, social, and administrative activities in the burgeoning Muslim community of Medina.

First Construction of Masjid an-Nabawi

circa 622 CE
(1 Hijri)

Initial Plan and Orientation
The original mosque was 35 meters long and 30 meters wide. The layout or floor plan of the mosque complex in its first iteration of the mosque depicts how it might have looked in the first year of Hijrah, back then it was oriented north-south. The qiblah wall was to the north facing the Masjid al-Aqsa; where nearly half of the mosque enclosure was covered with a roof of date-palm leaves, supported by data-palm tree trunks and the rest of the enclosure was left as open air courtyard except for a small roofed area to the south, called al-Suffah. This small area was also roofed with date palm leaves and beaten clay. However, it is not certain if the raised platform of al-Suffah was constructed along the entire southern wall or in part. Since, the Qibla (prayer direction) remained towards the Jerusalem (al-Quds) for the next 18 months, the mosque also remained north-south oriented for the same period.

circa 622 CE
(1 Hijri)

Construction Details
The initial construction of Masjid Nabawi started in the month of Rabi al-Awwal, in mid year 1 Hijri (circa 622 CE), with the Prophet Muhammad himself taking part in laying its foundations and its development. He marked out the boundary of the site using the tip of a spear he inherited from his father, Abdullah.

The enclosure of the mosque was constructed with unbaked bricks as building material on top of a stone-masonry foundation which was about 1.5 metres high. Parts of the enclosure walls were constructed with stones and mud was used to plaster the walls.

The roof which was supported by date and palm tree trunks was made of beaten clay and palm leaves. It was raised to the height of 2.17 meters (7.11 feet) and slightly sloped to facilitate drainage during the rainy season. The three doors of the mosque were Bab-al-Rahmah (The Door of Mercy) to the south, Bab-al-Jibril (Door of Gabriel) to the west and Bab al-Nisa (Door of the Women) to the east. Originally these gates bore no names. The total area was some 1,050 square metres. The original mosque of the Prophet did not have a mehrab, the first mihrab might have originated during the reign of Umayyad prince al-Walīd I (705–715 CE).

During this time prophet Muhammad was married to Sawdah bint Zam'a and Aiesha bint Abi Bakr, so at least two separate chambers, living quarters of the Prophet Muhammad and his wives, were built on the south-eastern corner adjacent to the mosque.

circa 622 CE
(1 Hijri)

First Minbar of Masjid an-Nabawi
At some point after the completion of the first mosque, a minbar (pulpit) was installed. The original minbar used by prophet Muhammad was simply a "wood block of date tree". This was replaced by him with a tamarisk one, which had dimensions of 50cm × 125cm (20in × 49in). Also in 629 CE, as the congreggation expanded and more and more Muslims started to attend the mosque at the prayer times, it was replaced with a three stepped minbar with a backboard.

Change of Qibla and Reconstruction

circa 623/24 CE
(2 Hijri)

Prior to the second Hijri (circa 623-24 CE), the prophet Muhammad and Muslims faced the city of al-Quds (Jerusalem) for prayers. According to Islamic traditions after some 15-18 months after the Hijrah, verses 144, 149, and 150 of the surah al-Baqarah were revealed each of which contains a command to "turn your face toward the Sacred Mosque" (fawalli wajhaka shatr al-Masjid il-Haram, literally meaning turn your face towards the Masjid al-Haram).

This change in directed mandated some architectural change to the Masjid Nabawi, when the main prayer area was shifted towards the south and the al-Suffah was moved along the northern wall. The entrance from the north was closed off with stones and mud plaster and a new portal was opened in the northern wall where the Suffah was situated. Other than this major change a few minor structural reinforcements and restorations were made. Another living quarter was added to the south-eastern corner for the Aisha bint Abi Bakr, the third wife of prophet Muhammad.

First Expansion of the Prophet's Mosque

circa 629 CE
(7 Hijri)

Plan and Orientation
The total area of the mosque was increased to about 2200 square metres and the height of its walls was increased to about 3.6 metres. The masjid was extended to the north, east and west and each side now measured about 47 metres, making the masjid almost square. Three rows of columns, about 15 metres deep were added to the west wall. This area became the main space for prayer.

circa 629 CE
(7 Hijri)

Architectural Changes
The first major expansion of Masjid al-Nabawi took place right after the Battle of Khaybar, when the total width was increased by 20 meters and the length by 15 meters. The new dimensions became approximately 47.32 x 48.20 meters, making the mosque enclosure nearly a square. The northern boundary of the Mosque was where today the Turkish construction ends in this direction. On the west side its boundary was five columns west of the pulpit. Today the columns marking this expansion bear an inscription (inspect) near the top which reads "The boundary of Prophet's Mosque" can be seen.

The foundation was laid with stones and the walls were built of unbaked mud bricks like before. The columns were made of palm tree and the roof was covered by branches of palm trees. The height of the roof was increased from 2.17 meters (7.11 feet) meters to 3.5 meters (11.48 feet). The funding for the additional land and construction of the mosque was paid by the companion Uthman Ghani, who later became the third caliph.

Expansion of Role in Muslim Community

circa 629 CE
(7 Hijri)

By this time the Mosque of the Prophet wasn’t just a place where the obligatory prayers were performed. Rather, it had become a place where political affairs were discussed, delegations were received, teaching and preaching activities were carried out, military and strategic planning was held and the needy were catered for. Not only that, but the economic activity was also held in the surrounding area of the mosque. By this time, the Masjid Nabawi had become the center of day-to-day life, civic and economic activity in the city of Medina.

The Original Mosque in the Modern Times

circa 2023 CE
(1445 Hijri)

Today the total area that once constituted the mosque of prophet Muhammad, is situated inside the oldest part of the Prophet's Mosque. It covers nearly half of the older Ottoman period prayer hall, marked with green carpets and includes the Rawdah Riyadul Junnah. There was no mehrab in the mosque during this time as well, instead a minbar with either two or three steps was installed on the request of the companions.

Gallery Want to use our images?

See Also


Let's bring some history to your inbox

Signup for our monthly newsletter / online magazine.
No spam, we promise.

Privacy Policy