Mehrab of the Prophet (Mihrab Nabawi)

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Mehrab Nabawi (محراب نبوي), also spelled as Mihrab Nabawi, literally meaning the "Prayer Niche of the Prophet" is a historic mihrab inside the Prophet's Mosque, that reportedly marks the actual spot from which Prophet Muhammad used to lead salah (prayers). Also called the "Mehrab Hanafi", it has been the functional mihrab of the mosque and at times it has remained a "commemorative" prayer niche; when the Uthami Mihrab is used as the functional one. Besides this mihrab, the Prophet's Mosque also has other niches which act as indicators for praying. These include mihrab al-tahajjud, mihrab Fatima, Mehrab Usmani and a few others.


The Mihrab Nabawi and the Musallah as seen from the north, the Mehrab of Uthman ibn Affan is directly behind this prayer niche. The current mehrab dates back to the abu al-Nasr Qaitibai's era, 1482 CE. It was renovated twice at least once by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman and then during the reign of King Fahd. It is one of the six mehrabs inside the mosque, five of these can be currently located and one was removed during the second expansion.

The current Mihrab structure is a culmination of reconstruction and decorations carried out by notable Muslims over the centuries. The ornating was added and changed over the years by subsequent rulers and other influential people.

The most recent decorations date back to the second Saudi reconstructions of the Masjid al-Nabawi.

Mihrab of the Prophet, Masjid al-Nabawi

circa 1500 CE

Panoramic view of the Riyad ul-Jannah with Mihrab e Nabawi (left), minbar (pulpit) of Qaitbey (right, behind the pillars), A rich Islamic history lies hidden behind the breathtaking view of this part of Masjid an-Nabawi, which is an epitome of modern and ancient art and architecture. Riyazul Jannah (green carpeted area), where the original mosque once stood, is the center of attraction for various reasons. The red-carpet area behind the mehrab to the left, was added during the time of Usman ibn Affan, third caliph.

Brief History

circa 1500 CE

View of the Riyad ul-Jannah, looking east, with the Mehrab Nabawi to the right and grills of the tomb (green in colour) in the far background. Historically, the mosque of the prophet did not have a curved Mihrab during the Prophet’s time or during the time of the four caliphs. A hand-written sign was added to the wall to identify the Qibla direction during the period of third caliph Uthman. The first curved niche or Mihrab was added in 88 Hijri (circa 707 CE) during the Umayyad period (most likely during the era of Umar bin Abdulaziz under the patronage of Walid bin Abdul Malik) at the site where the current Mihrab Uthmani stands.


circa 1500 CE

Conical Top from Ottoman Era
The mehrab has the typical Ottoman cupola above it, which was added during the renovation by Suleiman the magnificient. The conical top bears a circular inscription of a verse from the Quran's Surah al-Imran (chapter 3); part of verse 37. The inscription reads (كُلَّمَا دَخَلَ عَلَيْهَا زَكَرِيَّا ٱلْمِحْرَابَ), translation; ... Whenever Zachariah visited her in the sanctuary... (contd). The verse is refering to the guardianship of Mariyam by prophet Zakariya. The calligraphic inscriptions and floral patters are embosed in gold on a red base. The rest of the three sides of the top are beige in colour. A golden floral wreath circles around the top of the Mihrab's main body. The golden capital to the upper right corner behind the cupola belongs to the Ustuwaanah Hannanah.

circa 1500 CE

Curved Niche and Pillars
A small red plaque (one of the inscriptions) directly above the mehrab's main arch reads "This is the mussallah of the Prophet". The lower part of the prophet's prayer niche covers the spot where prophet Muhammad's head used to touch when he prostated during Salah. The open space inside the mehrab is where the prophet would have stood for prayers. The two identical plaques on the flanks read "This is the Musallah of the prophet." (identify) on the right pillar and "Prophet Muhammad said, 'Salah is the pillar (mainstay) of Deen'" (identify). Thecalligraphy surrounding the main arch of the prophet's mehrab bears verses from Quran, including Surah Taubah, Surah al-Baqarah.

circa 1500 CE

Posterior Wall
On the posterior wall of the mihrab are the historic inscriptions of five lines written in the Mamlooki Thuluth script (identify), which talks about the al-Ashraf, Abu al-Nasr Qaitibai's placement and dedication of the mehrab in the mosque. The two passages flank the mehrab, with western passage (right) bearing an inscription of a Hadith, which reads "What lies between my house and my pulpit is one garden from the gardens of Jannah", the origin hadith for the concept of Riyad al-Jannah.

circa 1500 CE

Flanking Passages
There are two passages on the flanks of Mehrab e Nabawi, one to the east (identify) and one to the west (identify), topped with arches, both are ornated with inscriptions. On both faces of eastern passage arch are inscribed with a hadith (saying of prophet Muhammad), which reads: "Nabi said, what is between my house and my minbar is a garden from the gardens of Jannah". Some of these inscribed arches, from earlier eras, are now preserved in the Makkah Museum of Two Holy Mosques.

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