Rahat Mosque

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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The "Rahat" Mosque (مسجد رهط) is a small mosque structure in the bedouin settlement of Rahat in the Negev. The ancient mosque, excavated by the IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority), has been dated to the second half of the seventh century or the beginning of the eigth century CE. It is one of the earliest known examples of the open-air mosque architecture in the world.


Built soon after the advent of Islam, the mosque in the Negev town of Rahat indicates how fast the new religion of Islam swept through the countryside. It is speculated that the Islamic commander Amr ibn al-’As, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad, who led the 7th century Islamic conquest of Egypt, may have allocated the land for this very mosque on his way to Egypt.

The traditional archaeological methods, such as identification of pottery styles, coins and oil lamps, put the date of the structure of the Islamic mosque around the end of the seventh and beginning of the eigth century CE, with a margin of 30 to 40 years.

The mosque was about 20 to 30 meters from the ruins of a farm, dating to the end of the Byzantine period (the late sixth century CE to early seventh century) – or the beginning of the Islamic period.

The discovery of a mosque near an agricultural settlement between Be’er Sheva and Ashkelon also indicates the processes of cultural and religious change which the country underwent during the transition from the Byzantine to the early Islamic period.


circa 680 CE

The open-air mosque has a semicircular mirhab, or prayer niche, facing south-southeast, in the direction of Mecca. The modest edifice – which measures six square meters and was probably built to serve just one or two families in the village – provides silent testimony to the rapid spread of Islam after its advent and arrival in what is today Israel around 636 CE. Not much remains of the ancient building, but the foundations of the walls feature the hallmark prayer niche.

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