Masjid al-Nabawi often called the Prophet’s Mosque, is situated in the city of Medina. As the Final Resting Place of the Messenger of Allah Hazrat Mohammad, it is considered to be the second holiest place in Islamic world by all Muslims and is the second largest mosque in the world.
The Prophet’s Mosque has been a distinguished symbol in the history of Islam and that of its legislation. Allah, the Almighty, commanded His Messenger (Peace be upon him) to establish his mosque in the location he precisely demarcated. The radiance of Islam advanced from it and spread to all directions of the earth.
One of the most notable features of the site is the Green Dome over the center of the mosque, where the tomb of Muhammad is located. 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.
Early Muslim leaders, first two Rashidun Caliphs Abu Bakr As-Siddiq and Umar ibn al-Khattab are buried in an adjacent area in the mosque.
The site was originally Prophet Muhammad’s house; he settled there after his Hijra to Medina, later building a mosque on the grounds. He himself shared in the heavy work of construction. The original mosque was an open-air building.
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 Muhammad (s.a.w), next to the house where he settled after Hijrah in 622 AD. It was an open-air building with a raised platform for the reading of the Qur’an. It was a rectangular enclosure of 30 m × 35 m (98 ft × 115 ft), 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.
Inside, Muhammad (s.a.w), created a shaded area to the south called the suffah and aligned the prayer space facing north towards Jerusalem. When the qibla 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.
Subsequent Islamic rulers continued to enlarge and embellish the mosque over the centuries. In 707, Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik (705-715) replaced the old structure and built a larger one in its place, incorporating the tomb of Muhammad (s.a.w). This mosque was 84 by 100 m in size, with stone foundations and a teak roof supported on stone columns. The mosque walls were decorated with mosaics by Coptic and Greek craftsmen. The courtyard was surrounded by a gallery on four sides, with four minarets on its corners. A mihrab topped by a small dome was built on the qibla wall.
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 Qalawun, a dome was erected above the tomb of Muhammad (s.a.w) and an ablution fountain was built outside of Bab al-Salam. 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 Abdülmecid (1839-1861), the mosque was entirely remodeled with the exception of Muhammad’s Tomb. 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 Qur’anic verses and lines from Qasida al-Burda and a fifth minaret (al-Majidiyya), was built to the west of the enclosure.
After the foundation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, the mosque underwent several major modifications. In 1951 King Ibn Saud (1932-1953) ordered demolitions around the mosque to make way for new wings. 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.
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. He also installed twenty seven moving domes at the roof of Masjid Nabawi.
At the heart of the mosque is a very special but small area named ar-Rawdah an-Nabawiyah which extends from the tomb of the prophet to his pulpit. All pilgrims attempt to visit and pray in ar-Rawdah, for there is a tradition that supplications and prayers uttered here are never rejected.
Entrance into ar-Rawdah is not always possible, as the tiny area can accommodate only a few hundred people.
Ar-Rawdah has two small gateways manned by Saudi police officers. The current marble pulpit was constructed by the Ottomans.
Ar-Rawdah an-Nabawiyah is part of Jannah (Heaven or Paradise).
After praying Tahhiyat to the mosque, the visitors move to the final resting place of the Prophet of Allah, Mohammed (s.a.w), in the Sacred Chamber; the room of Hazrat Aishah . Interred in the same place are his two beloved and respected friends, respectively, Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq and Umar bin Al-Khattaab. In front of the Sacred Chamber are three tall gates, with three large medallions made of gold-coated brass, on them.