Saturday 21 July 2018

Holy Places of Islam: Al-Masjid an-Nabawi - The Prophet (ﷺ) 's Masjid

Those proceeding to Makkah, Saudi Arabia for Hajj, the annual pilgrimage, or Umra, their definite destination in Saudi Arabia is holy city of Medina Al Munawara, for this is the city which felt the footsteps of Prophet of Islam Muhammad (peace be upon him) and this is the city where the Prophet is buried in a specially enclosed chamber inside the Masjid Al Nabawi.

Al-Masjid an-Nabawī has the honour of being constructed by Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) himself along with his companions soon after his migration from Makkah to Medina in 622. Al-Masjid an-Nabawī is the third masjid built in the history of Islam. Today, it is the second-holiest site in Islam, and most visited after al-Masjid al-Haram in Makkah. It is also one of the largest masjids in the world. As per experts' calculations, the area covered by the present day masjid is roughly 100 times bigger than its original size when it was built initially. Although the masjid was built with no roof, but today its architecture is one of the most absorbing and awe inspiring in the world.

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi was built adjacent to the place of abode of the Prophet (ﷺ),  The land on which the masjid was built belonged to two orphan brothers, Sahl and Suhail and contained a few date trees, graves of polytheists, a resting spot for herds of cattle. The Prophet purchased the land and some polytheists graves dug up and leveled which then formed the courtyard of the Prophet (ﷺ) 's masjid.

Initially the masjid was constructed keeping its direction towards Masjid Al-Aqsa (Bait Al Muqqadas, Jerusalem), but later it was re-orientated to the south When the revelation came down to change the Qibla to Makkah in 624 CE. 

The masjid took seven months to complete and measured 30.5 m × 35.62 m (100.1 ft × 116.9 ft) upon completion. The roof at a a height of 3.60 m (11.8 ft) was supported by palm trunks was made of beaten clay and palm leaves. The three doors of the mosque were Bab-al-Rahmah to the south, Bab-al-Jibril to the west and Babal-Nisa to the east.

The most notable feature of the masjid is its Green Dome in the south-east corner of the masjid. The dome is exactly atop the house of Ayesha, wife of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), which later converted into the tomb of the Prophet (ﷺ). Initially a wooden cupola was erected at the place of the present day dome, which was later built as green dome in 1818 by the Ottoman sultan Mahmud II. It was painted green in 1837. 

The original minbar (place from where the Imam of the masjid addresses the audience) used by the Prophet's (ﷺ) was a "wood block of date tree". In 629, a three staired ladder was added to it. The first two caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar, did not use the third step "due to respect for the Prophet." The third caliph Uthman placed a fabric dome over it and the rest of the stairs were covered with ebony. The minbar had many changes but the present marble minbar was made in the late fifteenth century.

There is something peculiar as for mihrabs of Prophet's (ﷺ) masjid is concerned. While all other masjid only have one mihrab, but the Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) masjid has three. The current mihrab is the one used nowadays for the imam to lead prayers. The next mihrab is set back and is called the Suleymaniye or Ahnaf mihrab. It was made on the orders of the Sultan Suleyman the magnificent for the Hanafi Imam to lead prayers whilst the Maliki Imam lead prayers from the Prophetic mihrab. The Prophetic mihrab completely covers the area that the Prophet (ﷺ) used to lead prayers from except where he placed his feet. 

The Rawḍah (Arabic of "Garden") is an area between the minbar and burial chamber of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). It is regarded as one of the Riyāḍ al-Jannah (Gardens of Paradise). A green carpet distinguishes the area from the rest of the mosque, which is covered in a red carpet. There is a tradition that supplications and prayers uttered here are never rejected, thus every devout vising the masjid attempts to pray here, though access into the area is generally not possible and one really has to wait to find a space for him.

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him), one of the most narrator of Hadihs attributed to the Prophet (ﷺ) has been quoted in Sahih Bukhari (the books on collection of Hadihs of the Prophet) that the Prophet (ﷺ) said:“One prayer offered in my masjid is superior to one thousand prayers offered in other masjids except Masjid al-Haram (Makkah al-Mukarramah).”

There is a legend of an empty space or grave next to where the Prophet (ﷺ), Abu Bakr and Umar (may Allāh be pleased with them) are buried. This was confirmed, however, when the individuals who went in to change the coverings in the hujrah* in the 1970s noted the presence of an empty space. Some believe that this empty grave is meant for Prophet Eesa (Jesus, peace be upon him) when he returns to the earth and eventually dies his biological death. However this is just  a speculation as there is no mention of this empty grave or what this space is meant for earlier in the history of Islam.

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 |
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