Medina, in Saudi Arabia, houses Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi, the Prophet’s Mosque. This mosque is the second holiest site in Islam after the Kaba and the Sacred Mosque in Mecca. It was built after the hijra from Mecca to Medina in 622 C.E. Many Muslims performing the hajj will try to go visit this holy mosque as well. The focus of this post, the second in a series on important sites, is the Prophet’s Mosque.
The Prophet’s Mosque today stands on the site of the mosque first built by the Prophet Muhammad near his house in Medina. Originally, the mosque was an open-air building made of palm trunks and mud walls. The Prophet included a section in the mosque called the suffah, a shady place where strangers and needy people could take shelter. The mosque served several purposes: a place of worship, a community center, a court, and a religious school. Initially, the prayers faced Jerusalem; however, the qibla was later changed to Mecca.
The Prophet’s Mosque has been altered and expanded several times. Now, it is two floors and is 100 times bigger than the original mosque and can hold about half a million worshipers. It also has 24 domes which slide out on metal tracks to shade areas of the roof so people can pray. The most distinct aspect of the mosque is a green dome called the Dome of the Prophet and marks the location of the Prophet Muhammad’s tomb. Abu Bakr and Umar, the first and second caliphs, are buried near the Prophet. The center of the mosque is an area called Al-Rawdah Al-Nabawiyah. This small area extends from the Prophet’s tomb to the pulpit. In a hadith, the Prophet Muhammad indicated that supplications said in Al-Rawdah are never rejected.
This mosque is significant because it represents an important period in Islamic history. After the intense persecution in Mecca, Muslims were able to openly practice their new faith in Medina and establish a community. It is in Medina where the Muslim community really started to grow and thrive. The Prophet’s Mosque represents that early community and the time when Muslims became a true community.
Have you visited the Prophet’s Mosque? What was your experience at the mosque? Why do you think the Prophet’s Mosque is important? Are there sites in other faith traditions that have the same function as the Prophet’s Mosque? Please share your comments below.