“…A mosque founded on righteousness from the first day is more worthy for you to stand in. Within it are men who love to purify themselves; and Allah loves those who purify themselves” (Quran 9:108).
This verse from the Holy Quran is a testament to the importance of the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) Mosque for all believers. It is the second largest and second most important mosque after Masjid-al Haram and is commonly known as Masjid an-Nabwi.
There are many facts about this revered building that you may still be unfamiliar with. The 10 things that you need to know about this mosque are:
1. Qaswa decided the place for the mosque
The mosque of the Prophet (PBUH) was built in the year 622 upon his arrival in Medina. Prophet (PBUH) was riding on the camel Qaswa and he let his camel decide the location of his humble abode. The prominent personalities of Medina wanted the Prophet (PBUH) to stay with them but he refused them saying:
“[This camel] is commanded by Allah; wherever it stops, that will be my home.”
When Qaswa stopped at the spot where the masjid now stands, the Prophet (PBUH) inquired who owned the land and purchased it from the owners Sahal and Suhail and made arrangements for himself.
2. The old city is smaller than the mosque
The size of the mosque has grown considerably: the current size is more than 100 times of the original building. This makes the current mosque cover the whole area of the city of Medina from the olden times. The evidence for which can be seen in the fact that Jannat Al-Baqi used to lie in the outskirts of the city during the Prophet’s (PBUH) time, however now it lies on the borders of the current mosque area.
3. There's an empty grave in the Prophet's room
There has been a legend surrounding the mosque that there is an empty grave next to the graves of Prophet (PBUH), Abu Bakr (RA) and Umar (RA). This legend was confirmed in the 1970’s when the covering of the hujrah was changed.
A contestable theory is that this grave is meant for Isa (AS) but there is no consensus on why there is an empty grave in the mosque.
4. The mosque caught fire once
Centuries after the death of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), the majority of the old mosque including the mimbar (from where the Prophet addressed his people) was destroyed in a fire. The fire was so intense that the roof, as well as some walls, collapsed, revealing Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) resting place for the first time in years.
5. No dome, then two
There was no dome over the Prophet’s (PBUH) grave for more than 650 years after his death. The first dome was wooden, built by a Mamluk Sultan in 1279. The dome that is visible to us is actually the outer dome; there is another much smaller dome inside with the name of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Abu Bakr (RA) and Umar (RA) inscribed on the inside.
6. The color of the dome was not always green
The dome has changed color many times due to renovations before it reached its current green form some 150 years ago: it used to be white and then turned purple and stayed that way for a long time.
7. It has three Mihrabs
Mosques around the world usually have one mihrab but the Prophet’s (PBUH) mosque has three. Imams use the current Mihrab for leading prayers. The other mihrab is set back and is called the Ahnaf mihrab: it was made on the orders of the Sultan Solomon for the Hanafi Imam to lead prayers from. The Maliki Imam lead prayers from the Prophetic mihrab.
8. The room of Fatima (RA)
The belongings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) were either housed in his own room or the room of Fatima (RA) which was incorporated in the Prophet’s (PBUH) room after expansion. During World War 1, the Ottoman commander evacuated many artifacts to Istanbul and many can be found in the Topkapi Palace today but several items are still undocumented.
9. The mosque has many signs
The mosque is full of signs for those who believe: each pillar, dome, and the window has a story and is of great historical and spiritual significance. Changes in the design of the surrounding objects are known to be an indication of the important parts of the mosque – the signs aren’t labeled so as to not distract from the main purpose of the mosque.
10. Prayers are never rejected in Riad ul Jannah
There is a small yet special area in the heart of the mosque known as Riad ul Jannah (Gardens of Paradise) extending from the Prophet’s (PBUH) tomb to his pulpit (mimbar). According to a tradition, the supplications and prayers uttered in this particular spot are never rejected which is why pilgrims often attempt to visit the confines of this area.
The Prophet’s (PBUH) Mosque was more than a mosque: it was a center for learning, a scene for many trials and triumphs of the Muslim nation and was a safe haven for the homeless. Its significance in Muslim history is irreplaceable.