Masjid-Al-Nabawi – Medina – Saudi Arabia
The original mosque was built by Muhammad next to the house where he settled after his journey to Medina in 622 AD. The original mosque was an open-air building (covered by palm fronds) with a raised platform for the reading of the Quran. It was a rectangular enclosure of 30 × 35 m (98 × 115 ft) at a height of 2 m (6 ft 7 in) wall which was built with palm trunks and mud walls. It was accessed through three doors: Bab Rahmah (Door of Mercy) to the south, Bab Jibril (Door of Gabriel) to the west and Bab al-Nisa’ (Door of the Women) to the east. The basic plan of the building has since been adopted in the building of most mosques throughout the world. Inside, Muhammad created a shaded area to the south called the suffah and aligned the prayer space facing north towards Jerusalem. When the qibla (prayer direction) was changed to face the Kaaba in Mecca, the mosque was re-oriented to the south. The mosque also served as a community center, a court, and a religious school.
Seven years later (629 AD/7 AH), the mosque was doubled in size to accommodate the increasing number of Muslims. The area of the mosque was enlarged by 20 × 15 m (66 × 49 ft) and became almost a square 50 × 49.5 m (160 × 162.4 ft). The height increased to became 3.5 m (11 ft) and the mosque encompassed 35 columns. The mosque remained like that during the Caliph Abu Bakr until the Omar who enlarged the area of the mosque to 3575m2 and built more wooden columns. During the Uthman ibn Affan an arcade of stone and plaster was added to he mosque and the columns were remolded and built of stone.
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. This mosque was 84 by 100 m (276 by 330 ft) 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, similar to those seen in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (built by the same caliph). 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.
The heart of the mosque houses a very special but small area named al-Riad-ul-Jannah, which extends from Muhammad’s tomb (Rawdah) to his pulpit (minbar). Pilgrims attempt to visit and pray in Riad-ul-Jannah, for there is a tradition that supplications and prayers uttered here are never rejected. Entrance into Riad-ul-Jannah is not always possible (especially during the Hajj season), as the tiny area can accommodate only a few hundred people. Al-Riad-ul-Jannah is considered part of Jannah (Paradise). It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that Muhammad said: “The area between my house and my minbar is one of the gardens (rawdah) of Paradise, and my minbar is on my cistern (hawd)”
Ar-Rawdah is one of the most important feature of the site. It is the green dome over the center of the mosque, where the tomb of Muhammad is located. Constructed in 1817C.E. diring the reign of Mahmud II and painted green in 1839C.E., it is known as the Dome of the Prophet. Early Muslim leaders Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab are buried beside Muhammad. Ar-Rawdah has two small gateways. The current marble pulpit was constructed by the Ottomans. The original pulpit was much smaller than the current one, and constructed of palm tree wood, not marble.