Madinah, located a little more than 270 miles north of Makkah, is the second holiest city in Islam. This city was host to important history and significance during the time of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. It is home to many religious sites and of course the beautiful Al-Masjid An-Nabawi.
The city’s religious significance began with the migration of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and other Muslims from Makkah to Madinah. The Muslims in Makkah were enduring many difficulties and they sought sanctuary within the city of Madinah. There, the number of Muslims greatly increased, and the city is near where important battles of early Islamic history took place.
When Prophet Muhammad ﷺ arrived in Madinah, the Muslims immediately worked to construct a masjid. When Al-Masjid An-Nabawi was first built, it was an open-air building and since then, it greatly expanded. The architecture and layout was largely influenced by whoever was in control of the area. Over the years, Al-Masjid An-Nabawi steadily grew to the amazing architectural feat it is today.
The structures outside the building were clearly built with an obvious purpose. Different entrances are specifically for either men or for women. There are fences clearly indicating spaces for women and giving them privacy from men. Fountains for making ablution and providing a drink are located all around the perimeter, some of them bringing Zamzam all the way from Makkah. A more recent addition to the external structure of the masjid are large umbrella-like canopies that provide shade for Muslims sitting outside the building during the day. They open during the day and close at Maghrib time. Because the temperatures of Madinah are so high, the floor can get very hot and sitting outside for a long period of time can even be dangerous, so these canopies provide much relief.
The interior of Al-Masjid An-Nabawi is absolutely breathtaking. When the Ottomans were in control of Madinah, they had the floors of the prayer rooms paved with marble and red stone. They also added domes to the masjid that were decorated with verses from the Quran and lines from al-Busiri’s Qasida al-Burda (which you can read more about here). In 1951, when Madinah was officially under control of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, slightly-pointed arches were added to the interior of the building. White marble columns support these arches. Another recent addition includes 27 moving domes on the roof of the masjid. During the nighttime, the domes are able to slide away to allow cool air inside. In their original positions however, a masjid visitor can observe the intricate decorations on the inside of the dome. At the center of the masjid is an area called Riad ul-Jannah, which means Gardens of Paradise. This area goes from Rawdah, the tomb of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, to his minbar. Riad ul-Jannah, as can be told by its English translation, is part of Paradise and all prayers and supplications performed in this area are always accepted.
Not only does the religious significance of Al-Masjid An-Nabawi make a Muslim’s journey to Madinah a magnificent experience, but the layout, design, and structure of the masjid add entire new layers of awe.
Images photographed by me and my siblings in July 2012.