Saturday, April 8, 2017

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the Prophet's Mosque), Medina

Duration of stay: 2 nights from 26th till 27th June 2016

For many reasons, I’m officially in love with the Prophet’s Muhammad Nabawi Mosque when I first laid my eyes on it. It was the first mosque that we arrived during the umrah trip last year and I must say that it has blown my mind away. Our group rode a bus from Jeddah’s airport to reach Medina city and due to dropping off another passenger at another local airport in Jeddah, we arrived very late whereby it was already a call (azan) for Fajar prayer when Nabawi’s mosque appeared in sight. Due to that delayed schedule, we had very little food for sehri but no one was complaining since food was not the main reason for our trip. Usually, the drive from Jeddah Abdulaziz International Airport to Medina only took 4 and a half hours drive. Let's see more details about the mosque construction and its architectural perspective.

Inside ladies prayer hall where the dome was open for natural lights

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi is famously known as the Prophet's Muhammad Mosque as it was established and originally built by the Islamic prophet Muhammad, situated in the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia. It was the 3rd mosque built in the history of Islam (the first was Masjid Al-Haram and second was Masjid Quba) and is now one of the largest mosques in the world. It’s being the second holiest site in Islam, after Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca. There's no closing time as the mosque is always open, regardless of date or time. The mosque can accommodate about 600 thousand to 1 million peoples praying capacity at 1 time, the floor area of about 1.7 million square feet. The Saudi Government is planning for further expansion to increase the capacity to 1.7 million.

The first morning spent in the peaceful mosque, after performing obligatory Fajr prayer

The site was originally selected as it seated adjacent to Prophet Muhammad's house when he settled in this area after his Hijra (emigration) to Medina in 622 CE. He chose the location and shared in the heavy work of the mosque early construction. The original mosque was built on an open-air concept building served as a community center, a court, and a religious school beside a reunite place to pray together. There was a raised platform for the people who taught the Quran. Subsequent Islamic rulers greatly expanded and decorated it after the Prophet's time. In 1909, it became the first place in the Arabian Peninsula to be provided with electrical lights. The mosque is being placed under the control of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. It is located in what was traditionally the center of Medina, with many hotels and old markets nearby, being a major pilgrimage site. Many pilgrims who perform the Hajj and/or Umrah will go on to Medina to visit the mosque due to its connections to the life of Prophet Muhammad.

There's plenty of the Holy book, Al-Quran being placed inside the mosque, hence, don't bother to bring your own piece

During the expansion project at the reign of the Umayyad Caliph al-Walid I, it now incorporates the final resting place of Prophet Muhammad and the first 2 Caliphate Rashidun, Abu Bakr and Umar. One of the most notable features of the site is the Green Dome which is located in the southeast corner of the mosque. The area where the Green Dome is originally the Prophet's learned wife, Aisha occupied as her accommodation, the same place where the tomb of Prophet Muhammad is located. In 1279, a wooden cupola was built over the tomb which was later rebuilt and renovated multiple times in the late 15th century and once more in 1817. The current dome was added in 1818 by the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II, and it was first painted green in 1837, hence becoming known as the "Green Dome".

Fully air-conditioned mosque that gives comfort to the pilgrims

The main architecture feature is to maintain the original open concept. The Ottoman prayer hall faces towards the south. It has a flat paved roof topped with 27 sliding domes on square bases. Holes were pierced into the base of each dome to illuminate its interior. The roof is also being used for prayer hall during peak times season, when the domes slide out on metal tracks to shade areas of the roof, creating light wells for the prayer hall. The courtyard of the Ottoman mosque is also shaded with giant umbrellas affixed to freestanding columns. The roof is accessible by stairs and escalators, unfortunately, due to tight prayer activities in the fasting month, I left with no time at all to explore the roof area. Besides, the paved area around the mosque is also used for prayer, equipped with giant umbrella tents. For information, the Sliding Domes and retractable Umbrella-like canopies are designed by the German architect Mahmoud Bodo Rasch from SL Rasch GmbH and Buro Happold.

Area for wudu' or purify before praying

Riad ul-Jannah, Rawdah, Mihrab, Minbar and Minarets are all architecture features that one must take notice to appreciate the mosque beauty. I hope when Allah has invited me to perform Hajj, I would be able to explore the details in length and share them all with you. Firstly, the heart of the mosque houses a very special but small area named Riad ul-Jannah, means Gardens of Paradise. It extends from Rawdah where Prophet's Muhammad tomb is located to his Minbar. All pilgrims attempt to visit the confines of the area, for there is a tradition that supplications and prayers uttered here are never rejected, hence congested. Entrance into the area is not always possible, especially during the Hajj season, as its space can only accommodate a few hundred people. I had my chance to visit last year when it was open at the dedicated time frame for women to visit. 

The Prophet's Holy Shrine, Rawdah

Riad ul-Jannah is considered to be a part of Jannah (Paradise) as narrated from Abu Hurayrah as he heard Prophet Muhammad said, "the area between my house and my minbar is one of the gardens of Paradise, and my minbar is on my cistern". I experienced a moment of terror and peace between these 2 areas. But I strongly believe, peace, loves and compassion will reunite all humankind. 

The area between Rawdah and the Prophet's Minbar

As per Prophet's Muhammad quoted saying, Rawdah is also in Heaven, the same Rawdah which is currently in the mosque. It is floored with Green Carpet just to differentiate from the entire Mosque which is floored with red carpet. It holds the tomb of Prophet Muhammad and his 2 companions and the first caliph, Abu Bakr and the second caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab. A fourth grave is reserved for Jesus, as it is believed that he will return and will be buried at the site. The site is covered by the Green Dome. It was constructed in 1817 C.E. during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II and painted green in 1837 C.E. as mentioned earlier on. Sorry, twice repeated these facts!

The dome that slides upon at dawn to allow natural lights

There are two mihrabs in the mosque, the first one was built by Prophet Muhammad and another by the 3rd Caliphate Rashidun Uthman. The one built by the latter was larger as it acted as the functional mihrab, whereas Prophet Muhammad's mihrab is a "commemorative" mihrab. Besides the mihrab, the mosque also has other niches which act as indicators for praying. This include mihrab al-tahajjud which was built by Prophet Muhammad for the tahajjud, mihrab Fatima.

Women's Prayer Area

Minbar is a special place in the mosque used by Imam to speak on the congregation to deliver sermons. The original minbar used by Prophet Muhammad was a "wood block of date tree". This was replaced by him with a tamarisk one, which had dimensions of 50 centimetres (0.50 m) x 125 meters. Also in year 629, a 3 stair 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", but the third caliph Uthman placed a fabric dome over it and the rest of the stairs were covered with ebony. The minbar was replaced by Baybars I in 1395 and later by Shaykh al-Mahmudi in 1417. This was also replaced by a marble one by Qaitbay in the late 15th century, which as of August 2013, is still used in the mosque.

The green dome from external view

The first minarets (there's four number altogether) of 26 feet high were constructed by Caliphate Umar. In 1307, a minaret titled Bab al-Salam was added by Muhammad ibn Kalavun which was renovated by Mehmed IV. After the renovation project in 1994, there were ten minarets which were 104 meters high being built. The minarets' upper, bottom and middle portion are cylindrical, octagonal and square shaped respectively. That's all I wish to share facts about the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi's mosque. 

People used to say that you will be grant with whatever wishes if you say your prayer in here. It happened to me and to a dear friend that came all the way to cure her sickness in this Holy place. We lost contact but it's always my hope that Tina, that dear friend of mine would found her happiness and peace wherever she are.

Break fasting at the mosque courtyard where a second after saying my wish for Arab's rice, someone passed 1 from behind

The Giant Umbrella and the beautiful Mosque door

The mosque cleaner waiting in lines to change shifts

Reference: Wikipedia

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