The Prophet Mohammed is buried in the opulent Prophet's Mosque in the centre of Medina in Saudi Arabia. Every year, two million Muslim pilgrims visit Islam's second holiest site.
The Masjid al Nabawi, better known as the Prophet's Mosque, in Medina is the second holiest site in Islam after the al-Haram Mosque in Mecca. It houses Muhammad's final resting place under the famous "Green Dome" and, together with the al-Haram Mosque and the al-Aqsa Mos que in Jerusalem, forms the three holiest sites in Islam.
Also after the al-Haram Mosque, the Prophet's Mosque is also the second largest mosque in the world. With its massive dimensions, it offers a truly overwhelming sight.
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PICTURES: Prophet's Mosque in Medina
Construction of the Prophet's Mosque
The first building on what is now the site of the Prophet's Mosque was the house of the Prophet Muhammad himself. It was built in 622 together with a mosque that was also a community centre and school. The teachings of the Koran were proclaimed from a raised platform.
If it were not for the al-Quba mosque just outside Medina, the Masjid al Nabawi would be the first mosque ever built. The architectural basis of the mosque, with several gates, a shaded place for prayer and an inner courtyard, has since been used for all mosques around the globe.
Only seven years after its construction, the mosque was enlarged to double its size of 50 by 50 metres (today it is about 100 times larger) due to the increasing number of Muslims. Further extensions were made by various rulers, from the Umayyads and Abbasids to the Mamluks, Turks and Saudis.
In the 20th century, under the Saudi rulers, the mosque was expanded into a truly massive funerary temple. In 1909, the Prophet's Mosque was the first building in the Arabian Peninsula to be equipped with electric light.
The mosque, built under the Ottomans, is bordered by the four inner minarets. The six outer minarets were built under Saudi King Fahd and surround the "new mosque", which is entirely lined with precious marble. The ten minarets of the Prophet's Mosque reach up to 105 metres in height. Muhammad Bin Laden, father of the later Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was also instrumental in the expansion of the Prophet's Mosque.
Visit to the Prophet's Mosque
The Prophet's Mosque has an enormous capacity of 1.6 million worshippers. For the Hajj, the traditional pilgrimage to Mecca, many pilgrims also visit Medina and so the mosque can be increased to two million visitors. Around the mosque in the centre of Medina, numerous hotels, shops and markets cater to the masses of pilgrims who travel to Medina, especially during the Hajj.
The Masjid al Nabawi is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Islam. According to Mohammed, a prayer said in "his" mosque is worth a thousand times more than a prayer said in any other mosque (except the al-Haram mosque in Mecca and the al-aqsa mosque in Jerusalem). Accordingly, the entire mosque is adorned with magnificent decorations for which the finest and most precious materials were used.
Gigantic dimensions of the Prophet's Mosque
The enormous prayer hall takes up the entire first floor of the Prophet's Mosque. It is covered by 27 domes through which the sunlight falls. If necessary, the roof of the mosque can also be used for prayer. Then the domes are extended to provide shade.
The inner courtyard of the mosque is also protected from the scorching sun by huge awnings when the crowds gather for prayer. Inside the mosque it is pleasantly cool, the entire magnificent building is air-conditioned.
Rawdah - The Tomb of the Prophet Mohammed
The Masjid al Nabawi houses the final resting place of the Prophet Muhammad and two early leaders of Islam, Abu Bakr and Umar. The Prophet's mortal remains rest under the dark green dome (Qubbat al-Nabi) in the southwest corner.
In 1837, the wooden dome was painted green for the first time and is now widely known as the "Green Dome". The Rawdah is surrounded by a green fence, guarded by volunteers and covered with dark green carpet, unlike the red carpet in the rest of the Masjid al Nabawi.
Riad ul-Jannah - The Garden of Paradise
Between the Rawdah and the minbar (the raised pulpit from which sermons are preached on Fridays) is the Riad ul-Jannah, because Mohammed is said to have said that the space between his house and a minbar is one of the gardens of paradise.
Wishes made here are supposedly always fulfilled. Only a few hundred people fit into Riad ul-Jannah, which is why it is hopelessly overcrowded, especially during the Hajj.
No access for non-Muslims!
Unfortunately, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the mosque - or the entire centre of Medina. If you approach the so-called "haram", the forbidden sacred area, you will be asked for your papers at checkpoints and if they are not Muslim, you will be kindly but firmly escorted around the holy of holies of Medina.