MASJIDU ‘N-NABI مسجد النبي
“The Prophet’s Mosque” at al-Madinah. It is held to be the second mosque in Islam in point of seniority, and the same, or, according to others the first, in dignity, ranking with the Sacred Mosque at Makkah.
The following is Captain R.F. Burton’s account of its history:-
“Muhammad ordered to erect a place of worship there. sent for the youths to whom it belonged and certain Ansar, or their guardians; the ground was offered to him in free gift, but he insisted upon purchasing it, paying more than its value. Having caused the soil to be levelled and the trees to be felled, be laid the foundation of the first mosque.
“In those times of primitive simplicity its walls were made of rough stone and unbaked bricks, and trunks of date-trees supported a palm-stick roof, concerning which the Archangel Gabriel delivered an order that it should not be higher than seven cubits, the elevation of Solomon’s temple. All ornament was strictly forbidden. The Ansar, or men of Medinah, and the Muhajirin, or fugitives from Mecca, carried the building materials in their arms from the cemetery Baki’, near the well of Aiyub, north of the spot where Ibrahim’s mosque now stands, and the Prophet was to be seen aiding them in their labours, and rejoicing for their encouragement:
‘O Allah! there is no good but the good of futurity;
Then have mercy upon my Ansar and Muhajirin.”
“The length of this mosque was fifty-four cubits from north to south, and sixty-three in breadth, and it was hemmed in by houses on all sides save the western. Till the seventeenth month of the new era, the congregation faced towards the northern wall. After that time a fresh ‘revelation’ turned them in the direction of Makkah—southwards; on which occasion the Archangel Gabriel descended and miraculously
opened through the hills and wilds a view of the Ka’bah, that there might be no difficulty In ascertaining its true position.
“After the capture of Khaibar in A.H. 7, the Prophet and his first three successors restored the mosque, but Muslim historians do not consider this a second foundation. Muhammad laid the first brick, and Abu-Hurayah declares that he saw him carry heaps of building material piled up to his breast. The Khalifahs, each in the turn of his succession, placed a brick close to that laid by the Prophet, and aided him in raising the walls. Tabrari relates that one of the Ansar had a house adjacent, which Muhammad wished to make part of the place of prayer; the proprietor was offered in an change for it a borne in Paradise, which he gently rejected, pleading poverty. His excuse was admitted, and ‘Usman, after purchasing the place for 10,000 dirhams, gave it to the Prophet on the long credit originally offered. The mosque was a square of 100 cubits. Like the former building, it had three doors: one on the south side, where the Mihrabu ‘n-Nabawi, or the ‘ Prophet’s niche,” now is, another in the place of the present Babu ‘r Ramah, and the third at the Babu ‘Usman, now called the “Gate of Gabriel.” Instead of a mihrah or prayer niche, a large block of stone, directed the congregation. At first it was placed against the northern wall of the mosque, and it was removed to the southern when Makkah became the Qiblan. In the beginning the Prophet, whilst preaching the khutbah or Friday sermon, leaned, when fatigued, against a post. The mimbar, or pulpit, was the invention of a Madinah man of the Banu Najjar. It was a wooden frame, two cubits long by one broad, with three steps, each one span high; on the topmost of these the Prophet sat when he required rest.. The pulpit assumed its present form about A.H. 90, during the artistic reign of Walid.
“In this mosque Muhammad spent the greater part of the day with his companions. conversing, instructing, and comforting the poor. Hard by were the abodes of his wives, his family, and his principal friends. Here he prayed, hearkening to the Azan, or devotion call, from the roof. Here he received worldly envoys and embassies, and the heavenly messages conveyed by the Archangel Gabriel. And within a few yards of the hallowed spot, he died, and found, it is supposed a grave.
“The theatre of events so important to Islam could not be allowed—especially as no divine decree forbade the change-to remain in its pristine lowliness. The first Khalifah contented himself with merely restoring some of the palm pillars, which had fallen to the ground. ‘Umar, the second successor, surrounded the Hujrah, or ‘Ayishah’s chamber in which the Prophet was buried, with a mud wall, and in A.H. 17, he enlarged the mosque to 140 cubits by 120, taking in ground on all sides except the eastern, where stood the abodes of the ‘Mothers of the Moslems’ (Ummu ‘l-Mu’minin). Outside the noithern wall he erected a suffah, called Batha – a raised bench of wood, earth, or stone, upon which the people might recreate themselves with conversation and quoting poetry, for the mosque was now becoming a place of peculiar reverence to men.
“The second Masjid was erected A.H. 29 by the third Khalifah, ‘Usman, who, regardless of the clamours of the people, overthrew the old one, and extended the building greatly towards the north, and a little towards the west; but he did not remove the eastern limit on account of the private houses. He made the roof of Indian teak, and erected walls of hewn and carved stone. These innovations caused some excitement. which he allayed by quoting a tradition of the Prophet, with one of which he appears perpetually to have been prepared. The saying in question was, according to some, ‘Were this my mosque extended to Safa, it verily would still be my mosque: according to others, Were the Prophet’s mosque extended to Zu l-Hulafa it would still be his,’ But ‘Usman’s skill in the quotation of tradition did not prevent the new building being in part a cause of his death. It was finished on the 1st Muharram A.H. 30.
At length. Islam, grown splendid and powerful, determined to surpass other nations in the magnificence of its public buildings, In A.H. 38, al-Walid the First, twelfth Khalifah of the Banu Umayah race after building the noble .Jami’-Masjid of the Ommiades at Damascus, determined to display his liberality at al-Madinah. The governor of the place ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdu ‘l-Aziz, was directed to buy to 7,000 diners all the hovels of new brick that hedged in the eastern side of the old mosque They were inhabited by descendents of the Prophet and of the early Khalifahs, and in more than one case, the ejection of the holy tenantry was effected with considerable difficulty. Some of the women (ever the most obstinate on such occasions) refused to take money, and Umar wee forced to the objectionable measure of turning them out of doors with exposed faces in full day. The Greek Emperor, applied in by the magnificent Khalifah, sent immense presents, silver lamp chains, valuable curiosities, forty leads of small cut stones for pietra-dura, and a sum of 80,000 diners. or, as others say, 40,000 mishkals of gold. He also despatched forty Coptic and forty Greek artists to carve the marble pillars and the casings of the walls, and to superintend the gilding and the mosaic work.
“One of these Christians was beheaded for sculpturing a hog on the Qiblah wall, and another, in an attempt to defile the roof, fell to the ground, and his brains were dashed out. The remainder apostatized, but this did not prevent the older Arabs murmuring that their mosque had been turned into a kanisah (or Church). The Hujrah, or chamber, where, by Muhammad’s permission, ‘Izra’il, the Angel of Death, separated his soul from his body, whilst his head was lying in the lap of Ayishah, his favourite wife, was now for the first time taken into the mosque. The raw brick enceinte which surrounded the three graves was exchanged for one of carved stone, enclosed by an outer precinct with a narrow passage between. These double walls were either without a door, or had only a small blocked-up wicket on the northern side; and from that day (A.H. 90), no one has been able to approach the sepulchre. A minaret was erected at each corner of the mosque. The building was enlarged to 200 cubits by 167, and was finished in A.H. 91. When Walid, the Khalifah, visited it in state, he inquired of his lieutenant why greater magnificence had not been displayed in the erection; upon which ‘Umar informed him, to his astonishment, that the walls alone had cost 45,000 dinars.
” The fourth mosque was erected in A.H. 191 by al-Mahdi, third prince of the Banu ‘Abbas or Baghdad Khalifahs—celebrated in history only for spending enormous sums upon a pilgrimage. He enlarged the building by adding ten handsome pillars of carved marble, with gilt capitals, on the northern side, In A.H. 202, al-Ma’mun made further additions to this mosque.
“It, was from al-Mahdi’s Masjid that Hakim ibn Amri ‘llah, the third Fatimite Khalifah of Egypt. and the deity of the Druse sect, determined to steal the bodies of the Prophet and his two companions. About A.H.. 412, he sent emissaries to al-Madinsh; the attempt, however, failed, and the would be violators of the tomb lost their lives. It is generally supposed that Hakim’s object was to transfer the visitation to his own capital but in one so manifestly insane it is difficult, to discover the spring of action. Two Christians, habited like Maghrabi pilgrims, in A.H. 550, dug a mine from a neighboring house into the temple. They were discovered, beheaded, and burned to ashes. In relating these events, the Muslim historians mix up many foolish preternaturalisms with credible matter. At last to prevent a recurrence of such sacrilegious attempts, Maliku ‘l-‘Adil Nuru ‘il-din, of the Baharite Mamluk Sultans or, according to others, Sultan Nuru ‘d-din Shahid Mahmud bin Zengi, who, warned by a vision of the Prophet, had, started for al-Madinah only in time to discover the two Christians, surrounded the holy place with a deep trench, filled with molten lead. By this means Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, who had run considerable risks of their own, have over since been enabled to occupy their last-home undisturbed.
“In A.H. 664, the fifth mosque was erected in consequence of a fire, which some authors attribute to a volcano that broke out close to the town in terrible eruption; others, with more fanaticism and less probability, to the schismatic Banu Husam, then the guardians of the tomb, On this occasion the Hujrah was saved, together with the old and venerable copies of the Qur’an, there deposited, especially the Cufic MSS,. written by Usman, the third Khalifah. The piety of three sovereigns, Musta’sim (last Khmalifah of Baghdad) Muzaffir Shems-ud-din-Yusuf. chief of Yamen, and. Zahir Beybars, Baharite Sultan of Egypt, completed the work in A.H. 688. This building was enlarged and beautified by the princes of Egypt, and lasted upwards of 200 years.
“The sixth mosque was built, almost as it now stands, by Kaid Bey, nineteenth Sultan of the Circasian Mamluk kings of Egypt, in A.H. 888. Musta’sim’s mosque had been struck by lightning during a storm; thirteen men were killed at prayers, and the destroying element spared nothing hut the interior of the Hujrah. The railing and dome were restored: niches and a pulpit were sent from Cairo, and the gates and minarets wore distributed as they are now. Not content with this, Kaid Bey established ‘waqf’ (bequests) and pensions, and introduced order among the attendants on the tomb. In the tenth century, Sultan Sulaiman the Magnificent paved with fine white marble the Rauzah or garden, which Kaid Bey, not daring to alter, had left of earth, and erected the fine minaret that bears his name. During the dominion of the later Sultans and of Mohammad Ali, a few trifling presents of lamps, carpets, wax candles, and chandeliers, and a few immaterial alterations have been made.” (See Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El Medinah and Meccah, by Richard F. Burton, 2nd edition, vol. i, p 345.)
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam