The Prophet’s Mosque is a mosque built by the Islamic prophet Muhammad located in the city of Medina. It is the second holiest site in Islam (the first being the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca). It was the second mosque built in history and is now one of the largest mosques in the world.
The mosque is located in what was traditionally the center of Medina, with many hotels and old markets nearby. It is a major pilgrimage place. Many pilgrims who perform the Hajj go on to Medina to visit the mosque due to its connections to the life of Muhammad.
The mosque has a flat paved roof topped with 27 sliding domes on square bases. Holes pierced into the base of each dome illuminate the interior.
The roof is also used for prayer during peak times, when the domes slide out on metal tracks to shade areas of the roof, creating light wells for the prayer hall. At these times, the courtyard of the Ottoman mosque is also shaded with umbrellas affixed to freestanding columns.
In the interior, the Prophet created a shaded area to the south called the suffrah and aligned the prayer space facing north towards Jerusalem. When the qibla (prayer direction) was changed to 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, the mosque was doubled in size to accommodate the increasing number of Muslims. During the reign of the Mamluk Sultan Qala’un, a dome was erected above the house and tomb of the Prophet and an ablution fountain was built outside of Bab al-Salam.
Sultan Nasir bin Muhammad bin Qala’un rebuilt the fourth minaret that had been destroyed earlier. After a lightning strike destroyed much of the mosque in 1481, Sultan Qaytbay rebuilt the east, west and qibla walls.
The north façade has three evenly spaced porticos, while the east, west and south façades have two. The walls are composed of a series of windows topped by pointed arches with black and white voussoirs. There are six peripheral minarets attached to the new extension, and four others frame the Ottoman structure.
The mosque is lavishly decorated with polychrome marble and stones. The columns are of white marble with brass capitals supporting slightly pointed arches, built of black and white stones. The column pedestals have ventilation grills that regulate the temperature inside the prayer hall.
In 634 Muḥammad decreed that prayer be directed toward Mecca; against the wall facing Mecca, the qiblah wall, he built a roofed shelter supported by pillars made of palm trunks. Against the opposite wall of the courtyard stood a roofed gallery to shelter his companions, the antecedent of the roofed oratories in later mosques.
The mosque also served as a community center, a court, and a religious school. There was a raised platform for the people who taught the Quran.
Subsequent Islamic rulers greatly expanded and decorated it. In 1909, it became the first place in the Arabian Peninsula to be provided with electrical lights. The mosque is under the control of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.