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The 'House of the Prophet' or the 'Mosque of the Prophet'?

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THE HOUSE OF THE PROPHET OR THE


MOSQUE OF THE PROPHET?
ESSAM S. AYYAD

Journal of Islamic Studies/Volume 24/Issue 3/2013, pp. 273-334


doi: 10.1093/jis/ett053

This is an accepted manuscript (post-print version) of the article, but not


the published version (version of record) itself. A link to the latter is:
http://jis.oxfordjournals.org/content/24/3/273.abstract
How to cite this article:
Essam S. Ayyad (2013). The 'House of the Prophet' or the 'Mosque of the
Prophet'? Journal of Islamic Studies, 24, pp. 273-334
doi: 10.1093/jis/ett053

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THE HOUSE OF THE PROPHET OR THE


MOSQUE OF THE PROPHET?
ESSAM S. AYYAD
Suez Canal University

INTRODUCTION
Islamic culture is represented by a variety of architectural types: religious,
domestic, military, funerary, etc. Each includes a set of building forms of
which the mosque is regarded as the supreme type. This is due to its
distinctive outline, architectural influence on other Islamic buildings, and
its superlative spiritual impact on the Muslim community. The mosque has
therefore been the subject of extensive research since Islamic lands and
their artistic legacy began to be studied by Western scholarship.
The fact that many features are standard to the oldest surviving
mosques suggests that a canonical type, composed mostly of a courtyard
surrounded by four porticoes, did exist early in the Islamic history.1 Such a
template would have been copied by the builders of all later mosques,
combined with further modifications inspired from the varying
architectural heritage of each Muslim territory.2 The architectural evolution
of such a universally-endorsed Ur mosque, and the many influences that
shaped it, have been copiously discussed in the literature.3 Attention has
1

See Oleg Grabar, The Formation of Islamic Art, rev. edn (New Haven: Yale University Press,
1987), p. 104; Jeremy Johns, The House of the Prophet and the Concept of the Mosque, in
Bayt al-Maqdis: Jerusalem and Early Islam, ed. by Jeremy Johns, Oxford Studies in Islamic Art, 9
(1999), 59-112 (pp. 64-9). Investigating early mosques is, nonetheless, difficult chiefly because
the original forms of many of them are either considerably changed or entirely overwritten, and
archaeological evidence for those built before 40s/660s has not been adequately investigated
yet. The earliest mosque to be fully excavated and whose date is archaeologically accepted is
that of al-ajjj b. Ysuf at Wsi (84/703). Earlier mosques where archaeological evidence is
extant are the Aq mosque (early 40s/660s) and the second construction of the Kfa mosque
which was presumably carried out by Ziyd b. Abh in 50/670. See Grabar, Formation, pp. 10612; Johns, House of the Prophet, pp. 59, 62-9, 71.
2
See Johns, House of the Prophet, pp. 64-71.
3
For the range of scholars different approaches in this respect, see Prisse dAvennes, L'Art
Arabe d'aprs les Monuments du Caire, depuis le viie sicle jusqu' la fin du xviiie (Paris: Morel et
Cie, 1878); Richard Ettinghausen, Islamic Art and Archaeology, in Near Eastern Culture and
Society, ed. by T. Cuyler Young (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951); J. M. Rogers,

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been paid to the relatively sizable building which the Prophet erected in
Madna, and which reportedly attained a communal character in his
lifetime. The majority of studies adhere to the old, yet still admitted,
concept that this hypaethral building provided the prototype for the
mosque in its formative years.4 However, scholars differ in respect of what
function such a structure was principally set to serve. Many, hesitating to
give it the name of a mosque, prefer to call it the House of the Prophet.5 In
the beginning, the idea that the mosque type evolved from residential
architecture seemed intriguing, seeing the fact that a parallel is already
found in church history. Recently, however, the perception of the building
as a house has overshadowed its position as the prototype of the mosque.
Scholars began to wonder how the universal type of the mosque could have
evolved from a set of basic formal requirements and a building regarded to
have owned very little of architecture.6 Such a view claimed an additional
impetus for an already existing tendency of attributing the origins of the
mosque to pre-Islamic types.7 While not excluding the probable impact of
such types on the evolution of mosque architecture, the present article sets
out to investigate whether the Prophets building at Madna was a genuine
mosque and thus provided the immediate origin of subsequent mosques in
Islam. The article would, thus, help investigate whether early Islam,
embodied in the Quranic framework and the elucidating teachings and
practices of the Prophet, was capable enough to provide the necessary

From Antiquarianism to Islamic Archaeology, Quaderni dell'Istituto Italiano di Cultura per la


R.A.E., 2 (1974), 9-65.
4
See G.T. Rivoira, Moslem Architecture: Its Origins and Development, trans. by Rushforth
(London: Oxford University Press, 1918; repr. 1975), p. 1. See also Edward Lanes explanation of
the word, 'gmi, the congregational mosque: Arabic English Lexicon: Derived from the Best and
the Most Copious Eastern Sources, 8 vols (London: Williams and Norgate, 1863-93); Elie
Lambert, Les Mosques du Type Andalou en Espagne et en Afrique du Nord, Al-Andalus, 14
(1949), 273-89; J. Sauvaget, La Mosque Omeyyade de Mdine: tudes sur les Origines
Architecturales de la Mosque et de la Basilique (Paris: Vanoest, 1947), pp. 121 ff.; Grabar, The
Umayyad Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Ars Orientalis, 3 (1959), 33-62 (p. 61); Robert
Hillenbrand, Islamic Architecture: Form, Function and Meaning, ed. by Case Bound (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1994), pp. 33-9 (p. 33).
5
See, for example, A. C. Dickie, The Great Mosque of the Omeiyades, Damascus, Palestine
Exploration Quarterly (1897), 268-82; K. A. C. Creswell, Early Muslim Architecture: with a
Contribution on the Mosaics of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Great Mosque in
Damascus by Marguerite Gutier-van Berchem, 2nd rev. edn, 2 vols, 3 parts (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1969; repre. New York: Hacker Art Books, 1979), I. I, 6-16.
6
Grabar, Formation, p. 104; Johns, House of the Prophet, pp. 110-1.
7
Muslim scholars response to this theory varies. Some see nothing shameful in borrowing
for the mosque some architectural features from non-Islamic types. Others, regarding the
mosque as a religion-related matter, fiercely defend the originality of its institution and
form.

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prompts for the making of the mosque and the forming of its functional as
well as architectural features.
EXISTING THEORIES ON THE PROPHETS BUILDING
Dissent about the nature of the Prophets building mainly clusters around
two opposing views. According to the first, the building was built by design
as a mosque; no sooner had the Prophet emigrated to Madna than he and
his Companions embarked on the erection of a mosque to serve as the
mainstay of the newly Islamized community.8 The second view contends
that he built it to be his abode, that it gained a communal character later in
his lifetime, and that it assumed the sacred form of a mosque in the first
decades of Islam.9
The first opinion represents the traditional stance of the medieval
Muslim scholars. The building is dealt with and referred to as the Mosque
of the Prophet by the early adth compliers, Prophetic biographers and
local chroniclers (see chart 1).10 There are, for instance, entire chapters in
the 3rd/9th century canonical collections of adth on mosques and their
regulations; references to the Prophets mosque are almost countless.11 Such
was enough for later Muslim scholars to take the existence of the Prophets
mosque as granted. This concept held sway until Islamic cultural heritage
began to be studied by western academics in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries.
8

See al-Bukhr, adths no. 428; 428; Muslim, adth no. 1173; Ab Dwd, adth no. 453. See
also al-abar, Trkh al-Rusul wal Mulk, ed. by M. Ab al-Fal Ibrahim, Dhakhir al-Arab,
30, 2nd rev. edn (Cairo: Dr al-Marif, 1967), II, 397; al-Dhahab, Al-Sra al-Nabawiyya, ed. by
usm al-Dn al-Quds (Beirut Dr al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, [ 1927 (?)]), pp. 232-3; al-Suhayl, AlRaw al-Unuf f Tafsr al-Sra al-Nabawiyya l-ibn Hishm, ed. by Magd Manr al-Shr, 2 vols
(Beirut: Dr al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, [n.d]), II, 336; Ibn Kathr, Al-Bidya wa al-Nihya, ed. by
Abd Allh A. al-Turk, 21 vols ([Giza (?)]: Dr Hajr, 1997), IV, 530-1; A. J. Wensinck, A Handbook
of Early Muhammadan Tradition: Alphabetically Arranged, (Leiden: Brill, 1960), p. 154; G. H. A.
Juynboll, Encyclopaedia of Canonical adth (Leiden: Brill, 2007), p. 487.
9
However, the exact time of mosque institution is, as we shall see, disputed amongst scholars
of this tendency.
10
For clarity, adth with a capital will be used when the genre is being referred to. When
a single tradition of the Prophet is meant, then adth with small will be used. The letter, s
will be added when it is in the plural.
11
While these are mainly dealt with in Kitb al-alt, Book of Prayer in adth compilations,
in al-Tirmidh, the adths about mosques are listed under Kitb al-Masjid, Book of
Mosques. In Muslim, they are compiled under Kitb al-Masjid wa-Mawi al-alt, Book of
Mosques and Places of Prayer. In Ibn Mja, they come under the heading of Abwb al-Masjid
wa-l Jamt, Entries of Mosques and Congregational Prayers. In al-Bayhaq, the adths on
mosques are amassed under: Jim Abwb al-alt bi-l Najsa wa-Mawi al-alt min Masjid
wa-Ghayruh, Collection of Entries on [the Ordinance of] Praying at Unclean Places and the
Places of Prayer like Mosques, etc. The adths related to the building of the Mosque of the
Prophet are usually gathered under the Bb Bunyn al-Masjid, Entry of Building the Mosque.

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Years AH
901
881
861
841
821
801
781
761
741
721
701
681
661
641
621
601
581
561
541
521
501
481
461
441
421
401
381
361
341
321
301
281
261
241
221
201
181
161
141
121
101
81
61
41
21
1

Architectural works
Sources

Chart 1: Dates of the earliest (re-)buildings of the Prophets mosque and the main sources
about them12

In the beginning, western Islamists were satisfied to deal with the


building as a mosque.13 Later, Caetanis reading of the sources led him to
12

The dates given for the sources denote the years of the authors deaths.
For example, see William. C. Taylor, The History of Mohammedanism and Its Sects: Derived
Chiefly from Oriental Sources, 2nd edn (London: John W. Parker, 1839), p. 97; William Muir,
The Life of Mohamet, 4 vols (London: Smith and Elder, 1858-61).
13

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maintain that it could not have been a mosque in the time of the Prophet,
his main contention being a variety of episodes which the building is said to
have held, and which he considers to be inacceptable for a place of
worship.14 Caetani, thus, argues that what the Prophet built was a private
residence. The difference between Caetanis approach and that of the earlier
western pioneers may well symbolize the rise of a sceptical tendency
regarding Arabo-Islamic sources against the gullible one already
dominating. It might have been Goldzihers sweeping views vis--vis the
historical reliability of adth that inspired Caetanis critical treatment of
the already-referred-to traditions on the Prophets mosque.
The thrust of Caetanis argument is based on: extreme scepticism
towards the sources; an assumption that many of the activities which the
building is reported to have billeted were profane, and thus could not have
taken place in a mosque; an assumption that the system of house building
observable in Arabia in his own day had also existed, in the same way, in the
early middle ages; and exclusion of the possibility that anyone could have
foreseen the future requirements of a layout before the ritual it would serve
had taken shape.15
Caetanis opinion developed into a recognized basis for later
research. It was accepted and further advanced by exponents such as
Creswell who, elaborating on adths from al-Bukhr (d. 256/870), tries to
corroborate the building unconsecrated nature.16 Creswells epilogue was
that the early Arab informants did not successfully perceive the aperu of
the mass of traditions related to the Prophets building.17 He believes that
the institution of the mosque was less the upshot of a mans decision than
of an organic evolution that wielded all aspects of early Islam. Applying
Caetanis approach, and at times even literally translated words, Creswell
opines that the building put up by the Prophet was no more than a replica
of the individuals dr, houses, in Arabia in the latters time. Creswell, then,
maintains that Arabias material culture on the eve of Islam could not have
14

Leone Caetani, Annali dellIslam, 10 vols (Milan: Ulrico Hoepli, 1905-26), I, 437-8, 447-60; III,
965.
15
See Caetani, Annali, I, 437-8. See also Creswell, E.M. A., I. I, 6-7.
16
Creswell, E.M. A., I. I, 9-10. Caetanis theory was also taken up by G. Fehervri, Art and
Architecture, in The Cambridge History of Islam, paperback edition (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1977), vol. 2B, p. 703; Oleg Grabar, The Formation of Islamic Art (New Haven;
London: Yale University Press, 1973), pp. 107-8; W. M. Watt, Muhammad at Medina (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1956), pp. 199, 305ff; L. Golvin, Essai sur l'Architecture Religieuse
Musulmane, Gnralits, 1 (1970), pp. 21, 33.
17
Creswell, E.M.A., p. 7.

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afforded a proper context for any architectural achievement in early Islam.18


According to him, this is to be indicated by the primitive arrangement of
the Prophets abode, as he sees it (FIGS. 1, 2 & 3),19 and the modesty of his
surroundings and living conditions. This may well explain Creswells
excessive assignment of the adjective primitive to the Prophets building,
almost each time he refers to it. Creswell also re-stressed Caetanis premise
that the building was not intended to be a mosque, for had it been so
intended, it would have been arranged to give the ahl al-uffa a more
enduring lodging than just a roofed shelter,20 and secured a more private
space for the Prophets wives.21 In his curtailed discussion of some relevant
Quranic passages, Creswell determinedly, yet inaccurately, states that the
only two mosques mentioned by the Qurn are the Masjid al-arm and
the Masjid al-Aq, pointing out that there is no reference to the so-called
Mosque of the Prophet.22

18

Creswell tried to enhance his views on the Prophets dr with a somewhat long discussion on
Arabias poor cultural heritage. The subheading he chose for this discussion is: Architecture
non-existent in Arabia at this time. Creswell, E.M.A., I. I, 10-11.
19
The Isometric reconstructions of Kuban and the Leacrofts (FIGS. 2 &3, respectively) are
mainly based on Creswell reconstructed plan.
20
Ahl al-uffa were the most indigent amongst the Prophets Companions who, having no
shelter, were allowed to live in a roofed place at the rear of the mosque. On the uffa, its
inhabitants and their living conditions, see Ibn Sad, Kitb al-abaqt al-Kabr, ed. by Al M.
Umar, 11 vols (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khanj, 2001), I, 219-20; Ibn al-Najjr, Al-Durra al-Thamna f
Trkh al-Madna, ed. by M. Z. Azab (Cairo: Maktabat al-Thaqfa, 1981), pp. 165-6; al-Samhd,
Waf al-Waf b Akhbr Dr al-Muaf, ed. by M. Muy ad-Dn, 4 vols (Beirut: Dr al-Kutub
al-Ilmiyya, 1955), II, 453-7; al-Diyrbakr, Trkh al-Khams f Awl Anfas Nafs, 2 vols (Cairo:
Mabaat Uthmn Abd al-Rziq, 1885),I, 347; al-Barzanj, Trkh al-Masjid al-Nabaw alMusamm Nuzhat al-Nirn f Masjid Sayyid al-Awwaln wal khirn, (Cairo: al-Maktaba alJadda, 1914), p. 10.
21
Creswell, E.M.A., I. I, 9.
22
Ibid, p. 10.

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Figure 1: Madna: reconstruction of the plan of the Prophets mosque and dwellings (after
Creswell 1969)

Figure 2: Isometric reconstruction of the Prophets mosque (after Kuban 1974)

Figure 3: Isometric reconstruction of the Prophets mosque (after Helen and Richard Leacroft
1976)

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A more detailed discussion of the mosque in the Qurn was carried


out by Oleg Grabar who, departing from the hypothesis that no Muslim
religious type is specified therein, also sees the building as a private house.
Although he admits that the Qurn through the indication of alt
obligatory nature created a later context for mosque evolution, Grabar
stresses that alt, as far as the Qurn is concerned, was just an individual
act in the earliest years of Islam. He credits the collective character which
alt assumed in the period between 622 and 632 to the Muslim
community.23 For him, the Prophet did not establish a distinctive place of
worship for Muslims due to his reluctance towards representations and
sensitivity against priesthood. Grabars only reason for the theory of the
House of the Prophet to be considered with doubt is some small poetic
pieces referring to a distinct mosque built by the Prophet; on which he gives
no details.24
Pedersen, who considered a bigger number of sources than did
Caetani and Creswell, insists that the building was envisioned from the very
beginning to be a mosque, even though it assumed very little disposition of
a consecrated building.25 Pedersens main grounds were the fact that the
building lodged divine rituals from the very start and that its holding of
other activities were quite justifiable in early Islam.26
It has been only recently that the Caetani-Creswell theory comes
under critical scrutiny. Nonetheless, here too paradoxes subsist. For
example, Hillenbrand indicates, based on size and layout, how the Prophets
building was different from Arabias houses of the time (FIG. 4). He also
notes many signs to the effect that the building was used for congregational
prayer on a regular basis, and goes even further to state that the mosque
was custom-built from the very beginning. Nevertheless, Hillenbrand
continues to call the building a house in spite of his belief that it was the
first mosque, pointing out that the 620s mosque was different than our
general concept of the mosque.27
Perhaps the most resilient refuter of the Caetani-Creswell theory is
Jeremy Johns who convincingly contests many of its grounds. Johns reveals,
through the discussion of a number of relevant adths, that the mosque
23

Grabar, Formation, pp. 99-100.


Grabar, Formation, p. 103. These will be discussed below.
25
Pedersen, Masdjid, p. 645-6.
26
Pedersen, Masdjid, p. 646. See also Grabar, Formation, p. 99.
27
Hillenbrand, Islamic Architecture, p. 39-40.
24

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Figure 4: Isometric reconstruction of the Prophets mosque


(after Hillenbrand 1994)

was not a profane structure as suggested by Caetani and Creswell. He goes


so far as to say that the building as purveyed by the sources could be the
immediate origin of the mosque, but he seems disinclined to accept the
description which the sources give for it. Johns discussion of the mosque in
the Qurn led him to think that the mosque, while having been established
institutionally, was not connected to any architectural form in the time of
the Prophet. He, then, suggests that the type or types that became the
mosque could have been adopted, and not created, by the Muslim
aristocracy after the departure of the Prophet, particularly in the time of
Umar I, and that the history of the mosque was retrospectively written by
the 2nd or the 3rd century traditionists, who were inspired by the type of
the mosques they frequented.28 Johns uncertainty about the nature of the
Prophets structure, despite the various aspects he noted for it being a
mosque, is well-represented in the title he chose for his notable article: The
House of the Prophet and the Concept of the Mosque.
The Caetani-Creswell theory has also provoked a number of Muslim
scholars. The most outstanding position was taken by A. Fikr whose
reconstruction of the building (FIG. 5) seems better argued than the more
recognized one of Creswell (FIG. 1). Nevertheless, Fikrs argument regarding
the type of the building, while presenting interesting insights, does not
seem adequately systematic.29 Fikr maintains that both Caetani and
Creswell relied on weak adths; of which he specifies none. His attempt to
elicit from the Qurn evidence for the mosque existence is markedly
succinct and sometimes abstruse. While maintaining that all Muslim
28

See Johns, House of the Prophet, pp. 71, 109.


Amad Fikr, Al-Masjid al-Jmi bil Qayrawn (Cairo: al-Marif, 1936), pp. 39-46; Masjid alQhira wa Madrisuh: al-Madkhal (Cairo and Alexandria: Dr al-Marif, 1963), pp. 263-8.
29

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historians as early as the beginning of the second/eighth century agreed


that what the Prophet built was a mosque, he confusingly states that the
earliest relevant account is that of Ibn Sad (d. 230/845) which he then
quotes at length. The above shortcomings, added to the absence of any
foreign translation of his work on the Prophets building, have weakened
the effect of Fikrs argument. The building continued to be defined as a
house, even by Islamic scholars such as Kaml al-Dn Smi and Fard
Shfi.30 Without taking investigation any further, others such as Sud
Mhir and asan al-Psh refer to the building as a mosque.31
Just in the same way, the nature of the Prophets building was not
effectively discussed in the following western studies. One team of
academics, taking the Caetani-Creswell theory on the trust, contented
themselves with just referring to the building as the House of the Prophet.
The other team, giving no whys and wherefores, deal with it as the Mosque
of the Prophet. The compelling impact of the Caetani-Creswell theory,
nonetheless, can be seen from the fact that even those who deal with the
building as a mosque produce such paradoxical phrases as: the first mosque
was the house of the Prophet Muhammad in Medina,32 the Prophets house
in Medina the primordial mosque of Islam.33 More recently, some have
even preferred to call it house-mosque.34 This, while assuming that the
mosque evolved from the house of the Prophet, sidesteps the issue. As we
shall see, the building, particularly its courtyard and front ulla, could not
have served the two functions in the Prophets time; it was either a mosque
or a house.

30

Kaml al-Dn Smi, Al-Imra f adr al-Islm (Cairo: al-Haya al -mma al-Miriyya lil
Kitb, 1982), p. 5-6; Fard Shfi, Al-Imra al-Arabiyya f Mir al-Islmiyya: Ar al-Wulh
(Cairo: al-Haya al-Miriyya al-mma lil Talf wal Nashr, 1970); Fard Shfi, Al-Imra alArabiyya al-Islmiyya: Mh wa iruh wa Mustaqbaluha (Riyadh: King Saud University
Press, 1982), pp. 1-3.
31
Sud Mhir, Masjid Mir wa Awliyuh al-lin, 5 vols (Cairo: al-Majlis al-Al lil Shun
al-Islmiyya, 1971), I, 32-43; asan al-Psh, Mawsat al-Imra wa al-thr wal Funn alIslmiyya, 5 vols (Beirut: Awrq Sharqiyya, 1999), I, 48.
32
Andrew Petersen, Dictionary of Islamic Architecture (London: Routledge, 1996; repre. 1999),
p. 195.
33
Robert Hillenbrand, Islamic Art and Architecture (London: Thames & Hudson, 1999), p. 25.
34
Richard Ettinghausen, Oleg Grabar and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina, Islamic Art and
Architecture: 650-1250, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), p. 5; M. Bloom, Mosque, in
Encyclopaedia of the Qurn, III (2003), pp. 426-37 (p. 428); See also Robert Irwin, Islamic Art
(London: Laurence King, 1997), p. 59.

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Figure 5: Madna, reconstruction of the plan of the Prophets mosque (after Fikr
1963)

Figure 6: Isometric reconstructions of the Prophets mosque


(after Shfi 1970)

WHAT IS AT STAKE IN THIS CONTROVERSY


The question on the nature of the Prophets building at Madna needs to be
reconsidered for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that
a convincing answer has not yet been given; none of the two main theories
put forward so far seems to have undone the other. In addition, both
theories are, as already pointed out, blemished with clear enigmas.
Generally, those who argue it as a house acknowledge its communal
character, its use for prayer in the time of the Prophet, and its principal

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influence on mosque type. They fail to disprove, or at least properly


contextualize into their hypothesis, the fact that the building was the focal
point of the Prophetic society. Nor do they successfully interpret the
Qurns clear reference to a mosque attended by the Prophet and the
believers. In just the same way, those who see it as a mosque, including
early informants, did not maintain a solid or systematic defence for their
theory.
The origin of the mosque type
Reconsidering the question on the nature of the Prophets building would
also help resolve a number of undecided relevant issues. Perhaps, the most
outstanding of which is the naming of the immediate origin of the mosque.
As already hinted, the inconclusive position of those regarding the building
as a mosque has been one of the main reasons for scholars to seek the
origins of the mosque in non-Islamic types. Other reasons include the
formulaic views on Arabia and Islam: the former as a region of poor
architectural and artistic heritage, and the latter as a religion dismissive of
building and decoration. While the views on Arabia are set down to
inadequate archaeological evidence for architectural heritage in pre- and
early Islamic times, those on Islam are due to reports on the Prophets
indisposition towards building.35 Such a tendency may have been nourished
35

Sometimes, one or two exhaustively repeated, yet not properly examined, adths are
quoted to give evidence that Islam did not favour the act of building. For example, one
tradition, which Creswell quotes from Ibn Sad, states: building is a mafsada, corruption or
waste, for a believer. See Creswell, E.M.A., I. I, 8-9). Quite a number of such anti-building
traditions are regarded to possess a good degree of authenticity. One of which states: a
Muslim is rewarded for anything (money, effort, or time) he gives up, except what he pays
out in this sand. Al-Bukhr, adth no. 5672; Ibn Mja, adth no. 4163; al-Tirmidh, adth
no. 2483. This adth is regarded by al-Albn as a: a al-Adab al-Mufrad lil Imm alBukhr, ed. by M. Nir al-Albn, 4th edn (Jubeil: Maktabat al-Dall, 1994), adth no. 353.
See also Ab Dwd, adth no. 5237; Ibn Mja, adth no. 4161; al-Tirmidh, adth no.
2482. According to other narrations, [...] what he pays out in building. Ibn Mja, adth no.
4163. This adth, however, is not the saying of the Prophet but of Khabbb, a Companion
who according to the same adth was, by then, in a poor health state insomuch as he
declared: Unless the Prophet had forbidden us from inviting death, I would have invited it.
See also al-Bukhr, adths no. 6349-50. Hence, it could be Khabbbs pessimism which led
him to speak in such a way. Ibn ajar assumes that Khabbb was referring, here, to
superfluous building. See M. al-Ghazl, Al-Sunna al-Nabawiyya Bayna Ahl al Fiqh wa Ahl al
adth, 6th edn (Cairo: Shurq, 1996), p. 107. According to another narration, each building
except a mosque is a loss (wabl) to the one to whom it belongs. See Ibn Mja, adth no.
4161; al-Albn, Silsilat al-Aadth al-aa, 7 vols (Riyadh: Maktabat al-Marif, 1992-2002),
VI, 794, adth no. 2830. The Prophet is also reported to have said: I am not allowed to
enter a decorated house. See Amad b. anbal, Al-Musnad, ed. by Amad M. Shkir and
amza al-Zayn, 20 vols (Cairo: Dr al-adth, 1995), adths no. 1269, 9040; Amad b. Al
Ab Yal, Al-Musnad, ed. by H. Salm Asad, 2nd edn (Beirut: Dr al-Mamn li-l Turth,
1989), adth no. 224; Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Zd al-Mad f Had Khayr al-Ibd, 27th

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by the strong views held by Ibn Khaldn propos what he termed: the
Arabs reluctance to arts and their ignorance of crafts.36 Inspired by these
and other factors, scholars from the western vanguard believed that the
early Muslim community was unaware of architecture, and thus depreciated
its contribution to the shaping of mosque design.37 They, thence, looked
elsewhere for the origin of the mosque.
However, a quick look at the literature is enough to reveal the
volatile character of, hitherto, all the theories put forward regarding the
origin of the mosque, in front of the scrutiny of subsequent scholarship.38
edn, 6 vols (Beirut: Muasasat al-Risla, 1991), III, 458. In a different narration of the same
adth, A prophet is not allowed []. Al-Muttaq al-Hind, Kanz al-Umml f Sunan alAqwl wal Afl, ed. by Isq al-b, 2nd edn, 2 vols (Beirut: Bayt al-Afkr al-Duwaliyya,
2005), adths no. 6355-7. According to a third adth, God has not commanded us to use
what he granted us [of bounties] (fm razaqan) in coating stones, labin and mud.
Muslim, adth no. 5520. Against this background, the Prophet is reported, according to a
number of adths, to have urged people to build mosques in a proper way. For instance,
narrated Samura b. Jundub (d. ca. 60/680): the Prophet commanded us to build mosques
in our communities, and to build them properly (nulia anatih). More on that will be
discussed below.
36
In his Muqaddima, Ibn Khaldn states: the Arabs were the farthest people from crafts: AlMuqaddima, (Cairo: al-Maktaba al-Tijriyya, [1900 (?)]).
37
See G. Bell, Palace and Mosque at Ukhaiir: a Study in Early Mohammadan Architecture
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1914), p. vii; H. Lammens, La Cite Arabe de Tif la Veille de lHgire
(Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1922), VIII, 183; E. Richmond, Moslem Architecture (London:
The Royal Asiatic society, 1926), p. 9; Creswell, E.M.A., I. I, 7, 9, 10-11. Martin Briggs, for
instance, began his book by saying: It cannot be claimed that the date of Muhammads birth in
Mecca, in AD 570, forms in itself a definite landmark in the history of art. Muhammadan
Architecture in Egypt and Palestine (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924), p. 1. Opinions and analyses
expressed by members of this tendency, which depreciates the role of the earliest Muslim
community in the making of the mosque, are often characterized by inconsistency. Paradoxical
or indeed contradictory statements not only flow from scholars who generally share such a
standpoint, but also from the same scholar. Few pages after his just-quoted statement, Briggs
explains how the architectural elements of the typical mosque evolved from features provided
by the Prophets building at Madna (see below). Muhammadan Architecture, pp. 21-2.
38
For example, Henri Saladin supposed, almost without foundation, that the mosque
design derived from the Pharaonic and Chaldean temples. See Henri J. Saladin: La Mosque
de Sidi Okba Kairouan (Paris: E. Leroux, 1899), p. 37. See also Louis Hautecur and
Gaston Wiet, Les Mosques du Caire (Paris: E. Leroux, 1932). Saladins theory was contested
by M. Briggs who concluded that not an architectural divergence could be clearer than the
one noted between the mosque and such ancient temples: Muhammadan Architecture, p.
15. The architectural type of the mosque has been also regarded by some as a descent from
that of the church (Giovanni Rivoiras Moslem Architecture is a good example for this
perspective). It was argued by Creswell and others that the conversion of churches into
mosques was a regular procedure in early Islam. See Creswell, E.M.A, I. I, 17-22.
Nonetheless, the works of Sauvaget have demolished such an argument. Sauvaget, La
Mosque Omeyyade de Mdine, pp. 103-8 [fig. 8]. Creswell himself, depending on literary
and archaeological evidence, contested the views that the mosque of Damascus was built
on the ruins of the church of St. John the Baptist. See Creswell, E.M.A, I. I, 187-96. Sauvaget
went further to conclude that the Umayyad mosque owed nothing to the church which
pre-existed in situ: La Mosque Omeyyade de Mdine, p. 95. Creswell, nonetheless,
maintained that the Umayyad mosque, just like other Syrian mosques of the time, derived

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Sauvaget blames the scholars unsuccessful campaign to seek the origin of


the mosque on a common weakness, a serious one that deprives them from
any asset: Toutes les thories avances jusqu ce jeur prsentent en effet, une
faiblesse commune, si grave quelle leur retire partiquement toute autorit.39
By which he means their inattention to the various practical/material
impulses that amalgamated together to shape the mosque design. Nor did
such theories, according to Sauvaget, consider the interrelation between
such impulses and the ritual and/or political makings.40
With this said, Sauvaget argues that the mosque, having been used
for formal and public rather than devotional assemblies, derived from the
Roman basilicas, which held the market, court and official meetings.41
Sauvaget contends that the type of the mosque was established in the
Umayyad period, with the Umayyad building of the Prophets mosque
providing the model for subsequent mosques. According to Sauvaget, in the
Umayyad period the mosque was used to hold the public on Fridays, not
with the aim of performing communal prayer but of listening to the khuba
which, as he maintains, had no bearing on the Friday prayer. For Sauvaget,
this was the same situation in the time of the Prophet. The difference, he
explains, was that in the latters time the mosque was a public space
attached to his house, whereas in the Umayyad period it was a place for
official gatherings attached to the caliphal palace. Such a function,
according to Sauvaget, compares the mosque to the Roman audience halls.42
In so doing, Sauvaget ironically makes the same mistake which he attributes
from the type of the Syrian churches. These views of Creswell, however, were systematically
refuted by Fikr who pointed out the architectural differences between the mosque and
such a church type: Madkhal: pp. 272-5. However, some scholars argued that the type of the
mosque, particularly in the western part of the Islamic world, derived from the Roman
basilicas. Georges Marais, followed by others, argued that the design of the Qayrawn
mosque, for example, was inspired by that of some churches of Byzantine Africa, such as
the Damous el-Karita at Cartagena. Georges Marais, Manuel dArt Musulman:
LArchitecture, Tunisie, Algrie, Maroc, Espagne, Sicile, 2 vols (Paris: Auguste Picard, 19267), I, 17; Saladin: La Mosque de Sidi Okba, p. 40. These views have been criticized by Fikr.
A. Fikr, Al-Masjid al-Jmi bil Qayrawn, pp. 29-35. Other scholars, such as Lane-Poole and
Ernst Diez believed that the Muslim Arabs took the type of the mosque from the Quraysh
temple. Other less popular theories have compared the mosque to the Persian palaces and
apadnas. See E. Diez, Die Kunst der Islamischen Volker (Berlin: Akademische
Verlagsgesellschaft Athenaion m.b.h, 1915), p. 8 ff; Elie Lambert, Les Origines de la
Mosque et lArchitecture Religieuse des Omeiyades, Studia Islamica, 6 (1956), 5-18.
39
Sauvaget, La Mosque Omeyyade de Mdine, p. 122.
40
Ibid, pp. 92, 122. Oleg Grabar also refers to the scholars negligence of what he calls the
historical context in which the sanctuaries of Islam were erected: Umayyad Dome of the Rock,
p. 34.
41
Sauvaget, La Mosque Omeyyade de Mdine, p. 123.
42
Ibid, pp. 134-5, 137, 143, 157.

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to other scholars, that is neglecting the interrelation between the


ceremonial function of the mosque and the material conditions, here
political, in which it evolved.
More recently, Jeremy Johns has sought the origins of the mosque
in a group of Late Antique architectural types; each had been considered,
albeit individually, to have inspired the mosque design. Johns calls these:
the family of the mosque: synagogue, church, and bayt al-Arab.43 His
rationale for such selectivity was, in addition to geographical propinquity,
the fact that all such types are mainly composed of a peristyle forecourt
leading to a covered space (sanctuary). Nonetheless, Johns himself
recognizes a number of difficulties in such an enquiry. Regarding the
comparison between the mosque and the synagogue in particular, he states
that there is no archaeological evidence, so far, to disclose the form of the
pre-Islamic synagogues in Arabia.44 Johns further maintains that even in the
rare cases where the design of the synagogue is very analogous to that of the
mosque, as in Dura-Europos,45 the evidence for a straightforward
connection is disqualified by chronological and geographical distance. Johns
adds that other synagogues with axial peristyle forecourt are too rare,
generally built much earlier to the rise of Islam, and located far away in the
Diaspora, making it quite implausible to influence the earliest mosques.
According to Johns, similar conditions preclude the influence of the preIslamic temples found at Nabataea and the Yemen.46 Against this
background, the word ms1gd for synagogue is found in Himyaritic
inscriptions in the Yemen.47
43

Johns, House of the Prophet, pp. 96-103. The parallelism between the mosque and the
synagogue had already received some attention, especially given the assumed analogy between
prayer in Islam and its Judaic predecessor, particularly in the rabbinic period. See Reuven
Kimelman, Rabbinic Prayer in Late Antiquity, in Cambridge History of Judaism, vol. iv, the Late
Roman-Rabbinic Period, ed. by S. T. Katz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp.
573-611.
44
See Johns, House of the Prophet, pp. 99. However, Lecker, drawing on one account of alBaldhur, argues that a synagogue did exist in pre-Islamic Madna. Michael Lecker, Muslims,
Jews, and Pagans: Studies on Early Islamic Medina, (Leiden: Brill, 1995), pp. 41-2.
45
See Elie Lambert, La synagogue de Doura-Europos et les Origines de la Mosque,
Semitica, 3, (1950), 67-72; Les Origines de la Mosque, pp. 5-18. It is quite interesting that
formerly Lambert argued in favour of the theory about the church origin of the mosque
type: Les Mosques du Type Andalou, pp. 273-89.
46
Johns, House of the Prophet, pp. 101-2.
47
See A.F.L. Beeston, M. A. Ghul, W. W. Muller and J. Ryckmans, Sabaic Dictionary (Beirut:
Louvain, 1982), p. 125. According to Alexander Sedov, a big synagogue was erected at Qani,
Yemen around the 5th century AD. See A. V. Sedov, Sea-Trade of the aramawt Kingdom
from the 1st to the 6th centuries A.D., in Profumi dArabia: Atti del Convegno, ed. by. A.
Avanzini, (Roma: L'Erma di Bretschneider, 1997), pp. 365-84 (p. 376); Sedov, Temples of Ancient

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Johns, while continuing to regard the mosque as a member of such


a family of Late Antique types,48 concedes that none of which seems to have
been its immediate prototype (taking into account the difficulty of
specifying the date, place and way of how the mosque became a distinctive
type).49 The architectural divergence between the mosque and non-Muslim
places of worship is in fact ascribed to the distinctive, however simple, ritual
imperatives for which the former was set. Hillenbrand credibly explains why
synagogues, churches, fire temples, Arabic and Indian temples were inapt to
regularly accommodate the Muslim alt. According to him, the early
Muslim builders looked elsewhere in pursuit of inspiration.50
With such difficulties in detecting the origin of the mosque design,
a number of scholars preferred to compare the architectural components of
the mosque to those of some earlier non-Islamic places of worship. Such
was a more successful endeavour, but the main misstep here is
generalization; the similitude of some elements in the mosque to
counterparts in pre-existing building types should not be taken to regard
the latter as the origins of the mosque; simply because it was not until the
late first century AH that many of such elements were introduced to
mosque architecture. Indeed, it is the first-half century mosques AH that
need to be considered when the origin of the mosque is concerned.
The existence of the Prophets mosque would mean that the Arabs
knew such a religious building type before the time of conquests. Could this
properly explain why the early mosques were hypaethral? Was their
architecture, in terms of how space was planned, inspired by the Prophets
prototype? One could safely argue that, apart from the re-use of antique

Hadramawt (Pisa: Plus-Pisa University Press, 2005), pp. 165, 166 [fig. 77], 169-71; Sedov, The
Port of Qana and the Incense trade, in Food for the Gods: New Light on the Ancient Incense
Trade, ed. by D. Peacock and D. Williams (Oxford: Oxbow, 2007), pp. 71-111 (pp. 74, 88 [fig.
4.15], 92, 99 [fig. 4.24], 103; J. F. Salles, and A. V. Sedov, Qni: Le Port Antique du Hadramawt
Entre la Mediterrane, L'Afrique et LInde, (Turnhout: Brepols, 2010), 87-122; Glen W. Bowersock,
Roman Arabia, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994). On the Jews of pre-Islamic
Arabia see: Z. Rubin, Byzantium and Southern Arabia, in The Eastern Frontier of the Roman
Empire, ed. by D. H. French and C. S Lightfoot (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989); A. F. L.
Beeston, Judaism and Christianity in Pre-Islamic Yemen, in LArabie du Sud: Histoire et
Civilisation, 1, Le Peuple Ymenite et ses Racines, ed. by J. Chelhod and others (Paris:
Maisonneuve et Larose, 1984), pp.259-69, 271-8; Michael Lecker, Jews and Arabs in Pre- and
Early Islamic Arabia (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998).
48
Apart from similarity in layout, Johns major rationale for maintaining such a view is a
Quranic passage which we will deal with below. See House of the Prophet, pp. 102-3.
49
Johns, House of the Prophet, p. 111.
50
Hillenbrand, Islamic Architecture, p. 36.

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columns for the colonnade of the Kfa mosque,51 the earliest mosques of
Bara, Kfa, and Fus, were not influenced by any of the pre-Islamic styles
in Mesopotamia or Egypt.52 In the following rebuildings of these mosques,
however, space was re-designed under the influence of the architectural
styles of the conquered territories, while remained to be mainly
administrated by the Islamic devotional determinants. The same thing
applies to the architecture of the early mosques, in terms of how space was
occupied. Let us take the minaret as an example. The minaret could have
been prefigured by the habit of Bill, the Prophets muezzin, calling to
prayer from the highest roof in the vicinity. It could have also been a direct
improvement of the Mimr, a pillar which was reportedly mounted by Bill
for the same purpose.53 In the meantime, external architectural influences
on the minaret design and decoration are very clear. Hence, the need for a
raised place to call to prayer, a convention which goes back to the Prophet,
was kindled by the formal procedure of adhn, while the architectural
realization of form and height of the raised place influenced variously. In
other words, the architectural elements of the mosque derived from two
sources: the practices of the Prophet and the earliest Muslim community, in
terms of devotional origin; and an array of variable influences, in terms of
architectural form. The point to underscore here is that the effect of one
source does not necessarily contradict that of the other.
Taking into consideration such a perspective, while revisiting the
question on the nature of the Prophets building, would lead up to a firmer
grasp of the manifold stimuli that moulded mosque architecture, and of
how they interacted. We need to know which element governed the other:
devotion or architecture. The traditional belief that mosques were not
introduced until after the departure of the Prophet, along with other
factors, has brought scholars to follow two dubious lines of enquiry: seeking
the origins of the mosque in non-Islamic types as already indicated; and

51

See Rivoira, Moslem Architecture, p. 8; J. Pedersen and others, Masdjid, in The


Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edn, VI (1991), pp. 644-707 (p. 660); R. Hillenbrand, Masdjid, in
The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edn, VI (1991), pp. 677-88 (p. 679).
52
Such early mosques are argued by some to have been simpler copies of more elaborate
buildings. See Johns, House of the Prophet, p. 81. Nonetheless they, as described by the
sources, do not seem to resemble any of the architectural types in the conquered countries.
Their arrangement is, in fact, clearly analogous to the structure which the Prophet erected in
Madna.
53
See Ibn al-Najjr, Durra, p. 164; al-Samhd, Waf, II, 530; Sauvaget, La Mosque Omeyyade
de Mdine, p. 156

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attributing its institution to material rather than devotional factors.54 As an


example of the latter, it is Creswells taking up of Caetanis argument (that
the Prophets structure retained the character of a house throughout the
first-half century AH)55 which led him to credit the inception of
congregational mosques to political reasons. According to him, this
happened when Ziyd b. Muwiya enlarged the mosque of Bara in 44/665
with the aim of diverting the attention of Muslim people away from the
tribal mosques whose political influence was on the rise.56 For Creswell,
Ziyd wanted the mosque to act as a court for his political speeches.57
The underestimation, sometimes total dismissal, of the religious
context in which the mosque was instituted has led scholars to attribute its
introduction even to trivial facts, such as the incidence of demarcating the
mosque proper by arrow-shots and the need to protect the bayt al-ml from
thievery.58 Rather, the mosque outline and many of its constituent elements
were instigated by a number of devotional essentials. The prerequisite of
having the mosque orientated towards the qibla is not a bagatelle, but
emerged from the Qurn and adth directive to face the qibla during
prayer. By the same token, the need of a high platform for the Prophets
muezzin is a result of the Quranic and Prophetic command of adhn.59
Other formal rudiments that provided the context for mosque institution
and also dictated its shape included the necessity for the worshippers to
arrange themselves in straight parallel lines.60 Their need to listen to the
khab and see the imm, to guarantee synchronization of prayer
movements, puts more architectural emphasis on width than on depth. The
worshippers keenness to gain the reward promised for those praying in the
first line has further accentuated such a feature.
In his Formation of Islamic Art, Grabar credits the evolution of early
54

Hillenbrand may be the only exception. He discussed, albeit briefly, how the way in which
the Muslim, whether individually or collectively, prays influenced the mosque layout: Islamic
Architecture, pp. 35-8.
55
Creswell, E.M.A., I. I, 43-4. Nevertheless, Creswell paradoxically states that the mosque of
Amr at Fus (21/640-1) was influenced, in some features, by the model of Umar at Madna
(17/638): E.M.A., I. I, 37.
56
This opinion was first suggested by Lammens. See Creswell, E.M.A, pp. 43 (quoting H.
Lammens, Zid ibn Abhi, IV, 30-1).
57
Creswell, E.M.A., I. I, 44-5.
58
K. A. C. Creswell, A Short Account of Early Muslim Architecture, (Beirut: Librairie du Liban,
1958; new impression 1968), p. 9. See also Grabar, Formation, p. 103
59
See Qurn V. 58. For adths on adhn, see al-Bukhr, Book of Adhn, adths no.603-873.
Creswells trivial facts has been also contested by Johns: House of the Prophet, pp. 85-8.
60
Also, the Qurn, praising the steadfastness of the faithful warriors in battlefield, compares
their lines to solid brickwork. See the Qurn LXI. 4.

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mosques to practical impulses. However, it is the example he gives which


divulges the vulnerability of his position.61 Grabar sees Uthmn b. Mans
(d. ca. 3/625) treatment of the qibla with saffron paste (as a penance for
mistakably spitting on it), along with Ibn Rustas taking of this as the first
incidence of perfuming the qibla, as an example of how long practices can
spring up from spontaneous occurrences. In fact, the one who covered the
qibla wall with saffron, according to Ibn Rustas account,62 was not Uthmn
as misread by Grabar but his wife, Khawla al-Sulamiyya , fa-amadat ila-l
qiblati fa-ghasalath, thumma amilat khalqan (fa-)khallaqath, fa-knat
awwala man khallaqa-l qibla.63 The precedent of treating the position of a
spit with saffron is, nevertheless, attributed by so many accounts, including
a adth by Abd Allh b. Umar (d. 74/693-4),64 to the Prophet himself.65
Ibn Umar expressly states that saffron paste was henceforth prepared
(unia) in mosques. The behaviour of Uthmns wife was not, thus, adlibbed but based on a Prophetic example and a number of adths that warn
against spitting towards the qibla (see infra).66
The influence of the Prophets mosque on later design
Following on from the foregoing discussion, another point that could be
clarified based on this enquiry is whether the Prophets mosque, had it
existed, exerted any authority on subsequent mosques. The making of the
mosque by the Prophet himself would explicably introduce a fresh and
significant input to the extended debate on the evolution of its design. A
mosque built by the Prophet would have provided a religious context for the
mosque development. For example, it would give the quite big number of
mosque-related adths a more reliable standing. Were these, combined
with the Prophets archetype, capable to deliver an orthodox model of the
mosque? What were the features of such a model? How did it relate to the
cultural life of the time? Was it binding or only elective? How did it
compare to the elaborateness of the Umayyad and Abbsid mosques? Islam
61

Grabar, Formation, p. 103, ft.


This was formerly reported by Umar b. Shabba (d. 262/876). See al-Samhd, Waf, II, 660.
63
Ibn Rusta, Al-Alq al-Nafsa wa-Yalhi Kitb al-Buldn lil Yaqb, ed. by M. J. De Goeje
(Leiden: Brill, 1891), p. 66.
64
See Ab Dwd, adth no. 479; Ibn Khuzayma, a, ed. by M. Muaf al-Aam, 4 vols
(Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islm, 1980), adth no. 1295; al-Bayhaq, Al-Sunan al-Kubr, ed. by M.
Abd al-Qdir A, 3rd edn, 11 vols (Beirut: Dr al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, 2003), adth no 4310;
Wensinck, p. 154. See also al-Bukhr, adths no. 405-17.
65
On these accounts, see al-Samhd, Waf, II, 659-61; al-Bayhaq, adths no. 4308-11.
66
However, the first instance of treating the qibla wall with saffron is attributed, according to
Anas b. Malik, to an Anr woman whose conduct was well-regarded by the Prophet and thus
taken as a matter of his sunna. See al-Nas, adth no. 729; Ibn Khuzayma, adth no. 1296.
62

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is known for its assimilative capacity, and the foreign influences on mosque
architecture and decoration are rightly unmistaken. How did the clients and
designers of early mosques observe such a prophetic model, while naturally
inspired by the architectural types of other cultures? In the following
milieus, what reasons were there behind the elaborating of mosques?
These questions, and others, will be dealt with in a forthcoming
article of mine, entitled Mosque Architecture between Orthodoxy and
Natural Advancement. While trying not to pre-empt such an imminent
discussion, it may be significant here to give an example of how the
Prophets paradigm was considered by the builders of early mosques. AlBukhr and others report, through Ab Sad al-Khudr (d. ca. 64/683),
Abd Allh b. Umar and others, that the mosque of the Prophet was
rebuilt, after his departure, by two of the Rshidn Caliphs, Umar b. alKhab and Uthmn b. Affn.67 Umars structure, which was a
straightforward reproduction of the Prophets,68 was appreciatively
approved by the Muslim community of the time. On the other hand,
Uthmn, having rebuilt the mosque in a more advanced form and using
better materials,69 received strong criticism from the conservative abs
for changing the Prophets model.70 They did not comply until he proved

67

According to some accounts, the roof and columns of the mosque, having decayed, were
renewed in the caliphate of Ab Bakr who added nothing to the mosque area (lam yazid f-h
Ab Bakrin shaya). See al-Bukhr, adth no 446; Abu Dwd, adths no. 451-2; al-Bayhaq,
adth no. 4294; Ibn Zabla, Akhbr al-Madna, ed. by al Abd al-Azz Salma (Medina:
Markaz Buth al-Madna, 2003), p. 113; al-Samhd, Waf, II, 481; Ibn Kathr, Bidya wa
Nihya, IV, 533; al-Sakhw, Al-Tufa al-Lafa f Trkh al-Madna al-Sharfa, 3 vols (Cairo: Asad
arabzn al-usayn, 1979), I, 45.
68
See al-Bukhr, adth no. 446; Ibn ajar al-Asqaln, Fat al-Br b Shar al-Bukhr, 14 vols
(Cairo: Muaf al-alab, 1959), II, 85; Pedersen, Masdjid, p. 661. On the form and materials of
the mosque of the Prophet in his time, see below.
69
The walls were built with identical cut stones (al-ijrati-l manqshati-l mubiqa) and coated
with stucco (qaa). Teak was applied for the roof. The columns, which were made up of
ashlars, were drilled and fitted with iron dowels set in lead bedding. See al-Bukhr, adth no.
446; Ab Dwd, adth no. 452; Ibn al-Najjr, Durra, p. 174; Ibn Isq al-arb, Kitb alMansik wa Amkin uruq al-ajj wa Maalim al-Jazra, ed. by amad al-Jsir, (Riyadh: Dr alYamma, 1969), p. 364; al-Maar, Al-Tarf bim Anasat al-Hijra min Malim Dr al-Hijra, ed.
by A. al-Khayyl (Damascus: Asad arabzn, 1953), p. 80; al-Samhd, Waf, II, 501-2; Ibn
Kathr, Bidya wa Nihya, II, 170; IV, 533-4; A. al-Murjn, Bahjat al-Nufs wal-Asrr f Trkh
Dr Hijrat al-Naby al-Mukhtr, Maktabat al-aram al-Makk, no. 13, p. 128, al-Margh, Taqq
al-Nura bi Talkh Malim Dr al-Hijra, ed. by M. al-Ama (Medina: al-Maktaba al-Ilmiyya,
1955), p. 47; al-Barzanj, Nuzhat, p. 12.
70
Muslim, adth no. 1190; al-Baghaw, Shar al-Sunna, ed. by Zuhayr al-Shwsh and Shuayb
al-Arn, 2nd edn, 16 vols (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islm, 1983), II, 349; See Ibn ajar, Fat, II,
86-7. More resilient opposition, however, is recorded of al-Walds diktat to pull down the
houses of the Prophets wives and merge them into the mosque proper.

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the legality of his project through a quote from the Prophet himself.71 An
eyewitness, Ubayd Allh al-Khawln,72 related that when the people
criticized Uthmn for rebuilding (with modifications) the mosque of the
Prophet, he said to them: you have overstated, and I heard the Prophet
saying: whoever builds a mosque (for Allhs satisfaction), Allh will build
for him one like it in Paradise.73 Such an incident implies that the mosque,
having been initiated by the Prophet himself, served as a reference point for
immediately subsequent mosques.74
Nevertheless, one cannot find in the literature any keenness to
show the Prophet as the inventor of the mosque.75 As we shall see, there
are many references to Islamic mosques earlier than his, even were these
prompted by his advice or commands. It is true that in some cases, mosque
features or practices were attributed, with zeal, to the Prophet, but this was
mainly done to legalize already existing ones.76 Quite a number of
found nothing shameful in attributing the introduction of many of the
mosque architectural features to later individuals.77 Some went further to
indicate the foreign source of these features. However, the pre-eminence,
prestige and authority of the building and its space in Madna, on account
of their affiliation to the Prophet, are clearly established through a huge
corpus of writings by traditionists, historians, geographers, travellers and
pilgrims. The perception that the mosque was instituted by the legislator
71

Ibn Kathr, IV, 534.


Ubayd Allh b. Aswad al-Khawln was a tabi narrator of adth who was fostered under
custody of Maymna bt. al-rith, a wife of the Prophet.
73
Al-Bukhr, adth no. 450.
74
It is of interest, however, to note that the adth here cited by Uthmn does not
necessarily mean that mosques should be elaborated, for it would still be a good deed if
they were built in a modest way. It was Uthmns understanding, which might have been
built on the phrase like it, that led him to make such improvements.
75
This, however, could be ascribed to the fact that the Prophets invention of the mosque was
taken as granted.
76
This was the case, for example, when assn b Thbit, having been reproached by the caliph
Umar for versifying in the mosque, asked Ab Hurayra to attest the fact that the Prophet had
already approved a precedent. Al-Bukhr, adth no. 453; Ab Yal, adth no. 5885; Ibn
Khuzayma, adth no. 1307; Ibn ajar, Fat, II, 94-5; Zayn al-Dn b. Rajab al-anbal, Fat alBr: Shar a al-Bukhr, ed. by M. S. Abd al-Maqd, M. A. al-Shfi, I. al-Q and others,
10 vols (Medina: Maktabat al-Ghurab al-Athariyya, 1996), III, 330; Wensinck, p. 154.
77
For example, the first introduction of the maqra into mosques is attributed by historians to
various individuals. See Ibn Rusta, Alq, p. 192; Ibn Qutayba, Al-Marif, ed. by Tharwat
Uksha, Dhakhir al-Arab, 44, 4th edn (Cairo: Dr al-Marif, 1969), p. 553; Ibn Khaldn,
Muqaddima, 269; Ibn Sayyid al-Ns, Uyn al-Athar F Funn al-Maghz wa-l Shaml wa-l
Siyar, ed. by M. al-Kharw and Muy al-Dn Mist, 2 vols (Medina: Maktabat Dr al-Turth,
[n.d]), I, 316; Ibn al-Faqh, Kitb al-Buldn, ed. by Ysuf al-Hd (Beirut: lam al-Kutub, 1996),
p. 159; al-Yaqb, Trkh, I, 314; al-Baldhur, Fut al-Buldn, ed. and ant. by A. Ans al-abb
and U. Ans al-abb (Beirut: Dr al-Nashr lil Jmiiyyn, 1957), p. 485.
72

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himself gave an explainable magnitude to its layout and space which were
connected to the memory of the Prophet. The reported commitment of the
early patrons to keeping the orientation of the qibla wall of the building, for
instance, is attributed to their belief that it was marked out by the Prophet
himself and is hard to explain otherwise. The same thing applies to their
persistence to preserve the precise positions of the older columns each time
these were replaced with newer ones. In both cases, it is space and not
object that is venerated. The components of the building, on the other
hand, were not kept for long. This is due to the robust campaign, already
instigated by the Prophet himself, against the reverence of objects, let alone
the evanescent material of such components.
In this introductory section we tried to review the scholars views,
grouped in two main tendencies, regarding the nature and functions of the
building which the Prophet built soon after he emigrated to Madna. This
has been done through narrating the history of the discussion of the issue in
both western and Islamic scholarships. We also tried to explain why the
question needs to be re-asked and what conceiving the building as a house
or a mosque means in terms of identifying the immediate origin of the
mosque type and the kind of impulses that would have prompted its
making, and in terms of the functional and architectural features of the
mosque in general.
In what follows, we will examine the two main theories, regarding
the nature of the Prophets building, with the aim of pointing out which
designation, house or mosque, should be accepted and why. While so
doing, we will try to indicate how the question interrelates with topics such
as: (i) the meaning of the word mosque generally, i.e. the specialisation of
the term for the distinctive place of worship for Muslims rather than other
worshippers; (ii) the distinctive architectural disposition and style, as well
as authority, of the building and its space in Madna; (iii) and the relation
between the residence of the head of state and the location of his councils
of state.
THE HOUSE OF THE PROPHET THEORY
The theory of the House of the Prophet cannot be acquiesced for many
reasons. For example, Caetani, while explaining how the type of the mosque
evolved from the House of the Prophet, maintains that it was not until
54/674 that the latter was formally converted into a mosque. According to
him, this happened when the A feast was celebrated in it, for the first

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time, instead of the muall.78 By this, Caetani makes two critical mistakes.
First, he reckons the building to have remained a house in the beginning of
the caliphate of Al b. Ab lib (r. 35/65640/661), whose moving of the
caliphal seat to Kfa in 36/657 was as Caetani maintains a significant
step en route to the mosque institution.79 This hypothesis is, nonetheless,
challenged by an early poem of assn b. Thbit (see infra), who held the
epithet of the Prophets bard, asserting that the building had already been a
mosque by Uthmns assassination in 35/655-6.80 Further, Caetani, in so
saying, would have us to believe that the mosques of the amr, or garrison
towns, were established before that of Madna, the first Islamic capital and
the home of the Prophet and his Companions. We now possess reliable
archaeological evidence that some of these territorial mosques existed as
early as the early 40s/660s. Earlier mosques, where diligent archaeological
investigation is still demanded, are the one of an and that of Jawatha.
The latter, for example, is allegedly dated to 7/629.
More ironically in connection with this point, Creswell, while
implementing the above two suggestions of Caetani, accepts the dates
which the sources give for the foundation of the mosque of Bara as
14/635,81 that of Kfa as 17/638,82 and the date of the caliph Umars
rebuilding of the Prophets mosque as 17/638.83 On the latter event,
Creswell confusingly states: In this year [namely, 17/638] Umar also
enlarged the mosque at Madina.84 Does Creswell admit the building having
been a mosque before Umar?
Another reason to reject the House of the Prophet theory is the
sizable area of the structure, which is not comparable to any of the Arab
houses of the time as described by Caetani and Creswell.85 The building, as
78

Annali, I, 441-2. The same view is also adopted by Creswell. See E.M.A., I. I, 10.
Caetani, Annali, I, 442, 445-6.
80
Uthmn was murdered in his house which was located near to the mosque. On Uthmns
house, see al-Samhd, Waf, I, 528.
81
Creswell, E.M.A., I.I, 22.
82
Ibid, I.I, 24
83
Ibid, I.I, 27-8
84
Ibid.
85
In the first stage, the mosque was a rectangle 63 54.33 cubits. These dimensions were
reported by Ibn Isq al-arb, on the authority of Muammad b. Yay: Kitb al-Mansik, p.
359; al-Samhd, Waf, I, 341. In the second stage, the mosque was approximately 70 X 60
cubits. These dimensions were given by Zayd b. Thbit (d. 45/665) who was a private scribe of
the Prophet. See al-Samhd, Waf, I, 334; al-Sakhw, Tufa, I, 45; al-Margh, Taqq, p. 44.
The above dimensions are close to those mentioned by Ibn al-Najjr (Durra, p. 146), according
to whom the mosque was a square of side 70 cubits. In the third stage, the mosque was a square
of side less than 100 cubits. See al-Samhd, Waf, I, 336. The previous form of the mosque was
79

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told by the sources and admitted by Caetani and the others, is too big to
have been built ad usum proprium.86 The argument that it was built to serve
as the Prophets residence clashes with the many reports on his
unpretentious life and with those praising simplicity and laying emphasis
on the transitory nature of this life. The most, if not only, acceptable
explanation for building such a large structure by the Prophet is that it was
meant to serve, beside him, the whole Muslim community. Such a
communal, and not private, character of the building is further asserted by
two more particulars. First, unlike Caetani-Creswell perception of the Arab
dr, which usually had one entrance, the Prophets structure was provided
with three gates, most probably to assist the ingress and egress of the
purportedly big number of attendees.87 Second, the enlargement of the
building in 7/628 was carried out in concert with the introduction of the
minbar for the first time.88
An additional point that betrays the weakness of Caetani-Creswell
theory is the placing of the apartments of the Prophets wives against the
exterior of the enclosure wall (FIGS. 1, 8, 9 & 10). Such a positioning
insinuates that the provision of an abode for the Prophet and his wives was
only ancillary to the main function of supplying the Muslim community
with a place to meet and pray. The building was par excellence the focal
point of the Islamic Madna.89
In envisaging how the typical mosque evolved from the Prophets
house, commentators such as Briggs and Creswell have noted a number of
significant points for our discussion. Firstly, the shelter, built by the Prophet
to protect the congregants from the weather extremes, is seen to have
supplied the origin of the later lwn. Secondly, the three-step pulpit he
used to deliver sermons is thought to have been the embryo of the later
minbar. Thirdly, the above custom of Bill calling to prayer from an elevated

probably retained until 7/628, after the Prophet returned triumphant from the battle of
Khaybar. Mainly drawing on the accounts of al-Samhd (Waf, I, 340-59), Fikr argues that
the mosque was enlarged after the conquest of Khaybar from the east by 10 cubits or an
isiwna, the space between two rows of columns, from the east by 20 cubits or two isiwnas,
and from the north by 40 cubits. Fikr, Madkhal, p. 171.
86
See Hillenbrand, Islamic Architecture, p. 39; Johns, House of the Prophet, p. 74.
87
See Johns, House of the Prophet, p. 74.
88
Al-Tirmidh, adth no. 3703; al-Samhd, Waf, I, 338, 340-59.
89
See Hillenbrand, Islamic Architecture, p. 39-40; Johns, House of the Prophet, p. 74. See also
Richard Ettinghausen, Oleg Grabar and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina, Islamic Art and Architecture,
p. 5.

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place is believed to have inspired the later minaret.90 While the first two
features are argued by the advocates of the House of the Prophet theory as
signs for communal, but not ceremonial function, the third would patently
argue the building having been used for collective prayer. The fact that a
new shelter was added at the southern part of the building immediately
after the qibla alteration, from north to south, indicates that such a use for
collective prayer was a frequent one.91
THE MOSQUE OF THE PROPHET THEORY
Before the evidence for the existence of the Prophets mosque is assessed, we
need to define what a mosque truly is. The word mosque is the English
equivalent for the Arabic masjid which, according to Arabic dictionaries,
designates the place where a worshipper prostrates (yasdjud).92 It is the posture
in which he/she casts him/herself down with limbs, knees, nose and forehead
resting flat on the ground.93 The mosque, abridged to its basics, is simply a
levelled piece of land demarcated by whatever scheme seems viable. It could
safely be said that the only formal condition, beside cleanliness, is the frequent
use for prayer. The single structural requirement, however, is a device, mostly a
wall or a reed fence, that assures the worshippers orientation towards the qibla.
But even this latter one could be disregarded.94
Although the term masjid does not seem to inevitably connote a

90

Briggs, Muhammadan Architecture, pp. 21-2. See also Creswell, E. M. A., I. I, 7, 9; Johns,
House of the Prophet, p. 85; Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair, Islamic Arts (London: Phaidon,
1997), p. 23.
91
See Hillenbrand, Islamic Architecture, p. 42.
92
Ibn Manr, Lisn al-Arab, ed. by A. al-Kabr, M. A. asab Allh, H. M. al-Shdhil, rev.edn,
6 vols (Cairo: Dar al-Marif, 1981), III, 1941. See also Muammad b. Abd Allh al-Zarkash,
Ilm al-Sjid b Akm al-Masjid, ed. by M. Margh, 5th edn (Cairo: Ministry of Waqfs, 1999),
pp. 26-8. Other archaic pronunciations are Masjad and Masyid. See Ab Bakr b. Zayd al-Jur,
Tufat al-Rki wal Sjid bi Akm al-Masjid, ed. by li Slim al-Nahm, Muammad Bn alMaayr, ab Abd al-Karm al-Anz and others (Farawniyya: Wazrat al-Awqf wal Shun
al-Islmiyya, 2004), p. 47. The Arabic masjid could have been derived from the Aramaic
msgd, which designated a place of worship, stele or a sacred pillar. It is found in Aramaic as
early as the Jewish Elephantine Papyri of the fifth century BC. However, the Syriac form msgd
and Amharic masged are late loans from Arabic. The form ms1gd, oratory or place of prayer is
also found in Epigraphic South Arabian. Before the Prophet migrated to Madna and erected his
mosque, the word masjid was used to refer to sanctuaries, especially al-Bayt al-arm, the
Meccan Sacred Mosque, and al-Masdjid al-Aq, the Further Mosque, which is usually taken
to specify the sanctuary at Jerusalem. See Beeston, Ghul, and others, Sabaic Dictionary, p. 125;
A. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qurn (Cairo: Oriental Institute Baroda, 1938), pp.
263-4; Pedersen, Masdjid, p. 644; Johns, House of the Prophet, p. 89; Bloom, Mosque, 426-7.
93
See Abd Allh al-Drim, Sunan, ed. by al-Drin, 4 vols (Riyadh: Dr al-Mughn, 2000),
adths no. 1357-8.
94
Such simplicity was also denoted by Hillenbrand: Islamic Architecture, p. 31.

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building of any kind,95 some of the Mliks stipulated a roofed mosque for
the Friday sermon.96 Their view is based on a Quranic verse which describes
the mosques as houses [of worship] which Allh has allowed to be raised so
that His name is remembered in them (see infra).97 With most expositors
agreeing that it is the mosque that is meant here, the Mliks argue that a
house requires a roof resting on walls. However, the opinion of the
jumhr,98 which does not concede such a proviso, seems in a better
agreement with adth. The mosque, as far as devotion is concerned, is any
given clean piece of land; the Prophet is reported to have said: the whole
land is made a mosque for me (and my nation) [namely prayer is valid on
any spot of land].99 Conventionally, however, the mosque is a place,
particularly a building, where prayers are performed on a regular basis.
According to some scholars, this last definition excludes the mualls, rubu,
khanqs and madrasas for these types were mainly established to serve
different functions.100
With such an intrinsic simplicity of definition, which is also
mirrored in form and function, the making of the mosque by the Prophet
and the earliest Muslim community was as fundamental as straightforward.
But what did it look like? The Mosque of the Prophet has been mainly
studied in a succinct way and in an introductory context. There has always
been an emphasis on its ephemeral material and simple form, which
according to many cannot be referred to as architectonic. Only few works
have considered the different stages of the building in the time of the
Prophet on a chronological basis, and yet fewer amongst these have paid
adequate attention to its plan, material, and constituents in each of these

95

Hillenbrand, Islamic Architecture, p. 31.


Ibrhm b. li al-Khuayr, Akm al-Masjid f al-Shara al-Islmiyya: al-Juz al-Thn,
([Riyadh (?)]: Wazrat al-Shun al-Islmiyya wal Awqf wal Dawa wal Irshd, 1998), p. 18.
Representing one of the four main orthodox schools of Islamic law, the Mliks are the disciples
and followers of imam Mlik b. Anas (d. 179/796).
97
Qurn XXIV. 36.
98
Jumhr is a majority of scholars in the field of shara and fiqh, Islamic law and
jurisprudence.
99
Al-Bukhr, adth no. 438; Muslim, adths no. 1161-7; al-Drim, adth no. 1429; Ibn anbal,
adths no. 11858, 11727. See also Yay b. Sharaf al-Dn al-Nawaw, a Muslim bi Shar alNawaw, 18 vols (Cairo: al-Mabaa al-Miriyya, 1929), V, 2-5.
100
Al-Jur, Tufa, p. 49; al-Zarkash, Ilm, p. 386. On Muall al-d, see below.On definition,
function and architectural form of rib, see Jacqueline Chabbi, La fonction du ribat Bagdad
du Ve sicle au dbut du VIIe sicle, Revue des tudes Islamiques, 42 (1974), 101-21. On
madrasas, see J. Pedersen [G. Makdisi], Munibur Rahman and R. Hillenbrand, Madrasa, in The
Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edn, V (1986), 1123-54.
96

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stages.101 The earliest phase, in particular, has always been superficially


dealt with. Attempts to reconstruct the building have been heavily based on
literary evidence for the original structure was overwritten by many later
rebuildings. In addition, the whole area is now occupied by the vast, and
exceptionally sacred, present mosque and thus denies to archaeology which
is, over and above, not allowed so far.102 The nature of the literary sources
represents yet another challenge; they contain much anecdotal,
hagiographic, and sometimes topological, detail.103 While, in part, this is a
problem for source criticism, the copiousness of the writings provides scope
for cross-checking and incidental detail which could, if critically dealt with,
represent a good source of information. While the form of the building is
palpably relevant to our discussion on its character, we will not engage
ourselves with its reconstruction. Significantly because the bone of
contention, in the present discussion, is neither the plan nor the constituent
parts of the building, but its main function or functions. It may be enough,
for the purpose of this study, to point out that the building, by the second
year AH, and particularly after the changing of the qibla direction, had been
composed, by and large, of an open courtyard (an) flanked with two
unpretentious shelters and delineated by an enclosure of crude stone blocks
and adobe (FIG. 7). The shelters were upheld with palm trunks and
stretched with fronds and thatches. Unlike what became the traditional
concept of the mosque, the Prophets structure had no minaret, dome,
decorated faade, concave prayer niche, or elevated pulpit. Yet, it was not a
primitive structure or an embryonic formal arrangement, as suggested by
many,104 especially when related to its topographical and urban
morphological settings.
Did such a building have the features of a mosque? To deal with
this question, we will mainly depend on the earliest historical accounts.
101

See Fikr, Madkhal, pp. 163-97; M. Hazz al-Shihr, Imrat al-Masjid al-Nabaw: Mundh
Inshih att Nihyat al-Ar al-Mamlk, (Cairo: Dr al-Qhira lil Kitb, 2001).
102
See Jeremy Johns, Archaeology and the Early History of Islam: The first Seventy Years,
Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 46 (2003), 411-36 (p. 433).
103
On these problems, see M. J. de Goeje, Mmoire sur la conqte de la Syrie, 1st edn (Leiden:
[no pub.], 1864); Chase F. Robinson, Islamic Historiography, Themes in Islamic History, 1
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 11-9; Albrecht Noth, Lawrence I. Conrad,
The Early Arabic Historical Tradition: A Source-Critical Study, Studies in Late Antiquity and
Early Islam, 2nd edn (Princeton: Darwin Press, 1994). See also Fred M. Donners introduction to
Lawrence Conrads translation of Duris The Rise of Historical Writing Among the Arabs, pp. vii,
x-xi. Richard Ettinghausen, Oleg Grabar and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina, Islamic Art and
Architecture, pp. 5-6.
104
See for example: Creswell, E.M.A., I. I, 7-9; Grabar, Formation, p. 103.

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While considering as many relevant and reliable sources as possible, special


attention will be paid to the Qurn and adth,105 not only because they are
the same sources upon which the theory of the House of the Prophet is
based, but also because of their better documented make-up when
compared to other early Arab sources.106 The Qurn in particular is seen
by most academics, both western and Muslim, as the most accepted source
for the studying of early Islam.107 adth, however, has the most relevant
quotes on the topic; some were reported to us by people who themselves
were part of the action.

70 dhir

100 dhir
Al-uffa

100 dhir

Figure 7: Plan of the mosque of the Prophet after the change of the qibla (alShihr 2001)

105

In addition to the Qurn and adth, we will depend on the local histories of Madna,
authored by Ibn Zabla, Ibn al-Najjr, al-Samhd, etc.
106
Early is here taken to embrace the first surviving Arabic writings.
107
On the historiographical appraisal of the Qurn and how it was collected, see Frederik
Leehmuis, Codices of the Qurn, in Encyclopaedia of the Qurn, I (2001), pp. 347-51; John
Burton, the Collection of the Qurn, in Encyclopaedia of the Qurn, I (2001), pp. 351-61; G. H.
A. Juynboll, adth and the Qurn, in Encyclopaedia of the Qurn, II (2002), pp. 376-97;
Franois Droche, Manuscripts of the Qurn, in Encyclopaedia of the Qurn, III (2003), pp.
254-75; F. E. Peters, The Quest of the Historical Muammad, The international Journal of
Middle East Studies, 23 (1991), 291-315.

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Qibla

Bb Jibrl

Raba
Bb al-Rama

Bab al-Nis

Figure 8: Madna, reconstruction of the plan of the Prophets mosque and dwellings (after
Akkouche 1935)

afa

Jafar

Usma amza

al-Abbs

isha
Sad b. Ab Waqq
Sawda
Khawkhat al-iddq

Khawkhat Al

Al-Rawa al-

Umm Salama

Sharfa
Al and Fima

Bb Uthmn

N
Bb al-Rama

Figure 9: Madna, reconstruction of the plan of the Prophets mosque and


dwellings of his wives and comrades (after al-Shanq 1991)

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100 dhir

100 dhir

Figure 10: Plan of the mosque in the time of the Prophet with the positions of the famous
isiwnt indicated (after al-Shihr 2001)

ADTH AND THE MOSQUE OF THE PROPHET


adth forms a controversial topic for Muslim as well as non-Muslim scholars.
Both groups believe that a great number of it, having been mainly written in
the 3rd/9th century, were falsified or wholly fabricated to serve political or
sectarian agendas. The most dismissing views were marshalled by Ignaz
Goldziher in 1890 and adopted by many academics such as David
Margoliouth,108 Henri Lammens,109 and Leone Caetani.110 Goldzihers theory
was further developed by Joseph Schacht some fifty years later.111 For decades,
it proved difficult to find a middle ground between these views and the
traditional Islamic perspective before a positive change happened in modern
scholarship. With the exception of John Wansbrough112 and his two disciples,
Patricia Crone and Michael Cook,113 the tone of scepticism waned in
108

D. S. Margoliouth, Lectures on Arabic Historians (Calcutta: 1930; repr. New York, 1972).
Henri Lammens, Islam: Belief and Institutions, trans. by E. Denison Ross (London: Methuen,
1929).
110
See his Annali dellIslam.
111
Joseph Schacht, The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950,
repr. 1975).
112
John Wansbrough, The Sectarian Milieu: Content and Composition of Islamic Salvation
History, London Oriental Series, 34 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978).
113
Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World (Cambridge,
Cambridge University Press, 1977); Patricia Crone, Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam
109

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subsequent research. One of those who did respond to Goldziher and Schacht
was John Burton, who admits that in addition to Muslim conservatives, some
Western scholars, too, have expressed reservations about these non-exempting
hypotheses of Goldziher and Schacht.114 Such a shift towards the reception of
adth is ascribed to a number of reasons, not the least of which is fact that
many early adth texts have been brought to light over the last half century or
so. Such substantial discoveries are believed by modern adth scholars to
entail alteration or rejection of prevailing theories or opinions.115 Motivated by
such new catalysts, Nabia Abbott and Fuat Sezgin have managed to achieve
their radical works on the history of adth transmission. While the former,
relying on a range of evidence including Umayyad papyri fragments, champions
a theory of early continuous written tradition,116 the latter made a notable
contribution through the cataloguing of early texts and the proposing of a
scheme for the restoration of the earlier written sources on which the 3rd/9th
century collections were based.117
Also, the methods and source-critical standards of Goldziher, Schacht
and their proponents have been reassessed by a number of modern Muslim
revisionists.118 The latters contribution to the question has been remarkably
momentous, to the extent that a great deal of earlier dubiety has been
moderated or reversed.119 Todays scholarship is influenced by the two
tendencies, represented in Goldziher-Schachts theory on the one side and the
modern Muslim scholars on the other.120 The dominant perspectives now are
neither dismissive nor gullible, but seek to harness adth, or aspects of it, to
(Princeton: Princeton University Press. reprint. by Gorgias Press LLC, 2004); Michael Cook,
Early Muslim Dogma: a Source-Critical Study (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).
114
John Burton, An Introduction to adth (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1994), p.
181.
115
Tarif Khalidi, Arabic Historical Thought in the Classical Period (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1994, repr. 1995 and 1996), p. 17.
116
Nabia Abbott, Studies in Arabic Literary Papyri, 3 vols (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1957-72).
117
Fuat Sezgin, Geschichte des Arabischen Schrifttums, trans. by Fahm ijz as: Trkh alTurth al-Arab, 10 vols (Riyadh: Idrat al-Thaqfa wal Nashr, 1991). Sezgin maintains that he
has discovered some of these earlier sources.
118
For example, see Ajjj al-Khab, Al-Sunna Qabl al-Tadwn, 2nd edn (Cairo: Maktabat
Wahaba, 1988); M. Ab Shuhba, Dif an al-Sunna wa-Radd Shubah al-Mustashriqn wa-l
Kuttb al-Muirn (Cairo: Maktabat al-Sunna, 1989); M. Muaf al-Aam, Studies in adth
Methodology and Literature, (Indianapolis: American Trust Publications, 1992); M. Muaf alAam, On Schachts Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, Islamic Texts Society
(Chichester: John Wiley, 1996), first published in (Riyadh: King Saud University, 1985).
119
See M. M al-Aam, Dirast fil adth al-Nabaw wa Trkh Tadwnih (Beirut: al-Maktab alIslm, 1980), I, p. x, xi.
120
G. H. A. Juynboll, Muslim Tradition: Studies in Chronology, Provenance and Authorship of
Early adth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 1.

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good historical effect.121 The fact that most of the adth compilations which
we possess today were written in the third/ninth century does not necessarily
mean that adth was not committed to writing at an earlier date. adth was
not systematically documented from the very beginning, but there is enough
evidence to say that the compilations we possess today are, in the major part,
the upshot of an early organic phase where oral traditions juxtaposed, and then
exclusively evolved into, written ones. Such inputs, however, do not allow us to
relax standards of critical judgment when dealing with adth, or AraboIslamic sources in general. Rather, they, while indicating the presence of a
genuine core, necessitate a careful sifting of such a huge body of traditions.
Now, the perspective in Caetani-Creswell theory implies that the
early Arab historians and Prophets biographers, while recording the history
of the first mosque, had retained a number of historical accounts that,
from Caetanis point of view, would betray the buildings nature as a house
and not a mosque. A key question here is: why did not such early
informants omit, or at least justify, those accounts which contradict the
character of a sacred mosque? It is difficult to believe that such accounts
were passed down to us by mistake or, as presumed by Caetani and
Creswell, not identified as indication of a profane building. If we presume
that such a mistake was made by scholars who were in charge of writing an
exemplary, and supposedly consistent, history of the primordial
mosque,122 the notion is yet more implausible. It becomes more dubious
still when we know that such early historians and adth writers lived in a
time when such allegedly profane activities were no longer taking place at
mosques.
Further, the historical evidence for the existence of the Prophets
mosque is found scattered in divergent texts from the early sources. For
example, we are told that Umm Salama, one of the Prophets wives, having
been concerned about the lack of her privacy, built a screen wall in front of
her house to block the stares of the turnout.123 This implies that the sizable
121

For a thorough review of scholastic atmosphere in this regard, see Herbert Berg who has
grouped modern scholars in the field according to their opinions regarding adth authenticity.
Herbert Berg, The Development of Exegesis in Early Islam: The Authenticity of Muslim Literature
from the Formative Period, (Richmond: Curzon, 2000). See also Juynboll, Muslim Tradition, pp.
1-8; Gregor Schoeler, The Genesis of Literature in Islam: From the Aural to the Read, trans. by
Shawkat M. Toorawa, New Edinburgh Islamic Surveys (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press;
rev. edition 2009), pp. 1-9.
122
We will shortly see that it, surprisingly, was not the first mosque in Islam according to
textual evidence.
123
See Ibn Sad, abaqt, I, 429; Ibn al-Najjr, Durra, p. 153; al-Samhd, Waf, II, 461.

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courtyard built by the Prophet was not a private place for his wives as was
the case with the Arabian dr of the time. The fact that this adth of Umm
Salams conduct is mainly taken as an instrument for deprecating the affair
of superfluous building gives an inkling that the history of the Prophets
mosque is difficult to conceive as having been written purely
retrospectively.124
Among the big range of activities which the building is reported to
have accommodated in the time of the Prophet, some as already indicated
are considered by the holders of the House of the Prophet theory as prosaic
secular and hence inappropriate for a mosque. These included: the receiving
of non-Muslim delegations, tending of battle-wounded men, trussing of a
war captive and performing of a pageant by a band of Abyssinian lancers.125
However, among these, and other comparable activities, one should
differentiate between the ones condemned by the Prophet and those of
which he approved. A worked example is instructive. In one adth the
Prophet warns against spitting towards the qibla.126 Included in a cluster
specifying the dos and donts in a mosque, this adth and the like do not
evidence against the reverence of the Prophets mosque.127 Indeed, they
enhance it.128 More conjecturally, it might have been that the unassuming
form of such a building, whose floor scarcely differed from any spot in the
124

Likewise, in the context of fail (or manqib), merits of Ab Bakr, it is reported, on the
authority of Ibn Abbs, that during the Prophets last sickness, he was not able to join the
congregational prayer. Therefore, he asked Ab Bakr to lead the people in alt. Al-Bukhr,
adths no. 683, 713; Muslim, adth no. 936; Ibn anbal, adth no. 2055. For other adths
which bear implicit evidence for the existence of the Prophets mosque, see al-Bukhr, adths
no. 655-6; Muslim, adth no. 1518-20; Ibn ajar, Fat, II, 280; al-Ayn, Umdat al-Qr: Shar
a al-Bukhr, ed. by Abd Allh Mamd Umar, 25 vols (Beirut: Dr al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya,
2001), VI, 252.
125
On these and other episodes, see al-Bukhr, adths no. 451-75. On the reception of nonMuslim delegations in the mosque, see al-Bayhaq, adths no. 4330-5 ; Ibn azm, Al-Muall,
ed. by M. Munr al-Dimashq and A. Muammad Shkir, 11 vols (Cairo: Idrat al-iba alMunayriyya, 1933), IV, 243; Ibn ajar, Fat, II, 107; Ibn Taymiyya, Majmat al-Fatw, ed. by
mir al-Jazzr and Anwar al-Bzz, 3rd edn, 37 vols (Mansura: Dr al-Waf, 2005), XXII, 119;
Ibn Hishm, Al-Sra al-Nabawiyya, ed. by Umar A. Tadmur, 3rd edn, 4 vols (Dr al-Kitb alArab, 1990), II, 216-7; al-Dhahab, Trkh al-Islm wa Wafayt al-Mashhr wal Alm, ed. by
Bashshr A. Marf, 17 vols (Beirut: Dr al-Gharb al-Islm, 2003), I, 465-6; Ibn Kathr, Bidya
wa Nihya, VII, 271; Ibn al-Qayyim, Zd, III, 629.
126
afat Hammm b. Munabbih: An Ab Hurayra Raiya Allh anh, ed. by R. Fawz Abd alMualib (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khnj, 1985), adth no. 120; Mlik b. Anas, Al-Muwaa: Riwyat
Ab Muab al-Zuhr, ed. by Bashshr Marf and Mamd Khall, 3rd edn, 2 vols (Beirut:
Muasasat al-Rislah, 1998), adths no. 544-5; al-Bukhr, adths no. 405-17; Ab Dwd,
adths no. 474-81; al-Nas, adths no. 724-8.
127
One adth in al-Bukhr states, on the authority of amza b. Abd Allh, that dogs used to
move freely back and forth in the mosque. adth no. 174.
128
See al-Bukhr, adths no. 423, 439-41, 445, 451-75; Ibn Rajab, Fat al-Br, III, 105-40.

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outside desert, encouraged some of its callers to deem such activities


permissible. The Prophets mosque received many of the newly-converted
nomads who had been accustomed to living in the desert, where such acts
were in no way constrained. An important further twist in this discussion is
that such unbecoming behaviours did not conventionally occur at the
mosque; the fact that they were addressed by the Prophet is attributed not
to their frequency but to his keenness to tackle them. As already indicated,
he is reported, on the authority of Ibn Umar, to have treated the position of
a spit with saffron.129 In sum, the reports on inappropriate behaviours do
not furnish enough evidence that the building was a private abode and not a
place of worship; it is equally hard to believe that they would have been
tolerated in a house, especially if that was of the master.
The other group of secular activities, those approved by the
Prophet, likewise provide no evidence for a private abode. Rather, they
denote the multi-functional nature of the mosque, which at that time held
many affairs that can be designated secular according to non-Muslim
lexicons.130 For example, it was in the mosque that delegates were received:
whether these were new converts, who came to declare their faith and
allegiance, or non-converts who came for political issues or theological
polemics.131 In the case of non-converts the mosque might have been
chosen to impress, let alone the fact that it was the regular seat of the
Prophet. It was chosen to receive the new converts, however, so that their
proclamation of faith would be witnessed by the Muslim community who,
in turn, would be bolstered by welcoming new fellows in religion.132 In the
same way, the tradition about the Prophet allocating, in the mosque, gifts to
his followers is an indication not of a profane but of a communal edifice.133
It was also in the name of such a societal role of the mosque that other
activities of mundane disposition like: lying down, stretching out, sleeping
129

Ibn Khuzayma, adth no. 1295. See also al-Bukhr, adths no. 405-17; al-Bayhaq, adth no.
4310; al-Nas, adth no. 729; Wensinck, Handbook, p. 154.
130
For examples of such functions, see al-Bukhr, adths no. 421-3, 439-40, 454-7, 461-4, 472,
475; Ibn Khuzayma, hadiths no. 1328-42.
131
See Ibn Isq, Al-Sra al-Nabawiyya, ed. by A. Fard al-Mazd, (Beirut: Dr al-Kutb alIlmiyya, 2004), pp. 615-65; Ibn Hishm, Sra, IV, 210-39; Ibn Sad, abaqt, I, 252-309.
132
Also in the case of new converts the mosque might have been chosen to welcome them
because conducting prayer was, and still is, one of the prerequisites to embrace Islam. alt is
always linked to the act of quitting atheism and embracing Islam: [] perform alt and be not
of the disbelievers. See The Holy Quran: English Translation of the meanings and Commentary,
rev. and ed. by the Presidency of Islamic Researches, Ifta, Call and Guidance (Medina: King Fahd
Holy Qurn Printing Complex, 1990), XXX, 31.
133
See al-Bukhr, adth no. 421. See also Pedersen, Masdjid, p. 646.

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and conversing,134 were allowed to occur but only occasionally and in a way
that did not conflict with the main function of providing a place for praying
and proselytizing.135
Likewise, the reports giving the impression of a military
headquarters should be dealt with while bearing in mind the fact that
warfare (jihd) was looked upon as a holy undertaking. In Islam, temporal
and religious spheres are in many cases difficult to separate; in early Islam
almost every single activity was laced with religious significance. This may
well explain why in the time of the Prophet and afterwards the mosque
never played the sole, however seminal, role of a prayer place, but held
other political, judicial, didactic and social functions.136 Such a multipurpose character, which is not denied by the early Muslim historians and
adth compilers, does not inevitably disprove reverence, seeing that such
aspects were natural handmaidens of the new religion.137 Such was enough
for the Prophet not to dedicate a separate civil building to administering the
secular issues of his burgeoning state, leaving the mosque to religious
observances single-handedly. Unlike the situation in communities of preIslamic Arabia, where the like of the Quraysh Dr al-Nadwa and not the
Kaba held the role of todays assembly,138 the Mosque of the Prophet
took, beside its main role as a worship-place, the guise of the chief
administrative authority, councils of state, to which the residence of the
leader was attached.139 In spite of such a political role which, in conformity
with typical practices, should have incurred exclusivity, the Mosque of the
Prophet was mainly open to the public. It had no restricted parts or holy of
holies, but was frequented day and night by the Muslim individuals who
were even encouraged by the Prophet to attend for prayer, whether
collective or individual, obligatory or supererogatory. As far as evidence can
tell, there was not a time when the mosque had the nature of a confined
place; we cannot find in tradition any example of a conclave where the
commoners were kept out. The nature of the Prophets mosque, as
134

Al-Bukhr, adths no. 451-75.


See Pedersen, Masdjid, p. 646. On the manifold functions of the mosque in early Islam, see
also Alfred Guillaume, The Traditions of Islam: An Introduction to the Study of the Hadith
Literature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924), p. 39.
136
L. Golvin, La Mosque: ses Origines- sa Morphologie, ses Diverse Functions-son Rle dan la
Vie Musulmane (Algiers, 1960), pp. 97-99; N. Abbott, Arabic Literary Papyri, II, 13.
137
Dispensing justice at the mosque, for instance, is even stated by the Qurn itself: V, 106.
138
Dr al-Nadwa was reportedly built by Qua b. Kilb (ca. 400-80 AD) to serve as his private
abode in the beginning, but later turned to be the meeting point of the Quraysh heads.
139
Such was the same procedure followed by the Muslim rulers at Bara, Kfa, Fus,
Qayrawn, etc. See Pedersen, Masdjid, pp. 647-8.
135

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conveyed by the sources, is that of a respected, but not restricted, place of


worship. Its hypaethral layout made every side of it seen by, and accessible
to, every attendee. It seems that in the beginning there was an inequality in
sacredness between the shaded front and the open courtyard,140 but later
the whole area of the mosque was dealt with as evenly sacred. The notion of
sacralisation, here, is not attributable to the restriction to a clergy or polity
like in the Ancient Egyptian temples, for example, where the sanctuaries,
unlike peristyle halls, were exclusive to priesthood and royalties. The
sacralisation of the mosque parts, particularly in early Islam, was based on
the frequency of performing alt at any of them.
Many of the contentious activities took place in the raba,
courtyard, which in contrast to the shaded front does not seem,
particularly initially, to have been conceived as a part of the mosque (seeing
that it was not regularly used for prayer). On the authority of isha (d.
58/678), when the women who observed itikf were overtaken by
menstruation,141 the Prophet ordered them to be taken out of the mosque
and stay at tents in the raba of the mosque until they purified [again].142
Later in the lifetime of the Prophet, and as the number of congregation
increased, the raba was used for prayer on a more frequent basis.143 This
may explain one thing that seems to have perplexed medieval as well as
modern historians: the fact that masjid is sometimes used in traditions to
refer to the whole building, and some other times to refer to the front ulla
exclusively.144 The Prophet himself is reported to have referred to the
mosque, in its early days, as arsh, shelter.145 This could not be the
description of the whole building, but of the front ulla where prayer was
usually conducted in the beginning.
Further, while those seeing the building as a private dwelling
depend on a variety of narratives on mundane, military and communal
activities, they do not provide, nor could we find, any account that would
140

On differentiation between the open space and the mugh, see Pedersen, Masdjid, pp.
654-5; Hillenbrand, Islamic Architecture, pp. 32, 35
141
Itikf is the ritual of voluntarily restricting oneself in the mosque for worship for a while.
During the course of itikf, various devotional activities can be practised. These include:
offering alt, reciting and studying of the Qurn and remembrance of Gods attributes.
142
Al-Zarkash, Ilm al-Sjid, p. 383.
143
We are told that even with this overflow, the Prophet enlarged the mosque on a number of
occasions to accommodate the rapidly-growing congregation.
144
As an example of the latter see Ibn Umars description of the mosque in al-Bukhr (adth
no. 446); Ibn anbal (adth no. 6139); and al-Bayhaq (adth no. 4294). See also Ibn Shihb alZuhrs (d. 124/741) report on the mosque in Ibn Rustas Alq (pp. 65-6).
145
See Ibn Rusta, Alq, p. 66; al-Samhd, Waf, I, 327, 335; al-Diyrbakr, Trkh, I, 346.

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link the building particularly the enclosing wall and the ulla with
household activities. According to the sources, chiefly the Qurn and
adth, such domestic activities were held in the appended apartments,
where the Prophet lived with his wives. Some chores, however, are reported
to have come about at the rear uffa, where the Prophet met with his
residing disciples.146
The argument that the building was not a mosque on account of the
other activities it held beside prayer is further enfeebled by the fact that the
mosque continued to hold such multifarious functions even after it gained a
clearly more consecrated entity.147 It maintained its role as the political
centre and the seat of public administration even after the introduction of
the dawwn and majlis.148 Under the Umayyads and the Abbasids, it
housed the treasury and, at times, even served as a hospice. Books were
normally read out in it as a means of publication.149 The political
significance of the mosque, which was comparable to todays parliament,150
outclassed that of the dr al-imra, which was no more than the rulers
private residence. We are told by Ibn Khaldn that the Umayyad mosque,
for instance, was known as al-Walds court.151
With all this said, the demolition of the Prophets mosque by later
caliphs is argued by some to reflect a lack of reverence towards the
building.152 In fact, the earliest mosques were demolished to be rebuilt in a
better form, on a grander size and with more durable materials. Rebuilding
was in any case mostly unavoidable as the originals, many of which were
built of ephemeral materials, were damaged by the passage of time. For
example, we are told that the caliph Umar rebuilt the mosque because the
146

Nor would the provision of a shelter for ahl al-uffa be an indication of a domestic building,
for it was dedicated to the most indigenous amongst the Prophets comrades and not to his
family members. A tetchy passage in srat al-Mujdala organizes the procedure of taking seats
at the Prophets gathering: O ye who believe! When ye are told to make room in the
assemblies, (spread out and) make room: (ample) room will Allh provide for you. And when
you are told to rise up [for prayer or jihad, or for any other good deed], rise up []. Qurn
LVIII. 11. See al-Wid, Asbb Nuzl al-Qurn, ed. by Kaml B. Zaghll (Beirut: Dr al-Kutub
al-Ilmiyya, 1991), pp. 431-2.
147
The reputed Christian poet, al-Akhal (ca. 19/640-92/710), is reported to have been invited to
the mosque to arbitrate a dispute. See Ab al-Faraj al-Ifahn, Al-Aghn, (Beirut: Dr alThaqfa, 1957), VIII, p. 303.
148
Pedersen, Masdjid, pp. 668-71.
149
Irwin, Islamic Art, p. 59. See also Hillenbrand, Islamic Architecture, p. 42. On early oral
publication, see Schoeler, Genesis, p. 69.
150
See Creswell, E.M.A., I. I, 43.
151
Ibn Khaldn, Muqaddima, p. 355.
152
For example, see Johns, House of the Prophet, p. 108.

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palm trunks had decayed by his time.153 Another reason for rebuilding the
mosque was that it no longer provided enough space for the escalating
number of celebrants.154 On the authority of Ibn Umar:
The number of people multiplied (kathur) in the time of Umar. So,
they asked him to expand it [namely the mosque of the Prophet].
Umar replied that unless I heard the Prophet saying, I long for
enlarging the qibla of this mosque of ours (in another narration:
expand our mosque),155 I would not expand it.156

The enlargement of the building by Umar would only be


understood in the context of its regular use by the Muslim community. His
need to substantiate the project implies that the building had already been
deemed sacred by his time; he had to evince that his project was a
fulfilment of a previous wish of the Prophet. There is, of course, the
possibility that this account reflects a later debate referred back to the
memory of the Prophet.
In the face of the reports which are seen by some to suggest a
disrespected structure, and which we hope are now put in their right
framework, the Mosque of the Prophet and indeed mosque in general is
venerated by a big mass of traditions. While a Muslim individual was
allowed to pray anywhere, attending of the mosque was preferable and even
mandatory at least once a week. Big thawb, reward, is pledged not only to
congregants, but also to builders and attendants. According to a number of
adths, the Prophet commanded that mosques should be built properly,
cleaned and scented.157 Some adths even talk about the merit of living in
their vicinity.158 Mosques should be kept safe from animals, ill-behaved
153

Al-Samhd, Waf, II, 482, 489. See also Ibn Zabla, Akhbr al-Madna, p. 114; Ibn al-Najjr,
Durra, p. 171; al-Margh, Taqq, p. 46.
154
This opinion was also adopted by a number of early legalists such as Amad b. anbal and
Sufyn al-Thawr. See Ibn Rajab, Fat al-Br, III, 288-9.
155
Ibn anbal, adth no. 330; al-Hind, Kanz, adth no. 23080; Ibn Rajab, Fat al-Br, III, 287;
Ibn al-Najjr, Durra, p. 170; al-Maar, Tarf, p. 80; al-Margh, Taqq, p. 45; al-Samhd,
Waf, II, 481-2.
156
Al-Samhd, Waf, II, 482; al-Margh, Taqq, p. 45; al-Maar, Tarf, p. 80. See also alarb, Mansik, p. 361. According to al-Samhd, these were the same reasons for Uthmn to
rebuild the mosque. Waf, II, 502-3. See also al-Murjn, Bahjat, p. 128; al-Maar, Tarf, p. 80;
al-Margh,Taqq, p. 47. For another narration of the same adth, see al-arb, Mansik, p.
361; Ibn al-Najjr, Durra, p. 171; al-Margh, Taqq, p. 46; al-Samhd, Waf, II, 481. This adth
is regarded by Ibn Rajab (Fat al-Br, III, 292) and al-Albn (afa, adth no. 973) of a very
weak grade of authenticity.
157
Al-Tirmidh, adth no. 594; Ab Dwd, adth no. 455; al-Bayhaq, adth no. 4308; Ibn
Mja, adths no. 758-8; al-Baghaw, Shar al-Sunna, II, 399; Ab Sulaymn Amad al-Khab,
Malim al-Sunan: Shar Sunan al-Imm Ab Dwd (d. AH 275), ed. by M. Rghib al-abbkh,
4 vols (Aleppo: al-Mabaa al-Ilmiyya, 1933), I, 142; Wensinck, Handbook, p. 154.
158
Ibn anbal, adths no. 23180, 23278.

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boys, insane people, fights, loud voices, unsheathed swords, executing


penalties and versification.159 They should not be haunted by those who
have just eaten onion or garlic lest the odour of their mouths should annoy
other worshippers.160 It is of interest that the relevant adth warns those
people against attending our mosques, not mosque. Is this to say that
more than one mosque existed in the time of the Prophet? (See infra).
According to other adths, transacting and announcing lost properties
should not take place at mosques. The Prophet is reported, on the authority
of Ab Hurayra (d. 58/677), to have said: should you see anyone sell or buy
[anything] in the mosque, say [to him]: May Allh not make your trade
profitable! and should you see anyone seeking a lost property in it, say [to
him]: May Allh not bring it back to you!161 In Muslim, the Prophet
explains: Mosques have not been built for such [issues].162 In a different
narration, he adds: Mosques have been built for what they have been built
for.163
The use of adth by the holders of the House of the Prophet
theory to give evidence for the profane nature of the building is not
adequately reflective. Most of the defects in their approach can be found
combined in one example. That is the singing of two female-servants
followed by the playing with lancers by an Abyssinian, or Sudanese, band in
the mosque. First, the two incidences were unique; both happened once on
the A feast.164 Second, the two Anr female-maids are reported to have
chanted at the apartment of isha and not the mosque. Third, as a sign for
idiosyncrasy, their conduct was censured by Ab Bakr and Umar, but
tolerated by the Prophet only for the occasion of the feast.165 It was with the
same excuse and for the sake of the communal undertaking of the mosque

159

Al-Bukhr, adths no. 451, 457; al-Tirmidh, adth no. 322; Ibn Mja, adths no. 748-50; alabarn, Al-Mujam al-Kabr, ed. by amd A. al-Salaf, 25 vols (Cairo: Maktabat Ibn
Taymiyyah, 1983), adths no. 3130-1; al-Zarkash, Ilm al-Sjid, p. 312; Wensinck, Handbook, p.
154. See also al-Tirmidh, adth no. 322; al-Nas, adth no. 716
160
Muslim, adths no. 1248-59; al-Nas, adth no. 708.
161
Al-Tirmidh, adth no. 1321; See also al-Nas, adths no. 715, 718.
162
Muslim, adth no. 1260. See also Ab Dwd, adth no. 473.
163
Muslim, adths no. 1262-3; Ibn Mja, adth no. 765. This is explained by another adth,
narrated on the authority of Abd Allh b. Masd, in which the Prophet warns: Do not take
mosques as roads [namely do not pass through, or stay at, them] except for remembrance [of
Allh] or prayer. Al-Albn, aa, adth no. 1001.
164
See Muslim, adth no. 2063.
165
Al-Bukhr, adths no. 987, 2906, 3529, 3931, 5190, 5236. On his arrival, Umar would have
hurled pebbles at them unless the Prophet had ordered him to leave them alone. Muslim,
adth no. 2069.

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that the lancers were allowed to display,166 and that was even in the
courtyard which, as already indicated, was not at the outset used for prayer
on a standard basis.
Furthermore, the building is referred to as the Mosque of the
Prophet not only by the 3rd/9th century adth collections, but also by
earlier sources such as the Sra of Ibn Isq (d. 151/768),167 the Jmi of
Muammar b. Rshid (d. 153/770),168 the Muwaa of Mlik b. Anas (d.
179/795),169 and the Akhbr al-Madna of Ibn Zabla (d. 199/814). There are
also references to the mosque in earlier papyri documents. 170 Further,
evidence for the institution of collective prayer as well as a place of worship
in the time of the Prophet is provided by the allegedly earliest extant adth
document, the afa of Hammm b. Munabbih (d. 110/719) who wrote his
138 adth collection on the authority of Ab Hurayra (d. 58/677).171 One of
these adths states:
Angels pray for (tuall al) anyone of you as long as he stays in his
muall, at which he has prayed, and they keep on saying: O Allh!
Forgive him! O Allh! Have mercy upon him, [].172

Medieval adth commentators agree that the word muall is, here,
taken to denote the mosque, or a space in it. Al-Ayn (d. 855/1451), for
instance, suggests that muall could refer to the certain spot of the mosque on
which a worshipper prayed.173 This may be why the term muall, and not
masjid, is used in this adth. Other interpreters, such as al-Qasalln (d.

166

Al-Bukhr, adths no. 454, 455, 950, 988, 3530; Muslim, adths no. 2063-8.
Ibn Isq, Sra, pp. 651, 655.
168
See the Jmi of Muammar b. Rshid in Al-Muannaf of Ab Bakr Abd al-Razzq b.
Hammm al-ann, ed. by abb al-Ramn al-Aam, 12 vols (South Africa [?]: al-Majlis alIlm, 1970), adths no. 19801, 19886. See also Abbott, Arabic Literary Papyri, I, 71.
169
Mlik, Muwaa, adths no. 458, 463, 517.
170
See document of Qutayba b. Sad (late 2nd/8th century). Abbott, Arabic Literary Papyri, II,
135; document of Rashid b. Sad (late 2nd-early 3rd/early ninth century), op cit, II, 203.
171
Many scholars take the afa of Hammm as evidence for early documentation of adth. It
is believed to have been putdown in writing in the first half century AH. See Arabic Literature
to the End of Umayyad Period, ed. by A. F. L. Beeston, T. M. Johnstone, , R. B. Serjeant and G. R.
Smith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 272; M. Hamidullah, An Introduction
to the Conservation of Hadith: in the Light of the Sahifah of Hammam ibn Munabbih, (Kuala
Lumpur: Islamic Book trust, 2003; repre. of 1953 edn); M. Hamidullah, afa Hammm Ibn
Munabbih: The Earliest Extant Work on the adth (Paris: Centre Culturel Islamique, 1979);
Speight, A Look at Variant Readings in the adth, in The adth: Critical Concepts in Islamic
Studies, ed. by Mustafa Shah (Abingdon: Routledge, 2010), pp. 79-89.
172
Hammm, adth, no. 9.
173
Al-Ayn, Umdat al-Qr: Shar a al-Bukhr, 20 vols (Cairo: al-Bb al-alab, 1972), IV,
17.
167

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923/1517),174 believed that the whole mosque is here meant. Al-Qasallns


judgement is based on Muammar b. Rshids narration (d. 153/770) of the same
adth, also on the authority of Hammm, but in a different wording: [] so
long as he is in the mosque (m-kna fi-l masjid).175 The opinion that the
mosque, no matter wholly or partly, is meant in the above adth is further
supported by another adth in al-Bukhrs, also on the authority of Ab
Hurayra but through Ab li Dhakwn (d. 101/720), another disciple of his.
According to which, the Prophet says:
A mans prayer in congregation is twenty five times more superior (in
reward) to his prayer in his house or market, because if he performs
ablution and does it perfectly, and then heads for the masjid with the
one and only intention of praying, there will be no step he takes
[towards the mosque] without being upgraded a grade and a sin of his
being omitted in return for it [namely the step towards the mosque]. If
he performed prayer, the angels would keep on praying for him as long
as he is in his muall, [saying]: O Allh! Be Merciful with him, O
Allh! Forgive him.176

It is interesting that both terms, masjid and muall, are applied here.
The passage in which the latter is used is almost a precise repetition of the one
in the afa of Hammm, which is also reported by al-Bukhr as a single
adth on the authority of Ab Hurayra, but through al-Araj Abd al-Ramn
b. Hurmuz (d. 117/735).177 This makes it difficult to consider al-Bukhr and
Muammars versions of Hammms adth as having been re-written, while
looking backward, using contemporary terms to describe earlier places and
practices.
Also, in the afa of Hammm, the Prophet, impelling the people
to attend the daily prayers in the mosque, is reported to have said: [I take an
oath] by whose hand my soul is! I contemplated on commanding my maleservants (fetyn) to get prepared with bundles of firewood. Then I
command a man to lead the people in [congregational] prayer. Then we
[proceed to] burn up houses along with whomsoever in them [while
174

See al-Qasalln, Irshd al-Sr li Shar a al-Bukhr (Beirut: Dr al-Kitb al-Arab,


1983), II, 31.
175
Abd al-Razzq, adths, 2210-1. The same adth is also found in the Musnad of Ibn anbal,
who reported the whole afa of Hammm as one bulk. Ibn anbal, adth no. 8016. For the
same adth see also Muslim who reported it with the same isnd of the afa. adths no.
1506-12.
176
Al-Bukhr, adth no.647; Ibn anbal, adths no. 7542, 9422. See also Mlik, Muwaa,
adths no. 322-5, 527-30; Ab Yal, adths no. 1011, 1361, 5076, 6156; al-Drim, adths no. 13123; Ibn ajar, Fat, II, 271-76; Ibn Mufli, Kitb al-Fur: wa Maah Ta al-Fur wa shiyat
Ibn Qundus, ed. by A. A. al-Turk, 13 vols (Beirut: Mussasat al-Risla; Riyadh: Dr al-Muayyad,
2003), II, 419; Wensinck, Handbook, pp. 155, 192-3.
177
Al-Bukhr, adth no. 659.

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congregational prayer is in progress].178 This early tradition seems to


challenge the already mentioned argument that the Prophet did not want to
enjoin prayer on the early Muslims.
adth no. 44 in the afa talks in detail about the role of the imam
in congregational prayer, whereas adth no. 45 commands the
congregation to straighten their lines in congregational prayer. adth no.
105 advises the imm not to prolong the time of prayer (fa-l yukhaffif), lest
an elderly or a sickly worshipper would suffer. Finally, adth no. 110 advises
the Muslims to walk, not jog, while proceeding to congregational prayer.
A clearer reference to the Prophets mosque is, however, found in
some poetic passages from the Dwn of assn b. Thbit (d. ca. 54/674),179
first edited by H. Hirschfeld in 1910.180 A verse in assns poem shows
evidence that by the time of Uthmns assassination; the building had been
a real mosque. The verse, which mainly describes the Companions grief in
the wake of Uthmns murder, reads:

At evening the Prophets Companions were as sacrifices slaughtered by


the gate of the mosque.181

Underlining the Prophets qualities, for which the people of Yathrib


had faith in him, assn versifies:

A Prophet who sees what the people around him do not see, and
recites the Book of God in every mosque.182

Grieving for the Prophets departure, the following verses of assn


b. Thbit read:



178

adth no. 37.


It could be this poem which is meant by Grabar when saying: But recent work based on a
small number of poetic fragments has raised doubts about the traditional explanation that the
house of the Prophet was transformed into a masjid and, as suggested, that a separate building
was in fact built. Formation, p. 103. See also Ghazi I. Bisheh, The Mosque of the Prophet at
Madnah throughout the First Century A.H: with Special Emphasis on the Umayyad Mosque
(unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Michigan, 1979), pp. 122-4.
180
The Dwn of assn b. Thbit (OB. A.H. 54), ed. by Hartwig Hirschfeld, E. J. W. Gibb
Memorial Series, 13 (Leiden: Brill; London, Luzac, 1910).
181
Dwn assn b. Thabit, ed. by A. Muhann, 2nd edn (Beirut: Dr al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya,
1994), p. 68.
182
Ibid, p. 60
179

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At ayba [i.e. Madina] is a trace of the Messenger, a much-storied [i.e.


rich in memories] and enlightened place. Traces are [eventually]
effaced and extinguished, but not [ever to be] erased are the marks of a
sacred house wherein is a minbar the Guide used to ascend, and clear
signs and enduring landmarksand an area where he had a muall:
and a masjid, and apartments that used to accommodate the sending
down from God of a light illuminating [hearts] and kindling [zeal]
landmarks such that their signs are not blotted out over time; the
wearing down [of age naturally] came upon them, but the signs of
them [i.e. of the landmarks] are being renewed.183

Verse 31 of the same elegy reads:

And [mourns also] his mosque. And the forlorn places, on account of
his decease, are become vacant, wherein he had a place he stood in and
a place he sat in.184

THE QURN AND THE MOSQUE OF THE PROPHET


For a number of aspects, a somewhat detailed survey of the mosque in the
Qurn is essential for this discussion.185 As already stated, the Qurn is a
widely acknowledged source for the study of early Islam.186 Further, the two
main rationales for those who suspect the existence of a mosque in the
Prophets time are: the Qurns non-specific use of the word masjid;187 and
the assumption that the Prophet had departed before the ritual of alt
matured.
The word masjid, is mentioned twenty eight times in the Qurn:
twenty two in the singular and six in the plural. Of these, it is used in
183

Ibid, pp. 60-1


Dwn assn, p. 63
185
See Robert Schick, Archaeology and the Qurn, in Encyclopaedia of the Qurn, I (2001),
pp. 148-57.
186
See supra. See also Ettinghausen, Grabar and Jenkins-Madina, Islamic Art and Architecture,
p. 5.
187
Pedersen, Masdjid, pp. 644-5; Johns, House of the Prophet, pp. 88-93; Oleg Grabar, Art
and Architecture and the Quran in Early Islamic Art, 650-1100, I, Constructing the Study of
Islamic Art (Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2005). First published in Encyclopaedia of
the Quran, ed. by Jane D. McAuliffe, ed. (Leiden: Brill, 2001), pp. 161-75.
184

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grammatical construct fifteen times to denote the Masjid al-arm in


Mecca.188 The Masjid al-Aq, however, is referred to twice; once explicitly
and the other implicitly.189 Masjid is also used to refer to other pre-Islamic
places of God worship.190 Such a wide-ranging usage does not necessarily
mean that the mosque, whether as an institution or a building, was not
established in the time of the Prophet.191 The term masjid was used,
particularly in the Meccan period, to refer to whatsoever house of worship
where Allh was praised.192 However, the mention of masjid by the
Meccan verses, i.e. before the Mosque of the Prophet was built, seems to
have confused exegists, 193 who, avoiding the issue, interpreted these as
reference to any act of worship. While this seems acceptable in certain
positions,194 the term could still refer to the mosque in its technical
meaning. As we shall see, mosques were known to the Muslim pre-hijr
community.195 One Meccan verse states: And the places of worship
(masjids) are for Allh (alone): so invoke not anyone along with Allh.196
Although this is usually taken by expounders to denote the Masjid alarm, there is also the possibility that it could refer to Islamic mosques,
especially that it refers to multiple masjids and not a single one.
The Quranic use of masjid to refer to other God-worship places
should be related to the fact that Islam portrays itself as the legitimate
inheritor of earlier Abrahamic religions. The following passage may shed
extra light on the putative affiliation of the mosque to a line of other Godworship places:
For had not God driven back one group of people by means of another,
there would surely have been torn down awmi [retreats of Christian
hermits], biya [Christian churches or Jewish Synagogues], alawt
[places of prayer], and masjid, in which the name of God is

188

Qurn II. 144, 149, 150, 191, 196, 217; VIII. 34; IX. 7, 28; XXII. 25, XLVIII. 25, 27. For a
discussion on the mosque in the Qurn, see Johns, House of the Prophet, pp. 88-93.
189
Qurn XVII. 1, 7.
190
Qurn XVIII. 21.
191
The same opinion is held by Pedersen (Masdjid, p. 647) and Ettinghausen, Grabar and
Jenkins-Madina (Islamic Art and Architecture, pp. 5-6). See also Bloom, Mosque, p. 428.
192
See, M. Bloom, Mosques, 427.
193
Meccan denotes the part of the Qurn which was revealed prior to the Prophets
emigration to Madna and, consequently, before his mosque was erected.
194
A good example is a passage that reads: Say: My Lord hath commanded justice; and that ye
set your whole selves (to Him) at every time and place of prayer (inda kulli masjid). Qurn
VII. 29.
195
See English Translation of the Meanings the Holy Quran, p. 1834.
196
Qurn LXXII. 18.

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abundantly commemorated.197

The mosque was not more than one of these types of masjids; it
was the last of a kind. The Prophet, denoting the precedence of his mosque,
is reported to have said: [] verily, I am the last prophet and my mosque is
the last of [all] mosques.198 Just like the Prophet himself, the mosque
belongs to a preceding family. Apparently, the Prophet refers here to the
mosque as a type and not to his own; according to many reports, he advises
that other mosques should be built and he himself participated in the
foundation of others than his own.199 The same idea of attributing the
Islamic masjid to a family of worship houses is indicated by a number of
adths conceding the utmost merit fal to al-Masjid al-arm in Mecca.200
Meanwhile, the above verse does not connote any unity of form, as
suggested by Johns,201 but simply underscores the diversity of the places
where the God of all prophets is praised.
It follows that, the Quranic use of the term masjid to denote earlier
God-worship sanctuaries, such as the Kaba, does not mean that the term
had not been Islamized by early Islam; rather it was such sanctuaries which
were deemed Islamic. There are also instances, albeit few, where masjid is
used by adth to refer to Jewish and Christian places of worship.202 Such a
usage by adth, which normally uses the word to refer to Muslim mosques,
may give impression that the Qurn expansive use of the word cannot be
taken as enough evidence that the mosque did not exist in the time of the
Prophet. Indeed, the word masjid remained in use to refer to worship
places of other faiths down to the 14th century AH: a period when the
mosque, as a specific Islamic type, was positively established.203 However,
the presence of the Prophets mosque, along with other mosques in his
time, helped give the term a considerable degree of specialisation as a place

197

Qurn, XXII. 40 (as translated by Johns, p. 102).


Muslim, adth no. 3376.
199
For example, the Prophet is reported, on the authority of Jbir b. Usma al-Jahm, to have
marked out a mosque for a group of the Anr. Al-abarn, Al-Mujam al-Kabr, adths no.
1786-7.
200
Muslim, adths no. 3376-83.
201
See Johns, House of the Prophet, pp. 102-3
202
See al-Bukhr, adths no. 427, 434, 1342. Ibn Ab Shayba, Al-Muannaf, ed. by M. Awma,
26 vols (Jeddah: Dr al-Qibla; Beirut: Muassasat Ulm al-Qurn, 2006), adth no. 7626;
Mlik, Muwaa, adth no. 570; Ibn Abd al-Barr al-Andalus, Al-Tamhd lima fil Muwaa
mina-l Man wa-l Asnd, ed. by Muaf al-Alaw and Muammad al-Bakr, 26 vols ([n.p.]:
[n.pub.], 1967), V, 41-2. The same usage of the term masjid is also attributed to Ibn Abbas. See
al-Khab, I, 140-2; Ibn ajar, Fat, II, 85-6.
203
See Johns, House of the Prophet, p. 89, Pedersen, Masdjid, p. 645.
198

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of worship for Muslims, rather than for the pre-Islamic heathens at the
Inviolable Sanctuary, or for the other God-worshipping followers of the
Jewish or Christian faiths. The narrowing down of practice led to the
narrowing down of terminology. Before the mosque was built, the Prophet
is said to have performed both individual and collective prayers on a variety
of spots which he considered masjids in the simplest from; land has been
made a mosque []. But once his mosque was built, he reportedly satisfied
himself with praying in it.204
Perhaps the following verse from srat al-Tawba, Repentance, the
reportedly last-revealed chapter of the Qurn, replies to the so-called
Qurns unspecific use of the term masjid:
It is not for such as join gods with Allah, to maintain the mosques of
Allah while they witness against their own souls to infidelity [].205 The
mosques of Allah shall be visited and maintained by such as believe in
Allah and the Last Day, establish regular prayers, [].206

Here, as in sra LXXII, verse 18 (supra), the passage marks mosques,


the Masjid al-arm is included but not singled out,207 as places of worship
exclusive to Muslims (who maintain the above qualities). The link between
conviction in Islam and the attending of mosques is also asserted by adth:
should you see a man attending the mosque on a frequent basis, you must
bear witness for his fidelity. The specialisation of the mosque for Muslim
monotheists is further indicated by the fact that in five out of the six times
in which the word masjid is used in the plural by the Qurn, masjid are
attributed to Allh: three times as mosques of Allh (masjid Allh); once
as mosques are for Allh (al-masjida li-llh); and once as mosques, in
which the name of Allh is remembered (masjidu yudhkaru f-h ismu-l
llh). This sharpness in attributing mosques to Allh, and to Allh alone,
reflects a strong zeal to distinguish the mosques of Islam from other
contemporary infidel places of worship where other deities were revered
beside Him.
In practice, the Prophet wanted to guarantee distinctiveness for his
mosque and its devices from the moment it was built. He rejected a
proposal to use the Christian semantron or the Jewish shofar for the calling

204

Al-Bukhr, adth no. 429; Ibn ajar, Fat, II, 72-3; al-Ayn, Umdat al-Qr, IV, 265-6.
Qurn IX. 17.
206
Qurn IX. 18.
207
Grabar, adopting the view of most expositors, refers to that it is the Masjid al-arm which
is here meant: Formation, p. 99.
205

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to prayer.208 Narrated Umayr b. Anas:


The Prophet was in dilemma as to how to call the people for prayer. It
was said to him: install a banner when a prayer is due, so that when
the people see it they tell one another. Yet, he did not like that. Then,
he was told about the Jewish shofr (qun or shabbr), but he did not
like that [either] and said [namely denounced]: it is related to the
Jews! Then, he was told about the bell, but he did not like that either
and said [namely denounced]: it is related to the Christians! [].209

In the same vein, he refused to have the mosque rebuilt after the
fashion of the Syrian churches even had this work been voluntarily funded
by the Anr.210 His longing for the change of the qibla from Bayt al-Maqdis
in Jerusalem to the Kaba in Mecca can also be understood in the same
context. The Prophet is said to have expressly stated his wish to protect his
religion and all of its manifestations, mosque is included, from the beliefs
and practices of those who did not believe in him.211 Quite a number of
early adths command: act differently to the Jews and the Christians!
(khlif-l yahda wa-l nar), do not imitate the Jews and the Christians!
(l tashabbah bi-l yahdi wa-l nar).212 We are told by isha that when
two of the Prophets wives, Umm abba and Umm Salama, told him about
a church they had seen in Abyssinia, the Prophet condemned the fact that
churches were usually built on the tombs of saints and that their walls and
ceilings were covered with icons and other representations.
This said, the Prophet wanted the ulla of his mosque, for example,
to take the form of the arbour of Moses which he therein identified as: my
brother.213 How could this be understood? Considering the traditions, the
Prophet was as much eager to link himself to earlier Prophets and their
most immediate followers as to deplore the observances of their late

208

According to some narrations he contemplated on adopting, but never applied, either of the
two devices.
209
Abu Dwd, adth no. 498.
210
Ibn Zabla, Trkh, p. 78; al-Samhd, Waf, I, 339; al-Samhd, Khulat al-Waf b Akhbr
Dr al-Muaf, ed. by M. M al-Jakn, 2 vols (Medina: abb M. Amad, 1997), II, 15; M. J. Kister,
A Booth Like the Booth of Moses...: A Study of an Early adth, Bulletin of the Society of
Oriental and African Studies, 25 (1962), 150-155. See also Ibn Rusta, Alq, p. 66; al-Sakhw,
Tufa, p. 43.
211
See Grabar, Formation, p. 101.
212
Narrated Abu Sad al-Khudr, the Prophet condemned: Surely, you will follow the ways
(sanan) of those who lived before you; a span by another and an ell by another. Even if they
passed through (salak) the burrow of a dabb lizard, you would likewise pass through it. We
asked: the Jews and the Christians? He answered: who then? Al-Bukhr, adth no. 7320. In a
different narration, the attendants wondered, O Allahs Messenger! Such as the Persians and
the Byzantines? Al-Bukhr, adth no. 7319. On the same meaning, see also Qurn IX. 69.
213
Al-Samhd, Waf, I, 333.

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followers. The Qurn and adth are full of examples where the conducts
of the monotheistic predecessors are rendered as a standard for the freshlyMuslim individuals. Yet, according to Islamic belief, once a new prophet
appeared, he must be followed and supported by the adherents of the
previous ones. Those who denied should be regarded as detractors.
As already hinted, one of the main pillars on which the theory of
the House of the Prophet is based is the hypothesis that a mosque could
not have materialized in the time of the Prophet while the ritual of alt was
not yet to develop.214 Here, we will try to investigate, from the Qurn,
whether and where communal prayer was conducted in the time of the
Prophet. The two main campaigners, Caetani and Creswell, posit that the
Prophet, having been uncertain about the nomads tractability to formal
enjoinments, did not wish to establish an obligatory Friday prayer.215
According to them and others, the only two prayers to have been known
and observed by the Prophets time were those at the two ends of the day.216
Such a standpoint is mainly based on the thinking that the Qurn makes
mention of only two of the five daily prayers, namely al-Fajr and al-Ish.217
In the face of this view, the Qurn refers to four times of prayer in
one passage:
So glory be to Allh, when ye reach eventide, and when ye rise in the
morning. Yea, to Him be praise, in the heavens and on earth; and in
the late afternoon and when the day begins to decline.218

While this is seen by Ibn Abbs (d. 68/687) as a reference to the


five daily prayers,219 S. D. Goitein, just as many exegetists, considers it to
specify four prayer times: evening, morning, early at night and at noon.
Goitein, however, pointed out that also in the Qurn a fifth time of prayer,
namely al-Ar, is mentioned: Guard strictly your (habit of) prayers,
especially the Middle Prayer; and stand before Allh in a devout (frame of
214

See M. Khaleel, The Foundation of Muslim Prayer, Medieval Encounters, 5, 1 (1999), 17-28.
Caetani, Annali, pp. 447ff.; Creswell, E.M.A., I. I, 10, 15.
216
See Uri Rubin, Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, in The Development of Islamic
Rituals, ed. by Gerald R. Hawting, the Formation of the Classical Islamic World (Aldershot:
Ashgate, 2006) pp. 105-29. According to some reports, on the authority of isha, in the
beginning two prayers, each composed of two rakas, were enjoined. Al-Baldhur, Ansb alAshrf, vol. I, ed. by M. Hamidullah (Cairo, 1959); Ibn Hishm, Sra, I, 277-9. It is, however,
indicated by countless accounts, the above two are included, that it was in the Prophets life,
particularly during the Night Journey (ca. 621 AD), that the five daily prayers were prescribed.
217
Qurn XXIV. 58.
218
Qurn XXX. 17-8.
219
According to al-abar, Ibn Abbs takes the Qurn mention of eventide to argue that both
the Maghreb and Ish prayers are meant.
215

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mind).220 In effect, many passages in the Qurn deal with alt and put
emphasis on its obligatory nature.221 The following passage, for instance,
enhances the viewpoint that the daily prayers were known to, indeed
enjoined on, the earliest Muslim community:
When ye have performed the [congregational] prayers, remember
Allh, standing, sitting down, or lying down on your sides; but when ye
are free from danger, set up regular prayers: for such prayers are
enjoined on Believers at stated times.222

Much detail, however, is applied to the pertinent procedure of


wu, ablution, a precondition for the performing of alt.223 The Qurn
also refers to another handmaiden of alt, namely adhn, call to prayer.224
The requisite of facing the qibla during prayer and the event of changing it
from al-Masjid al-Aq to al-Masjid al-arm are also recorded in the
Qurn.225 The following two passages, while chiefly explaining how
collective prayer should be organized in the abnormal condition of warfare,
bear evidence that such a communal service was already formalized in the
time of the Prophet, who naturally acted as the imm, prayer leader:
[] and when you travel though the earth, you will incur no sin by
shortening your prayers if you have reason to fear that those who are
bent on denying the truth might suddenly fall upon you.226
Thus, when thou art among the believers and about to lead them in
prayer, let [only] part of them stand up with thee, retaining their arms.
Then, after they have finished their prayer, let them provide you cover
while another group, who have not yet prayed, shall come forward and
pray with thee, being fully prepared against danger and retaining their
arms: (for) those who are bent on denying the truth would love to see
you oblivious of your arms and your equipment, so that they might fall
upon you in a surprise attack.227

It is not surprising, in view of such conditions, that the Prophet and


the clique of the new religion prepared a place for prayer once this became
possible: and of course, the right condition for such a place was not secured

220

Qurn II. 238


See Qurn II. 43; XI. 114; XXIII. 2; XXIII. 9; XXV. 60; XXIX. 45; XXXI. 4; LXX. 23; LXXIII. 2;
LXXXVII. 15; CVII. 4-5; CVIII. 2.
222
Qurn IV. 103.
223
Qurn V. 6. See Marion Holmes Katz, Cleanliness and Ablution, in Encyclopaedia of the
Qurn, I (2001), pp. 314-4.
224
Qurn V. 58.
225
Qurn II. 143-4.
226
Qurn IV. 101.
227
Qurn IV. 102. See also Qurn IX. 18; Patrick D. Gaffney, Friday Prayer, in Encyclopaedia of
the Qurn, II (2002), pp. 271-2.
221

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until the Hijra to Madna.228 There, the Prophet and his followers are
reported to have built a mosque for congregational prayer, to which two
apartments for his wives, isha and Sawda, were annexed just outside the
eastern enclosure wall (FIG 7). Nonetheless, some argue another place for
such assemblies: the muall al-d, place of the feast prayer, an open space
situated in the outside desert some 1000 cubits (510 m.) to the west of the
Prophets mosque.229 This is based on reports of the Prophet having on
occasion performed congregational ceremonies there.230 However, such a
hypothesis would have us to believe that the Prophet, and with him almost
a whole community of believers, had to walk such a distance, even if not too
long, five times per day and ignore, for no apparent reason, a far nearer and
a more convenient substitute the Prophets building. The muall was,
first and foremost, a more spacious locum especially for two types of
congregational prayers: the one on feast days and that for rain (alt alistisq). In the case of the feast, the preference of the muall could be
attributed to the Prophets desire to bring together for such an
extraordinary public occasion as many celebrants as possible. We are told
that the muall continued to hold the two-feast prayers during the
caliphate of Al and afterwards.231 One understands from traditions that in
the case of alt al-istisq the muall was preferred for its sheer openness,
which would enable the supplicants to catch sight of their entreaty being
answered by Allh. It is even recorded of the Prophet that he did not allow
building on it.232 Also, the walking for the muall was itself meant; it was
taken as a way of showing humility and desperate want of Allhs help.
While reported to have once performed the alt al-istisq in the mosque,
the Prophet usually invited the people to go out for it. The use of the
muall by the Prophet was, thus, due to its convenience to the aim of
specific types of prayer, not to the absence of the mosque.233
The Friday Assembly, then again, was reportedly not allowed to be

228

See Pedersen, Masdjid, p. 645.


Grabar, Formation, p. 103. See also Pedersen, Masdjid, p. 653. Meanwhile, the Prophet is
reported to have, on occasion, performed some individual prayers at the bordering town of
Qub.
230
The practice of performing the two-feast prayers at the muall goes back to the second year
AH.
231
Al-Qasalln, Irshd al-Sar, II, 209-10.
232
See Pedersen, Masdjid, p. 653.
233
When needed to, the caliph Umar led the people in the alt al-istisq outside of the
Prophets mosque. See Johns, House of the Prophet, p. 84.
229

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conducted in the Prophets time but in his mosque.234 The Qurn includes
a separate sra, chapter, called al-Jumua, the Friday Assembly. One verse
in this Medinian sra reads:
O ye who believe! when the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday [the
Day of Assembly], hasten earnestly to the remembrance of Allh, and
leave off business [and traffic]! That is better for you if ye but knew!235

The imperative, fa-saw il, hasten earnestly to, connotes the


congregations resorting to a specific place. The subsequent verse reads: And
when the [Friday] prayer is finished, then may ye disperse through the land and
seek of the Bounty of Allh (by working, etc.) [].236 The imperative, fantashir, disperse, enhances the thinking that the worshippers were held for a
while at a specific place. This is supposed to be the spacious, communal and
contiguous building of the Prophet. It is of interest to note that these three
features are agreed upon by the holders of both theories: the House of the
Prophet, and the Mosque of the Prophet. The following, and last, verse of the
same sra says:
But when they see some bargain or some pastime, they disperse
headlong to it, and leave thee standing. Say: That which Allh has is
better than any pastime or bargain! And Allah is the best to provide
(for all needs).237

The verse reproaches the hypocrites for leaving the Prophet standing
(qima), presumably praying or delivering the khuba, Friday religious speech,
and setting out for worldly activities and enjoyment. This gives the impression
of a formal sermon that needs a proper space. The verse on the masjid al-irr
(see below), warning the Prophet to pray in it, uses the negative command: l
taqum f-h, Never stand thou forth therein. In other positions, the Qurn,
praising the one who offers supererogatory prayer in the night, uses the words
sjidan wa-qima, prostrating and standing.238 Both words: qima and
234

On the authority of Ab Qatda, the two tribes of Ban Salima and Ban arm, having
lived in the outskirts of Madna, were prevented by episodes of winter torrents from regularly
attending the Friday Assembly with the Prophet in his mosque. When they complained to him
of such an impediment, the Prophet advised them to leave for the plateaus near the mountain
of Sal, where nothing would cause them such a trouble. See al-Samhd, Waf, I, 203-4.
Narrated Jbir b. Abd Allh, however, when Ban Salima considered leaving their houses and
living beside the Prophets mosque, the Prophet disliked the idea of leaving their houses
uninhabited and reminded them with the reward of walking to the mosque. Al-Bukhr, adths
no. 655-6; Muslim, adth no. 1518-20; Ibn ajar, Fat, II, 280; al-Ayn, Umdat al-Qr, VI, 252.
Al-Samhd, Waf, I, 203
235
Qurn LXII. 9.
236
Qurn LXII. 10.
237
Qurn LXII. 11.
238
Qurn, XXXIX. 9; XXV. 64.

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taqum, shares the same root of qawama, to stand [up]. While the posture of
qiym, standing, is known to be one of the obligatory attitudes in prayer, it is
quite striking that qawma was sometimes used by traditionists to denote a
prayer unit.239
In the Qurn, mosques are described as [] houses [of worship],
which Allh hath permitted to be raised to honour; for the celebration, in
them, of His name: in them is He glorified in the mornings and in the
evenings, (again and again).240 Those who attend them are specified as men
whom neither trade nor sale can divert from the remembrance of Allh, nor
from regular prayer, [].241 In three particulars, this verse could not signify
the Masjid al-arm only. First, it refers to a multitude of mosques. Second,
it states that Allh is celebrated in them; the people usually prayed around,
not in, the Kaba. Third, the verse talks about men who extol Allh and pray
for him; the early Muslims, while in Mecca, were not allowed to practice
their rituals freely near the Kaba. More to the point, should those here
praised for not being averted by traffic or merchandise from attending
prayer in the mosque compared to those criticised in the chapter of the
Friday Assembly for doing the opposite, it would become more likely that it
is the mosque that is meant in both sras. In the Qurn, mention is even
made of the fact that in the time of the Prophet mosques served, beside the
provision of a place for prayer, functions such as the holding of dhikr and
itikf.242 The relevant verses read as follows:
[Hence], who is more unjust than he who forbids that in places for
worship of Allh (masjida-llh), his name should be celebrated
(yudhkara f-h-asmuh)? - whose zeal is (in fact) to ruin them?243
[...] but do not associate with your wives while ye are in retreat [abide
in meditation] in the mosques.244

Perhaps the most telling verse, as far as the mosque is concerned, is


that of the masjid al-irr,245 a mosque built by a group of hypocrites to
serve as a base for their malevolent schemes. They came to the Prophet and
239

See al-Zamakhshar, Ass al-Balgha, ed. by Muammad B. Uyn al-Sd, 2 vols (Beirut, Dar
al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, 1998), II, 110.
240
Qurn XXIV. 36.
241
Qurn XXIV. 37.
242
Dhikr is the persistent mentioning and remembrance of the names and attributes of Allh in
a state of reverence and meditation. The same word is also used to refer to the Qurn and the
studying of religious sciences.
243
Qurn II. 114.
244
Qurn II. 187. According to the Qurn, mosques were also used for the administering of
justice. See Qurn V. 106.
245
See Michael Lecker, Muslims, Jews, and Pagans, pp. 74-146.

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asked him to perform prayer in it so that it should be sanctified. As the


Prophet was preparing to do so, he received revelation exposing to him the
actuality of this mosque and its refractory founders. The verse in srat alTawba reads:
And there are those [namely hypocrites] who put up a mosque by way
of mischief and infidelity [...]. Never stand thou forth therein. There is
a mosque whose foundation was laid from the first day on piety; it is
more worthy of thy standing forth (for prayer) therein. In it are men
who love to be purified; and Allh loveth those who make themselves
pure.246

Most importantly, the passage expressly refers to a mosque


frequently attended by the Prophet and the earliest generation of believers.
It also implies that other mosques were erected in the time of the Prophet,
and that the mosque was the religious and political nucleus of the
community. The apartments of the Prophets wives, on the other hand, are
clearly dealt with in the Qurn as private premises:
O ye who believe! Enter not the Prophets houses until leave is given
you for a meal, (and then) not (so early as) to wait for its preparation:
but when ye are invited, enter; and when ye have taken your meal,
disperse, without seeking familiar talk. Such (behaviour) annoys the
Prophet he is shy to dismiss you, but Allah is not shy (to tell you) the
truth. And when ye ask (his ladies) for anything ye want, ask them
from before a screen: [].247

It is of interest that the above verse talks about buyt al-Naby, the
houses, not house, of the Prophet. This arguably applies to the small
apartments attached to the mosque.248 It is of no less interest that while
adth usually speaks of bayt isha,249 bayt afa,250 etc., and collectively
refers to these as Buyt Azwj al-Naby or Buyt Nis al-Naby, the
dwellings of the Prophets wives,251 it seldom uses the term bayt al-Naby,
the house of the Prophet. Ab Dwd reports: the Prophet used to sit with
us in the mosque, talking to us, and when he stood up we stood up
[watching him] until we saw him entering one of the apartments of his
wives [].252 This connotes a clear structural distinction between the
246

Qurn IX. 107-8. This verse was also taken by Fr. Buhl as evidence that a mosque should
have been built in the time of the Prophet. Fr. Buhl, Art. al-Madina, in The Encyclopaedia of
Islam, 1st edn III (1936), p. 90.
247
Qurn XXXIII. 53.
248
See also Ettinghausen, Grabar and Jenkins-Madina, Islamic Art and Architecture, p. 5.
249
Al-Bukhr, adths no. 2581, 4450; Ab Dwd, adth no. 5040.
250
Al-Bukhari, adths no. 148, 2646, 3105, 5099; Ab Dwd, adth no. 3345.
251
Al-Bukhari, adths no. 2581, 5063. Ibn anbal, adths no. 2003, 2504.
252
Ab Dwd, adth no. 4775.

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mosque of the Prophet and the dwellings of his wives, of which not all were
built right against the eastern wall of the courtyard. Contrary to what was
suggested by Creswell and others (FIG. 1), some of these apartments, like
that of afa and afiyya,253 were not even located onto the perimeter wall
of the mosque. In this regards, the reconstructed plans of Akkouche (FIG. 8),
al- Shanq (FIG. 9), and al-Shihr (FIG. 10) seem in a better accordance with
the sources. However, such ad hoc arrangements were, seemingly, not
enough to prevent episodes of anxiety as far as the privacy of the Prophet
and his family is concerned. In this respect the Qurn warns:
O ye who believe! Raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet,
nor speak aloud to him in talk, as ye may speak aloud to one another,
lest your deeds become vain and ye perceive not. [] Those who shout
out to thee from behind the apartments (al-ujurt) - most of them
lack understanding. If only they had patience until thou couldst come
out to them, it would be best for them: but Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most
Merciful.254

According to Ibn Kathr, the apartments of the Prophets wives were


low structures with adjoining yards, (maskina arata l-bini arbata-l
fin). That is, they were provided with their own patios, exclusive to the
private use of the Prophets wives.255 This implies another function of the
abutting walled courtyard. Such a space was not for the Prophet and his
wives; it was for him and the Muslim community. In light of the previous
and following passages from the Qurn, both functions could not have
been held in the same place and at the same time (given the immense
amount of confidentiality which the wives of the Prophet enjoyed):
O Consorts of the prophet! Ye are not like any of the (other) women: If
ye do fear (Allh), be not too complaisant of speech, lest one in whose
heart is a disease should be moved with desire: but speak ye a speech
(that is) just.256 And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a
dazzling display, like that of the former times of ignorance; and
establish regular prayer [].257

The Prophets wives are usually linked with the private part of the
ensemble, i.e. the appended dwellings. In each of the very few instances
where they are linked with the communal part of it, i.e. the courtyard, there
253

Al-Samhd, II, 458-65 (p. 460); According to one adth, afiyya came to visit the Prophet
while he was observing itikf in the mosque. When she intended to leave, the Prophet insisted
to accompany her to her house which was located in the dr of Usma. Al-Bukhr, adth no.
2038.
254
Qurn XLIX. 2, 4-5.
255
Ibn Kathr, Bidya wa Nihya, IV, 545.
256
Qurn XXXIII. 32
257
Qurn XXXIII. 33.

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is an emphasis on their privacy. The above adth about the band of


Abyssinians playing with lances in the courtyard, and which is quoted by
Caetani, Creswell et alii as evidence for a sacrilegious building, states that
the Prophets wife only managed to watch the display from her apartment
while concealed behind the Prophet himself or veiled by his rid,
mantle.258
In brief, the advocates of the House of the Prophet theory failed to
make out the many testimonies, from the Qurn, for the existence of the
mosque in the time of the Prophet. The dilemma arises from the fact that
while scholars expect the Qurn to include explicit reference to the mosque
of the Prophet, it (namely the Qurn) does not usually pay attention to
such details as names and dates. It is, equally, surprising that such
influential figures like Ab Bakr, Umar, Uthmn and Al have no mention
in the Qurn, with the exception of some implications. It is more
surprising, in line with this point of view, that the name of the Prophet
himself is rarely found in the Qurn. Epithets like prophet and messenger
are more frequently used when he is meant.
OTHER MOSQUES IN THE TIME OF THE PROPHET
The reported existence of other mosques in the time of the Prophet some
even anteceded his emigration further enhances the possibility that the
structure he built was a mosque, a central one in fact. While in Mecca, a
number of places are reported as the Muslims place of worship before the
Hijra. These included the Dr al-Arqam259 and the defiles (shib) around
Mecca, both as secret meeting places.260 It was not until the conversion of
Umar b. al-Khab to Islam that Muslims had the valour to pray, however
tentatively, beside the Kaba.261 Some Muslim personages began, before the
Hijra, to build individual mosques. It is recorded of Ab Bakr, for instance, that
he adopted for himself a mosque at the courtyard of his house at Mecca.262
It was also before the Hijra that the burgeoning Muslim community
of Madna, thanks to the proselytising efforts of the earliest Anr Muslims

258

Narrated isha: I saw the Prophet [in another narration (al-Bukhr, adth no. 454): []
one day at the gate of my apartment] conceal me with his rid while I am looking at the
Abyssinians playing [namely performing] in the mosque []. Al-Bukhr, adths no. 950, 988,
3530; Muslim, adths no. 2063-8.
259
Ibn Sad, abaqt, III, 108, 223-5.
260
Ibn Hishm, Sra, I, 282-3; al-Suhayl, Raw, II, 4.
261
Ibn Hishm, I, 369; al-Suhayl, Raw, II, 120.
262
Al-Bukhr, adth no. 476; Ibn ajar, Fat, II, 110; Wensinck, Handbook, p. 155.

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and of Muab b. Umayr,263 began to gather for collective prayer.264


However, there is disagreement in the sources as to where and by whom the
congregation was (first) assembled. Anas b. Mlik (d. ca. 93/712) reports
that, a year before the Prophet came to Madna, Muab led in prayer an
assembly of the Anr and early Muhjirn at the place where the mosque
of the Prophet was later built.265 According to Anas, Muab is said to have
been the first to conduct, at the Prophets command,266 the Friday prayer in
congregation.267 According to other accounts, such precedence goes to
Asad b. Zurra who led forty people in prayer at a place called Hazm alNabt, also known as Naq al-Khaimt,268 at arrat Ban Baya.269 Such
accounts, seen conflicting by Wensinck, led him to theorize that although
Friday service was established before the Prophets emigration, there was no
fixed place for it until his mosque was built.270 While this seems to be
supported by the above reports on the Prophet praying before his mosque

263

Muab was the Prophets envoy to Madna, in the aftermath of the first Aqaba Pledge, to
teach the people the Qurn the principles of Islam. To Medinian Muslims he was, hence,
known as the muqri, reader. Al-abar, Trkh, II, 357; A. Guillaume, The Life of Muammad: A
Translation of Ibn Isqs Srat Rasl-Allh (Lahore; Karachi: 1967), pp. 198-99. According to
some accounts, Muab was dispatched to Madna in response to a request by its nascent
Muslim community. Ibn Sad, abaqt, I, 187; III, 110. On Muab, see also Ibn Sad, abaqt, III,
107-13. Muab was reportedly hosted and helped in preaching by Asad b. Zurra from Ban alNajjr. Their preaching efforts, added to earlier efforts of the first Anr Muslims, resulted in
that there was reportedly not a house at Madna without some of it embracing Islam. See Ibn
Sad, abaqt, I, 187; III, 110; al-abar, Trkh, II, 355-69 (pp. 355-9); Ibn Hishm, Sra, II, 78, 82;
al-Suhayl, Raw, II, 247, 252; al-Baldhur, Ansb, p. 243; Guillaume, Life of Muammad, p. 230.
264
Al-Baldhur, Ansb, pp. 243, 266; Ibn Sad, abaqt, I, 205.
265
Ibn Sad reports, through Ibrhm b. Muammad al-Abdar, that they met for the first time
at the house of Sad b. Khaythama and that their number was twelve. Ibn Sad, abaqt, III, 110.
266
According to Ibn Sad, Muab asked for the Prophets permission to observe the Friday
sermon with the Muslim people of Yathrib. The Prophet, agreeing, advised him to assemble the
Muslim congregation on the day when the Jews prepare for their Sabbath. See Ibn Sad,
abaqt, III, 110-1; al-Suhayl, Raw, II, 254-5. See also S. D. Goitein, The Origin and Nature of
the Muslim Friday Worship, in Studies in Islamic History and Institutions (Leiden: Brill, 1966),
pp. 111-25. The Prophet is reported to have expressed his gratitude for having been properly
guided, along with his comrades, to the inauguration of the Friday service even before the
Friday chapter was revealed. See al-Suhayl, Raw, II, 254-7. See also Muslim, adths no. 197883; al-Nas, adth no. 1368. Narrated Ab Hurayra, the first Friday service assembly was led
by the Prophet in Mecca. See al-Nas, adth no. 1369.
267
Al-Margh, Taqq, p. 42. See also Ibn Rusta, Alq, VII, 194; Ibn Sad, abaqt, III, 110.
268
According to Ibn Isq, the place was called Baq al-Khaimt. Al-Suhayl mentions both
names: Raw, II, 254.
269
Ibn Hishm, Sra, II, 82-3; al-Suhayl, Raw, II, 254. Others specify the place as the site where
the Prophet later built his mosque. See Al-Baldhur, Ansb, p. 266; Ibn Sad, abaqt, I, 205.
Asad b. Zurra (d. nine months after the Hijra) was the chief of Ban al-Najjr and one of the
first Anr to embrace Islam. See Ibn Sad, abaqt, III, 562-5; Ibn ajar al-Asqaln, Al-Iba f
Tamyz al-aba, 9 vols, (Beirut: Dr al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, [n.d.]; repr. Calcutta: [n. pub.],
1853), I, 32-3.
270
A. J. Wensinck, Muhammad and the Jews of Medina (Berlin: Freiburg, 1975), p. 84.

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was built wherever a prayer was due (see supra), the above narratives
could justly denote the multitude of the places where congregational prayer
was performed in the pre-hijr Madna. Such a view is enhanced by alSamhd who, quoting Umar b. Shabba (d. 262/876), relates of Jbir b.
Abd Allh (d. 78/ 697) to have said: We spent two years in Madna, prior
to the Prophets advent, building mosques and performing [congregational]
prayers.271 If they spent two years before the Hijra, which took place in 662
AD, this means that they used to meet for collective prayer even before
Muab was dispatched in 621 AD. The chronology of those who led the
earliest congregation can be further sorted out in light of an account by
Ubda b. al-mit (d. ca. 34/655) who states that Asad used to assemble
(yujammi) the congregation before Muab b. Umayr was sent to Madna,
and that when Muab came he took such a responsibility.272 On the
authority of Yay,273 when Muab left Madna, the worshippers were
(once again) led by his ex-host and co-preacher Asad b. Zurra.274 It is
understood from Ibn Hishm that, even after his death in 1/622, Asad kept
to be credited by other Companions for his initiation of the Friday
assembly.275
On the authority of al-Nawwr bt. Mlik: the Prophet first prayed
at this mosque [namely the mosque of Asad], and [later] he built it, so it
became his mosque today.276 Al-Baldhur (d. 279/892) explains that the
Prophet used to pray at the mosque of Asad for a while. Then, he asked
Asad to sell him the adjacent mirbad, threshing floor, presumably to build
a bigger mosque for the bigger Muslim community. We do not have an
adequate description of Asads mosque, but scholars assume that it could
not have been much different, in form and material, from those mosques
built at Madna ahead of the Prophets arrival. According to Rifat and Fikr,
these were simply open areas demarcated by stones to preserve their
271

Al-Samhd, Waf, I, 250.


Ibn Sad, abaqt, I, 187-8. Ibn Hishm relates, on the authority of Ibn Isq, that Muab
was chosen as both tribes, the Aws and the Khazraj, did want to be led by any of them. Ibn
Hishm, Sra, II, 82.
273
Yay b. al-asan al-asan al-Alaw (d. 277/890) was an early adth narrator. According
to al-Samhd, Yay was one of the earliest chroniclers of Madna. Although his work did not
survive, it was amply quoted by later historians. See al-Samhd, Waf, I, 352; F. Rosenthal, A
History of Muslim Historiography, 2nd edn (Leiden: Brill, 1968), p. 475, n. 8; Abbott, Arabic
Literary Papyri, I, 108.
274
Al-Margh, Taqq, p. 42.
275
Ibn Hishm, Sra, II, 82-3; al-Suhayl, Raw, II, 253-4.
276
Al-Samhd, Waf, I, 325. Creswell, nonetheless, mistakenly states: Yet, throughout all this
period, which lasted at least seven months, he never once used the open space which became
the courtyard of his house, and ultimately a mosque. Creswell, E.M.A., I. I, 9.
272

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sanctity.277 Traditions tell more. According to Ibn Sad, the mosque of Asad
was jidran mujaddara. While jidr, implies a structural wall, the
adjective, mujaddar, is derivative from the verb jadara, to enclose.278 It
was, thus, an enclosure wall and not simply a shelter of wood and twigs or
even aligned stone pieces as suggested by some.279 Ibn Sad added that this
mosque, which was orientated towards Bayt al-Maqdis, had no roof and that
it was built by Asad to hold communal prayers and Friday sermons before
the Prophet came to Madna.280
While approaching Madna, the Prophet is also said to have built,
according to some reports only founded,281 the mosque of Qub for Ban
Amr b. Awf.282 Here as well, an earlier mosque is said to have pre-existed.
It was attributed to Kulthm b. al-Hidm who is said to have assembled the
people of Qub at his mirbad, threshing floor, which the Prophet later
bought and enlarged before leaving Qub.283 This mosque is said to be the
one designated by the above verse as founded on piety. Al-Samhd
remarks that the mosque of Qub was the first to have been built for the
Prophet and the Muslim community.284 Such narratives on earlier mosques
seem to have muddled medieval historians. According to Ibn Hishm, the
first to have built a mosque was Ammr b. Ysir.285 Al-Suhayl (d. 581/1185),
in his commentary on the Sra of Ibn Hishm, wondered how building the
mosque of Madna could be attributed to Ammr while he, just as many
other Companions, only participated in it. He explained that Ibn Hishm
must be referring here to the mosque of Qub.286 According to al-Suhayl,
Ibn Hishm credits it to Ammr as he proposed its erection,287 collected
stones for that purpose and completed it after the Prophets layout.288 As

277

Ibrhm Rifat, Mirt al-aramayn: al-Ril al-ijziyya wa-l ajj wa-Mashiruh alDniyya, 2 vols (Cairo: Mabaat Dr al-Kutub al- Miriyya, 1925), I, 461; Fikr, Madkhal, p. 169.
278
Also, the verb ijtadara means to build. See Ibn Manr, Lisn, I, 566.
279
See al-Shihr, al-Masjid al-Nabaw, p. 27
280
Ibn Sad, abaqt, I, 205.
281
Ibn al-Najjr, Durra, p. 112; Ibn Sayyid al-Ns, Uyn, I, 313; Ibn Hishm, Sra, II, 136. See also
al-Baldhur, Fut, p. 9.
282
Al-Samhd, Waf, I, 252.
283
Al-Murjn, Bahjat, p. 113; al-Margh, Taqq, p. 18; al-Samhd, Waf, I, 256.
284
Al-Samhd, Waf, I, 250.
285
Ibn Hishm, Sra, II, 139. The same opinion is also held by Ibn Rusta, Alq, VII, 195. On
Ammr, see Ibn Sad, abaqt, III, 227-45.
286
Al-Suhayl, Raw, II, 339.
287
When the Prophet arrived at Qub, Ammr suggested: The Prophet must take a place to
shade himself after he wakes up, and [also] to pray at. Then, he collected stones and built the
mosque of Qub. Al-Samhd, Waf, I, 250.
288
Al-Suhayl, Raw, II, 339.

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leaving Qub for Madna, the Prophet was overtaken by the Friday midday
prayer. He, according to al-Baldhur, prayed it in congregation for the first
time with Ban Slim b. Awf at a place known as Wd Rnn.289
According to many accounts, the Prophet, while at Ban Slim b. Awf,
performed his first ever Friday congregational prayer at a mosque called the
Friday mosque.290 This, however, reflects a retrospective approach. The
mosque was built, hence its name, long after the Prophets time so as to
celebrate the incident.291 During the time of the Prophet, a number of
mosques were built; some attributed to individuals and others to tribes.
Examples of the former are the mosque of al-Bar b. zib and that of Ibn
Abbs,292 and of the latter is the mosque of Ban Zurayq.293 Some argue
that the number of mosques in the time of the Prophet were nine.294 Others
went further to say that these were as many as the tribes themselves.295
However, the former view seems more consistent with the reports on
Madina having been consisted, in the Prophets time, of nine main districts.
Just as the above-mentioned Friday mosque of Ban Slim b. Awf, many
mosques, however, were built after the Prophets time with the purpose of
commemorating events related to his biography.
CONCLUSION
In spite of its lasting impact, the House of the Prophet theory is found
tenuous in light of the many contradictions it includes and the many
questions it fails to answer. It is further weakened by the several indications
to the effect that the Prophets structure was indeed a mosque. Apart from
the traditions that so refer to it (some are early enough to settle the
question), the nature of the actions it reportedly accommodated accord
with its function as a mosque. The adths, considered by the advocates of
the House of the Prophet theory, provide no evidence for a profane
building. They either warn against improper acts or denote the multifunctional nature of the building. Some were seldom incidents of certain
289

Al-Baldhur, Fut, p. 12. See also al-abar, Trkh, II, 394. Ibn Hishm, Sra, II, 136; Ibn
Sayyid al-Ns Uyn, I, 313. On Wd Rnn, see al-Fayrzabd, Al-Maghnim al-Muba f
Malim ba, ed. by amad al-Jsir, Nu wa Abth Jughrfiyyah wa Trkhiyyah an Jazrat
al-Arab, 11 (Riyadh: Manshrt Dr al-Yammah, 1969), p. 150.
290
See Ibn Sayyid al-Ns, Uyn, I, 313.
291
H. Lammens, Les Sanctuaires pr-Islamites dans l'Arabie occidentale, Mlanges de
I'Universit de Saint-Joseph, 11 (1926), 39-173 (pp. 119-20).
292
The mosque of al-Bar was reportedly located at his house. See al-Bukhr, adth no. 425.
293
Sad b. Manr, Sunan, ed. by abb al-Ramn al-Aam, 2 vols (Beirut: Dr al-Kutub alIlmiyya, [1967 (?)]), adth no. 2956; al-Bukhr, adth no. 420; Ibn Sad, abaqt, I, 186.
294
Al-Baldhur, Ansb, p. 273.
295
Ibn al-Najjr, Durra, 187-91; al-Samhd, Khulat, II, 469-87.

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peculiarity; many took place in in raba or the uffa. The misunderstanding


arises from viewing such activities, when secular functions were combined
with devotion, in contrast with later times when mosque functions
underwent a substantial degree of specialisation. Also the evidence for the
mosque existence, found scattered in the sources, is difficult to perceive as
written retrospectively.
Further, the evidence from the Qurn reveals that alt was
established in the Prophets time. Prerequisites, such as adhn, wu,
facing the qibla etc., are described in detail. Masjid is used in the Qurn as
a place of worship; sometimes even as an Islamic place of worship. The fact
that other derivations of the word are related to Islamic prayer makes it
plausible for the Prophet and the earliest believers to make a masjid once
possible. The supplying of such a place was rendered not just expected but
even required, seeing that congregational prayer was, according to the
Qurn, observed during the Prophets life. The Qurn reveals that
mosques were frequented by the Muslim people to practice a variety of
worship aspects. There is also a clear reference to a mosque frequented by
the Prophet and the faithful. In all possibilities, the general use of the word
to denote a multitude of types, or even devotional acts, does not inevitably
collide with its meaning as an Islamic place of worship.
The formal prompts in early Islam are found adequate for the
making of the mosque of the Prophet, along with other mosques. Such a
context was capable enough to yield the universal type of the mosque,
which was influenced variably, as far as architecture and decoration are
concerned. The mosque was not prompted by political and other material
impulses and then underwent an organic phase of devotional specialisation.
Indeed, it was the other way round. The mosque started as a place of
worship that also served other public functions, giving good excuse for
succeeding mosques to do the same. This situation lasted for almost a
century before the mosque was mainly, yet not exclusively, dedicated to
worship. The assumption that the history we know about the mosque of the
Prophet was ex nihilo invented is challenged by the fact that the sources did
not claim that it was a grandiose architectural achievement and thus
wanted to attribute it to the Prophet. Nor did they state that the first
mosque ever was created by the Prophet. As we have just seen, Islamic
masjids were erected before the Hijra and the history of the masjid, in its
general meaning, could be traced to pre-Islamic times.

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