In the 7th century, due to the increase in the number and severity of persecutions by the Quraysh, Prophet Muhammad (SAW), on the command of Allah SWT, decided to migrate to Madinah. As this news reached Madinah, the believers started counting the days awaiting the beloved Prophet (SAW). Every day, these people would go to the fields and wait under the shade of palm trees in hope of catching a glimpse of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Until one day, a Jew, after seeing a small caravan of white-robed travellers, shouted, “O people of Arabia! What you have been waiting for has arrived!” On hearing the news, the Muslims rushed to welcome Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and Abu Bakr (RA). The beloved Prophet (SAW) then started walking towards Quba – a small village located outside Madinah. Prophet Muhammad (SAW), on reaching Banu Amr bin Auf’s house, got off his camel and went to meet those who were waiting for him there. He then addressed the Muslims collectively and said, “O People, give unto one another greetings of peace; feed the people; strengthen the ties of kinship, pray in the hours when others are asleep. Even so, shall ye enter paradise in peace.”
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) had spent almost 14 days after the migration in Kulsoom bin Hatam’s (RA) home, and here he laid the foundation of Masjid Quba, the first of its kind. Al-Tabarani quoted Al-Shimous Bint Al-Nauram, who said that he witnessed Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his companions carrying sand, rocks, and stones to the construction site. “I saw the Prophet (SAW) when he constructed this mosque. He (SAW) used to carry stones and rocks on his back until it was bent. I also saw dust on his dress and belly. But when one of his companions would come to take the load off him, he would say no and ask the companion to go and carry a similar load instead.”
Initially, the mosque was built 6 kilometres off Medina in the village of Quba, before Medina expanded to include this village. it may be the first mosque in the world that dates to the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in the 7th century CE. The Quba Mosque is the oldest mosque and one of the first in Islam, where the first Friday prayer was held, led by Muhammad (SAW).
Muhammad (SAW) used to go there, riding or on foot, to offer a two rakaʿāt-prayer. He advised others to do the same, saying, “Whoever makes ablutions at home and then goes and prays in the Mosque of Quba, he will have a reward like that of an ‘Umrah.” This ḥadīth was reported by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and Hakim al-Nishaburi. The mosque contained a well which belonged to Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari (may Allah be pleased with him). It became a blessed place as the Prophet’s she-camel first knelt down there to take a long draught of water after the Prophet’s journey. With the increasing number of pilgrims and also due to its condition resulted due to passage of time, environment and weather, the Saudi Government during the reign of King Fahd bin Abdul-Aziz in 1986 completely renovated and greatly expanded this mosque with impressive interior and exquisite exterior. With four minarets and 56 domes it is the second largest and prestigious mosque in the city.
In the past centuries, Muslims have accorded Quba Mosque much attention. It was renovated by a number of caliphs of the period. The third Caliph Uthman ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) made the first renovations. Caliph Omar bin Abdul Aziz built the mosque’s first minaret. It was renovated again in 435 AH by Abu Yali Al-Husaini who constructed a prayer niche known as the “Mihrab.” In the year 555 AH, several additions were made to the mosque by Kamal Al-Din Al-Isfahani. Successive renovations of the mosque took place in the years 671, 733, 840, 881 AH, and the latest changes were made in the era of Sultan Abdul Majid in the year 1245 AH during the time of the Ottoman Empire.
In modern times, the Saudi regime has taken charge of the mosque by endowing the responsibility to the Ministry of Haj Affairs which made further renovations and added structures to the original design. The modern day Quba Mosque is an architectural feat equipped with the latest facilities while maintaining its Islamic identity. The mosque has been expanded to accommodate more than 20 thousand worshipers. There is also a separate compartment for women so they can easily worship without any hindrance. In 1984, the late King Fahd bin Abdulaziz laid the foundation stone for the historic expansion of the Quba Mosque. Two years later, he inaugurated the opening of the mosque after its expansion. The Mosque was designed with an inner courtyard with several entrances. The northern section was reserved for women worshippers. The mosque now has four minarets and 56 domes and adjoined to it is the residence of Imams and muezzins, a library, lodging for the guards in an area of 112 sq. meters, and a commercial center with 12 shops covering an area of 450 sq. meters. The mosque has 7 main entrances and 12 subsidiary ones. The mosque has 64 toilets for men and 32 toilets for women, and 42 units for ablution. The mosque is cooled by three central units each with a capacity of one million and eighty thousand thermal units. Quba Mosque is a unique landmark and its white building can be clearly seen from a distance. Currently, Masjid Quba has 56 mini domes, 4 parallel minarets, 12 minor entrances, 7 main entrances, 3 central cooling units, and all necessary state-of-the-art facilities. The minbar is made from white marble, whereas the courtyard’s foundation comprises white, red, and black marbles.
The importance of the Quba Mosque cannot be denied. This destination carries a special and unique meaning in the hearts of all Muslims around the globe. The strong association of the Quba Mosque with the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has a lot to do with this. After all, the Quba Mosque is the first ever mosque built. And till today, it stands and serves as a place of worship for those who believe.
The Crown of Saudi Arabia has ordered the biggest expansion in the history of Madinah’s Quba Mosque, which is in progress. The project includes improvements to the area surrounding the mosque, bringing its total area to 50,000 square metres, which is 10 times its current size. The expansion will raise the mosque’s capacity to 66,000 worshippers. The mosque will be surrounded by shaded areas for worshippers and developments to the surrounding infrastructure and road network to improve accessibility.
“A mosque founded on righteousness from the first day is more worthy for you to stand in. Within it are men who love to purify themselves; and Allah loves those who purify themselves.” (The Holy Quran, Surah Tawbah).
The writer is a regular contributor to this newspaper. [email protected]