The Muslim belief is that the locations of many mosques were selected by divine intervention. They believe the Godly decision was accurate and clear, no human interpretations were needed. It was written in divine and prophetic books. The last place that was built was the Prophet’s Mosque.
“The construction of the prophet’s mosque is associated with the Prophet’s migration. When the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) headed to the heart of Medina, he passed by tribes who were rushing to welcome him. Some of them took the reins of his camel but he interjected saying “let it go, it has been commanded,” until his instructed camel sat down in a place called ‘al-Mirbad.’ The next day, the Prophet (PBUH) demanded to purchase the land and build the mosque there,” says Dr. Abdul Basset Bader, an advisor at the research and studies center of the Medina.
That was the first architectural challenge that the Prophet’s precincts faced: changing the direction of the “Qibla” (the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays) from Jerusalem to Mecca, from the north to the south. It almost characterized the rebuilding era especially as it was not only a house of worship, but almost like a court and a home for strangers too.
“The city grew and the number of the population increased to an extent where the mosque could no longer accommodate them all. Therefore the Caliph Omar suggested expanding the mosque, but he was keen that it would be similar to the one built by the Prophet.” Bader says.
During the era of the Prophet (PBUH), few modifications were made to the Prophet’s Mosque. These modifications were proposed by some companions who flocked from countries with more advanced civilization than the people of Medina, or Yathrib as it was known before the advent of Islam, and this is what opened the door for the subsequent developments in the mosque’s architecture and space.
“Throughout the Rashidi era and the reign of the Khalifa Uthman Ibn Affan, the companion of the Islamic Prophet, the architecture had evolved and stones were then used for construction in most of the city, so Uthman advised to renew the mosque’s architecture because it is the house of God, and said he would not leave it to be built with clay, so he consulted his companions and they agreed with him,” explains Bader.
It is interesting to note, that despite the prevailing architecture in Yathrib that depended on the burnt clay, the walls of the Prophet’s Mosque were made by clay that was not burnt, blocks that were not exposed to fire, because the purpose of the mosque and its landlord is to keep the people away from the fire of the afterlife.