Masjid al-Haram #1

Capacity(worshippers): 820,000
Area: 356,800 m2 (3,841,000 sq ft)

Al-Masjid al-Ḥarām (المسجد الحرام (pronounced [ʔælˈmæsdʒɪd ælħɑˈrɑːm] "The Sacred Mosque"), is the largest mosque in the world. Located in the city of Mecca, it surrounds the Kaaba, the place which Muslims turn towards while offering daily prayers and is considered the holiest place on Earth by Muslims. The mosque is also known as the Grand Mosque.

The current structure covers an area of 400,800 square metres (99.0 acres) including the outdoor and indoor praying spaces and can accommodate up to 4 million worshippers during the Hajj period, one of the largest annual gatherings of people in the world.


Islamic tradition holds that the Mosque was first built by the angels before the creation of mankind, when God ordained a place of worship on Earth to reflect the house in heaven called al-Baytu l-Maˤmur (Arabic: البيت المعمور, "The Worship Place of Angels"). From time to time, the Mosque was destroyed and rebuilt anew. According to Islamic belief it was built by Ibrahim (Abraham), with the help of his son Ishmael. They were ordered by Allah to build the mosque, and the Kaaba. The Black Stone is situated near the eastern corner of the Kaaba. Some believe it is to start the circumambulation around the Kaaba, while some believe it to be the only remnant of the original structure made by Abraham.[who?] The Kaaba is the direction for all the Muslims to pray across the globe thus signifying unity among all. The Islamic teaching specifically mentions that nothing is magical about the Grand Mosque except for the oasis Zamzam which has never dried ever since it was revealed.
And when We assigned to Abraham the place of the House (Kaaba), saying: Do not associate with Me aught, and purify My House for those who make the circuit and stand to pray and bow and prostrate themselves.
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And when We made the House a resort for men and a place of security. And: Take ye the place of Abraham for a place of prayer. And We enjoined Abraham and Ishmael, saying: Purify my house for those who visit it and those who abide in it for devotion and those who bow down and those who prostrate themselves.
—20px, 20px

And when Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House (Kaaba): Our Lord! accept from us; surely Thou art the Hearing, the Knowing.
—20px, 20px

Muslim belief places the story of Ishmael and his mother's search for water in the general vicinity of the mosque. In the story, Hagar runs between the hills of Safa and Marwah looking for water for her son, until God eventually reveals to her the Zamzam Well, from where water continues to flow non-stop to this day.

After the Hijra, upon Muhammed's victorious return to Mecca, the people of Mecca themselves removed all the idols in and around the Kaaba and cleansed it. This began the Islamic rule over the Kaaba, and the building of a mosque around it.

The first major renovation to the Mosque took place in 692. Before this renovation, which included the mosque's outer walls been risen and decoration to the ceiling, the Mosque was a small open area with the Kaaba at the centre. By the end of the 700s, the Mosque's old wooden columns had been replaced with marble columns and the wings of the prayer hall had been extended on both sides along with the addition of a minaret. The spread of Islam in the Middle East and the influx of pilgrims required an almost complete rebuilding of the site which came to include more marble and three further minarets.

In 1399, the Mosque caught fire and what was not destroyed in the fire (very little) was damaged by unseasonable heavy rain. Again the mosque was rebuilt over six years using marble and wood sourced from nearby mountains in the Hejaz region of current day Saudi Arabia. When the mosque was renovated again in 1570 by Sultan Selim II's private architect it resulted in the replacement of the flat roof with domes decorated with calligraphy internally and the placement of new support columns. These features (still present at the Mosque) are the oldest surviving parts of the building and in fact older than the Kaaba itself (discounting the black stone itself) which is currently in its fourth incarnation made in 1629. The Saudi government acknowledges 1570 as the earliest date for architectural features of the present Mosque.

Following further damaging rain in the 1620s, the Mosque was renovated yet again: a new stone arcade was added, three more minarets were built and the marble flooring was retiled. This was the unaltered state of the Mosque for nearly three centuries.

Saudi Development

Supplicating Pilgrim at Masjid Al Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

The most significant architectural and structural changes came, and continue to come, from the Saudi status of Guardian of the Holy Places and the honorific title of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (the other being the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina) been afforded to King Abdul Aziz. Many of the previously mentioned features, particularly the support columns, were destroyed in spite of their historical value. In their place came artificial stone and marble, the ceiling was refurnished and the floor was replaced. The Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, an important part of both Hajj and Umrah, came to be included in the Mosque itself during this time via roofing and enclosement. Also during this first Saudi renovation four minarets were added.

The second Saudi renovations, this time under King Fahd, added a new wing and an outdoor prayer area to the Mosque. The new wing which is also for prayers is accessed through the King Fahd Gate. This extension is considered to have been from 1982-1988.

The third Saudi extension (1988-2005) saw the building of further minarets, the erecting of a King's residence overlooking the Mosque and further prayer area in and around the mosque itself. These developments have taken place simaltenously with those in Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah. This third extension has also resulted in 18 more gates been built, three domes corresponding in position to each gate and the installation of nearly 500 marble columns.

Modern but essentially non-architectural developments have been the addition of heated floors, air conditioning, escalators and a drainage system.

The death of King Fahd means that the Mosque is now undergoing a fourth extension which began in 2007 and is projected to last until 2020. King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz plans to increase the capacity of the mosque by 35% from its current maximum capacity of 800,000 with 1,120,000 outside the Mosque itself.

Religious significance

The importance of the mosque is twofold. It not only serves as the common direction towards which Muslims pray, but is also the main location for pilgrimages.


The qibla—the direction that Muslims turn to in their prayers (salah)—is toward the Kaaba and symbolizes unity in worshipping one God. At one point the direction of the qibla was toward Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) (and is therefore called the First of the Two Qiblas),[citation needed] however, this only lasted for seventeen months, after which the qibla became oriented towards the Kaaba in Mecca. According to accounts from Muhammad's companions, the change happened very suddenly during the noon prayer at Medina in the Masjid al-Qiblatain.


Pilgrims circumambulating the Kaaba.

The Haram is the focal point of the hajj and umrah pilgrimages[2] that occur in the month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the Islamic calendar and at any time of the year, respectively. The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, required of all able-bodied Muslims who can afford the trip. In recent times, about 3 million Muslims perform the hajj every year.

Some of the rituals performed by pilgrims are symbolic of historical incidents. For example, the episode of Hagar's search for water is emulated by Muslims as they run between the two hills of Safa and Marwah whenever they visit Mecca.


Literally, Kaaba in Arabic means square house. The word Kaaba may also be derivative of a word meaning a cube. Some of these other names include:

* Al-Bait ul Ateeq which, according to one interpretation, means the earliest and ancient. According to another interpretation, it means independent and liberating.
* Al-Bayt ul Haram which may be translated as the honorable house.

The whole building is constructed out of the layers of gray blue stone from the hills surrounding Mecca. The four corners roughly face the four points of the compass. In the eastern corner is the Hajr-al-Aswad (the Black Stone), at the northern corner lies the Rukn-al-Iraqi (The Iraqi corner), at the west lies Rukn-al-Shami (The Syrian corner) and at the south Rukn-al-Yamani (The Yemeni corner). The four walls are covered with a curtain (Kiswah). The kiswa is usually of black brocade with the Shahada outlined in the weave of the fabric. About two-thirds of the way up runs a gold embroidered band covered with Qur'anic text.

Al-Masjid al-Nabawi #2

Capacity(worshippers): 650,000
Area: 400,500 m2 (4,311,000 sq ft)

The Mosque of the Prophet (or Prophet's Mosque) (Arabic: المسجد النبوي‎ [IPA /mæsʤıd ænːæbæwiː]), in Medina, is the second holiest mosque in Islam and the second largest mosque in the world after the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. It is the final resting place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. The mosque is considered the second holiest mosque by both Shia and Sunni while the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is the third holiest.
One of the most notable features of the site is the Green Dome over the center of the mosque, where the tomb of Muhammad is located. It is not exactly known when the green dome was constructed but manuscripts dating to the early 12th century describe the dome. It is known as the Dome of the Prophet or the Green Dome.[1] Subsequent Islamic rulers greatly expanded and decorated it. Early Muslim leaders Abu Bakr and Umar are buried in an adjacent area in the mosque.

The site was originally Muhammad's house; he settled there after his Hijra (emigration) to Medina, later building a mosque on the grounds. He himself shared in the heavy work of construction. The original mosque was an open-air building. The basic plan of the building has been adopted in the building of other mosques throughout the world.

The mosque also served as a community center, a court, and a religious school. There was a raised platform for the people who taught the Qur'an.


The original mosque was built by Muhammad, next to the house where he settled after his journey to Medina in 622 AD. The original mosque was an open-air building with a raised platform for the reading of the Qur'an. It was a rectangular enclosure of 30 m × 35 m (98 ft × 110 ft), built with palm trunks and mud walls, and accessed through three doors: Bab Rahmah to the south, Bab Jibril to the west and Bab al-Nisa' to the east. The basic plan of the building has since been adopted in the building of other mosques throughout the world.

Inside, Muhammad created a shaded area to the south called the suffrah and aligned the prayer space facing north towards Jerusalem. When the qibla (prayer direction) was changed to face the Kaaba in Mecca, the mosque was re-oriented to the south. The mosque also served as a community center, a court, and a religious school. Seven years later (629 AD/7 AH), the mosque was doubled in size to accommodate the increasing number of Muslims.

Subsequent Islamic rulers continued to enlarge and embellish the Prophet's Mosque over the centuries. In 707, Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik (705-715) replaced the old structure and built a larger one in its place, incorporating the tomb of Muhammad. This mosque was 84 m × 100 m (280 ft × 330 ft) in size, with stone foundations and a teak roof supported on stone columns. The mosque walls were decorated with mosaics by Coptic and Greek craftsmen, similar to those seen in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (built by the same caliph). The courtyard was surrounded by a gallery on four sides, with four minarets on its corners. A mihrab topped by a small dome was built on the qibla wall.

Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdi (775-785) replaced the northern section of Al-Walid's mosque between 778 and 781 to enlarge it further. He also added 20 doors to the mosque: eight on each of the east and west walls, and four on the north wall.

During the reign of the Mamluk Sultan Qalawun, a dome was erected above the tomb of Muhammad and an ablution fountain was built outside of Bab al-Salam. Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad rebuilt the fourth minaret that had been destroyed earlier. After a lightning strike destroyed much of the mosque in 1481, Sultan Qaitbay rebuilt the east, west and qibla walls.

Green Dome above the tomb of Muhammad

The Ottoman sultans who controlled Medina from 1517 until World War I also made their mark. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566) rebuilt the western and eastern walls of the mosque and built the northeastern minaret known as al-Suleymaniyya. He added a new mihrab (al-Ahnaf) next to Muhammad's mihrab (al-Shafi'iyyah) and placed a new dome covered in lead sheets and painted green above Muhammad's house and tomb.

During the reign of Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid (1839-1861), the mosque was entirely remodeled with the exception of Muhammad's Tomb, the three mihrabs, the minbar and the Suleymaniyya minaret. The precinct was enlarged to include an ablution area to the north. The prayer hall to the south was doubled in width and covered with small domes equal in size except for domes covering the mihrab area, Bab al-Salam and Muhammad's Tomb. The domes were decorated with Qur'anic verses and lines from Qaṣīda al-Burda (Poem of the Mantle), the famous poem by 13th century Arabic poet Busiri. The qibla wall was covered with glazed tiles featuring Qur'anic calligraphy. The floors of the prayer hall and the courtyard were paved with marble and red stones and a fifth minaret (al-Majidiyya), was built to the west of the enclosure.

After the foundation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, the mosque underwent several major modifications. In 1951 King Ibn Saud (1932-1953) ordered demolitions around the mosque to make way for new wings to the east and west of the prayer hall, which consisted of concrete columns with pointed arches. Older columns were reinforced with concrete and braced with copper rings at the top. The Suleymaniyya and Majidiyya minarets were replaced by two minarets in Mamluk revival style. Two additional minarets were erected to the northeast and northwest of the mosque. A library was built along the western wall to house historic Qur'ans and other religious texts.

In 1973 Saudi King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz ordered the construction of temporary shelters to the west of the mosque to accommodate the growing number of worshippers in 1981, the old mosque was surrounded by new prayer areas on these sides, enlarging five times its size.

The latest renovations took place under King Fahd and have greatly increased the size of the mosque, allowing it to hold a large number of worshippers and pilgrims and adding modern comforts like air conditioning. He also installed twenty seven moving domes at the roof of Masjid Nabawi.


Tomb of Umar

As it stands today, the Prophet's Mosque has a rectangular plan on two floors with the Ottoman prayer hall projecting to the south. The main prayer hall occupies the entire first floor. The mosque enclosure is 100 times bigger than the first mosque built by Muhammad and can accommodate more than half a million worshippers.

The Prophet's Mosque has a flat paved roof topped with 24 domes on square bases. Holes pierced into the base of each dome illuminate the interior. The roof is also used for prayer during peak times, when the 24 domes slide out on metal tracks to shade areas of the roof, creating light wells for the prayer hall. At these times, the courtyard of the Ottoman mosque is also shaded with umbrellas affixed to freestanding columns. The roof is accessed by stairs and escalators. The paved area around the mosque is also used for prayer, equipped with umbrella tents.

The north facade has three evenly spaced porticos, while the east, west and south facades have two. The walls are composed of a series of windows topped by pointed arches with black and white voussoirs. There are six peripheral minarets attached to the new extension, and four others frame the Ottoman structure. The mosque is lavishly decorated with polychrome marble and stones. The columns are of white marble with brass capitals supporting slightly pointed arches, built of black and white stones. The column pedestals have ventilation grills that regulate the temperature inside the prayer hall.

This shiny new Prophet's Mosque contains the older mosque within it. The two sections can be easily distinguished: the older section has many colorful decorations and numerous small pillars; the new section is in gleaming white marble and is completely air-conditioned.

The open courtyard of the mosque can be shaded by folded, umbrella-like canopies, designed by Bodo Rash and Buro Happold.

Ar-Rawdah an-Nabawiyah

Rawda (Garden) and Muhammad's pulpit

The heart of the mosque houses a very special but small area named ar-Rawdah an-Nabawiyah, which extends from Muhammad's tomb to his pulpit. Pilgrims attempt to visit and pray in ar-Rawdah, for there is a tradition that supplications and prayers uttered here are never rejected. Entrance into ar-Rawdah is not always possible (especially during the Hajj season), as the tiny area can accommodate only a few hundred people. Ar-Rawdah has two small gateways manned by Saudi police officers. The current marble pulpit was constructed by the Ottomans. The original pulpit was much smaller than the current one, and constructed of palm tree wood, not marble. Ar-Rawdah an-Nabawiyah is considered part of Jannah (Heaven or Paradise)[citation needed].

It is prescribed for the one who visits the Prophet’s Mosque to pray two rak’ahs in the Rawdah or whatever he wants of naafil prayers, because it is proven that there is virtue in doing so. It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that Muhammad said: “The area between my house and my minbar is one of the gardens ( riyaad, sing. rawdah) of Paradise, and my minbar is on my cistern (hawd)” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1196; Muslim, 1391.

And it was narrated that Yazeed ibn Abi ‘Ubayd said: “I used to come with Salamah ibn al-Akwa’ and he would pray by the pillar which was by the mus-haf, i.e. in the Rawdah. I said, ‘O Abu Muslim, I see that you are keen to pray by this pillar!’ He said, ‘I saw that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was keen to pray here.’” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 502; Muslim, 509.

Saudi expansion of the Mosque

Prophet's Mosque at sunset

The original mosque was not very large, and today the original exists only as a small portion of the larger mosque. From 1925, after Medina surrendered to Ibn Sa'ud, the mosque was gradually expanded until 1955 when extensive renovations were carried out.[1] The latest renovations took place under King Fahd and have greatly increased the size of the mosque, allowing it to hold a large number of worshippers and pilgrims. It is also completely air conditioned and decorated with marble.

The newer and older sections of the mosque are quite distinct. The older section has many colorful decorations and numerous small pillars.

The mosque is located in what was traditionally the center of Medina, with many hotels and old markets nearby. It is a major pilgrimage site and many people who perform the Hajj go on to Medina before or after Hajj to visit the mosque.

Imam Reza shrine #3

Capacity(worshippers): 100,000+
Area: 598,657 m2 (6,443,943.95 ft)

Imām Rezā shrine (Persian: حرم امام رضا) in Mashhad, Iran is a complex which contains the mausoleum of Imām Ridhā, the eighth Imām of Twelver Shi'ites. Also contained within the complex include: the Goharshad Mosque, a museum, a library, four seminaries,[1] a cemetery, the Razavi University of Islamic Sciences, a dining hall for pilgrims, vast prayer halls, and other buildings.

This complex is the center of tourism in Iran, visited by 15 to 20 million pilgrims every year.[2][3] The shrine itself covers an area of 267,079m2 while the seven courtyards which surround it cover an area of 331,578m2 - totaling 598,657 m2 (6,443,890 sq ft).

The grave of Imām Ridhā, found directly beneath the golden dome within the Mosque.

In 818 Imam Reza was martyred by Al-Ma'mun and was buried beside the grave of Harun. After this event this place was called as Mashhad al-Rida (the place of martyrdom of Ali al-Rida). Shias and sunnis started visiting there for pilgrimage of his grave. By the end of the 9th century a dome was built on the grave and many buildings and Bazaars sprang up around it. During more than a millennium it has been devastated and reconstructed several times. [5]

In 993 the holy shrine was ruined by Saboktakin, a Ghaznavid king. However in 1009 his son Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi ordered the shrine to be repaired and expanded. About 1150 Sultan Sanjar, a Seljuq king, renovated the sanctuary and added new buildings after miraculous healing of his son in the shrine. Later Sultan Muhammad Khodabande, an Ilkhanate king, who converted to Shiism renovated the holy shrine about 1310.[6] The celebrated Muslim traveler Ibn Battuta visited Mashhad in 1333 and reported that it was a large town with abundant fruit trees, streams and mills. A great dome of elegant construction surmounts the noble mausoleum, the walls being decorated with colored tiles. Opposite the tomb of the Imam is the tomb of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, which is surmounted by a platform bearing chandeliers.[2]

Later on, in the 1400s during the Shahrokh era, it became one of the main cities of the Timurid dynasty. In 1418 his wife Goharshad funded the construction of an outstanding mosque beside the shrine, which is known as the Goharshad Mosque.[7]

The shrine is depicted on the reverse of the Iranian 100 rials coin, issued since 2004.

Sahn Inqilab and its fountain

Courtyards (Sahn)

The complex contains a total of seven courtyards, which cover an area of 331,578 m2 (3,569,080 sq ft):[9]

* Sahn Inqilab - Revolution Courtyard
* Sahn Azadi - Freedom Courtyard
* Sahn Imam Khomeini
* Sahn Gowharshad Mosque
* Sahn Quds
* Sahn Jumhuri Islami - Islamic Republic Courtyard
* Sahn Jameh Razavi - The Razavi Grand Courtyard

The courtyards also contain a total of 14 minarets,[10] and 3 fountains.

Entrance to the library


From the courtyards, external hallways named after scholars lead to the inner areas of the mosque. They are referred to as Bast (Sanctuary), since they were meant to be a safeguard for the shrine areas:

* Bast Shaykh Toosi - leads to the Central Library
* Bast Shaykh Tabarsi
* Bast Shaykh Hur Ameli
* Bast Shaykh Baha'i

The Bast hallways lead towards a total of 21 internal halls (Riwaq) which surround the burial chamber of Ali al-Ridha.[13] Adjacent to the burial chamber is also a mosque dating back to the 10th century known as, Bala-e-Sar Mosque.

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