Prophet Muhammad (SAW) Grave and Tomb – The sacred chamber – Everything you need to know
The Sacred Chamber, otherwise known as the Rawdah Mubarak, is the place where the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is buried along with two of his most loyal companions and the first caliphs of Islam, Abu Bakr (RA) and Umar (RA). The area around the grave of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is surrounded by several walls and has no door or windows, and thus cannot be accessed or seen. Read on to learn more about Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grave and the Sacred Prophetic Chamber.
How Did Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Die?
After suffering from severe illness for fourteen days, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) peacefully passed away at the age of 63 on Monday 12th of Rabi al-Awwal 11 AH (633 CE). According to a narration of Aisha (RA), during his last days, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would dip his hands into a cup of water and wipe it over his face while praying, “O Allah, help me overcome the pangs of death.” The Messenger of Allah SWT would then cover his face with a blanket.
He breathed his last while Aisha (RA) held him in her lap. She heard his final words and looked in the eyes of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as he stared toward heaven, and he gradually dropped down as his soul departed. Aisha (RA) gently laid the head of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on a pillow and began to cry along with the women of the house. After overcoming the grief of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) demise, she narrated:
“When the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was healthy, he used to say, ‘No soul of a prophet is seized until he is shown his place in Paradise, and then he is given the option.’ When death approached him while his head was on my thigh, he became unconscious and then recovered consciousness.
He looked at the ceiling of the house and said, ‘O Allah! (With) the highest companions.’ I said (to myself), ‘Hence, he is not going to choose us.’ Then I realised that what he had said was the application of the narration, which he used to mention to us when he was healthy. The last words he spoke was, ‘O Allah! (With) the highest companion.” [Sahih Al Bukhari]
What Is the Sacred Chamber (Rawdah Mubarak)?
Also known as the Sacred Prophetic Chamber and the Prophetic Compartment, Rawdah Mubarak is situated in the southeastern section of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) Mosque (Masjid al-Nabawi). The Sacred Chamber is demarcated by an iron railing, green copper, and gold.
The southern and northern sides of the chamber are 16 metres long, while the western and eastern sides are 15 metres in length. The walls of the Rawdah Mubarak were initially 3 metres high and were constructed from wood in 1282 AD/678 AH by Al-Zahir Baybars (RA). However, in 1481 CE/886 AH, after the second great fire of Masjid al-Nabawi, these walls were reconstructed using robust iron railings by Sultan al-Ashraf Qaitbay (RA). Currently, the Sacred Chamber has four doors:
- Bab Fatima | The Door of Fatima: It is located on the eastern side of the chamber, adjacent to the house of Fatima (RA).
- Bab Aisha | The Door of Aisha: It is next to the Ustuwaanah Wufud (The Pillar of Delegations) on the western side of the chamber.
- Bab al-Tawah | The Door of Repentance: It is located on the southern side of the chamber.
- Bab al-Tahajjud | The Door of Tahajjud: It is situated on the northern side of the chamber, near the Mihrab of Tahajjud.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), with regards to visiting the Rawdah Mubarak and performing Ziyarah, said, “When a person stands at my grave reciting blessings on me, I hear it; and whoever calls for blessings on me in any other place, his every need in this world and in the hereafter is fulfilled, and on the day of Qiyamah I shall be his witness and intercessor.” [Bayhaqi]
Where Is Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) Grave/Tomb Located?
Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grave and tomb is located in the southeastern section of the Masjid al-Nabawi in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.
Inside the Sacred Chamber
Inside, the Prophetic Chamber is split into two sections:
- The Inner Chamber: The inner chamber used to be the house of Aisha (RA). It has no doors and is the burial place of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his two beloved companions.
- The Outer Chamber: The outer chamber is established within the boundaries of the House of Fatima (RA). Those who can visit this part of the chamber are allowed to touch the clothes that hang on the wall. However, they cannot move any further.
Who Else Is Buried in the Sacred Chamber?
Two of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) most faithful companions are buried along with him in the Sacred Chamber.
Abu Bakr (RA)
Abu Bakr (RA) passed away at the age of 63, on 22 Jumada al-Akhirah 13 AH, fifteen days after being struck by a severe fever. He left a will with his daughter, Aisha (RA), to be buried next to Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grave.
Umar (RA) was martyred by Piruz Nahavandi when he was 63 while performing the Fajr prayer on the 26th or 27th of Dhul Hajj 23 AH. Later, Umar (RA), on the advice of Aisha (RA), was buried in the Sacred Chamber alongside Abu Bakr (RA).
What Is the Mawajaha?
Mawajaha is known as the sacred meeting point. It is located on the eastern side of the Sacred Chamber and is the opening from where Muslims can look inside Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grave and the graves of Abu Bakr (RA) and Umar (RA) and say their Salam. The Mawajaha comprises three round holes. The first and more prominent hole faces Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grave. As we move towards the right, there’s a slight gap in the Door of Aisha (RA).
Followed by Bab Aisha, the second hole faces the grave of Abu Bakr (RA), whereas the third hole on the very right faces the grave of Umar (RA). Above the grill of the Mawajah, the following Quranic verse is engraved:
“Indeed, those who lower their voices before the Messenger of Allah – they are the ones whose hearts Allah has tested for righteousness. For them is forgiveness and great reward.” [Surah al-Hujarat, 49:3]
History of the Prophet’s (PBUH) Grave
Some important historical events related to the Sacred Chamber are as follows:
After the First Major Fire – 645 AH
Caused by an oil lamp or candle, the first major fire within Masjid al-Nabawi destroyed most of the area, although the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) tomb remained preserved. However, the roof of the tomb somehow collapsed into the pentagonal structure constructed by Umar ibn Abdul Aziz (RA). After this, the resident Muslims tried to reach out to the Abbasid Caliph, Al-Mustasim Billah (RA).
But because he was busy with the Mongol Invasion of Baghdad, they couldn’t find any professional help. Therefore, the leaders of several Muslim tribes joined hands to reconstruct the Mosque of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). However, when the turn of the pentagonal structure of the tomb came, no one was willing to touch it out of respect. Therefore, they carefully removed the debris and layered five cloth sheets to preserve its sanctity.
After the Second Major Fire – 886 AH
The second major fire was caused by a lightning bolt that struck the minaret of Masjid al-Nabawi during the holy month of Ramadan in 886 AH. The fire destroyed the structure of the Prophet’s (PBUH) Mosque and killed the Muaddhin.
The people of Madinah somehow contained the fire as it had started burning down their homes as well. Once the fire was extinguished, Sultan Qaitbay ordered the people to reconstruct Masjid al-Nabawi and clear the tomb of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Ottoman Era – 1228 AH
Seeing that cracks had appeared on the dome’s outer wall, Sultan Mahmud II ordered his men to replace the dome over the Sacred Chamber. The old dome was demolished and replaced with a new, more robust dome made from bricks. Two decades later, the dome was painted green by Sultan Abdul Mejid (RA), whilst the walls of the Sacred Chamber were covered with tiles.
Facts about the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) Grave
Here are some lesser-known facts about the Rawdah Mubarak – the Sacred Chamber of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Fact 1: Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was Buried in the Exact Spot He Died
Did you know that the grave of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was dug under the exact spot where he died? After his death, many Muslims and companions advised to place him in Jannat-ul-Baqi, while others recommended placing him near a stage.
This was when Abu Bakr (RA) stepped in and said that he once heard the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) saying that, “A Prophet can never be buried anywhere else but the place where he has expired.”
Fact 2: An Additional Barrier was Constructed
Sultan Nur-Uddin Zengi constructed a chamber around the grave of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and filled it with lead. The purpose of these walls was to protect Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grave from the disbelievers, who had tried digging towards the grave to steal the body of the beloved Messenger (PBUH).
Fact 3: The Walls Surrounding the Grave of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
The walls of the holy chamber are constructed using a black stone, and its roof has a small black dome known as Qubbat an-Nur. Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) chamber is sealed from all sides and has openings (doors) except for a small window built inside the dome and is blocked by a golden grill from the front.
According to the history of Islam, it is said that these walls were constructed in 91 AH by Umar bin Abdul Aziz (RA) so that no one may enter the chamber of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Fact 4: The Three Holes in the Grill
There are three graves inside the tomb/chamber of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). These graves are of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), his two beloved companions, Abu Bakr (RA), and Umar (RA). Because the chamber had been completely sealed from all sides, three holes were constructed as markers to help people locate the graves.
The enormous hole on the left side faces the grave of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The hole in the middle faces the grave of Abu Bakr (RA), and the grave on the right side faces the grave of Umar (RA). Note that none of the burial places are visible from these viewing holes.
Fact 5: The House of Aisha (RA)
At the time of his death, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was living in the house of Aisha (RA). All of the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) lived in simple houses (also known as a Hujrah) adjacent to Masjid al-Nabawi. It is said that the houses of Hafsa (RA) and Aisha (RA) were located inside the Sacred Chamber and so close that they could easily talk with each other from their own Hujrahs.
Fact 6: The Golden Grill
A golden grill is fitted on the frontal side of the inner chamber, which holds the graves of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his beloved companions, Abu Bakr (RA) and Umar (RA). It is said that a fourth grave is left inside the inner chamber for Prophet Isa (AS) to be buried.
Has the Prophet’s (PBUH) Tomb Been Destroyed?
For centuries, Muslim pilgrims have visited the Holy Kaaba in Makkah to perform Hajj and Umrah. After fulfilment of the fifth pillar of Islam, pilgrims often visit the Prophet’s (PBUH) Mosque to pay respects at the tomb of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
However, in recent years, on the advice of Dr Alawi, Director of the Islamic Heritage and Research Foundation, the Saudi Government has proposed the idea to destroy the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grave and tomb and relocate his body to an anonymous grave inside Jannat al-Baqi.
The reason behind the destruction of the tomb and relocation of the grave is to prevent pilgrims from visiting the tomb and turning towards it to pray as it is shirk (idolatrous) as a Muslim should not bow down in front of anyone but Allah SWT.
However, because Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is revered by both main branches of Islam, Shia and Sunni, Islamic scholars believe that acting upon the idea can increase tension between both groups. Therefore, to ensure peace between the Islamic sects, no attempt has been made to destroy the tomb and grave of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Summary – Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) Grave
Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) tomb and grave is located inside Masjid al-Nabawi in Madinah, Saudi Arabia. Also known as the Rawdah Rasool, the sacred dome was constructed in 1817 CE and painted green in 1837 CE, during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Mahmud.
Today, the followers of Islam (Muslims) worldwide visit Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grave and tomb to offer their ‘Salam,’ which the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) listens to and responds to.