Sunday, 5 October 2014

Secrets of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) Masjid: The Pillars

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from Secrets of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) Masjid - The Pillars, 27th September, 2014.

There are certain pillars in the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) masjid in Madinah which have a special significance.  The locations of these pillars have been preserved until today.  Signs have been placed to indicate the names of these pillars known as ‘Usthuwanah’ in Arabic.  Mulla ‘Ali Qari (r.a.) wrote , “Those pillars of the Masjid, which are of special virtue and blessed should be visited by the visitor of Madinah.  There, he should keep himself busy with optional prayers and supplication.”

Usthuwanah Hannanah is located behind the mihrab of the Prophet (s.a.w.) on its right hand side and is the most Blessed of the pillars, for this was the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) place of prayer.  On this spot, there once used to grow a date palm.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) used to lean on it while delivering the khuthbah.  When a minbar was made, the Prophet (s.a.w.) began delivering his sermon from there.  When this happened, the sound of crying was heard from the tree and it could be heard around the whole masjid.


The Prophet (s.a.w.) then went to the tree, placed his hand on it and the crying stopped.  He then said, “The tree cries because the remembrance of Allah was near it, and now that the minbar is built it has been deprived of this remembrance in its immediate vicinity.  If I did not place my hand on it, it would have cried until the Day of Judgement.”

The pillar which has been placed in its place is called Usthuwanah Hannanah because the word ‘hannanah’ is used to describe a crying camel.

Usthuwanah ‘Aishah is also called Usthuwanah Muhajirin because the Muhajirin used to sit near this spot.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) used to offer his prayers at this place before he moved to the place at Usthuwanah Hannanah.  It is also called Usthuwanah Qur’ah.  The reason for this is that ‘Aishah (r.a.) reported that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said, “In this Masjid, is one such spot that if people knew the true blessed nature thereof, they would flock towards it in such that to pray there they would cast lots.”  Qur’ah is the casting of lots.


People asked her to point out the exact spot, but she refused to do so.  Later on, after ‘Abdullah ibn Zubayr (r.a.) persisted, she pointed to this spot.  It is thus called Usthuwanah ‘Aishah because the hadits is reported by her and the exact spot was shown by her.


Usthuwanah Tawbah is also known as Usthuwanah Abu Lubabah.  During the siege of Banu Qurayzhah, after the enemies had been surrounded by the Muslims, the besieged tribe called on Abu Lubabah (r.a.) to tell them what the Muslims’ next move.  Abu Lubabah (r.a.) had previously had dealings with Banu Qurayzhah and moved by their pleas, he told them the Muslims’ next movements.


He was not supposed to reveal anything to the enemy and realising his mistake, he became aggrieved and proceeded to go to the Masjid.  He came to a date tree and tied himself to it saying, “As long as my repentance is not Accepted by Allah, I shall not untie myself from here.  And the Prophet (s.a.w.) himself must undo my bonds.”

When the Prophet (s.a.w.) heard this, he said, “If he had come to me, I would have begged Forgiveness on his behalf.  Now he had acted on his own initiative, so how can I untie him until such a time that his repentance has been Accepted.”

For many days he remained tied there without food and water, except for prayers and when he had to answer the call of nature.  Then one morning, after a few days, he received the good news that his tawbah had been Accepted.  The companions conveyed the news to him and wanted to untie him but he refused, saying, “As long as the Prophet (s.a.w.) does not untie me with his Blessed hands, I shall not allow anyone else to do so.”

When the Prophet (s.a.w.) entered for fajr prayers, he untied him.  The pillar is called Usthuwanah Tawbah or Abu Lubabah as it was this very spot in which Abu Lubabah (r.a.) tied himself seeking repentance.

Then there is Usthuwanah Sarir.  ‘Sarir’ means sleeping place.  It is reported that the Prophet (s.a.w.) used to make i‘itikaf here, and used to sleep here while in i'itikaf.  A platform of wood used to be put here for him to sleep on.

Usthuwanah Hars is also known as Usthuwanah ‘Ali.  ‘Hars’ means to watch or protect.  This used to be the place where some of the companions used to sit when keeping watch or acting as gatekeepers.  ‘Ali (k.w.) used to be the one who would do this often.  And that is why this is also known as Usthuwanah ‘Ali.  When the following verse was Revealed, the Prophet (s.a.w.) told his companions that he no longer needed people to keep watch as Allah (s.w.t.) had Promised to Protect him:


O Messenger!  Proclaim the (Message) which hath been Sent to thee from thy Lord.  If thou didst not, thou wouldst not have fulfilled and proclaimed His Mission: and Allah will Defend thee from men (who mean mischief).  For Allah Guideth not those who reject Faith. (Surah al-Ma’idah:67)

There is Usthuwanah Wufud.  ‘Wufud’ means delegations.  Whenever a delegation arrived to meet the Prophet (s.a.w.) on behalf of their tribes, they would be met at this place where he used to meet them, converse with them and teach them about Islam.

From left: Usthuwanah Wufud, Usthuwanah 'Ali and Usthuwanah Sarir
Usthuwanah Tahajjud is where it is reported that this was the spot where, late at night, a carpet was spread for the Prophet (s.a.w.) to perform swalah at-tahajjud after the people had left.  There used to be a niche at this place to indicate the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) place for performing tahajjud but it has now been hidden with a bookcase.

The bookcase hiding the pillar
These historical photos show what is hidden behind the bookcase

Usthuwanah Jibril was the usual place where the angel Jibril (a.s.) used to enter to visit the Prophet (s.a.w.).  Today, it cannot be seen as it lies inside the sacred room of the Prophet (s.a.w.).

There are also pillars which indicate the boundary of the original masjid as it was at the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  Written on the top of each pillar is ‘this is the Masjid of the Prophet (s.a.w.).’  The orange circles indicate some of these pillars found in the masjid:


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