- 1 Weeping Pillar (Ustuwanah al-Hannana) or Perfumed Pillar (Ustuwanah al-Mukhallaqah)
- 2 Pillar of Repentance (Ustuwanah al-Tawbah) / Pillar of Abu Lubabah (Ustuwana Abu Lubabah)
- 3 Pillar of Aisha (Ustuwanat Aisha; اسطوانة السيدة عائشة) / Pillar of Casting Lots (Ustuwanah al-Qur’ah; اسطوانة القٌرعة) / Pillar of the Emigrants (Ustuwanah al-Muhajireen; اسطوانة المهاجرين)
- 4 Pillar of Delegations (Ustuwanah al-Wufud)
- 5 Pillar of the Guard (Ustuwanah al-Haras) / Pillar of Ali ibn Abi Talib (Ustuwanah Ali ibn Ali Talib)
- 6 Pillar of the Bed (Ustuwanah al-Sarir)
- 7 Square Pillar of the Tomb (Ustuwanah Murb’a al-Qabr) / Pillar of Jibril (Ustuwanah Jibril)
- 8 Pillar of the Night Prayer (Ustuwanah al-Tahajjud)
These sacred pillars are distinct from the other pillars inside the present construction of Masjid Nabawi in that their positioning is irregular in relation to the consistent layout of the other columns. Three of the pillars are incorporated within the golden railing surrounding the Sacred Chamber on the side where visitors normally greet the Prophet ﷺ and his companions, one is to the rear of the mihrab, and the other two stand in the first row of pillars closest to the mihrab in the Rawdah area. The name of each pillar is marked by a gold Arabic inscription on a large green circle, encircled by a golden wreathe. The pillars as you see them today were erected during the Ottoman era.
As previously mentioned, these pillars hold tremendous significance. They were built under the supervision of the Prophet ﷺ and the companions as well as the Prophet ﷺ himself prayed in their vicinity countless times and spent a significant amount of time around them. Anas ibn Malik I narrates:
I saw the most famous amongst the companions of the Prophet ﷺ hurrying towards the pillars at the Maghrib prayer before the Prophet ﷺ came for the prayer.
[Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari]
The Arabic word commonly used for these pillars is Ustuwanah (Arabic: اسطوانة), which is derived from the Persian word Sutun (Persian: ستون). This specifically refers to a pillar that has the same circumference throughout the length of its body, from the top to its base. Each pillar also has one or two names describing what it’s famous for.
Weeping Pillar (Ustuwanah al-Hannana) or Perfumed Pillar (Ustuwanah al-Mukhallaqah)
This pillar is located to the back of the Prophet’s ﷺ Mihrab and is known most commonly as the
Weeping Pillar (Ustuwanah al-Hannana; اسطوانة الحنانة). After migrating to Madinah and building Masjid Nabawi, the Prophet ﷺ would deliver Friday sermons leaning against a palm trunk that once stood where the pillar is today. After a period of time, the companions asked the Prophet ﷺ if they could build something that would allow him to be clearly seen and heard by the congregation while delivering sermons. Jabir ibn Abdullah I narrates:
A woman asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah ﷺ! Should I build something for you to sit on? I have a slave who is a carpenter.’ He replied, ‘Yes, if you like.’ So she had that pulpit constructed.
[Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari]
When the Prophet ﷺ left the palm trunk for the pulpit, out of grief it began to wail and shake, as if it was about to explode. Jabir I narrates:
When it was Friday, the Prophet ﷺ sat on that pulpit. The date-palm trunk near which the Prophet ﷺ used to deliver his sermons cried so much so that it was about to burst.
[Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari]
The Prophet ﷺ then descended from the pulpit and consoled the tree trunk by embracing it and speaking to it gently. He offered it one of two choice and said:
Choose if you want me to plant you in the place you were in, and you will be as you were before, or if you want, I can plant you in Paradise and you can drink from its rivers and springs, and your growth will be good; you will bear fruit and the friends of Allah will eat from your fruit.
[Narrated in Sunan al-Darimi]
After hearing this, it chose paradise and calmed down. Jabir I narrates:
It cried like a child and the Prophet ﷺ descended (from the pulpit) and embraced it while it continued moaning like a child being quietened. The Prophet ﷺ said, ‘It was crying for (missing) what it used to hear of Dhikr near it.’
[Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari]
This event was witnessed and narrated by many companions. About this incident, Amr ibn Sawad Al-Sarhi V said:
Imam Shafi‘i I said to me, ‘Allah never gave a prophet what he gave Muhammad ﷺ.’ I said, ‘He gave Isa the power to revive the dead.’ He said, ‘he gave Muhammad ﷺ the moaning trunk by which he stood and delivered his khutba until the minbar was constructed. When the minbar was placed, the trunk moaned until its sound could be heard, and this is greater than that.’
[Narrated in Adab al-Shafi‘i’ wa Manaqibuhu]
The word “hannana” (Arabic: حنانة) refers to a weeping camel. It was thus named Ustuwanah al-Hannana because the crying of the tree trunk resembled weeping in this manner. During an expansions of Masjid Nabawi, most likely during the caliphate of Uthman ibn Affan I, the palm-trunk was taken by the companion Ubai ibn Ka’b al-Ansari I and stored in his house. There it unfortunately withered and was eaten by termites until it turned into dust.
The pillar is also known as the Perfumed Pillar (Ustuwanah al-Mukhallaqah; اسطوانة المخلقة) on account of perfume being applied to the pillar.
The word “mukhallaqah” (Arabic: مخلقة) is derived from the word “khaluq” which is a type of musk (a woman’s perfume mixed with saffron and is red and yellow in colour). This perfume used to be applied to the tree trunk, hence its name.
Once the blessed Prophet ﷺ was leading the prayer and saw spittle on the qibla wall. After completing his prayer, he said: “When anyone of you prays, he is conversing quietly with his Lord, and Allah is in front of him. So, none of you should spit toward the qibla or to his right.” He then requested a stick and scraped it off, before calling for khaluq and applying it (Narrated by Ahmad, Ibn Abi Shaiba, Abd al-Razzaq).
When al-Khayzuran bint Atta V, the mother of the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid V mother, came for pilgrimage in 170 AH, she would apply perfume to all the pillars, but would apply more on this one, the Pillar of Aisha, and the pillar west of the mihrab. All three of these pillars were sometimes referred to as “perfumed”, but eventually, the title was only attributed to this particular pillar. The special virtue of this pillar is that the Prophet ﷺ stood there to lead prayers for some time before establishing a location for prayer not far from where the mihrab now stands (Narrated by Ali al-Samhudi in Wafa al-Wafa).
According to Imam Malik I, this is the best location to pray salah in Masjid Nabawi. It is for this reason a mihrab, known as Mihrab al-Nabi, was built in this location. This prayer niche was not present during the time of the Prophet ﷺ or the Rightly Guided Caliphs, but was built by Umar ibn Abdul Aziz I during the caliphate of Walid ibn Abdul Malik I when he was governor of Madinah.
Pillar of Repentance (Ustuwanah al-Tawbah) / Pillar of Abu Lubabah (Ustuwana Abu Lubabah)
The Pillar of Repentance (Ustuwanah al-Tawbah; اسطوانة التوبة), also known as the Pillar of Abu Lubabah (Ustuwana Abu Lubabah; اسطوانة ابو لبابة) is located next to the Pillar of the Bed, in the first row of pillars of the Rawdah closest to Mihrab al-Nabi. It is the fourth pillar from the minbar as you approach the Sacred Chamber. The colour of marble used on this row is different from the rest of the pillars in the Rawdah.
It was so called after a famous incident involving the venerable companion Abu Lubabah ibn Abd al-Mundhir I during the Siege of the Banu Qurayza in 5 AH following the Battle of the Trench. Abu Lubabah, who was from the Banu Aws, had close ties to the Banu Qurayza, a Jewish tribe from Madinah which had betrayed the Muslims after being allied to them. For their treachery, the Prophet ﷺ and his army laid siege to the fortress of Banu Qurayza for 25 days. After resigning themselves to defeat, they sent a message to the Prophet ﷺ asking him to send Abu Lubabah I to them so that they might consult him about their situation. With the permission of the Prophet ﷺ, Abu Lubabah I entered the fortress and spoke with them. They asked his advice as to whether they should surrender and submit to the judgment of the Prophet ﷺ, to which he answered affirmatively but ran his finger across his throat, indicating that they would be executed. With this gesture, he confirmed what they already knew – that they were to be sentenced to death for treason. No sooner had he said this that he felt he had betrayed the Prophet ﷺ for revealing his plan. He later said: “I had not even moved from my spot that it dawned on me that I had betrayed Allah and His Messenger ﷺ”.
The following verses of the Qur’an were revealed concerning this incident:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَخُونُوا اللَّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ وَتَخُونُوا أَمَانَاتِكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
O you who have believed, do not betray Allah and the Messenger or betray your trusts while you know [the consequence].
وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا أَمْوَالُكُمْ وَأَوْلَادُكُمْ فِتْنَةٌ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ عِندَهُ أَجْرٌ عَظِيمٌ
And know that your properties and your children are but a trial and that Allah has with Him a great reward.
Abu Lubabah I was so distressed that he left the fortress without meeting the Prophet ﷺ, went to Masjid Nabawi and tied himself up to a palm trunk in the mosque. He swore not to untie himself, or allow anyone else to, until the Prophet ﷺ himself untied him or his forgiveness be sent down from heaven. When news of this reached the Prophet ﷺ he said, “A tribulation befell him; had he come to me, I would have asked for his forgiveness. But having made his choice, I am not one to release him before he is forgiven by Allah.”
He remained tied to the palm trunk for six days. His wife or daughter would come and untie him to perform wudhu and salah and tie him up once again. This continued until the middle of one night when the Prophet ﷺ was in Umm Salama’s J house. During the night, the angel Jibril S brought down the following verse announcing his forgiveness:
وَآخَرُونَ اعْتَرَفُوا بِذُنُوبِهِمْ خَلَطُوا عَمَلًا صَالِحًا وَآخَرَ سَيِّئًا عَسَى اللَّهُ أَن يَتُوبَ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
And [there are] others who have acknowledged their sins. They had mixed a righteous deed with another that was bad. Perhaps Allah will turn to them in forgiveness. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
This revelation made the Prophet ﷺ smile. Umm Salama J asked him what had made him smile to which he replied that Abu Lubabah I had been forgiven. “Shall I convey the good news to him?” she asked, to which the Prophet ﷺ replied, “If you wish”. She went to the door of her house, which was adjacent to Masjid Nabawi, and cried, “Rejoice Abu Lubabah, for God has forgiven you from above the seven heavens!” The Companions who were worshipping in the mosque rushed to congratulate and untie him, but he told them, “Leave me until the Messenger of God ﷺ unties me with his own hands!” As the Prophet ﷺ passed by him on his way to lead the Fajr prayer, he untied him with his blessed hands. (Narrated by Ibn Hashim and al-Bayhaqi)
It is recommended for visitors to Masjid Nabawi to stand before or near the pillar and ask for God’s forgiveness.
The Prophet ﷺ also performed his optional prayers at this location. After Fajr, the Prophet ﷺ would spend time with homeless and poor companions who would be waiting for him near this pillar. He would also recite verses that were revealed during the night and talk with them until sunrise. (Narrated by Ali al-Samhudi in Wafa al-Wafa)
Pillar of Aisha (Ustuwanat Aisha; اسطوانة السيدة عائشة) / Pillar of Casting Lots (Ustuwanah al-Qur’ah; اسطوانة القٌرعة) / Pillar of the Emigrants (Ustuwanah al-Muhajireen; اسطوانة المهاجرين)
The Pillar of Aisha (Ustuwanat Aisha; اسطوانة السيدة عائشة), also known as the Pillar of Casting Lots (Ustuwanah al-Qur’ah; اسطوانة القٌرعة) is located next to the Pillar of Repentance, in the first row of pillars closest to Mihrab al-Nabi. It is the third pillar from the minbar as you approach the Sacred Chamber. It got its name after Aisha J revealed the virtue of prayer in that area.
Aisha J is reported to have said: “In the mosque, there is a spot near this pillar, that if people were to know about it they would have to cast lots to be able to pray there.” They asked, “O Mother of the Believers, where is it?” She remained quiet. When they left, her nephew, Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr I stayed behind to ask her about it. He left his aunt’s house and walked straight to this pillar while his companions looked on. They realised she informed him of the location, thereby determining the pillar in question. It has also been recorded that Abu Bakr, Umar and Zubayr M used to pray there frequently, meaning they were all aware of its significance. People have been praying there ever since. (Narrated by al-Haytami in Majma al-Zawaid and Tabarani in al-Mu’jam al-Awsat.)
In a similar narration, the Sahaba were discussing the architecture Masjid Nabawi when Aisha J said, “I know of a pillar from the pillars of the mosque that if people knew the reward of praying next to it, they would outdo each other with the lance (which was used to cast lots to decide who has first right).” Two of the men left while Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr I remained. The Sahaba said, “He stayed to ask her about the pillar. If he asks, she’ll reveal to him where it is although he won’t inform us of its location. If she tells him, he’ll go there to pray so let us sit where we can see him but he can’t see us”. Out of sight, the companions saw Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr I come to this pillar, stand to its right, and perform his prayer.(Narrated by Ali al-Samhudi in Wafa al-Wafa)
The pillar is also known as the Pillar of the Emigrants (Ustuwanah al-Muhajireen; اسطوانة المهاجرين) because the emigrants from Makkah would regularly sit in this area. Furthermore, it is said that after the Prophet ﷺ arrived in Madinah, he led the prayer facing Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) from this location for 16-17 months. After the Qibla was changed, the Prophet ﷺ led the people in prayer from this spot for ten more days, before he designated his Mihrab to lead salah.
Pillar of Delegations (Ustuwanah al-Wufud)
The Pillar of Delegations (Ustuwanah al-Wufud; اسطوانة الوفود) is the northernmost pillar of the three incorporated within the railing encompassing the Sacred Chamber. Between it and the Pillar of the Guard, there is a door that is in roughly the same location as the door the Prophet ﷺ would use to sometimes enter the mosque.
In this exact location, the Prophet ﷺ would lean against a palm trunk while receiving the numerous delegations that came to accept Islam and swear allegiance, particularly during the year 9 AH which came to be known as the Year of the Delegations. About this year, Ibn Kathir V says:
When the blessed Prophet ﷺ conquered Makkah and returned from Tabuk, the tribe of Thaqif embraced Islam and swore allegiance at the hands of the Prophet ﷺ. Delegations then came to Madinah from every corner of the Peninsula. (Narrated by Ibn Kathir in al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya)
An incident mentioned in the Quran regarding a delegation from Banu Tamim is said to have occurred at this location. Zaid ibn Arqam I narrates this incident:
A large group of Arabs gathered and said, ‘Take us to this man. If he is a prophet, then we are the most fortunate to be with him, and if he is a king, we will live in his kingdom.’ I came to the blessed Prophet ﷺ and notified him. Then they came by his house (i.e., by the door where the pillar is now located) and started calling out, ‘Muhammad ﷺ! Muhammad ﷺ!’ Thereafter, the following verses were revealed:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُنَادُونَكَ مِن وَرَاءِ الْحُجُرَاتِ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ
Indeed, those who call you, [O Muhammad], from behind the chambers – most of them do not use reason.
وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ صَبَرُوا حَتَّىٰ تَخْرُجَ إِلَيْهِمْ لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَّهُمْ ۚ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
And if they had been patient until you [could] come out to them, it would have been better for them. But Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
This revelation was an admonishment of those who would call out to the Prophet ﷺ somewhat crudely from behind the houses that belonged to the wives of the Prophet ﷺ.
Pillar of the Guard (Ustuwanah al-Haras) / Pillar of Ali ibn Abi Talib (Ustuwanah Ali ibn Ali Talib)
The Pillar of the Guard (Ustuwanah al-Haras; اسطوانة الحرس), also known as the Pillar of Ali ibn Abi Talib (Ustuwanah Ali ibn Ali Talib; اسطوانة علي بن أبي طالب) the middle pillar of the three incorporated in the railing around the Sacred Chamber. It marks the location of the door from which the Prophet ﷺ would enter Masjid Nabawi from the chambers of Aisha. Prominent companions would stand at the door guarding the house during the days when they feared attacks, hence the name that was given to the pillar. Aisha I narrates:
The Prophet ﷺ was vigilant one night and when he reached Medina, he said, ‘I wish that a pious man from my companions guard me tonight!’ Suddenly we heard the clatter of arms. He said, ‘Who is it?’ He replied, ” I am Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas and have come to guard you.” So, the Prophet ﷺ slept (that night).
[Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari]
The companions continued to stand guard until the following verse was revealed:
يَا أَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ بَلِّغْ مَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ ۖ وَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلْ فَمَا بَلَّغْتَ رِسَالَتَهُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ يَعْصِمُكَ مِنَ النَّاسِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ
O Messenger, announce that which has been revealed to you from your Lord, and if you do not, then you have not conveyed His message. And Allah will protect you from the people. Indeed, Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.
The pillar is also referred to as the Pillar of Ali (Ustuwanah Ali ibn Ali Talib; اسطوانة علي بن أبي طالب) because Ali I used to guard the Prophet ﷺ very often and would also perform his prayers here. The house belonging to Ali and his wife Fatima L, the daughter of the Prophet ﷺ, was situated next to the house of Aisha J. For 40 days after Ali I married Fatima J, the Prophet ﷺ would come to their house and say “Assalamu Alaikum, Ahl al-Bayt (People of the House), wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuhu. Allah wishes only to remove sins from you, and to purify you thoroughly.” (Narrated by Tabarani in al-Mu’jam al-Awsat)
Pillar of the Bed (Ustuwanah al-Sarir)
The Pillar of the Bed (Ustuwanah al-Sarir; اسطوانة السرير) is the southernmost of the three pillars incorporated in the railing surrounding the Sacred Chamber, closest to the Qibla. The pillar marks the location where the Prophet ﷺ slept during I’tikaf (retreat) in the last ten days of Ramadan. His bed was made of palm fronds and his cushion was made of leather and stuffed with palm fibre. The Prophet ﷺ performed I’tikaf during the last 10 days of Ramadan each year after migration, with the exception of one year.
Square Pillar of the Tomb (Ustuwanah Murb’a al-Qabr) / Pillar of Jibril (Ustuwanah Jibril)
The Square Pillar of the Tomb (Ustuwanah Murb’a al-Qabr; اسطوانة مربعة القبر) stands inside the Tomb of the Prophet ﷺ, behind its exterior wall, and cannot be seen from the outside. It is in line with the Pillar of Delegations. It was erected in later years to mark the door of Fatima’s house, which was accessed from the alleyway between the houses of Fatima and Aisha K. The Prophet ﷺ used this door to visit Fatima and her husband, Ali ibn Abi Talib L.
It is also known as the Pillar of Jibril (Ustuwanah Jibril; اسطوانة جبريل) because it is said that when Jibril S would come to the Prophet ﷺ with revelation, he would be seen sitting in this place, having adopted the appearance of the companion Dihyah Al-Kalbi I.
Pillar of the Night Prayer (Ustuwanah al-Tahajjud)
The Pillar of the Night Prayer (Ustuwanah al-Tahajjud; اسطوانة التهجد) is situated behind the house of Fatima and Ali L, next to Niche of the Night Prayer (Mihrab al-Tahajjud;التهجد محراب) inside the Sacred Chamber. The Mihrab is built into the back wall of the chamber.
It is so called because the Prophet ﷺ would carry out Tahajjud prayers on a reed mat at this location. One night, he was noticed by a man who immediately stood behind him to pray with him. Another joined them, then another and another until a crowd of people had gathered. On seeing them, the Prophet ﷺ rolled up his mat and retired to his chambers. In the morning the companions asked why he stopped praying after they joined him in prayer to which he replied: “I feared that the night prayer would be made obligatory upon you and you would be unable to observe it.”