Boundaries of the Rawdah
Scholars have disagreed about the boundaries of the Rawdah. There are several hadiths that define the Rawdah boundaries.
First opinion: between the tomb of the Prophet ﷺ and his pulpit
The first opinion is that the Rawdah is located between the house of Aisha, in which the grave of the Prophet ﷺ is situated, and his pulpit. This is based on the following hadiths:
Between my house and my pulpit is one of the gardens of Paradise and my pulpit stands on my pool (al-Hawd).
[Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari]
As a side note, the Pool that is mentioned in this Hadith – al-Hawd (Arabic: الحوضي), will be located near the near entrance of paradise on the Day of Judgment and those who are permitted to drink from it by the Prophet ﷺ will never experience thirst again. The water in al-Hawd is collected from a river of Paradise, known as al-Kawthar (Arabic: الكوثر). About this pool, the Prophet ﷺ says:
My pool is so large that it takes a month’s journey to cross it. Its water is whiter than milk, and its smell is nicer than musk, and its drinking cups are as numerous as the number of stars of the sky. Whoever drinks from it, will never be thirsty again.
[Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari]
About his pulpit, the Prophet ﷺ is reported to have said:
The pillars of this pulpit of mine are firmly embedded in Paradise.
[Narrated by Ahmad, al-Nasa’i and al-Hakim]
In another hadith, the grave of the Prophet ﷺ that is mentioned, rather than his house:
Between my grave and my pulpit is one of the gardens of paradise.
[Narrated by Ahmad, Bayhaqi and Ibn Abi Shayba]
The Prophet ﷺ states in another hadith:
My pulpit is on one of the gates of paradise. Between the pulpit and Aisha’s house is one of the gardens of paradise.
[Narrated by Al-Haytami]
Therefore, according to these three narrations, the Rawdah is the area between the pulpit and the Sacred Chamber, measuring about 26.5 metres from west to east along the original Southern (Qiblah) wall. It does not extend beyond this.
Second opinion: between the houses of the Prophet ﷺ and his pulpit
The second opinion is that the area of the Rawdah is larger. Scholars cite another narration as evidence, in which the Prophet ﷺ said:
Between these houses (meaning the houses belonging to the Prophet ﷺ) and my pulpit is one of the gardens of Paradise, and the pulpit is one of the gates of Paradise.
[Narrated by Ahmad]
During the life of Prophet ﷺ, his houses were situated from the south eastern corner of Masjid Nabawi, where visitors now stand facing the Muwajaha to greet the Prophet ﷺ and his companions, up to the north eastern corner of the mosque. Therefore, they extended along the entire eastern wall of the mosque.
From the north eastern corner, they further extended along the northern wall up to the north western corner. The Rawdah would then extend from the Prophet’s ﷺ pulpit, positioned about midway along the Southern (Qibla) wall of the mosque, up to his houses, which were spread along the eastern and northern walls, until the old Bab al-Rahmah (Door of Mercy).
Furthermore, some scholars opine that the narration which reads “Between my house and my pulpit is one of the gardens of Paradise”, the word “house” should be interpreted to mean all of the houses of the Prophet ﷺ, rather than only Aisha’s house, which later came to contain his blessed grave.
Third opinion: between the house of the Prophet ﷺ and his musallah
A third opinion extends the area of the Rawdah even further. This is based on the following hadith in which the Prophet ﷺ said:
Between my house and my musallah is one of the gardens of Paradise.
[Narrated by Tabarani, al-Haytami and Ibn Shabba]
This narrations extends the Rawdah from the Prophet’s ﷺ tomb all the way to the musallah area, which was where the Muslim community would perform their Eid prayers, located beyond the built-up area of Madinah near Masjid al-Ghamamah.
Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas I, one of the ten companions promised paradise by the Prophet ﷺ, built a house west of Masjid Nabawi within the area described in this narration, in order to receive the blessings of living within the area of the Rawdah. Aisha and other companions M approved of his actions for that very reason.
Considering the aforementioned hadiths, it seems the Prophet ﷺ is describing the same garden of Paradise, which extends throughout all of the areas regardless of whether he mentioned a smaller or larger part of it at any particular time.
Literal or Metaphorical?
There are differing opinions about the Rawdah being of the “Gardens of Paradise”. Should the hadiths regarding this sacred area be taken literally or metaphorically?
Some scholars are of the opinion that the Rawdah is like the Gardens of Paradise, in that the peace and tranquillity one feels when worshipping in the Rawdah resembles the peace and tranquillity of Paradise. Others have said that this area is a gateway to the gardens of Paradise and the Pool of al-Kawthar for those perform good deeds in the Rawdah. In other words, the Prophet ﷺ is urging worshippers to perform righteous acts within the Rawdah so they will be able to drink from al-Kawthar and attain Paradise on the Day of Judgement. Other scholars have interpreted the Rawdah as being parallel to a garden above it in Paradise.
On the other hand, Imam Malik I and many other scholars are of the opinion that there is no need to further interpret these narrations because the literal meaning is credible and there is nothing in the Qur’an and Sunnah that opposes this notion. According to these scholars, this very tract of land was bought to the earth from Paradise and will be returned to Paradise after the Day of Judgement.
The Rawdah Today
The boundaries of the Rawdah today are marked according to the first opinion i.e. the Rawdah is the area between the tomb of the Prophet ﷺ of his pulpit inside Masjid Nabawi. This area was adorned significantly during the Ottoman era in an effort to sanctify and highlight its significance. Today, the colour of the carpet defining the area of the Rawdah is light green and has a floral design, in contrast to the rest of the masjid, which has red carpeting. Part of the Rawdah also lies inside the Sacred Chamber of the Prophet ﷺ beyond the gold grill and is inaccessible to the public. There are also six pillars within the Rawdah which hold special significance.
There are two entrances to the Rawdah which are normally guarded by police officers. The area is only hold able to hold several hundred at once people so accessing the Rawdah area may be difficult, especially during the Hajj season. You may need to wait for some time before a spot is vacated and you’re allowed entry. Make sure you behave with decorum within Masjid Nabawi; if you cannot find space in the Rawdah, don’t push or behave aggressively towards others in an effort to enter the blessed area. If you find yourself waiting, now is a good time to send Salawat on the Prophet ﷺ and engage in Dhikr.
The Rawdah area is also accessible to women at certain points in the day. These are:
- After Fajr until 10am (the best time for ladies to visit)
- After Zuhr for about 15-20 minutes
- After Isha until midnight
Women can enter Masjid Nabawi using gates 21-25. Gate 25 is the closest to the Rawdah area.
Once you’re inside the Rawdah area, take a moment to absorb your surroundings and reflect upon the hallowed ground you’re standing on. You are recommended to do the following inside the Rawdah, providing you have space and don’t inconvenience anybody else:
- Pray two Rakahs Nafl behind one of the sacred pillars, preferably behind the Pillar of Aisha (Ustuwaanat Aisha). Aisha J is recorded to have said that if people knew the significance of praying in this spot, they would draw lots for a chance to pray there.
- Make an abundance of Dua – the Rawdah is a place where supplications are accepted.
- Ask for forgiveness near the Pillar of Repentance (Ustuwanah al-Tawbah).
- Send an abundance of Salawat upon the Prophet ﷺ.
If there is a lot of crowding, do your best to make space for others.
The Rawdah is rectangular in shape and measures 26.5 metres in length from east to west, although part of it lies in the Sacred Chamber so the accessible area is 22 metres long. From north to south, it measures 15 metres. The total area of the Rawdah is approximately 397.5 square metres.
Sacred Pillars of the Rawdah
As previously mentioned, there are six sacred pillars inside the Rawdah area. There are also another two pillars inside the Sacred Chamber which are inaccessible to the public. The six in the Rawdah are marked by large green circles with gold inscriptions. These are:
- Perfumed Pillar (Ustuwanah al-Mukhallaqah; اسطوانة المخلقة) / Weeping Pillar (Ustuwanah al-Hannana; اسطوانة الحنانة)
- Pillar of the Bed (Ustuwanah al-Sarir; اسطوانة السرير)
- Pillar of the Guard (Ustuwanah al-Haras; اسطوانة الحرس) / Pillar of Ali ibn Abi Talib (Ustuwanah Ali ibn Ali Talib; اسطوانة علي بن أبي طالب)
- Pillar of Delegations (Ustuwanah al-Wufud; اسطوانة الوفود)
- Pillar of Repentance (Ustuwanah al-Tawbah; اسطوانة التوبة) / Pillar of Abu Lubabah (Ustuwana Abu Lubabah; اسطوانة ابو لبابة)
- 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)
Each of these pillars has special importance, explained here.
As well as the pillars, the Prophet’s minbar (pulpit) and mihrab (prayer niche) are also located in the Rawdah.