Likewise, some places are given special status. For example, the place where the Prophet (peace be upon him) is buried is the noblest spot on earth. However, places are given such privilege so that people will travel to them and offer their worship there, earning greater reward. These places are mosques identified by the Prophet. As such, they are not comparable to other places of distinction. We cannot draw a comparison between them and the Prophetâs place of burial. Prayer is not valid when the worshipper is facing a grave.
Abu Hurayrah quotes the Prophet as saying: âPrayer in this mosque of mine is more rewarding than one thousand prayers elsewhere except in the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah)â. (Related by Al-Bukhari). This is an authentic Hadith which makes clear that a prayer in the Prophetâs mosque earns the reward of one thousand similar prayers elsewhere, with the exception of the Sacred Mosque in Makkah. Scholars have discussed whether the preference is restricted to the area, which the Prophetâs mosque occupied when the Prophet built it. The weightier opinion is that the preference applies to the whole mosque, with its extensions, and even its surrounding area no matter how far the congregation stretches in special seasons like the pilgrimage and in Ramadan. It is inconceivable that people offering the same prayer, with the same congregation, led by the same imam, should be rewarded differently for their prayers. Godâs bounty is unrestricted and He rewards His servants in multiples.
An even greater reward is earned by prayer at the Sacred Mosque in Makkah, which surrounds the Kaaba. There, a prayer earns its reward multiplied 100,000 times. Some people have questioned whether this applies to the whole area of the Haram, which includes the whole city of Makkah stretching a few kilometers around it. The answer is that it does not. The multiple reward is for prayer in the sacred mosque, i.e. the Masjid Al-Haram. Again the extensions that have been added are included.
One thing must be made clear: The preference here applies to the reward granted by God for such prayers. It does not make a prayer in the Prophetâs mosque equal to 1,000 prayers elsewhere. No one can say that as he prayed for one full day in the Prophetâs mosque, he need not pray for 1,000 days. The duty of prayer remains incumbent in all cases.
Another place of preference is the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem where a prayer is rewarded as equal to 500 prayers elsewhere with the exception of the Sacred Mosque and the Prophetâs mosque.
As for which of the three cities is preferred, there is no doubt that Makkah is the best place on earth, except for the small part in Madinah where the Prophet is buried.
Madinah is next and Jerusalem comes third.
A question arises whether offering prayers in congregation in these mosques still earns a reward 27 times greater than praying alone. The answer is that it does. Someone offering prayer in the Sacred Mosque in Makkah in the congregation earns the same reward as one offering the same prayer alone in that mosque multiplied by 27. Godâs bounty is limitless.