The Radiant City
Medina montage, Top left: Prophet's Masjid in Al-Masjid al-Nabawi Square, Top rght: Sultan Bey Masjid, Middle: Jannat al-Baqi cemetery and downtown King Faisal area, Bottom left: ijaz Railroad Museum, Bottom right: Quba Masjid
|• Mayor||Khalid Taher|
|• Provincial Governor||Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud|
|• City||589 km2 (227 sq mi)|
|• Urban||293 km2 (113 sq mi)|
|Elevation||608 m (1,995 ft)|
|• Density||2,000/km2 (5,200/sq mi)|
|Time zone||Arabia Standard Time (UTC+3)|
Medina (//; Arabic: اَلْمَدِينَة اَلْمَنَوَّرَة, officially al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah, "the radiant city", or اَلْمَدِينَة al-Madīnah, also officially transliterated as Madinah by the Saudi Government and in modern Islamic literature generally) is a modern city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and the capital of Al Madinah Province. An alternative name is Madinat Al-Nabi ("The City of the Prophet", i.e., Muhammad). The Arabic word madinah simply means "city". Before the advent of Islam, the city was known as Yathrib but was personally renamed by Muhammad.
The burial place of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, it is the second holiest city in Islam after Mecca. Medina is critically significant in Islamic History as Muhammad's final religious base after the Hijrah and the location of his death in 632 AD/11 AH. Medina was the power base of Islam in its first century, being where the early Muslim community (ummah) developed, first under Muhammad's leadership and then under the first four caliphs of Islam: Abu Bakr, `Omar, `Othman and `Ali.
Medina is reportedly home to the three oldest mosques in Islam which were built in the days of Muhammad, namely Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (The Prophet's Mosque), Quba Masjid (the first mosque in Islam's history), and Masjid al-Qiblatain (The Mosque of the Two Qiblahs – the mosque where the direction of Muslim prayer, or qiblah, was switched from Jerusalem to Mecca).
Similarly to Mecca, entrance to the sacred core of Medina (but not the entire city) is restricted to Muslims only; non-Muslims are not permitted to enter nor are they allowed to cross through the city center.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Religious significance in Islam
- 3 History
- 4 Education
- 5 Economy
- 6 Religion
- 7 Geography
- 8 Destruction of heritage
- 9 Climate
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
As of 2006, the city of Medina has a population of about 1.3 million. During the pre-Islamic period up until 622 AD, the city was known as Yathrib, an oasis city. In addition to its Arab inhabitants, Yathrib was inhabited by Jewish refugees, who came expecting the coming of a prophet as foretold in their books, in the second century AD. Later the city's name was changed to Madīnat an-Nabiy (مَدِينَةُ ٱلنَّبِيّ "city of the prophet") or Al-Madīnat(u) 'l-Munawwarah (اَلْمَدِينَةٌ ٱلْمٌنَوَّرَة "the enlightened city" or "the radiant city"). Medina is celebrated for containing the Mosque of the Prophet and also as the city which gave refuge to him and his followers, and so ranks as the second holiest city of Islam, after Mecca. Muhammad was buried in Medina, under the Green Dome, as were the first two Rashidun (Rightly Guided Caliphs), Abu Bakr and Umar, who were buried next to him in what used to be the prophet house.
Medina is 210 miles (340 km) north of Mecca and about 120 miles (190 km) from the Red Sea coast. It is situated in the most fertile part of all the Hejaz territory, the streams of the vicinity tending to converge in this locality. An immense plain extends to the south; in every direction the view is bounded by hills and mountains.
The historic city formed an oval, surrounded by a strong wall, 30 to 40 feet (9.1 to 12.2 m) high, dating from the 12th century CE, and was flanked with towers, while on a rock, stood a castle. Of its four gates, the Bab-al-Salam, or Egyptian gate, was remarkable for its beauty. Beyond the walls of the city, west and south were suburbs consisting of low houses, yards, gardens and plantations. These suburbs also had walls and gates. Almost all of the historic city has been demolished in the Saudi era. The rebuilt city is centred on the vastly expanded Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (The Mosque of the Prophet).
The tombs of Fatimah (Muhammad's daughter) and Hasan (Muhammad's grandson), across from the mosque at Jannat al-Baqi, and Abu Bakr (first caliph and the father of Muhammad's wife, Aisha), and of Umar (Umar ibn Al-Khattab), the second caliph, are also here. The mosque dates back to the time of Muhammad, but has been twice burned and reconstructed.
Because of the Saudi government's religious policy and concern that historic sites could become the focus for idolatry, much of Medina's Islamic physical heritage has been destroyed since the beginning of Saudi rule.
Religious significance in Islam
Medina's importance as a religious site derives from the presence of Al-Masjid al-Nabawi or The Mosque of The Prophet. The tomb of Prophet Muhammad later became part of the mosque when it was expanded by the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I. Mount Uhud is a mountain north of Medina which was the site of the second battle between Muslim and Meccan forces.
The first mosque built during Muhammad's time is also located in Medina and is known as Masjid Qubaʼ (the Quba Mosque). It was destroyed by lightning, probably about 850 CE, and the graves were almost forgotten. In 892, the place was cleared up, the tombs located and a fine mosque built, which was destroyed by fire in 1257 CE and almost immediately rebuilt. It was restored by Qaitbay, the Egyptian ruler, in 1487.
Like Mecca, the city of Medina only permits Muslims to enter, although the haram (area closed to non-Muslims) of Medina is much smaller than that of Mecca, with the result that many facilities on the outskirts of Medina are open to non-Muslims, whereas in Mecca the area closed to non-Muslims extends well beyond the limits of the built-up area. Both cities' numerous mosques are the destination for large numbers of Muslims on their Umrah (second pilgrimage after Hajj). Hundreds of thousands of Muslims come to Medina annually to visit the Tomb of Prophet. Al-Baqi' is a significant cemetery in Medina where several family members of Muhammad, caliphs and scholars are buried.
Islamic scriptures emphasize the sacredness of Medina. Medina is mentioned several times as being sacred in the Qur'an, for example ayah; 9:101, 9:129, 59:9, and ayah 63:7. Medinan suras are typically longer than their Mecca counterparts. There is also a book within the hadith of Bukhari titled 'virtues of Medina'.
Sahih Bukhari says:
Narrated Anas: The Prophet said, "Medina is a sanctuary from that place to that. Its trees should not be cut and no heresy should be innovated nor any sin should be committed in it, and whoever innovates in it an heresy or commits sins (bad deeds), then he will incur the curse of Allah, the angels, and all the people."
Into the older Arab town of Yathrib, Jews arrived in the 2nd century AD. There were three prominent Jewish tribes that inhabited the city into the 7th century AD: the Banu Qaynuqa, the Banu Qurayza, and Banu Nadir. Ibn Khordadbeh later reported that during the Persian Empire's domination in Hejaz, the Banu Qurayza served as tax collectors for the shah.
The situation changed after the arrival from Yemen of two new Arab tribes named Banu Aus (or Banu 'Aws) and Banu Khazraj. At first, these tribes were allied with Jewish rulers, but later they revolted and became independent. Toward the end of the 5th century, the Jewish rulers lost control of the city to Banu Aus and Banu Khazraj. The Jewish Encyclopedia states that they did so "by calling in outside assistance and treacherously massacring at a banquet the principal Jews", Banu Aus and Banu Khazraj finally gained the upper hand at Medina.
Most modern historians accept the claim of the Muslim sources that after the revolt, the Jewish tribes became clients of the Aus and the Khazraj. However, according to scholar of Islam William Montgomery Watt, the clientship of the Jewish tribes is not borne out by the historical accounts of the period prior to 627, and he maintained that the Jewish populace retained a measure of political independence.
Early Muslim chronicler Ibn Ishaq tells of a pre-Islamic conflict between the last Yemenite king of the Himyarite Kingdom and the residents of Yathrib. When the king was passing by the oasis, the residents killed his son, and the Yemenite ruler threatened to exterminate the people and cut down the palms. According to Ibn Ishaq, he was stopped from doing so by two rabbis from the Banu Qurayza tribe, who implored the king to spare the oasis because it was the place "to which a prophet of the Quraysh would migrate in time to come, and it would be his home and resting-place." The Yemenite king thus did not destroy the town and converted to Judaism. He took the rabbis with him, and in Mecca, they reportedly recognized the Ka'ba as a temple built by Abraham and advised the king "to do what the people of Mecca did: to circumambulate the temple, to venerate and honour it, to shave his head and to behave with all humility until he had left its precincts." On approaching Yemen, tells ibn Ishaq, the rabbis demonstrated to the local people a miracle by coming out of a fire unscathed and the Yemenites accepted Judaism.
Eventually the Banu Aus and the Banu Khazraj became hostile to each other and by the time of Muhammad's Hijra (emigration) to Medina in 622 AD/1 AH, they had been fighting for 120 years and were the sworn enemies of each other. The Banu Nadir and the Banu Qurayza were allied with the Aus, while the Banu Qaynuqa sided with the Khazraj. They fought a total of four wars.
Their last and bloodiest battle was the Battle of Bu'ath that was fought a few years before the arrival of Muhammad. The outcome of the battle was inconclusive, and the feud continued. Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy, one Khazraj chief, had refused to take part in the battle, which earned him a reputation for equity and peacefulness. Until the arrival of Muhammad, he was the most respected inhabitant of Yathrib. To solve the ongoing feud, concerned residents of the city met secretly with Muhammad in Aqaba, inviting him and his small band of believers to come to Yathrib, where the Prophet could serve as disinterested mediator between the factions and his community could practice its faith freely.
In 622 AD/1 AH, Muhammad and around 70 Meccan Muhajirun believers left Mecca for sanctuary in Yathrib, an event that transformed the religious and political landscape of the city completely; the longstanding enmity between the Aus and Khazraj tribes was dampened as many of the two Arab tribes and some local Jews embraced Islam. Muhammad, linked to the Khazraj through his great-grandmother, was agreed on as civic leader. The Muslim converts native to Yathrib of whatever background—pagan Arab or Jewish—were called Ansar ("the Patrons" or "the Helpers").
According to Ibn Ishaq, the local pagan Arab tribes, the Muslim Muhajirun from Mecca, the local Muslims (Ansar), and the Jewish populaion of the area signed an agreement, the Constitution of Medina, which committed all parties to mutual cooperation under the leadership of Muhammad. The nature of this document as recorded by Ibn Ishaq and transmitted by Ibn Hisham is the subject of dispute among modern Western historians, many of whom maintain that this "treaty" is possibly a collage of different agreements, oral rather than written, of different dates, and that it is not clear exactly when they were made. Other scholars, however, both Western and Muslim, argue that the text of the agreement—whether a single document originally or several—is possibly one of the oldest Islamic texts we possess.
The Battle of Badr
The Battle of Badr was a key battle in the early days of Islam and a turning point in Muhammad's struggle with his opponents among the Quraysh in Mecca.
In the spring of 624, Muhammad received word from his intelligence sources that a trade caravan, commanded by Abu Sufyan ibn Harb and guarded by thirty to forty men, was traveling from Syria back to Mecca. Muhammad gathered an army of 313 men, the largest army the Muslims had put in the field yet. However, many early Muslim sources, including the Qur'an, indicate that no serious fighting was expected, and the future Caliph Uthman ibn Affan stayed behind to care for his sick wife.
As the caravan approached Medina, Abu Sufyan began hearing from travelers and riders about Muhammad's planned ambush. He sent a messenger named Damdam to Mecca to warn the Quraysh and get reinforcements. Alarmed, the Quraysh assembled an army of 900–1,000 men to rescue the caravan. Many of the Qurayshi nobles, including Amr ibn Hishām, Walid ibn Utba, Shaiba, and Umayyah ibn Khalaf, joined the army. However, some of the army was to later return to Mecca before the battle.
The battle started with champions from both armies emerging to engage in combat. The Muslims sent out Ali, Ubaydah ibn al-Harith (Obeida), and Hamza ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib. The Muslims dispatched the Meccan champions in a three-on-three mêlée, Hamzah killed his victim with the very first strike, although Ubaydah was mortally wounded.
Now both armies began firing arrows at each other. Two Muslims and an unknown number of Quraysh were killed. Before the battle started, Muhammad had given orders for the Muslims to attack with their ranged weapons, and only engage the Quraysh with melee weapons when they advanced. Now he gave the order to charge, throwing a handful of pebbles at the Meccans in what was probably a traditional Arabian gesture while yelling "Defaced be those faces!" The Muslim army yelled "Yā manṣūr amit!" and rushed the Qurayshi lines. The Meccans, all though substantially outnumbering the Muslims, promptly broke and ran. The battle itself only lasted a few hours and was over by the early afternoon. The Qur'an describes the force of the Muslim attack in many verses, which refer to thousands of angels descending from Heaven at Badr to slaughter the Quraysh. Early Muslim sources take this account literally, and there are several hadith where Muhammad discusses the Angel Jibreel and the role he played in the battle.
Ubaydah ibn al-Harith (Obeida) was given the honour of "he who shot the first arrow for Islam" as Abu Sufyan ibn Harb altered course to flee the attack. In retaliation for this attack Abu Sufyan ibn Harb requested an armed force from Mecca.
Throughout the winter and spring of 623 other raiding parties were sent by Muhammad from Medina.
The Battle of Uhud
In 625, Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, King of Mecca, who paid tax to the Byzantine empire regularly, once again led a Meccan force against Medina. Muhammad marched out to meet the force but before reaching the battle, about one third of the troops under Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy withdrew. With a smaller force, the Muslim army had to find a strategy to gain the upper hand. A group of archers were ordered to stay on a hill to keep an eye on the Meccan's cavalry forces and to provide protection at the rear of the Muslim's army. As the battle heated up, the Meccans were forced to somewhat retreat. The battle front was pushed further and further away from the archers, whom, from the start of the battle, had really nothing to do but watch. In their growing impatience to be part of the battle, and seeing that they were somewhat gaining advantage over the Kafiruns[clarification needed] these archers decided to leave their posts to pursue the retreating Meccans. A small party, however, stayed behind; pleading all along to the rest to not disobey their commanders' orders. But their words were lost among the enthusiastic yodels of their comrades.
However, the Meccans' retreat was actually a manufactured manoeuvre that paid off. The hillside position had been a great advantage to the Muslim forces, and they had to be lured off their posts for the Meccans to turn the table over. Seeing that their strategy had actually worked, the Meccans cavalry forces went around the hill and re-appeared behind the pursuing archers. Thus, ambushed in the plain between the hill and the front line, the archers were systematically slaughtered, watched upon by their desperate comrades who stayed behind up in the hill, shooting arrows to thwart the raiders, but to little effect. So they suffered defeat in the Battle of Uhud.
However, the Meccans did not capitalize on their victory by invading Medina and returned to Mecca. The Medinans suffered heavy losses, and Muhammad was injured.
The Battle of the Trench
In 627, Abu Sufyan ibn Harb once more led Meccan forces against Medina. Because the people of Medina had dug a trench to further protect the city, this event became known as the Battle of the Trench. After a protracted siege and various skirmishes, the Meccans withdrew again. During the siege, Abu Sufyan ibn Harb had contacted the remaining Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza and formed an agreement with them, to attack the defenders from behind the lines. It was however discovered by the Muslims and thwarted. This was in breach of the Constitution of Medina and after the Meccan withdrawal, Muhammad immediately marched against the Qurayza and laid siege to their strongholds. The Jewish forces eventually surrendered. Some members of the Banu Aus now interceded on behalf of their old allies and Muhammad agreed to the appointment of one of their chiefs, Sa'd ibn Mua'dh, as judge. Sa'ad judged by Jewish Law that all male members of the tribe should be killed and the women and children enslaved as was the law stated in the Old Testament for treason.(Deutoronomy) This action was conceived of as a defensive measure to ensure that the Muslim community could be confident of its continued survival in Medina. The historian Robert Mantran argues that from this point of view it was successful — from this point on, the Muslims were no longer primarily concerned with survival but with expansion and conquest.
Capital City of Early Islam and the Caliphate
In the ten years following the Hijra, Medina formed the base from which Muhammad and the Muslim army attacked and were attacked, and it was from here that he marched on Mecca, entering it without battle in 629 AD/8 AH, all parties acquiescing to his leadership. Afterwards, however, despite Muhammad's tribal connection to Mecca and the ongoing importance of the Meccan kaaba for Islamic pilgrimage (hajj), Muhammad returned to Medina, which remained for some years the most important city of Islam and the capital of the early Caliphate.
Pagan Yathrib was renamed Medina from "Madinat al-Nabi" ("city of the Prophet" in Arabic) in honor of Muhammad's prophethood and death there. (Alternatively, Lucien Gubbay suggests the name Medina could also have been a derivative from the Aramaic word Medinta, which the Jewish inhabitants could have used for the city.)
Under the first three Caliphs, Abu Bakr, Omar, and Othman, Medina was the capital of a rapidly increasing Muslim Empire. During the period of Othman, the third caliph, a party of Arabs from Egypt, disgruntled at his political decisions, attacked Medina in 656 AD/35 AH and murdered him in his own home. Ali, the fourth caliph, changed the capital of the caliphate from Medina to Kufa in Iraq. After that, Medina's importance dwindled, becoming more a place of religious importance than of political power.
World War I to Saudi control
In the beginning of 20th century, during World War I, Medina witnessed one of the longest sieges in history. Medina was a city of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Local rule was in the hands of the Hashemite clan as Sharifs or Emirs of Mecca. Fakhri Pasha was the Ottoman governor of Medina. Ali bin Hussein, the Sharif of Mecca and leader of the Hashemite clan, revolted against the Caliph in Constantinople (Istanbul) and sided with Great Britain. The city of Medina was besieged by the Sharif's forces, and Fakhri Pasha tenaciously held on during the Siege of Medina from 1916 till 10 January 1919. He refused to surrender and held on another 72 days after the Armistice of Moudros, until he was arrested by his own men. In anticipation of the plunder and destruction to follow, Fakhri Pasha secretly sent the Sacred Relics of Medina to Istanbul.
As of 1920, the British described Medina as "much more self-supporting than Mecca." After the First World War, the Hashemite Sayyid Hussein bin Ali was proclaimed King of an independent Hejaz. Soon after, in 1924, he was defeated by Ibn Saud, who integrated Medina and the whole of the Hejaz into the modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Today, Medina ("Madinah" officially in Saudi documents), in addition to being the second most important Islamic pilgrimage destination after Mecca, is an important regional capital of the western Saudi Arabian province of Al Madinah. In addition to the sacred core of the old city, which is off limits to non-Muslims, Medina is a modern, multi-ethnic city inhabited by Saudi Arabs and an increasing number of Muslim and non-Muslim expatriate workers: other Arab nationalities (Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese, etc.), South Asians (Bangladeshis, Indians, Pakistanis, etc.), and Filipinos.
The city is served by the Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz Airport which opened in 1974. It handles on average 20–25 flights a day, although this number triples during the Hajj season and school holidays.
Islam is the religion adhered by the entire population of Medina, just like most of the cities in Saudi Arabia. Sunnis of different schools (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali) constitute the majority while there is a significant Shia minority in and around Medina.
Destruction of heritage
Saudi Wahhabism is hostile to any reverence given to historical or religious places of significance for fear that it may give rise to 'shirk' (that is, idolatry). As a consequence, under Saudi rule, Medina has suffered from considerable destruction of its physical heritage including the loss of many buildings over a thousand years old. Critics have described this as "Saudi vandalism" and claim that in Medina and Mecca over the last 50 years 300 historic sites linked to Muhammad, his family or companions have been lost. In Medina, examples of historic sites which have been destroyed include the Salman al-Farsi Mosque, the Raj'at ash-Shams Mosque, the Jannat al-Baqi cemetery, and the house of Muhammed.
Medina has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh). Summers are extremely hot with daytime temperatures averaging about 40 °C (104 °F) with nights about 28 °C (82 °F). Temperatures above 45 °C (113 °F) are not unusual between June and September. Winters are milder, with temperatures from 12 °C (54 °F) at night to 24 °C (75 °F) in the day. There is very little rainfall, which falls almost entirely between November and May.
|Climate data for Medina|
|Record high °C (°F)||32.0
|Average high °C (°F)||23.6
|Daily mean °C (°F)||17.7
|Average low °C (°F)||11.6
|Record low °C (°F)||1.0
|Precipitation mm (inches)||8.0
|Avg. rainy days||0.9||0.6||1.2||2.5||1.1||0.2||0.1||0.4||0.1||0.6||2.1||1.1||10.9|
|Source: NOAA (1961–1990) |
- Haramain High Speed Rail Project
- Hejazi Accent
- Masjid al-Qiblatain
- Quba Masjid
- Siege of Medina
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- Mohmed Reda Bhacker (1992). Trade and Empire in Muscat and Zanzibar: Roots of British Domination. Routledge Chapman & Hall. P63: Following the plunder of Medina in 1810 'when the Prophet's tomb was opened and its jewels and relics sold and distributed among the Wahhabi soldiery'. P122: the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II was at last moved to act against such outrage.
- Prothero, G.W. (1920). Arabia. London: H.M. Stationery Office. p. 103.
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- Economic cities a rise[dead link]
- Bosworth,C. Edmund: Historic Cities of the Islamic World, p. 385 – "Half-a-century later, in 654/1256, Medina was threatened by a volcanic eruption. After a series of earthquakes, a stream of lava appeared, but fortunately flowed to the east of the town and then northwards."
- Howden, Daniel (6 August 2005). "The destruction of Mecca: Saudi hardliners are wiping out their own heritage". The Independent. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
- ‘Islamic heritage lost as Makkah modernises’ Center for Islamic Pluralism
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- "Madinah Climate Normals 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 19 December 2012. Retrieved on 24 November 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Medina.|
- Medina travel guide from Wikivoyage
- Madina Live 24/7
- "Medina". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
- ArchNet.org. "Medina". Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: MIT School of Architecture and Planning.[dead link]