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المدينة المنورة
Al Madinah Al Munawwarah
Saudi Arabia location map
Red pog.svg
Location in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Coordinates: 24°28′N 39°36′E / 24.467°N 39.6°E / 24.467; 39.6Coordinates: 24°28′N 39°36′E / 24.467°N 39.6°E / 24.467; 39.6
Country Flag of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia
Province Al Madinah Province
 - Mayor Abdulaziz Bin Majid (عبدالعزيز بن ماجد)
 - Total 589 km2 (227.4 sq mi)
Elevation 608 m (1,995 ft)
Population (2006)
 - Total 1,300,000
Time zone Arabia Standard Time (UTC+3)

Medina (pronounced /mɛˈdiːnə/; Arabic: المدينة المنورة‎, pronounced [ælmæˈdiːnæt ælmuˈnɑw.wɑrɑ], or المدينة [ælmæˈdiːnæ]; also transliterated as Madinah; officially al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah) is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and it is historically significant for being his home after the Hijrah.


Medina currently has a population of more than 1,300,000 people (2006). It was originally known as Yathrib, an oasis city dating as far back as the 6th century BCE.[1] It was later inhabited by Jewish refugees who fled the aftermath of the war with the Romans in the 2nd century CE. Later the city's name was changed to Madīnat(u) 'n-Nabiy (مدينة النبيّ "city of the prophet") or Al-Madīnat(u) 'l-Munawwarah ("the enlightened city" or "the radiant city"), while the short form Madīnah simply means "city." Medina is celebrated for containing the mosque of Muhammad 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 (Makkah). 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 in an adjacent area in the mosque.[2]

Medina is 210 mi (340 km) north of Mecca and about 120 mi (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 city forms an oval, surrounded by a strong wall, 30 to 40 ft (9.1 to 12 m) high, that dates from the 12th century C.E., and is flanked with towers, while on a rock, stands a castle. Of its four gates, the Bab-al-Salam, or Egyptian gate, is remarkable for its beauty. Beyond the walls of the city, west and south are suburbs consisting of low houses, yards, gardens and plantations. These suburbs have also walls and gates.

Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (The mosque of the Prophet) stands at the east of the city and resembles the mosque at Mecca on a smaller scale. Its courtyard is almost 500 ft (150 m) in length, the dome is high with three picturesque minarets. The tomb of Muhammad, who died and was buried here in 632 C.E., is enclosed with a screen of iron filigree, at the south side of which the hajji goes through his devotions, with the assurance that one prayer here is as good as a thousand elsewhere.[3]

The tombs of Fatimah (Muhammad's daughter), 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.[3]

Medina's religious significance in Islam

File:The Profit Mosque.jpg

Medina's importance as a religious site derives from the presence of the Tomb of the Prophet Muhammad inside Al-Masjid al-Nabawi or The Mosque of The Prophet. The mosque was built on a site adjacent to Muhammad's home, and as Muslims believe that prophets must be buried at the very same place they leave this mortal world, Muhammad was buried in his house. The tomb later became part of the mosque when it was expanded by the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I. The first mosque of Islam is also located in Medina and is known as Masjid Qubaʼ (the Quba Mosque). It was destroyed by lightning, probably about 850 C.E., 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 C.E. and almost immediately rebuilt. It was restored by Qaitbay, the Egyptian ruler, in 1487.[3]

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 Hajj (annual pilgrimage). Hundreds of thousands of Muslims come to Medina annually to visit the Tomb of Prophet and to worship at mosques in a unified celebration. Muslims believe that praying once in the Mosque of the Prophet is equal to praying at least 50000 times in any other mosque.


Pre-Jewish times

The first mention of the city dates to the 6th century BCE. It appears in Assyrian texts (namely, the Nabonidus Chronicle) as Iatribu.[1] In the time of Ptolemy the oasis was known as Lathrippa.[3] The first people to settle the oasis of Medina were the tribe of Banu Matraweel and Banu Hauf who trace their lineage to Shem the son of Noah. They were the first ones to plant trees and crops in the city. When the Yemenite tribes, Banu Aus and Banu Khazraj, arrived there were approximately 70 Arab tribes and 20 Jewish tribes in Medina.

Jewish tribes

Jews arrived in the city in the 2nd century CE in the wake of the Jewish–Roman wars. There were three prominent Jewish tribes which had inhabited the city till the 7th century CE: the Banu Qaynuqa, the Banu Qurayza, and Banu Nadir.[4] Ibn Khordadbeh later reported that during the Persian Empire's domination in Hejaz, the Banu Qurayza served as tax collectors for the shah.[5]

The Aus and Khazraj

The situation changed after the arrival from Yemen of two Arab tribes named Banu Aus (Banu Aws) and Banu Khazraj. At first, these tribes were clients of the Jews, but later they revolted and became independent.[6] Toward the end of the 5th century[7], the Jews 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.[4].

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.[8] According to William Montgomery Watt, the clientship of the Jewish tribes is not borne out by the historical accounts of the period prior to 627, and maintained that the Jews retained a measure of political independence.[6]

Ibn Ishaq tells of a conflict between the last Yemenite king of the Himyarite Kingdom[9] 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, 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 Kaaba 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.[10]

Civic strife

Eventually the Banu Aus and the Banu Khazraj became hostile to each other and by the time of Muhammad's Hijra (migration) to Medina, they had been fighting for 120 years and were the sworn enemies of each other.[11] The Banu Nadir and the Banu Qurayza were allied with the Aus, while the Banu Qaynuqa sided with the Khazraj.[12] They fought a total of four wars.[6]

Their last and bloodiest battle was the Battle of Bu'ath[6] that was fought a few years before the arrival of Muhammad.[4] 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.

Muhammad's arrival

Quba Mosque

The first mosque in Islam built by the prophet upon arrival in Madinah

In 622, Muhammad and the Muhajirun left Mecca and arrived at Yathrib, an event that would transform the religious and political landscape completely; the longstanding enmity between the Aus and Khazraj tribes was dampened as many of the two tribes embraced Islam. Muhammad, linked to the Khazraj through his great grandmother, was soon made the chief and united the Muslim converts of Yathrib under the name Ansar ("the Patrons" or "the Helpers"). After Muhammad's arrival, the city gradually came to be known as Medina (literally "city" in Arabic). Some consider this name as a derivative from the Aramaic word Medinta, which the Jewish inhabitants would have used for the city.[13]

According to Ibn Ishaq, the Muslims and Jews of the area signed an agreement, the Constitution of Medina, which committed Jewish and Muslim tribes to mutual cooperation. The nature of this document as recorded by Ibn Ishaq and transmitted by ibn Hisham is the subject of dispute among modern historians many of whom maintain that this "treaty" is possibly a collage of agreements, oral rather than written, of different dates, and that it is not clear exactly when they were made.[14]

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,[15] 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 melee, Hamzah killed his victim on very first strike although Ubaydah was mortally wounded.[16]

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.[17] 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!"[18][19] The Muslim army yelled "Yā manṣūr amit!"[20] and rushed the Qurayshi lines. The Meccans, understrength and unenthusiastic about fighting, promptly broke and ran. The battle itself only lasted a few hours and was over by the early afternoon.[18]. 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.[19][21] 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.[22]

Throughout the winter and spring of 623 other raiding parties were sent by Muhammad from Medina.

The Battle of Uhud

Mount Uhud

Mount Uhud

In 625, Abu Sufyan ibn Harb 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. Nevertheless the Muslims marched forth into battle and originally were somewhat successful in pushing the Meccans back. However, a strategic hill was lost, which allowed the Meccans to come from behind the Muslims, so they suffered defeat in the Battle of Uhud. However, the Meccans did not capitalize on their victory by invading Medina and so returned to Mecca. A group of archers were commanded to stay on the hill at the ready keeping an eye on the cavalry which was placed behind the opposing army. The battle was first in the Muslims hands, when the enemy started to retreat the archers forgot what they were told in the excitement and the cavalry was then able to ambush the Muslim army from the rear. The Muslims felt heavy losses on that day and had to seek refuge on higher land to takke care of their wounded. The Prophet Muhammad was injured badly on this day, his helmet strap and cut into his jaw, he took one side of and one of his front teeth fell out. He then took the other of and the other front teeth fell out.

The Battle of the Trench

Medina ceramic panel Louvre OA3919

Panel representing the mosque of Medina (now in Saudi Arabia). Found in İznik (Turkey), 18th century. Composite body, silicate coat, transparent glaze, underglaze painted.

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 Jews 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 taken prisoner as was the law stated in the Old Testament for treason..(Deutoronomy)[23] 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.[23]

Capital city

In the ten years following the Hijra, Medina formed the base from which Muhammad attacked and was attacked, and it was from here that he marched on Mecca, becoming its ruler without battle. Even when Islamic rule was established, Medina remained for some years the most important city of Islam and the capital of the Caliphate.

Medieval Medina

Under the first four Caliphs, known as the Rashidun (The Rightly Guided Caliphs), the Islamic empire expanded rapidly and came to include historical centres of civilisation such as Jerusalem and Damascus, and Mesopotamia. After the death of Ali, the fourth caliph, the seat of the Caliph was first transferred to Damascus and later to Baghdad. Medina's importance dwindled and it became more a place of religious importance than of political power. After the fragmentation of the Caliphate the city became subject to various rulers, including the Mamluks in the 13th century and finally, since 1517, the Ottoman Turks.

In 1256 Medina was threatened by lava flow from the last eruption of Harrat Rahat.

Modern Madinah

Medina dates market

Madinah dates market

Modern Medina

Modern city of Madinah

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 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 and sided with Great Britain. The city of Medina was besieged by his forces and Fakhri Pasha tenaciously held on during the Siege of Medina from 1916 but on 10 January 1919 he was forced to surrender. After the First World War, the Hashemite Sayyid Hussein bin Ali was proclaimed King of an independent Hejaz, but in 1924 he was defeated by Ibn Saud, who integrated Medina and Hejaz into his kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Medina Knowledge Economic City project, a city focused on knowledge-based industries, has been planned and is expected to boost development and increase the number of jobs in Medina.[24]

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.

Madina Haram at evening

Masjid Nabawi at sunset


Universities include:

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Chronicle of Nabonidus
  2. However, an article in Aramco World by John Anthony states: "To the perhaps parochial Muslims of North Africa in fact the sanctity of Kairouan is second only to Mecca among all cities of the world." Saudi Aramco’s bimonthly magazine's goal is to broaden knowledge of the cultures, history and geography of the Arab and Muslim worlds and their connections with the West; pages 30-36 of the January/February 1967 print edition The Fourth Holy City
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 1954 Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 18, pp.587, 588
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Jewish Encyclopedia Medina
  5. Peters 193
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Al-Medina." Encyclopaedia of Islam
  7. for date see "J. Q. R." vii. 175, note
  8. See e.g., Peters 193; "Qurayza", Encyclopaedia Judaica
  9. Muslim sources usually referred to Himyar kings by the dynastic title of "Tubba".
  10. Guillaume 7–9, Peters 49–50
  11. The Message (Subhani) The Events of the First Year of Migration
  12. For alliances, see Guillaume 253
  13. The Jews of Arabia. By Lucien Gubbay
  14. Firestone 118. For opinions disputing the early date of the Constitution of Medina, see e.g., Peters 116; "Muhammad", "Encyclopaedia of Islam"; "Kurayza, Banu", "Encyclopaedia of Islam".
  15. Sahih al-Bukhari: Volume 5, Book 59, Number 287
  16. Sunan Abu Dawud: Book 14, Number 2659
  17. Sunan Abu Dawud: Book 14, Number 2658
  18. 18.0 18.1 Armstrong, p. 176.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Lings, p. 148.
  20. "O thou whom God hath made victorious, slay!"
  21. Quran: Al-i-Imran 3:123–125 (Yusuf Ali). “Allah had helped you at Badr, when ye were a contemptible little force; then fear Allah; thus May ye show your gratitude.§ Remember thou saidst to the Faithful: "Is it not enough for you that Allah should help you with three thousand angels (Specially) sent down?§ "Yea, - if ye remain firm, and act aright, even if the enemy should rush here on you in hot haste, your Lord would help you with five thousand angels Making a terrific onslaught.§
  22. The Biography of Mahomet, and Rise of Islam. Chapter Fourth. Extension of Islam and Early Converts, from the assumption by Mahomet of the prophetical office to the date of the first Emigration to Abyssinia by William Muir
  23. 23.0 23.1 Robert Mantran, L'expansion musulmane Presses Universitaires de France 1995, p. 86.
  24. Economic cities a rise

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