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Medina Template:IPA (Arabic: المدينة المنورة Template:IPA2 or المدينة Template:IPA2; also transliterated into English as Madīnah; officially al Madīnat al Munawwarah) is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of its prophet, Muhammad.


It currently has a population of more than 1,300,000 people (2006). Madina is located at Template:coor d. Madina was originally known as Yathrib, but later the city's name was changed to MadÄ«nat al-NabÄ« (مدينة ﺍﻟﻨﺒﻲ Template:IPA2 "city of the prophet") or Al MadÄ«nah al Munawwarah ("the enlightened city" or "the radiant city"), while the short form MadÄ«nah simply means "city". Madina is the second holiest city of Islam, after Mecca (Makkah). [1]

Medina's religious significance in Islam[edit]

Medina's importance as a religious site derives from the presence there of the 'Tomb of Prophet Muhammad' inside 'Masjid-e-Nabawi' or 'The Mosque of The Prophet'. The Mosque was built on a site adjacent to Muhammad's home and as Muslims believe [unverified] that Prophets must be buried at the very same place that they die, and accordingly, 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 Medinah and is known as Masjid Quba, (the Quba Mosque).

Like Mecca, the city of Medina only permits Muslims to enter. Both cities' numerous mosques are the destination for large numbers of Muslims on their 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 1000 times in any other mosque.


Pre-Islamic times[edit]

Jewish tribes[edit]

The oasis of Yathrib was first settled by three Jewish tribes: the Banu Qaynuqa, the Banu Qurayza, and Banu Nadir [2]. Ibn Khordadbeh later reported that during the Persian domination in Hijaz, the Banu Qurayza served as tax collectors for the shah.[3]

Banu Aws and Banu Khazraj[edit]

The situation changed after the arrival from Yemen of two Arab tribes named Banu Aws and Banu Khazraj. At first, these tribes were clients of the Jews, but later they revolted and became independent.[4] Toward the end of the fifth century [5], the Jews lost control of the city to Banu Aws and Banu Khazraj. 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 [2].

Most modern historians accept the claim of the Muslim sources that after the revolt, the Jewish tribes became clients of the Aws and the Khazraj.[6] 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.[4]

Ibn Ishaq tells of a conflict between the last Yemenite Himyar king[7] 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 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 honor 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.[8]

Civic strife[edit]

Eventually, Banu Aws and Banu Khazraj became hostile to each other and by the time Muhammad had arrived to the city, they had been fighting for one hundred and twenty years and were the sworn enemies of each other.[9] The Banu Nadir and the Banu Qurayza were allied with the Aus, while the Banu Qaynuqa sided with the Khazraj.[10] They fought a total of four wars.[4]

Their last and bloodiest was the Battle of Bu'ath [4] that was fought a few years before the arrival of Muhammad [2]. The outcome of the battle was inconclusive, and the feud continued. Abdallah 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[edit]

In 622, Muhammad left Mecca and arrived at Yathrib, an event that would transform the political landscape completely; the longstanding enmity between the Aws 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 on the chiefs and united the Muslim converts of Yathrib under the name "Ansar" (the Patrons). After Muhammad's arrival, the city gradually came to be known as Medina.

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 when they were made or with whom.[11]

Conflict with Meccans and Jews[edit]

In January of 623 Muhammad dispatched Obeida, son of Harith to lead another raiding party against a caravan passing along the Syria-to-Mecca trade route. As the caravan (led by Abu Sufyan) was watering in the valley of Rabigh, Muhammad's men fired volleys of arrows from a distance but did not inflict any damage. Obeida was given the honor of "he who shot the first arrow for Islam" as Abu Sufyan altered course to flee the highwaymen. In retaliation for this attack Abu Sufyan requested an armed force from Mecca who came and engaged in the Battle of Badr.

Throughout the winter and spring of 623 other raiding parties were sent by Muhammad from Medina but, while troublesome, were not particularly effective or destructive.

Muhammad's agreement with the Jewish tribes soon broke down, as the Jews would not accept Muhammad's claims to prophethood or his growing influence. After his victory at Badr, Muhammad besieged and conquered the tribe of the Banu Qaynuqa, that had been involved in a tribal feud and adamantly refused to convert to Islam or keep peace with the Muslims. Because of the intercession of Abdallah ibn Ubayy and because it was the first incident with the tribes, Muhammad spared tribe's lives and expelled them from the city.

In 625, Abu Sufyan 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 Abdallah 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.

Meanwhile, conflict with the Jews arose again: Muhammad had one of the Banu Nadir's chiefs, the poet Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf, assassinated for breaching the Constitution of Medina and after the battle of Uhud Muhammad accused the tribe of treachery and plotting against his life and expelled them from the city after a short fight.

In 627, the Abu Sufyan 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 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'ad ibn Mua'dh, as judge. Sa'ad judged that all male members of the tribe were killed and the women and children taken prisoner. That was the end of the Jews of Medina.

Capital city[edit]

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[edit]

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

Under the first four Caliphs, known as 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 Medina[edit]

Template:Expand Local rule was in the hand of the Hashemite clan as Sharifs or Emirs of Mecca. After the First World War, the Hashemite Hussein 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.

Like Mecca, Medina is strictly off limits to non-Muslims. The Medina Knowledge Economic City project[4], a city focused on knowledge-based industries, has been planned and is expected to boost development and increase the number of jobs in Medina [12]

See also[edit]

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External links[edit]


  1. 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 [1]
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Jewish Encyclopedia [2]
  3. Peters 193
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Al-Madina." Encyclopaedia of Islam
  5. for date see "J. Q. R." vii. 175, note
  6. See e.g., Peters 193; "Qurayza", Encyclopedia Judaica
  7. Muslim sources usually referred to Himyar kings by the dynastic title of "Tubba".
  8. Guillaume 7–9, Peters 49–50
  9. The Message (Subhani) [3]
  10. For alliances, see Guillaume 253
  11. Firestone 118. For opinions disputing the early date of the Constitution of Medina, see e.g., Peters 119; "Muhammad", "Encyclopaedia of Islam"; "Kurayza, Banu", "Encyclopaedia of Islam".
  12. - 53k - Economic cities a rise
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