1. Medina

Medina (also called al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah, "the radiant city"; or al-Madīnah "the city"), also transliterated as Madīnah, is a city in the Hejaz region of the Arabian Peninsula and administrative headquarters of the Al-Madinah Region of Saudi Arabia.

At the city's heart is al-Masjid an-Nabawi ('The Prophet's Mosque'), which is the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad (), and it is the second-holiest city in Islam after Mecca.

Medina was Muhammad’s destination of his Hijrah (migration) from Mecca, and became the capital of a rapidly increasing Muslim Empire, under Muhammad’s leadership.

It served as the power base of Islam in its 1st century where the early Muslim community developed.

Medina is home to the 3 oldest mosques, namely the Quba Mosque, al-Masjid an-Nabawi, and Masjid al-Qiblatayn ('The mosque of the 2 Qiblas').

Muslims believe that the chronologically final sūras of the Quran were revealed to Muhammad () in Medina, and are called Medinan sūras in contrast to the earlier Meccan sūras.

Just like Mecca, the city centre of Medina is closed to anyone who is considered a non-Muslim, including members of the Ahmadiyyah movement, by the national government; however, other parts of the city are not closed.

2. Etymology

The Arabic word al-Madīnah simply means 'the city'.

Before the advent of Islam, the city was known as Yathrib. The word Yathrib has been recorded in Sūrat al-Ahzāb of the Quran. [Quran 33:1]

Also called Taybah (Good). And Tabah (Similar in meaning to the latter).

An alternative name is al-Madīnah an-Nabawiyyah or Madīnat an-Nabī ("the city of the prophet").

3. Overview

As of 2010, the city of Medina has a population of 1,183,205. Inhabitants during the pre-Islamic era Yathrib also included Jewish tribes. Later the city's name was changed to Madīnat an-Nabī or al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah ("the lighted city" or "the radiant city").

Medina is celebrated for containing al-Masjid an-Nabawi and also as the city which gave refuge to the Prophet Muhammad ()and his followers, and so ranks as the 2nd holiest city of Islam, after Mecca.

Muhammad () was buried in Medina, under the Green Dome, as were the first two Rashidun caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar, who were buried next to him in what used to be Muhammad’s house.

Medina is 340 km north of Mecca and about 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 4 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 the entire historic city has been demolished in the Saudi era. The rebuilt city is centred on the vastly expanded al-Masjid an-Nabawi.

The graves of Fatima (SAA, Prophet's daughter) and Hasan (AS, Prophet's grandson), across from the mosque at Jannat al-Baqī,

and Abu Bakr (1st Rashidun caliph and the father of Muhammad’s wife, Aisha), and of Umar (Umar ibn Al-Khaṭṭāb), the 2nd Rashidun caliph, are also here.

The mosque dates back to the time of Muhammad (), but has been twice 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 altered.

4. Religious significance in Islam

Medina's importance as a religious site derives from the presence of al-Masjid an-Nabawi. The mosque was expanded by the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I (668–715). Mount Uhud is a mountain north of Medina which was the site of the 2nd battle between Muslim and Meccan forces.

The first mosque built during Muhammad’s time is also located in Medina and is known as 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 graves 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.

Masjid al- Qiblatayn is another mosque also historically important to Muslims:

It is where the command was sent to Muhammad () to change the direction of prayer (qiblah) from Jerusalem to Mecca according to a Hadith.

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 (voluntary pilgrimage). Hundreds of thousands of Muslims come to Medina annually while performing pilgrimage Hajj.

Al-Baqī is a significant cemetery in Medina where several family members of Muhammad (), caliphs and scholars are buried.

Islamic scriptures emphasise the sacredness of Medina. Medina is mentioned several times as being sacred in the Quran, for example ayah; 9:101, 9:129, 59:9, and ayah 63:7. Medinan sūras are typically longer than their Mecca counterparts. There is also a book within the hadith of Bukhārī titled 'Virtues of Medina'.

Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī 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 God, the angels, and all the people."

5. History

6. Before Islam

By the 4th century, Arab tribes began to encroach from Yemen, and there were 3 prominent Jewish tribes that inhabited the city into the 7th century AD: the Banu Qaynuqa, the Banu Qurayza, and Banu Nadir.

Ibn Khordadbeh (c. 820 – 912 CE) later reported that during the Persian Empire's domination in Hejaz, the Banu Qurayza served as tax collectors for the Persian Shah.

The situation changed after the arrival from Yemen of two new Arab tribes named 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 Aws and Banu Khazraj.

The Jewish Encyclopaedia states that:

"by calling in outside assistance and treacherously massacring at a banquet the principal Jews", Banu Aws 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 vassals of the Aws and the Khazraj.

However, according to scholar of Islam William Montgomery Watt, the vassalage 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 Isḥāq (704-770) tells of a pre-Islamic conflict between the last Yemenite king of the Himyarite Kingdom (fl. 110 BCE–520s CE) 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 Isḥāq, he was stopped from doing so by 2 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 recognised 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 Isḥāq, the rabbis demonstrated to the local people a miracle by coming out of a fire unscathed and the Yemenites accepted Judaism.

Eventually the Banu Aws and the Banu Khazraj became hostile to each other and by the time of Muhammad’s Hijrah (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 Aws, while the Banu Qaynuqa sided with the Khazraj. They fought a total of 4 wars.

Their last and bloodiest battle was the Battle of Buath 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 (died 631), 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 on-going feud, concerned residents of the city met secretly with Muhammad () in Al-Aqaba, a place between Mecca and Mina,

inviting him and his small group of believers to come to Yathrib, where Muhammad () could serve as disinterested mediator between the factions and his community could practice its faith freely.

7. Muhammad’s arrival

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 Aws 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"), while the Muslims would pay the Zakat tax.

According to Ibn Isḥāq, the local pagan Arab tribes, the Muslim Muhajirun from Mecca, the local Muslims (Ansar), and the Jewish population of the area

signed an agreement, the Constitution of Medina, which committed all parties to mutual cooperation under the leadership of Muhammad ().

8. Battle of Badr

9. Battle positions at 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 (580–640) and guarded by 30-40 men, was travelling 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 Quran, indicate that no serious fighting was expected, and the future Caliph Uthmān ibn Affān stayed behind to care for his sick wife.

As the caravan approached Medina, Abu Sufyan began hearing from travellers 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 Quraysh nobles, including Amr ibn Hishām, Walid ibn Utbah 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 Alī, Ubaydah ibn al-Harith, and Hamza ibn Abd al-Muttalib (peace be upon them all).

The Muslims dispatched the Meccan champions in a 3-on-3 fight; Hamza killed his opponent with the very first strike, although Ubaydah was mortally wounded.

Now both armies began firing arrows at each other.
2 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 and rushed the Quraysh lines. The Meccans, although substantially outnumbering the Muslims, promptly broke and ran. The battle itself only lasted a few hours and was over by the early afternoon.

The Quran 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 Gabriel and the role he played in the battle.

Ubaydah ibn al-Harith (c.562-624) 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.

10. Battle of Uhud

In 625, Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, Chieftain of the Quraysh 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 1/3rd 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 Kāfirūn (Infidels) 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.

However, the Meccans did not capitalise on their advantage by invading Medina and returned to Mecca. The Medinans suffered heavy losses, and Muhammad () was injured.

11. 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 Aws now interceded on behalf of their old allies and Muhammad () agreed to the appointment of one of their chiefs, Sa'd ibn Mu'adh, as judge:

Sa’d 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.

This action was conceived of as a defensive measure to ensure that the Muslim community could be confident of its continued survival in Medina.

From this point on, the Muslims were no longer primarily concerned with survival but with expansion and conquest.

12. Capital city of early Islam and the caliphate

In the 10 years following the Hijrah, 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 on-going 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.

Yathrib was renamed Medina from Madinat al-Nabi ("city of the Prophet" in Arabic) in honour of Muhammad’s Prophethood and death there.

Under the first three Rashidun Caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthmān, Medina was the capital of a rapidly increasing Muslim Empire.

During the period of Uthmān, the 3rd Rashidun 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.

Alī abi Tālib (AS), the 4th 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.

In 1256 AD Medina was threatened by a lava flow from the Harrat Rahat volcanic area.

After the fragmentation of the caliphate, the city became subject to various rulers, including the Mamluks of Cairo in the 13th century and finally, in 1517, the Ottoman Empire.

13. World War I to Saudi control

In the beginning of the 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.

Alī 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 Alī 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.

14. Modern city of Medina

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.

Though the city's sacred core of the old city is off limits to non-Muslims,

Medina is inhabited by an increasing number of Muslim and non-Muslim expatriate workers of other Arab nationalities (Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese, etc.), South Asians (Bangladeshis, Indians, Pakistanis, etc.) and Filipinos.

15. Geography

The soil surrounding Madinah consists of mostly basalt, while the hills, especially noticeable to the south of the city, are volcanic ash which dates to the first geological period of the Palaeozoic Era.

Al Madinah al Munawwarah is located at Eastern Part of al Hejaz Region in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on longitude 39º 36' E and latitude 24º 28' N.

Madinah is located in the north-western part of the Kingdom, to the east of the Red Sea, which lies only 250 kilometres away from it.

It is surrounded by a number of mountains:

- al-Hujaj, or Pilgrims' Mountain to the west,
- Salaa to the north-west,
- al-E'er or Caravan Mountain to the south and
- Uhud to the north.

Medina is situated on a flat mountain plateau at the junction of the 3 valleys of al-Aql, al-Aqiq, and al-Himdh. For this reason, there are large green areas amidst a dry mountainous region.

The city is 620 metres above sea level. Its western and south-western parts have many volcanic rocks.

Medina lies at the meeting-point of longitude 39º36' east and latitude 24º28' north.
It covers an area of about 50 square kilometres (19 square miles).

Al Madinah Al Munawwarah is a desert oasis surrounded with mountains and stony areas from all sides.

16. Climate

Medina has a hot desert climate.

Summers are extremely hot with daytime temperatures averaging about 43 °C with nights about 29 °C. Temperatures above 45 °C are not unusual between June and September.

Winters are milder, with temperatures from 12 °C (54 °F) at night to 25 °C (77 °F) in the day. There is very little rainfall, which falls almost entirely between November and May.

17. Religion

As with most cities in Saudi Arabia, Islam is the religion adhered by the majority of the population of Medina.

Sunnis of different schools (Hanafi, Mālikī, Shafi'i and Hanbali) constitute the majority while there is a significant Shia minority in and around Medina, such as the Nakhawila.

Outside the city centre (reserved for Muslims only), there are significant numbers of non-Muslim migrant workers and expats.

18. Economy

Historically, Medina is known for growing dates. As of 1920, 139 varieties of dates were being grown in the area. Medina also was known for growing many types of vegetables.

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.

The city is served by the Prince Mohammad Bin Abdul-Aziz 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.

With the increasing number of pilgrim visiting each year, many hotels are being constructed.

19. Transport

20. Air

Medina is served by Prince Mohammad bin Abdul-Aziz Airport located about 15 kilometres from the city centre.

This airport handles mostly domestic destinations and it has limited international services to regional destinations such as Cairo, Bahrain, Doha, Dubai, Istanbul and Kuwait.

21. Rail

A high speed inter-city rail line (Haramain High Speed Rail Project also known as the "Western Railway"), is under construction in Saudi Arabia:

It will link along 444 kilometres, the Muslim holy city of Medina and Mecca via King Abdullah Economic City, Rabigh, Jeddah and King Abdul-Aziz International Airport.

A three-line metro is also planned.

22. Road

Major roads that connect city of Medina to other parts of the country are:

=> Highway 15 (Saudi Arabia) – connects Medina to Mecca, Abha, Khamis Mushait and Tabouk.

=> Highway 60 (Saudi Arabia) – connects Medina to Buraydah

23. Bus

Medina Bus Transport finds the route to the nearest bus stop and al-Masjid an-Nabawi.

Now, Medina has a new bus service called 'tourist bus' to give a tour of Medina and its historical places (including "The Prophet's Mosque").

24. Destruction of heritage

Saudi Arabia is hostile to any reverence given to historical or religious places of significance for fear that it may give rise to shirk (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.

It has been described 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-Baqī cemetery, and the house of Muhammad ().