المدينة المنورة
Al Madinah Al Munawwarah
al-Madinat al-Nabi
Muhammad's tomb is located under the Green Dome of Al-Masjid al-Nabawi.
Medina is located in Saudi Arabia
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.svg 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 (English pronunciation: /mɛˈdiːnə/; Arabic: المدينة المنورة‎, al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah, “the radiant city” (officially), or المدينة al-Madīnah; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") 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. Before the advent of Islam, the city was known as Yathrib, but was personally renamed by Muhammad.

Medina is home to the three oldest mosques in Islam, namely; Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (The Prophet's Mosque), Quba Mosque (the first mosque in Islam's history),[1] and Masjid al-Qiblatain (the mosque where the qibla was switched to Mecca).

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.

The Islamic calendar is based on the emigration of Muhammad and his followers to the city of Medina, which marks the start of the Hijri year in 622 CE, called Hijra (هجرة).

Similarly to Mecca, entrance to Medina is restricted to Muslims only; non-Muslims are neither permitted to enter nor travel through the city.[2][3] Muslims believe that the latter verses of the Quran were revealed in Medina and its surrounding outskirts, called the medinan suras.[4][5]



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.[6] 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.[7]

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 historic city formed an oval, surrounded by a strong wall, 30 to 40 ft (9.1 to 12 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), 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.[8]

Religious significance in Islam

The Mosque of the prophet in 2007

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.[8]

Masjid al-Qiblatain is another mosque also historically important to Muslims. It is where the prophet changed the direction of prayer (qibla) from Jerusalem to Mecca according to Sunni hadiths.[9]

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.[citation needed] 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,[10] for example ayah; 9:101, 9:129, 59:9, and ayah 63:7. Medinan suras are typically longer than their Meccan counterparts. There is also a book within the hadith of Bukhari titled 'virtues of Medina'.[11]

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.".


Pre-Jewish times

The first mention of the city dates to the 6th century BC. It appears in Assyrian texts (namely, the Nabonidus Chronicle) as Iatribu.[6] In the time of Ptolemy the oasis was known as Lathrippa.[8]

Jewish tribes

Jews arrived in the city in the 2nd century AD in the wake of the Jewish–Roman wars. There were three prominent Jewish tribes that inhabited the city until the 7th century AD: the Banu Qaynuqa, the Banu Qurayza, and Banu Nadir.[12] Ibn Khordadbeh later reported that during the Persian Empire's domination in Hejaz, the Banu Qurayza served as tax collectors for the shah.[13]

An old picture of Medina.

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.[14] Toward the end of the 5th century,[15] 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.[12]

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.[16] 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.[14]

Ibn Ishaq tells of a conflict between the last Yemenite king of the Himyarite Kingdom[17] 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.[18]

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.[19] The Banu Nadir and the Banu Qurayza were allied with the Aus, while the Banu Qaynuqa sided with the Khazraj.[20] They fought a total of four wars.[14]

Their last and bloodiest battle was the Battle of Bu'ath[14] that was fought a few years before the arrival of Muhammad.[12] 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

The Quba Mosque is the first mosque in history built by Muhammad upon arrival in Medina

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.[21]

According to Ibn Ishaq, the Muslims and Jews of the area signed an agreement, the Constitution of Medina, which committed Jewish tribes to mutual cooperation with Muslims. 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.[22]

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,[23] 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.[24]

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.[25] 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!"[26][27] The Muslim army yelled "Yā manṣūr amit!"[28] 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.[26] 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.[27][29] 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.[30]

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 Moslem 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 Moslem'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, 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 amongst the enthusiastic yodels of their comrades.

However, the Meccans' retreat was actually a manufactured manouvre that paid off. The hillside position had been a great advantage to the Moslem forces, and they had to be lured off their posts for the kafiruns 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 effects. 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

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)[31] 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.[31]

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.

Medina in Caliphate

Under the first three Caliphs, Medina was the capital of a rapidly increasing Arab Empire. During the period of Usman the third caliph rebel Arabs attacked Medina and killed the third caliph Usman. Ali, the fourth caliph, changed the capital from Medina to Kufa. 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.[citation needed]

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

Siege of Medina

Masjid Nabawi at sunset

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.



Universities include:


Islam is the religion followed by the population of Holy city of Medina just like most of the cities in Saudia Arabia. Sunnis of different schools (like Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali) constitute majority while there is a significant Twelver Shia minority in and around Medina.


The soil surrounding Medina consist of mostly basalt, while the hills are volcanic ash which date to the first geological period of the Paleozoic Era.

Devastation of heritage

Modern city of Medina

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.[32]

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.

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.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Sandra Mackey's account of her attempt to enter Mecca in Mackey, Sandra (1987). The Saudis: Inside the Desert Kingdom. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 63–64. ISBN 0393324176. 
  3. ^ Cuddihy, Kathy (2001). An A To Z Of Places And Things Saudi. Stacey International. pp. 148. ISBN 1900988402. 
  4. ^ Historical value of the Qur'ân and the Ḥadith A.M. Khan
  5. ^ What Everyone Should Know About the Qur'an Ahmed Al-Laithy
  6. ^ a b Chronicle of Nabonidus
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ a b c 1954 Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 18, pp.587, 588
  9. ^
  10. ^ Harun Yahya, An Index to the Qur'an
  11. ^ hadith found in 'Virtues of Madinah' of Sahih Bukhari
  12. ^ a b c Jewish Encyclopedia Medina
  13. ^ Peters 193
  14. ^ a b c d "Al-Medina." Encyclopaedia of Islam
  15. ^ for date see "J. Q. R." vii. 175, note
  16. ^ See e.g., Peters 193; "Qurayza", Encyclopaedia Judaica
  17. ^ Muslim sources usually referred to Himyar kings by the dynastic title of "Tubba".
  18. ^ Guillaume 7–9, Peters 49–50
  19. ^ Subhani, The Message: The Events of the First Year of Migration
  20. ^ For alliances, see Guillaume 253
  21. ^ The Jews of Arabia. By Lucien Gubbay
  22. ^ 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".
  23. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari: Volume 5, Book 59, Number 287
  24. ^ Sunan Abu Dawud: Book 14, Number 2659
  25. ^ Sunan Abu Dawud: Book 14, Number 2658
  26. ^ a b Armstrong, p. 176.
  27. ^ a b Lings, p. 148.
  28. ^ "O thou whom God hath made victorious, slay!"
  29. ^ 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.§
  30. ^ 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
  31. ^ a b Robert Mantran, L'expansion musulmane Presses Universitaires de France 1995, p. 86.
  32. ^ Economic cities a rise
  33. ^ 'The destruction of Mecca: Saudi hardliners are wiping out their own heritage', The Independent, 6 August 2005, retrieved 17 Jan. 2011
  34. ^ ‘Islamic heritage lost as Makkah modernises’ Center for Islamic Pluralism
  35. ^ HISTORY OF THE CEMETERY OF JANNAT AL-BAQI retrieved 17 January 2011

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