Arabic: ‘al-madīnat ‘al-munawwara
Other spelling: Medina
Qibla inside the Prophet’s mosque.
Madina is ranked as the 2nd most holy place in Islam, due to not being the place for the highest cult, but for being the place where Islam first established itself, and where Muhammad died and was buried. Formerly it was referred to as either Madina al-Munawwara, ‘The Luminous City’, or Madina Rasul Allah, ‘City of God’s Prophet’. Madina is short for ‘Madina an-Nabiy’, ‘Prophet’s Town’.
While services and maintenance with the pilgrimages to Madina employ a large number of the city’s inhabitants, other activities are still of much importance. Agriculture no longer relies on the traditional wells but uses pumps. The main produce are dates, other fruits, vegetables, and cereals. Dates of Madina are processed and packaged for export. Industries of Madina are small-scale, involving automobile repair, brick and tile making, carpentry, and metalworking.
Madina is a city of numerous religious buildings, many commemorating central incidents in the earliest years of the Muslim history. The central and most important of them all is the Prophet’s Mosque, in which Muhammad himself is buried. The Mosque of the Two Qiblahs is interesting for commemorating the change of the prayer direction from Jerusalem to Mecca. Also of interest is the Tomb of Hamza, Muhammad’s uncle who died at the Battle of Uhud.
Despite the objections of the early ulama to rever Muhammad as a human being with divine qualities of some kind, the cult around Muhammad and his grave would grow in importance among Muslims. Today all those who have the means, try to visit Medina after performing the hajj or umra in Mecca.
As is the case with Mecca, only Muslims are permitted to enter Madina. Still, people arriving by the airport can get a good view of the city from airplanes using the airport, as this is outside the sacred limits.
Late 1st millennium BCE: Jews settle in the oasis here. Whether it was inhabited before their arrival or not, is not known. Their settlement is known as Yathrib.
2nd century CE: A large group of Jews, fleeing Palestine, settle in Yathrib.
Around 400: The king of the Sabaean kingdom in today’s Yemen visits Yathrib, and converts to Judaism. He makes it the state religion of Yemen.
622: With the hijra, the Muslim community settles in Yathrib, but represents only a minority of the population. Their numbers would increase quickly.
627: All members of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza are executed by the Muslims, following their support for the Meccans during the Battle of the Trench. Still, there was a contingent of Jews in Yathrib, but they would all be driven out of their hometown in a few years.
630’s?: The nickname ‘Prophet’s Town’ becomes the effective name of Yathrib, ‘Madina an-Nabiy’, short ‘Madina’.
632: Muhammad dies in Madina, and is buried here. His grave would develop into the focal point of the town. Later also his daughter, Fatima, and the Caliph Umar, would be buried here. With the death of Muhammad, Madina would still be the capital of the expanding Muslim empire.
7th century: Soon after the death of Muhammad in 632 people started coming to Medina, to pay their respects at his grave. Despite the objections of the ulama, this tradition would grow in importance, and today all those who has the means, try to visit Medina after doing the hajj in Mecca.
661: The caliphate is moved to Damascus, with the emergence of the Umayyad caliphate. With this, Madina is no longer the Muslim capital. It would instead be ruled by an emir, who would develop much independence from Damascus.
683: The Caliph of Damascus sacks Madina.
1207: Volcanic eruption creating a large lava field to the east of the town.
1256: The Prophet’s Mosque is destroyed in fire, but is rebuilt.
1481: The Prophet’s Mosque is again destroyed in fire, but is rebuilt.
1517: With the Ottoman takeover of Egypt, Madina passes to their control.
16th century: The interior of the mosque is decorated with mosaics and gold details.
1804: The Wahhabis conquer Madina.
1812: A force under Egyptian and Ottoman control reconquers Madina.
1817: A dome is added the Prophet’s Mosque.
1839: The dome of the Prophet’s Mosque is painted green.
1860: Profound reconstruction of the Prophet’s Mosque is completed.
1925: Madina surrenders to the control of King Ibn Sa’ud.
1955: The Prophet’s Mosque is largely expanded. The new sections followed the old styles, but used concrete instead of local stone.