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Medina (Arabic: المدينة المنورة or المدينة; alternatively transliterated into English as Madinah) is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia. It currently has a population of 839,400 (1999). Medina is located at 24.50 N 39.5833 E. Medina was originally known as Yathrib, but later the city's name was change to Madinat Al-Nabi ("city of the Prophet") or Al Madinah Al Munawara ("the enlightened city" or "the radiant city"), while the short form Medina simply means "city."

Medina is the second holiest city of Islam, after Mecca. Its importance as a religious site derives from the presence there of the Shrine of the Prophet Mohammad by Masjid al-Nabawi or the Mosque of the Prophet, famously known as Gumbad-e-Khizra, Prophet's Dome or Green Dome, which was built on a site adjacent to Muhammad's home. His home later became part of the mosque when it was expanded by the Umayyad caliph al-Waleed ibn AbdelMalek. The first mosque of Islam is also located in Medinah and is known as Masjid Quba, the Quba Mosque.

 

History

In pre-Islamic times the city was known as Yathrib. It was an important trading town and its pagan inhabitants would make yearly pilgrimages to the shrines in Mecca, being that the chief god of both cities was Manat. It was also notable as a center of Arab Jews, who were only distinguished from their fellow citizens by their religion. According to Maududi, “No authentic history of the Medinan Jews exists in the world. They have not left any writing of their own in the form of a book or a tablet which might throw light on their past, nor have the Jewish historians and writers of the non-Arab world made any mention of them, the reason being that after their settlement in the Arabian peninsula they had detached themselves from the main body of the nation, and the Jews of the world did not count them as among themselves. For they had given up Hebrew culture and language, even the names, and adopted Arabism instead.”

The Prophet Mosque in Medina; the mosque has the Shrine of the Prophet Muhammad in the middle, also known as Gumbad-e-Khizra or Dome of the Prophet
The Prophet Mosque in Medina; the mosque has the Shrine of the Prophet Muhammad in the middle, also known as Gumbad-e-Khizra or Dome of the Prophet

In 622, Medina became the seat of Muhammad's growing movement after the Hijra. In the same year Muhammad was invited to come and live in Yathrib (and act as a sort of governor). Islamic sources such as the hadith state that Medina had a population of two pagan tribes (the Aus and Khazraj) as well as three Jewish tribes (Banu Qainuka'a, Banu Nadhir and Banu Qurayza). The Aus and Kazraj tribes dominated in the city in numbers (and thus in military power), but the two tribes were constantly at war with each other. According to Islamic tradition, the two tribes got word of a new, self-styled prophet in Mecca whose people were being persecuted by the Meccans, and decided to see if he could help them resolve their conflict. Muhammad and his followers thus agreed to move (known as the Hijra migration) to Yathrib, which eventually became known as al-Madinah al-Nabi, the city of the Messenger, where Muhammad drafted the Madinah or Medina Charter which made him the leader of the city. According to tradition, the text -- the Medina Charter -- that was passed down was agreed to by all tribes in the city. In 627, the army of Mecca attacked Medina under the command of Abu Sufyan. Abu Sufyan asked the Banu Qurayza tribe to help them conquer Medina, by attacking the Muslims from behind the lines or letting them into the town. According to the Hadith Bukhari, the Banu Qurayza's assistance of Abu Sufyan constituted a breach of the treaty and the males of the tribe were executed per the judgement of Sa'ad ibn Mua'dh. Since the Islamic hadith written 2 centuries after is the only source there is about this event, it is impossible to know the exact circumstances surrounding the execution and expulsion of the various tribes. Muhammad urged all people in the city to follow the new religion of Islam, and the Medina Charter refers to Muhammad as a prophet of God. However, he had trouble convincing the majority of the Jewish population (which was actually quite large) and the Christian population that Islam was the true version of Judaism or the true religion of Jesus.

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 Makkah, becoming its ruler without battle. Even when Islamic rule was established Medina remained for some years the most important city of Islam and the de facto capital of the Caliphate.