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Al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina
Early Islam
A historical view of Medina

Medina (Arabic: المدينة) (literally: the City) is the second most religious city for Muslims which is located in Saudi Arabia. The Prophet's (s) emigration to this city marks the beginning of the Islamic Calendar. It had been named as Yathrib before the emigration of the Prophet (s). Medina is located in north east of Mecca in Hijaz region. The distance between Medina and Mecca is 450 Km.

Medina is the first capital of Islam and has many holy places, including the tomb of the Prophet (s), al-Masjid al-Nabi and al-Baqi' cemetery. Battle of the Prophet (s) with the Jews of Medina, al-Harra tragedy, and uprising of al-Nafs al-Zakiyya are some of important historical events of Medina. Most of Shi'a Imams (a) had been residing in Medina.

Traveling to this city, visiting its holy sites and saying prayers in al-Masjid al-Nabawai is an inseparable part of the journey of Mulisms who embark on Hajj or 'umra.


Medina is one of the main religious cities of Saudi Arabia. It had been named as Yathrib before the emigration of the Prophet (s). Medina is located in north east of Mecca in Hijaz region.[1] The distance between Medina and Mecca is 450 Km. Medina is located between a salt marsh and volcanic fields.

The most significant geological feature of Medina is that the city is located between two volcanic fields named Harra. One in the east named al-Harra al-Vaqim and the other in the west named al-Harra al-Wabra.[2] The most significant mountain of Medina is the Mount Uhud.

Inhabitants before Islam

Before Islam, the two groups of Arab and Jews were living in the city. The Jewish tribes were: Banu Qaynuqa', Banu Nadir, and Banu Qurayza, which had been settled mostly in south and south east. The Arab tribes were Aws and Khazraj. The population of Khazraj was three times that of Aws and were living in central Medina.

The Arab population of Yathrib were much more than Jews. There was a long conflict between Aws and Khazraj and the conflict was also transmitted to the Jewish tribes.


Medina wasn't like Mecca in economy, although there was some trade, but it was not comparable to Mecca that had summer and winter trade caravans. Economy of Medina was mostly based upon agriculture and date gardens around it. The most important products of Medina were date and grape; date was the root of their economic life which was used as food and its wood was used in buildings.[3] After all, most of people were not in a good economic situation.[4]


The climate of Medina is good compared to other places of the Arabian Peninsula; the water was available in a shallow depth, so by digging, it could be extracted easily.[5]


The old and current name of the city is mentioned in Qur'an:

  • Medina (the city): Qur'an 63:8: "They say, 'When we return to Medina, the mighty will surely expel the abased from it.' Yet all might belongs to Allah and His Apostle, and the faithful, but the hypocrites do not know."

Also in Qur'an 9:101: "There are hypocrites among the Bedouins around you and among the townspeople of Medina, steeped in hypocrisy. You do not know them; We know them, and We will punish them twice, then they shall be consigned to a great punishment."

  • Yathrib: Yathrib is the old name of the city before Islam. Qur'an 9:102
"And when a group of them (the hypocrites) said, 'O people of Yathrib! [This is] not a place for you, so go back!' And a group of them sought the Prophet's permission, saying, 'Our homes lie exposed [to the enemy]', although they were not exposed. They only sought to flee."

Zajjaji says: "Yathrib is the name of the founder of the city, he is one of descendants of Shem (Sam) b. Noah (a). When he and his family resided this land, it became named as Yathrib".

  • Dar (land): Qur'an 59:9: "[They are as well] for those who were settled in the land and [abided] in faith before them, who love those who migrate toward them, and do not find in their breasts any privation for that which is given to them, but prefer [the Immigrants] to themselves, though poverty be their own lot. And those who are saved from their own greed—it is they who are the felicitous."
  • The Prophet (s) named it as Tayba and Taba.

Emigration of the Prophet (s)

Thirteen years after bi'that in the beginning of the month of Rabi' I, the Prophet (s) departed for Yathrib. This emigration was after the two allegiances of Aqaba by people of the city with the Prophet (s) and Islam (s). After staying in Quba' for some days, he went to Medina. The last ten years of the life of the Prophet (s) had mostly passed in Medina and this city was the center of expansion of Islam.[6]

Actions of the Prophet (s) in Medina

Building a Mosque

The first action of the Prophet (s) in Medina was building a mosque; a place where, in addition to being a center of worship, became a cultural, political and administrative center; a center which was one of the main bases for Muslims.[7]

Writing a Treaty

The second action of the Prophet (s) was writing a public treaty between Muslims of Medina. In this treaty which all of Muslims accepted, ruling is known only for God and the Prophet (s) and some of civil and criminal rules of Islam had been accepted.[8]

Pact of Brotherhood

The third action of the Prophet (s) was placing the Pact of Brotherhood between Muslims. The Prophet (s) made Muslims brothers so they would have a closer relation to each other.[9]

The Center of the Islamic Government

Medina was the center of the Islamic government in different times, including the rule of the Prophet (s) till the end of the rule of Imam al-Hasan (a) (except three years of the rule of Imam 'Ali (a), in which Kufa was the center) for forty one years; also in the time of the rule of Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, in 145/762, for a short period of time.

Birthplace and Shrine of Shi'a Imams

Most of Shi'a Imams were born in this city. This city is the birthplace of Imam al-Hasan (a),[10] Imam al-Husayn (a),[11] Imam al-Sajjad,[12] Imam al-Baqir (a),[13] Imam al-Sadiq (a), Imam al-Kazim (a),[14] Imam al-Rida (a),[15] Imam al-Jawad (a),[16] Imam al-Hadi (a),[17] and Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari (a).[18]

Also, the tombs of four Imams: Imam al-Hasan (a),[19] Imam al-Sajjad (a),[20] Imam al-Baqir (a),[21] and Imam al-Sadiq (a)[22] are in Medina.


The Prophet's Mosque

Masjid al-Nabi in Medina

The most sacred mosque (masjid) after al-Masjid al-Haram is the Prophet's Mosque (al-Masjid al-Nabi) which is placed in Medina. About praying in this Mosque, the Prophet (s) said: "a prayer in my mosque equals to ten thousand prayers in other mosques before Allah, except al-Masjid al-Haram in which prayer equals hundred thousand prayers."[23]

Quba' Mosque

A view of Quba' Mosque, Medina

Quba' is an area six Km south of the Prophet's Mosque. According to many narrations, Quba' Mosque is the instance of the Qur'an 9:108: "A mosque founded on God wariness from the [very] first day is worthier that you stand in it [for prayer]". Quba' Mosque is the first mosque, the Prophet (s) built.[24]

The Prophet (s) said: "Who cleans and purifies himself and comes to Quba' Mosque and prays, will have the reward of an Umra"[25].

Shajara Mosque

A view of Shajara Mosque, Medina

This mosque, which is also called Dhu l-Hulayfa, and Abyar 'Ali, is one of the most important mosques outside of Medina, and as one of the Miqats for ihram.

Al-Jumu'a Mosque

The Prophet (s), when emigrating to Medina, on his way from Quba' to Medina, said the first Jumu'a prayer in the place of Banu Salim tribe, so a mosque was built there and named as al-Jumu'a Mosque.

Al-'Umra Mosque

There was a mosque named al-Masjid al-'Arafat or al-Masjid al-'Umra placed in the direction of Qibla from Masjid al-Quba'. The name was because on the Day of 'Arafa when the Prophet (s) was standing there, the earth became flat for him, so he could see the people in 'Arafat.[26]

Mosque of 'Itban b. Malik

Mosque of 'Itban b. Malik had been one of mosques of Quba' region. Ibn 'Itban who was one of Naqibs of Ansar, requested the Prophet (s) to come to his house and pray there, so he could make that place his mosque; this was because sometimes flood prevented him from going to the local mosque. The Prophet (s) went to his house, prayed there, so that place became a mosque.[27]

Mosque of 'Ali (a)

This mosque is located in the southern side of mosque of Fath. It is said that while Medina was surrounded by pagans during the Battle of Khandaq, this was the place that 'Ali (a) worshiped Allah.[28]

Fadikh Mosque

This mosque is also named Radd al-Shams mosque. In the Battle of Banu Nadir, the Prophet (s) has had a tent there and after that a mosque was built there. In some narrations from Ahl al-Bayt (a) it's considered as a mosque which must be visited.[29]

The Seven Mosques

In northwest of Medina and in hill side of Mount Sal', there are seven mosques built close to each other which are named as "the seven mosques": mosque of 'Ali (a) (Medina), mosque of Fatima (a) (Medina), mosque of Salman (Medina), mosque of Abu Dhar (Medina), Dhu l-Qiblatayn mosque, mosque of Abu Bakr (Medina), and mosque of 'Umar (Medina).[30]

There are other mosques in Medina, here is some of them:

File:مسجد غمامه.JPG
A view of Al-Ghamama Mosque, Medina

Holy Places

Al-Baqi' Cemetery

A view of Al-Baqi' cemetery, near al-Masjid al-Nabi

Al-Baqi' is the oldest and the most famous cemetery in Islam. The cemetery is placed in the east of Medina.

Graves of four Imams: Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (a), Imam al-Sajjad (a), Imam al-Baqir (a), and Imam al-Sadiq (a), also the grave of Fatima bt. Asad, and according to some reports, the grave of Lady Fatima (a) are in this cemetery. Also the graves of 'Abbas the uncle of the Prophet (s), Ibrahim the son of the Prophet (s) and Umm al-Banin, Ruqayya and Umm Kulthum, the daughters of the Prophet (s), Safiyya, the Prophet's (s) wife, and many other companions and tabi'un and martyrs of Islam are placed in al-Baqi'.

The Prophet (s) was paying a special respect to the people buried in al-Baqi' and said: "I am ordered to ask forgiveness for those buried in al-Baqi'."

Every time the Prophet (s) was passing by al-Baqi', he said: "peace be upon you from the region of a faithful people, and we will join you, God willing."[32]

Mount Uhud

Mount Uhud, North-west of Medina

One of famous and important mountains of Medina is Mount Uhud which is placed north-west of the city, five kilometres from al-Masjid al-Nabawi.[33] Among mountains around Medina, this mount is the only separate and single mountain, so it's called Uhud (single).[34] This mountain, with the length of seven kilometers (in east-west direction), is the longest mountain in the Arabian Peninsula, which has high peaks and its width differs from one to three kilometres.[35]

Mountains of the Uhud area witnessed the confrontation of the good and the evil in the first years of Islam; the Battle of Uhud took place on Saturday, Shawwal 7, 3/625. In this area, the martyrs of the Battle of Uhud were buried.[36]

The House of Lady Fatima (a)

The house in which Imam 'Ali (a) and Lady Fatima (a) were living, was placed besides al-Masjid al-Nabawi. In many Shi'a and Sunni hadiths, this home is mentioned as "Bayt Fatima (a)" or "Hujra Fatima (a)".[37]

This house had a door opening into the mosque, which was used in prayer times, and another opening into the alley. The event of shutting the doors (Sadd al-Abwab) to the al-Masjid al-Nabawi except the door of the house of Imam 'Ali (a) had happened for this house. Now, the house is located in the mausoleum of the Prophet (s).

The Grave of Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya

The grave of Muhammad b. 'Abd Allah b. al-Hasan b. al-Hasan, known as al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, is located north west of the city near the Mount Sal'.[38]

Important Historical Events of Medina

Battle of the Prophet (s) with Jews of Banu Qaynuqa'

The Banu Qaynuqa' Jews tribe violated their treaty with the Prophet (s) after the Battle of Badr, the Prophet (s) advised them and warned them. One day in Bazaar, a Jew insulted a Muslim woman, so a Muslim man became angry and killed the Jew, and the Muslim man, was killed by other Jews from Banu Qaynuqa'; after that, Banu Qaynuqa' went to their castle and declared war. The Prophet (s) besieged them, and after their surrender, let them to leave Medina.[39]

The Battle with the Jews of Banu Nadir

One day the Prophet (s) went to the castle of Banu Nadir, they decided to kill the Prophet (s) and wanted to drop a stone on him; Jabra'il (Gabriel) informed the Prophet (s) about their intention, so he left the castle, and because of their betrayal, ordered them to leave Medina.[40]

The Battle with the Jews of Banu Qurayza

Banu Qurayza violated their treaty with the Prophet (s) and assisted Quraysh and other polytheists in the Battle of Ahzab. During the battle they ambushed Muslims.[41]

After the Battle of Ahzab, the army of Muslims besieged the castle of Banu Qurayza. After almost a month, they surrendered and accepted the arbitration of Sa'd b. Mu'adh. Sa'd b. Mu'adh taking the treaty between the Prophet (s) and Banu Qurayza, and the rules of Torah about the traitors, declared that the combatant males of the tribe must be executed and their women and children be enslaved.

Battle of Harra

Harra tragedy is the biggest crime of Umayyads after murdering Imam al-Husayn (a).

Harra tragedy is the crackdown of the army of Syria, commanded by Muslim b. 'Uqba, on the uprising of the people of Medina, in 63/683. The uprising was against the rule of Yazid b. Mu'awiya led by 'Abd Allah b. Hanzala b. Abi 'Amir. In the tragedy, many of the people of Medina, including eighty of the companions of the Prophet (s) and seven hundred memorizers of Qur'an were killed, and the properties and families of people became plundered.[42]

The Uprising of Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya

Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya led an uprising in the time of the rule of al-Mansur al-'Abbasi in 145/762-3 in Medina. The people of Medina, especially its hadith scholars, including Malik b. Anas supported the uprising and considered the allegiance of Mansur under pressure and compulsion as invalid. In the clash of the two armies, the army of Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya defeated and he became killed and buried in Baqi'.[43]

See Also


  1. Balāghī, Ḥujjat al-tafasīr wa balāgh al-iksīr, vol. 2, introduction, p. 1064.
  2. Qazwīnī, Āthār al-bilād wa akhbār al-ʿibād, p. 157.
  3. al-Nadwī, al-Sīra al-nabawīyya, p. 266.
  4. Shams al-Dīn al-Maqdisī, Aḥsan al-taqāsīm, p. 34.
  5. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 5, p. 487; Yāqūt al-Ḥamawī, Muʿjam al-buldān, vol. 3, p. 104.
  6. Kurdī, Makka wa Madīna, p. 212.
  7. Kurdī, Makka wa Madīna, p. 212.
  8. Kurdī, Makka wa Madīna, p. 212.
  9. Kurdī, Makka wa Madīna, p. 212.
  10. Mufīd, al-Irshād, p. 309.
  11. Mufīd, al-Irshād, p. 331.
  12. Mufīd, al-Irshād, p. 435.
  13. Mufīd, al-Irshād, p. 452.
  14. Mufīd, al-Irshād, p. 497.
  15. Mufīd, al-Irshād, p. 525.
  16. Mufīd, al-Irshād, p. 525.
  17. Mufīd, al-Irshād, p. 569.
  18. Mufīd, al-Irshād, p. 585.
  19. Mufīd, al-Irshād, p. 322.
  20. Mufīd, al-Irshād, p. 435.
  21. Mufīd, al-Irshād, p. 452.
  22. Mufīd, al-Irshād, p. 467.
  23. Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Wasāʾil al-Shīʿa, vol. 5, p. 271.
  24. Abū l-Futūḥ al-Rāzī, Rawḍ al-Jinān wa Rawḥ al-Janān, vol. 6, p. 111; Ṭabāṭabā'ī, al-Mīzān, p. 618; Sayyid Quṭb, Fī ẓilāl al-Qurʾān, p. 305.
  25. Ibn Kathīr al-Dimashqī, al-Bidāya wa l-nihāya, vol. 3, p. 210; Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 1, p. 189.
  26. Amīnī, Tārīkh al-maʿālim al-Madīna al-munawwara, p. 125-126.
  27. Amīnī, Tārīkh al-maʿālim al-Madīna al-munawwara, p. 155.
  28. Samhudī, Khulāṣat al-wafā bi akhbār dar al-Muṣṭafā, p. 233; 'Abd al-Raḥmān b. Khuwaylad, al-Masājid wa al-amākin al-athariyya, p. 24.
  29. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 63, p. 487; vol. 81, p. 82; vol. 96, p. 335; vol. 97, p. 213, 214, 216, 224.
  30. Samhudī, Khulāṣat al-wafā bi akhbār dar al-Muṣṭafā, p. 233; 'Abd al-Raḥmān b. Khuwaylad, al-Masājid wa al-amākin al-athariyya, p. 24.
  31. Markaz-i taḥqīqāt-i ḥajj, Makka wa Madīna, p. 28.
  32. Markaz-i taḥqīqāt-i ḥajj, Baqī, p. 28.
  33. Qāʾidān, Athār-i Islāmi Makka wa Madīna, p. 354.
  34. Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ al-bari, vol. 7, p. 289-290.
  35. Qāʾidān, Tārīkh wa āthār-i Islāmi Makka wa Madīna, p. 307.
  36. Wāqidī, al-Maghāzī, p. 145; 'Abd al-Raḥmān b. Khuwaylad, al-Masājid wa al-amākin al-athariyya, p. 31; Amīnī, Tārīkh al-maʿālim al-Madīna al-munawwara, vol. 1, p. 130.
  38. Sakhāwī, al-Tuḥfa al-laṭīfa, p. 70.
  39. Wāqidī, al-Maghāzī, p. 127-128; Ibn Hishām, al-Sīra al-nabawīyya, p. 314-315; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī, vol. 3, p. 997; Ibn al-Athīr, al-Kāmil fī l-tārīkh, vol. 3, p. 970-971.
  40. Wāqidī, al-Maghāzī, p. 269-270; Ibn Hishām, al-Sīra al-nabawīyya, p. 354-355; Ibn al-Athīr, al-Kāmil fī l-tārīkh, vol. 3, p. 1010-1011; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī, vol. 3, p. 1054-1056.
  41. Wāqidī, al-Maghāzī, p. 345-346;
  42. Masʿūdī, Murūj al-dhahab, vol .2, p. 73-75.
  43. Masʿūdī, Murūj al-dhahab, vol. 2, p. 298-299.


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Further Reading

  • Chenarani, Muhammad 'Ali, trans. by: Ahmad Rezwani Battle of Harrah, Mashhad: Islamic Research Foundation Astan Quds Razavi.
  • Chirri, Muhammad Jawad, The Battle of Uhud, Detroit: Harlo Press, 1988.