The second holy city
Medina is the second holiest site in Islam. “Medina” means the “City of the Prophet,” is in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia. It was to Medina city that Muhammad fled when he was initially driven out of Mecca, and the place where he attracted his first followers. Medina currently has a population of about 600,000 people and is the home of “The Prophet’s Mosque.”
The long form of the Arabic name for Medina (Madinat Rasul Allah) means “City of the Prophet of Allah”, while the short form (al-Madina) just means “the City”. Muslims always add salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam (“peace be upon him”) after mentioning the Prophet Muhammad, so the full form of the name is commonly given as “Madinat Rasul Allah salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam.”
Medina is the second holy city of Islam, after Mecca. Its importance as a religious site derives from the presence there of the Masjid al Nabawi, the Mosque of the Prophet, which was built on the site of Muhammad’s home and is where he is buried. The first mosque of Islam is also located in Medinah and is known as Masjid al-Quba, the Quba Mosque.
History of Medina
In 622, Medina became the seat of Muhammad’s growing movement after the Hijra. In 622 Muhammad was invited to come and live in Yathrib (the old name of Medina) and act as a sort of governor.
Medina in those times was a divided city. Different clans and religions were eternally quarrelling and bickering and Muhammad brought unity to the city. All parties agreed to a pact drawn up by Muhammad and his followers. He invited all people in the city to follow the new religion of Islam. However, he had trouble convincing the Jewish population (which was actually quite large) that Islam was the true version of Judaism.
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.
Under the first four Caliphs, known as the Righteous Caliphs, the Islamic empire expanded rapidly and came to include centres of learning such as Jerusalem, Ctesiphon, and Damascus. After the death of Ali, the fourth caliph, Mu’awiyya transferred the capital to Damascus and the importance of Medina dwindled and became of a religious more than a political nature.
In 1924 the city, which had been in Ottoman hands for centuries, fell to Ibn Saud, whose empire later became Saudi Arabia.