Medina, the city of Islam

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Medina is the city where Islam changed from theory to practice, forever transforming the whole world

The words of Ibn Battuta

On the evening of that same day, we entered the sacred territory [di Medina] and finally reached the Noble Mosque. After a stop in front of Bab al Salam, we prayed in Saint Rawda, between the tomb and the minbar, and here we also kissed the relic of the palm trunk that sighed for the Envoy of God, fixed on a column to the right of who looks at the qibla.


Then we paid our respects to the Lord of the first and the last, Intercessor of the rebels and sinners, the Hashimite Envoy and Prophet of Mecca, Muhammad – may God bless him, save him and honor him! -, and to the two Companions who are at his side in the tomb, Abu Bakr al Siddiq and Abu Hafs Umar al Faruq, may God be satisfied with them!

Yathrib, Medina before Revelation

Although finding its centrality in the world under Islam, the city of Medina has far more ancient origins, dating back even to the 9th century BC. . At the time it bore the name of Yathrib and became a center of some communities of Yemeni Jews who, having fled their homeland, took refuge here. With their arrival, Yathrib increased his dominion over the Hijaz region, so much so that, according to historian Ibn Khordadbeh, it was the Jewish tribe of the Banu Qurayza who collected the taxes for the Shah of Persia.


The situation however began to change with the arrival of the Arab tribes of the ‘Aws and the Khazraj who, starting from the 5th century AD, became the masters of the city, transforming the Jews into simple “clientes” in a way very similar to how it happened in Ancient Rome. However, more and more violent disputes will begin to arise between the two new clans, so much so that at the arrival of the prophet Muhammad, the battle of Bu’ath had just fought which saw well over 15,000 men opposing each other. The arrival of the Messenger of God, however, forever destroyed all his history and that of the whole world.

Medina and the Hegira

The fear of a rekindling of the internal feuds and the beauty of a monotheistic message so similar to the Jewish one, already present in the city, pushed the local leaders to invite the Prophet to move to the city, thus giving birth to the Hegira, considered “the year zero “for Muslims. As soon as he arrived in the city, Muhammad drew up the “Constitution of Medina”, a document of incredible historical and social value which represents one of the absolute bases of the Islamic world. As a result of the latter, in fact, the city changed its name forever, becoming “Medina” or “The city” and, thanks to the new freedom acquired by Muslims, to see the part of “Civic Islam” present in Revelation realized.


Unfortunately for them, however, keeping peace in Medina was not absolutely simple and this was due to the hostilities coming above all from Mecca, a place where the death of Rasul Allah was still longing for more than ever.

The struggle for faith

This will lead to several battles including that of Badr, Uhud and the Trench, clashes that will deeply mark the nascent Islamic community, giving it more and more strength to oppose the abuses suffered up to that moment. In the first battle, the faithful will triumph unequivocally, in the second they will suffer heavy losses due to Khalid ibn al Walid (then polytheist) and finally put an end to hostilities by definitively resisting the enemy in the third.


By resisting in the latter, the Muslims became the first political and religious force in the region, constantly attracting new faithful and becoming so impossible to defeat for the Meccans, so much so that, in 630, just 3 years after the Battle of the Trench, Muhammad marched towards Mecca, where he was received without violence by the population.

After Muhammad

With the death of Muhammad, the city followed the fate of much of the rest of the Arab-Islamic world, thus passing first to Umayyad, then Abbasid and Fatimid. After this dynasty, Medina will obtain a certain degree of autonomy which will allow her to make alliances with Zengids, Ayyubids and Abbasids. In 1256 it was then conquered by the Mamelukes, under which it remained for 300 years undergoing that same year, for the first and only time, a volcanic eruption that burned the dome of the Prophet’s Mosque.


With the arrival of the Ottomans in 1517, the city underwent important architectural transformations, arriving, with Abdul Hamid II (last Ottoman sultan), to possess a railway line, a telegraph station and even a radio station; this brought many new inhabitants to Medina, so much so that its population grew to 80,000 inhabitants.

Medina in Saudi Arabia

With the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Medina and the entire Hijaz region suffered British political upheavals to subvert the order of the Sublime Porta. In 1916, in particular, the sheriff of Mecca, Husayn ibn Ali al Hashimi, attacked the city with force, which however fell only in 1919 following the armistice of Mudros. However, Medina remained very short time in the hands of the sheriff, as its inhabitants swore allegiance to Ibn Saud and his nascent state.


This house worked for a long time to provide Medina with the face we know today, destroying the Ottoman walls and widening the Prophet’s Mosque, the most symbolic and sacred element of the whole city. Unfortunately, however, one of the measures was also the destruction of the al Baqi cemetery, the oldest in the city and in which Ibrahim and Fatimah, two of the sons of the prophet Muhammad, were also buried. This is because in Wahhabism, the majority Islamic current in Saudi Arabia, each element placed above a tomb represents a fate that calls to the cult of the dead and therefore something alien to Islam.

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